In the late 1990’s aids was rampant in Kenya and Bishop Domnic Ochoo & his wife, living in the west of the country, close to Lake Victoria, started taking orphaned children into their home. When the number got to 10 children they had no more room so they started the Bala Children’s Centre, where they housed, fed & clothed them, but also started to educate them.
As numbers grew, they were unable to fund the Centre themselves, & a chance meeting with someone from the UK, led to fundraising over here to support them, and then the setting up of the UK charity.
Bishop Domnic has developed a Kenyan model of care for some of these orphans, where the children live with approved families and come to the Centre every day to use the primary and secondary school. Bishop Domnic believes he has been called to ‘to look after orphans and widows in their distress’ (James 1:27). There are 400 children who are cared for through the Bala Children’s Centre, a number of whom were street children. The Centre is a source of real, practical help and support for these children, providing pastoral care to nurture them and to make up for what their parents can no longer give.
The ‘Kenyan model’ was developed in response to evidence which showed that institutional care does not always meet the developmental and other needs of young children. By separating children from vital sources of their identity and from support through families and communities, orphanages can often fail to prepare children for independent life. A child placed within a family will benefit from care, love and socialisation, which that family and community life provides.
Bala Children’s Centre is a community-focused child support centre, where the majority of children supported stay with relatives, church members and foster parents. Some still live in their parents’ homes where the oldest child or, in some cases, very old grandparents act as the head of the family. This is to ensure that there’s continuity in that family home. Most of the children are happy living together in their parents’ homes as long as they get all they need right there.
For those who have nowhere to live, the Bala Children’s Centre provides a safe and supportive refuge. There are now over 100 children who live at the Centre.