"God’s presence was tangible, reflected in the infectious joy of the children, housemothers, teachers and administrators, and evident in the obvious priority placed on teaching and honouring His Word."
Interview with Jade and Julius Kenyamanyara
Last summer I had the pleasure of visiting the Village of Hope in Mwanza, Tanzania, along with several other short-term missions (STM) team members from PORTICO Community Church in Mississauga, Ontario. God’s presence was tangible, reflected in the infectious joy of the children, housemothers, teachers and administrators, and evident in the obvious priority placed on teaching and honouring His Word. I invited Jade Kenyamanyara to share how she and her husband, Julius, are being used by God to impact the lives of vulnerable children in Mwanza. Building on the foundation left for them since the home opened more than 30 years ago, the Kenyamanyaras are slowly shifting and changing things at the Village to take its operations, its residents, and the wider community into a new season, purpose, and level of spiritual influence in Tanzanian society.
SM: Can you share a bit about your history?
JK: Julius and I came to Village of Hope – Mwanza in September 2014. Julius was hired as the director, and I was invited to be the administrator. Before this appointment, we lived in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. We served there as mid-term missionaries with Dar es Salaam Pentecostal Church, mostly helping with youth and young adult ministries as volunteer staff.
SM: What were some of the first projects you tackled when you got there?
JK: While the official adjustment for the site to become a Village of Hope (VOH) location happened in early 2013, by the time we arrived, there were still many changes needed to adjust to the VOH model. We didn’t have enough children’s homes (the ratio is supposed to be one house mother to eight children per home), and the school only reached Grade 2 and was running quite separately. In addition to construction and physical changes, there was also a lot of work to be done with the children and staff as far as training, education, preparation, and creating the kind of culture and atmosphere that Village of Hope encourages. The people there loved the children and each other, but the Village had been through so much change already that people were naturally hesitant and unsure of what would happen next. So we had to walk them through more change carefully and strategically. We worked very closely with Sergio and Nancy Bersaglio (executive directors for VOH Africa) to create our strategy.
SM: How many children are you caring for?
JK: Currently there are 87 resident children (including a few away for college, but not fully discharged yet). We now have 9 children’s homes with seven to nine children per home. We have 10 house mothers (one for each home and one to cover vacations, illness, and other temporary absences). When we arrived, the school was technically running under VOH but separately in many ways. Once we got a handle on guiding transitions in operations from the residential side of things, completing the many construction projects to create additional children’s homes on the site, we continued expanding the school by adding one to two grades each year. When we came there were about 150 to 175 students in three preschool classes, along with Grades 1 and 2. In three years we have managed to add Grades 3 through 6. By January 2018 we will have added Grade 7, giving us a complete primary school on-site. We currently have 332 students from our preschool classes through Grade 6. About 50 of these children also live on-site at VOH – Mwanza. Several more come from vulnerable families in the community and do not pay fees but are sponsored through Child CARE Plus (CCP). We also have several staff children attending, as each VOH staff member is allowed to have two children enrolled at no cost. Finally, the remaining children come from the community. Their families pay fees, knowing their child is getting a quality education and at the same time they are helping to support those who can’t pay fees.
SM: What aspects of the orphanage and school operations have you been influencing?
JK: Since the Village had already been through so much major change, I think the biggest thing we wanted to focus on was building trust and creating an open and free environment for staff and children—making sure we were seen as approachable and ready to help, encouraging new ideas and input from staff and children, and focusing on unity between all staff and children. We want everyone to realize that no matter their role, we are all working toward the same goal—ensuring that all children are loved and cared for, and that in everything we do, we are bringing spiritual encouragement and hope. We also wanted to introduce and enforce a leadership structure where we empower our leaders to make decisions and handle things in their respective departments, and also make it clearer for all staff to whom they immediately report, so that not every little decision was coming all the way up to us at the top.
SM: Your first youth home for boys opened last year. Could you share some details about that?
JK: Thanks to PORTICO Community Church, we built a boys’ youth home in early 2017 and transitioned six of our young men out of the children’s homes and into this youth home. They live on their own (without an adult) and learn how to budget, shop, cook, and generally take care of their own needs. They are obviously still part of the VOH community as they are on-site, and they have the support of the staff, but the point is for them to start learning how to live independently.
SM: We could tell they are really excited about living there. What’s next for these youth?
JK: We are also looking to slowly add more teaching and training to this program in the form of both soft and hard skills, including teaching them about personal finances and budgeting, business planning, sewing and creative arts, carpentry, welding and other trades, and engaging them in discipleship and community service. We also encourage children to find somewhere to study inside Tanzania so they can get to interact and know their own country and fellow Tanzanians and ultimately contribute to the society here. We have recently opened a new operations stream called Youth Empowerment to specifically raise money for this reason.
The PORTICO Community Church short-term missions team assisted with medical checkups for resident children, teacher training, and leadership development. Learn more about the Kenyamanyaras and Village of Hope – Mwanza at https://paoc.org/donate/JuliusKenyamanyara. Villages of Hope: Africa Society is a registered Canadian charitable organization with children’s homes in six countries—Burundi, Kenya, Malawi, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Visit www.vohafrica.comto learn more. Stacey McKenzie is the communications and publications manager at The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada International Office in Mississauga, Ont.
Photo © Hana ElZohiry for PORTICO Community Church. This article appeared in the September/October 2018 issue of testimony, the bimonthly publication of The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada.