We have up to 120 children and young adults aged between 6 and 20 living in the two orphanages. We can accommodate 60 girls and 60 boys. This makes AMPO one of the few facilities in Burkina Faso reaching out to this age group, because most orphanages cater only for babies and infants. Many of our kids are referred to us by state social services, otherwise it is often their relatives who turn to us for help. Now and again we find a solitary child standing outside the gate in the morning.
The children have lost one or both parents, some of them have been abandoned or mistreated. Each case is assessed in terms of need by a team of educators and psychologists. If the family can be traced we try to let the child grow up with them if possible. AMPO would then support them with school fees, clothing and healthcare. If the child is admitted to the orphanage we make every effort to maintain and foster contact with the original family whenever appropriate. The notion of a person without a family is inconceivable in Burkina Faso. The family is the safety net providing support.
Depending on their personal circumstances the young adults between the ages of 18 and 20 officially leave AMPO at their passing-out ceremony. Those who have successfully completed their training in one of the AMPO workshops are offered material support to facilitate their entry into the employment sector. They are given the necessary tools to carry out the trade they have learned. Trainees and students continue to receive support and financial assistance from their sponsors in Europe and through the AMPO Training Support Scheme until they have completed their course.
Many remain in close contact to AMPO. Some even come to work in our various facilities as educators or nurses for instance, while others set up their own workshops and supply us with their products to sell in our AMPO shop or to ship to Europe.
Our children become accustomed to a normal routine, typical of daily life in Africa. They wash their own clothes, help with cooking and washing-up and their chores include keeping the yard and their rooms tidy, just like in any other Burkina family. During the week, school and homework are top priority. At weekends they do sport and games, music, swimming lessons, football and karate, all part of their learning and leisure opportunities. Handicrafts, IT courses, farm-work and our annual summer camp with trips to the surrounding countryside are also on the agenda. The holidays are there for the kids to do what they want at last - singing, fishing, sleeping, drumming, or just playing.
Many of the children are severely traumatized by their previous lives. At AMPO they are given psychological support, but more importantly their daily lives are given structure, they are lovingly cared for, provided with regular nourishing food, individual encouragement and inclusion in a community that offers the security they really need for healthy development.
In keeping with the principle that the children should be given a solid education, all of the AMPO children start by attending a local school. As far as possible the children continue at least until the intermediate level (BEPC in Burkina Faso) because this enables them to access vocational training or take the examination to qualify for work in public services. No child is left by the wayside. Solutions are found for those who wish to pursue a different path.
Most of the children are highly motivated and perform extremely well in school. Many of them are chosen as class representatives, a huge accolade for a child that was once neglected and proof of the fact that the AMPO staff often succeed in imparting confidence and self-assuredness to their protégés.
In all of the AMPO institutions we practise religious freedom. The orphanages have a mosque and a small chapel where prayers are conducted regularly by an imam or a chaplain. Religion plays an important part in life in Burkina Faso. The churches and mosques are brimming to capacity. Everyone believes in God and each can practise his own religion. There are Muslims, Christians and many natural religions in the country and their followers accept each other and celebrate many religious festivals together. It is important for the orphans to find a niche in their respective religious communities once they leave AMPO.
Orphanage for boys
The Orphanage for boys (Director: Lamsa Bogni) The AMPO Orphanage for boys was the first facility set up by Katrin Rohde in 1996. When she took over the site it was still a rubbish dump. Lamsa Bogni, an educator with years of experience, is the Director of the Orphanage and he works together with his team in line with AMPO principles:
The AMPO boys‘ football teams are winners, taking part every year in regional championships. Sport plays a very important role in helping to cope with past experiences. It fosters team spirit and helps to balance out the demands they are faced with every day at school.
Orphanage for girls
The Orphanage for girls opened in 1999. The difficult situation of girls is at first sight not so obvious as that of the boys. If the parents die, the girls are usually handed on to relatives to work as kitchen maids. In many cases they are maltreated. Paying school fees for them is out of the question. This led Katrin Rohde to set up the Orphanage for girls. Christine Adamou, a qualified psychologist, has been looking after the girls from day one with love and generosity.
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