Children receive care, love at United Methodist orphanage
April 6, 2005
NOTE: This story is part of a six-week Close Up series, "Mozambique: A Land of Contrasts." Related reports, photographs and audio are available at http://umns.umc.org.
By Kathy L. Gilbert*
TELES, Mozambique (UMNS)—Smiling, excited children, ranging from toddlers to teens, stand on the front porch of the Teles Orphanage, singing jubilantly as visitors arrive.
Two-year-old Pedro, spying a grown woman without a child in her arms, quickly fixes that vacancy by approaching her and holding up his little arms.
The smiling faces and lively chatter momentarily mask the reason all the children are here. They are orphans in a country ravaged by war, poverty and AIDS. Adding a hint of sadness to their home is its previous history as a leper colony.
Teles, supported by the United Methodist Women’s Society of Mozambique, was originally established to shelter children left homeless by war. Now many are here because their parents or guardians have died of AIDS, or cannot care for their children because of extreme poverty.
Strangers bring street children to Teles. Among the orphans is a mute boy found by local authorities as he begged for food.
Ten adults, led by director Amelia Titos Messane, care for the children. Young women serve as housemothers and sleep in small huts with them. A traditional open hut with benches is used as a classroom and a gathering place for meals.
Talking to visitors in the open hut, Messane picks up a small boy and holds him close. The child has been at the orphanage since he was a month old.
"His mother died, and his father doesn’t care for him," Messane says. "There is a couple who wants to adopt him, and when I called his father he said, ‘Let them take him.’"
She points to a set of twin girls who arrived sick from malnutrition. "When the mother realized her children were suffering, she just abandoned them," Messane says.
Proudly, Messane ticks off the success stories: seven children attend primary school; three have been adopted by couples in the United States; and one young man who grew up at Teles now attends seminary at the United Methodist Church’s Cambine Mission School.
"Many of the children will stay here all their lives because they have no place else to go," she says. "They depend on the school, and the school depends on the United Methodist Church."
To illustrate her point, three boys dressed in school uniforms are filling up their plates during a break from school. "They return here every day to get their lunch," Messane says, laughing.
Poor parents may petition to have their child live at the orphanage for two years and can apply to get their children back, "but that is rare," she says.
Messane has been director for three years. In the first year, four children died from malnutrition and malaria. Since then, there have been no deaths.
"I love to work with children," she says, as a little girl snuggles under her arm. "I take care of them all with the same love and attention."
Teles has no electricity but does have a gas freezer, thanks to the children at Pleasant Grove United Methodist Church in Auxvasse, Mo. Their vacation Bible school class raised $650 to buy a freezer for the orphanage in summer 2004. Aurora (Mo.) United Methodist Church supports Teles every month with donations, and First United Methodist Church in Lee’s Summit, Mo., recently raised $2,000 to purchase food.
Contributions to the Teles Orphanage may be sent through a local United Methodist church or annual conference, or by mailing a check to Advance GCFA, P.O. Box 9068, GPO, New York, NY 10087-9068. Write the check out to “Advance GCFA” and include Children’s Ministries (Advance Special #101225) on the check memo line. Call (888) 252-6174 to give by credit card. For more information, visit the Advance Web site, http://gbgm-umc.org/advance.
*Gilbert is a United Methodist News Service news writer in Nashville, Tenn.
News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.