Fiona and Patience: how poverty pushes children into orphanages

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Fiona is a loving single mother who faces an impossible choice. Her daughter, Patience, is 14 and has multiple disabilities which mean she can’t walk, stand or sit unsupported.

Fiona has provided constant, devoted care for Patience since the day she was born. The intense bond they share is plain to see. Patience cannot speak but she communicates very effectively with sounds and facial expression and she breaks into a delighted smile whenever her mother is near. Now though, the effects of extreme poverty mean that Fiona is at risk of Patience and her other children being taken from her and placed in an orphanage.

The family lost their home because they could not afford the rent and so they are sheltering in the corner of a building that the local community use as a church. In reality, it’s more like a barn – a rough wooden structure with open sides, next to the rubbish tip and an open sewer on the very edge of town.

Fiona and her children are as good as living in the open. The only furniture they have is a bunk bed, a cooking stove and an armchair. Patience spends most of her time in the chair. Fiona says that the church is cold and damp at night. There are mosquitoes too and these conditions are having a bad effect on Patience’s health. Many people think that it would be better for Patience and for the family as a whole if she was cared for in an institution.

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At one point Fiona was so desperate she did allow Patience to spend time in an orphanage but it was terrible for them both. The institution did not have the staff or the resources to care for Patience in the way that her mother does. Fiona was desperately worried about her daughter and took her back. Until now, against extraordinary odds, Fiona has managed to keep her family together but they are clinging to existence. Fiona is being asked to choose between caring for her daughter under impossible conditions or allowing Patience to grow up in an orphanage, neglected and ignored.

It’s a choice that no mother should have to make. Hope and Homes for Children is working with our partner organisation in Uganda, Child’s i Foundation, to support families affected by poverty so that all children, whatever their needs, have the chance to grow up with the love and protection of a family.

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We will give Fiona the support she needs to keep her family together because, as Barbra, one of the experienced social work team at Child’s i Foundation says, “Patience has the support of a mother who loves her dearly and is doing her best to care for her. The best place for Patience  is by Fiona’s her side.”

Every pound you donate to the End the Silence campaign before the 27th December will be doubled by the UK Government. It means that together, we can reach over 120,000 children across Rwanda and Uganda who are currently confined to orphanages or at risk of being separated from their families.

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