Hamisi, Compassion Tanzania's 50,000 registered child, poses for the photo that will be included in his child information packet.
Compassion International Tanzania (CIT) registered* its 50,000 child two months ago on Feb. 16. This historic registration ushered in a new era for us. It was a moment to put down our tools, celebrate the Lord's favor, and thank Him for what he has done and for His faithfulness. It was a milestone for the Tanzanian ministry, an achievement worth celebrating.
Now let's see how we reached the 50,000-child mark and also learn about how our child registration process works.
The milestone occurred in Tabora, more than 650 kilometers from Arusha, where the head office of CIT is located. But the search actually began months earlier.
Finding Church Partners
Before going into a new area, CIT conducts country mapping to determine the level of poverty in one area compared to another. Country mapping determines where the greatest ministry need is.
After country mapping, we conduct a baseline survey to determine if the areas identified with a high degree of poverty have Christian churches whose mission matches ours. This is critical because we work through the local church it is the local church that actually implements the program and cares for the children. If there is no church, our ministry model won't work, regardless of the degree of poverty that exists there.
We ask questions, such as:
- Does the church have classrooms to accommodate the children?
- Do they have people who can teach and work with children or who can learn to assist children?
- Are there people and children who can help the program continue?
This baseline survey helps us decide which areas and churches are a good fit. Of course, in all the stages we keep praying and asking God to lead us in the right path and to bring people who will be willing to sponsor children and release the resources needed.
After the baseline survey, we gather all the potential church partners for vision casting. In this gathering we share the importance of ministry to children and call on the church to awaken to the call of Jesus Christ to fulfill the Great Commandment.
After this, we choose the potential church partners and invite them to a partnership meeting. At this one-day meeting, we pray together and give relevant partnership documents to the new church partners.
If the partners agree on the conditions, they sign a partnership agreement with us. These partnership agreements give room to church partners to start preparing environments to begin the ministry. They start recruiting child development center workers and create a child ministry committee formed from church members. The church has to find those able and qualified to work in the center as coordinators, accountants, social workers and health workers.
Once all the child development center workers are chosen, they attend the "One-Month Child Ministry Foundation Course" that all center workers go through. In this course, the newly recruited workers are trained on how to implement the ministry and how to minister to each child individually. They also learn what is expected of them and different ways and procedures of reporting and giving feedback to us. They get to know the organizational structure of CIT, the departments involved, and how each department works.
Screening and Registration
All this leads up to child screening and registration.
How screening is done: Teams are created for the screening process. A team is made up of a child ministry worker, one staff member from CIT and local church members who know the people in the community. The teams are assigned different geographic locations around the church. Each team goes from house to house in search of children who are in need. Where there is an age-appropriate child, the team determines the level of poverty by asking several questions and by observing the family environment. If the family agrees to let their child be registered, the child will be given an identification number and instructions about what to do on the registration day.
This screening process may take two or three days depending on several factors, such as the distance from one house to another, the time the teams take to explain to the parents or guardians about the ministry and how it works, and the number of teams. The teams continue to screen children until they have found the number of children the center can register.
After screening comes the big day.
Registration day: This is the day of celebration. A new era dawns in the life of each child. For our historic day, rain fell heavily as the day began, but this did not hamper children and mothers from gathering at the church for registration. Many Africans associate the fall of rain with blessing, and Feb. 16 was a day of blessing. Children and mothers rushed to the church door to make sure they didn't miss the registration.
On registration day, the parents hear in detail about how the ministry will be conducted and what level of commitment is expected from them to support their children. If parents feels they cannot meet the obligation, they still have the freedom to pull out of the process, and the chance will be given to another child.
Next, the center workers start with one child, working carefully with the parents to gather accurate information about each child to send to the sponsors. This is technically known as a "New Case History," written in what we call the case study form. This information is what will be processed and sent to Compassion's Global Ministry Center in Colorado Springs, then to Compassion's partner countries and finally to the new sponsors.
After the case study form is completed, the child proudly stands up for his or her picture to be taken perhaps the first picture ever taken of the child and an identification number is assigned. Then the pictures and case study are reviewed to see if there is any error that needs to be rectified. After this, the parents are given instructions about when the child will attend the center. If everything is well, the child will start coming to the center the following Saturday.
The 50,000 Child
Now, after all the preparation was done the teams in Tabora set to work. There were eight teams of three or four people each. Their duty was to register 380 children, and this would bring the number of registered children to 49,999. Then, all the teams would gather together to screen number 381.
No special arrangements were made to prepare the child. Screening followed the normal process. And the special child happened to be Hamisi.
Although Hamisi is the child that marks this historic registration, he is no different from the other children screened and registered in his area and in Tabora in general. The poverty that engulfed his parents had affected him at the age of 6 Hamisi had not started school. His mother got pregnant by a man who abandoned her and Hamisi. That was before she was married to her current husband. Hamisi is still the only child of the couple.
On the day of Hamisi's registration the church was filled. The occasion was even graced by the high level government district authority. The district commissioner, who is a presidential appointee, was there to witness the registration exercise. Children and their parents filled the church, some children sitting on the laps of their parents or guardians. They came as early as 7 a.m. because no one wanted to miss the opportunity. Some, being Muslim, were setting their feet inside the church for the first time. Religious boundaries did not deter them, nor Christian prayers, songs, nor reading from the Bible.
That day marked a new beginning for each child. One day each week, for the rest of the time he or she will be in the program, the child will go to the center. The child can stay in the program from age 3 up to age 22**, when it is expected he or she will have fulfilled all the core programs. A child may graduate from the program before age 22 if he or she has acquired enough skills to make him or her a fulfilled and responsible Christian adult the ultimate vision of Compassion International.
* A registered child differs from a sponsored child in that the registered child doesn't have a sponsor yet.
**Graduation age from the Child Sponsorship Program differs by country.
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