MAFETENG – With Basotho traditions slowly fading away like the rainbow after a heavy downpour, the Taiwanese-owners of a Mafeteng-based orphanage have warned against such decadence which they say eventually robs a nation of its identity.
Established in 2008 in Ha Lumisi, Amitofo Care Centre (ACC) and takes care of orphans, giving them a shelter, education and a fighting chance for a better future.
According to ACC manager Wu Yuan Yuan, the centre was established to give the needy children not just a shelter but also an opportunity to experience different cultures and quality education that could take them to Taiwan should they do well in their studies.
“Amitofo Care Centre’s main purpose is to take care of orphans, especially double orphans and give them a better shot at life. Like every orphanage, we supply our children with everything, ranging from food to clothing. However, we go further to offer the children an education, with particular focus on culture,” Ms Juan said.
“After we realized that a better roof over their heads, good food and better clothing were not enough, we decided to open our own school so that again, they may have a better future through quality education we have dedicated ourselves to provide.”
The centre runs both primary and high schools called Yuan Tong, which among other subjects, offer Mandarin Chinese lessons to the 229 learners.
“Chinese is now used more often globally and soon enough, it will be an international language, just like English. Based on this unfolding reality, we are teaching these children the language to give them a head-start and an advantage as they go into the world. Again, our students stand a chance to go to Taiwan university so they will have the advantage of speaking the language when they enroll at the college,” Ms Juan said.
“We run similar centres in Malawi, Swaziland, Namibia, South Africa and Mozambique. We already have children from countries like Malawi studying in Taiwan and fully sponsored by our partners in Taiwan.
“Like I said, all our children are guaranteed a place at the Taiwan university for as long as they have passed their examinations. That is why we are making sure they don’t have any barrier by the time they go to the college.”
In addition to studying Mandarin, Ms Yuan said the children are also being taught Kung Fu, which is a Chinese martial arts fighting style, as part of their cultural studies.
“We believe every culture in the world is good and has its own advantages. That’s why we are introducing these children to our own Chinese culture in the form of Kung Fu, which can make them stronger and healthier, in addition to being knowledgeable about our traditions.
“As indicated by the name Amitofo, we came here with good intentions and are grateful to the people of Lesotho for accepting us. We want to help Basotho by giving these children a shot at a better life through this centre,” Ms Yuan said.
At the moment, Ms Yuan said ACC only caters for its orphans but space and funds permitting, it intends to accommodate children from the rest of surrounding areas.
Asked how the centre gets the children, Ms Yuan said: “When children aged between four and seven years have been identified as potential candidates for the centre, we closely work with the police, District Administrator, Ministry of Social Development and chiefs to ensure the said kids are indeed orphans.
“We further do home visits, interview relatives and ensure such relatives indeed don’t have the means to raise the children in question.
“After satisfying ourselves that the children indeed deserve a place at the ACC, then the relevant procedures will be followed to prepare for such a child to be under our wing.”
However, Ms Yuan says the centre has been battling lack of water over the years, which she says has made life difficult for the children.
“One of the challenges we have faced over the years has been lack of water. The centre needs approximately 10 000 litres of water every single day and we are now buying the precious liquid from Mafeteng town.
“Until recently, we owned two trucks and each of the vehicles carried a 4 000-liter tank. We used the two trucks to buy water from town (Mafeteng) every single day but now that the other truck has broken down, we are relying on 4000 litres of water per day.
“This is negatively affecting us and putting the children’s health at risk. At the centre, we use indoor toilets but due to lack of water, children are being forced to leave the toilets unflushed, presenting us with a health challenge,” Ms Yuan said.
“We are lucky that so far, there has been no disease outbreak because of this shortage of water.”
Ms Yuan added she was happy that the government had decided to drill a borehole at the centre. The Minister of Water Affairs Ralechate ‘Mokose and his Communications, Science and Technology counterpart, Khotso Letsatsi, were at the centre on Wednesday last week to launch the borehole-drilling project. Mr Letsatsi is the Member of Parliament for the area.
“We are going to save a lot of money which we will use to cater for our children’s other needs. We spend around M700 every day on buying and transporting water from town to this centre,” Ms Yuan said.
On his part, Mr Letsatsi hailed Amitofo for extending a helping.
“They are our own children we are failing to take care of and yet these people have made it their business to give the youngsters a better life,” Mr Letsatsi said.
“We need to support these people in every way possible as they are not only taking care of the children but also creating jobs for the community.
“Lack of water has been a major problem for this centre and I am happy that the issue is now being addressed.
“With this problem solved, I think the children’s chances of becoming engineers, athletes and ministers have been increased. We need to protect this centre as communities around it to ensure nothing bad happens to these children.”
Tšana-Talana Council chairperson, Fusi Sefuthi, also told the Lesotho Times that the center was giving the children hope for a better future. The centre falls under Tšana-Talana Council.
“I can assure you that these children are not only well taken care of but have the world at their disposal,” Mr Sefuthi said.
“In addition to a better life these people are giving them, they are also learning Chinese which I strongly believe will come in handy in their future.
“The Chinese are everywhere in the world and China might be the leading country in terms of its economy. With the Mandarin these children are learning, they will be able to communicate with the Chinese anywhere in the world and can also become interpreters locally and internationally.”
Mr Sefuthi further said communities around the center also felt “some sense of ownership” of the facility hence his confidence it would be protected from vandalism.
“For instance, during the construction of the centre, community members agreed that these people needed to have free access to our natural resources like sand and quarry. We felt this was our way of saying thank you to them,” he said.