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THE IMPORTANCE OF INVESTING IN CHILDREN

It is a common fallacy that orphanages are the only, and most beneficial, solution for abandoned and orphaned children. Pastor Ruth Kahawa, founder of Smile Africa in Uganda, was dismayed at hearing that the cause she had steadfastly been campaigning for - ensuring that children are safely placed in orphanages - was, in fact, doing the children more harm than good. Research has shown that orphanages have an extremely detrimental effect on the children residing there.

Dr Delia Pop, a director at Hope and Homes for Children, states that apart from having no sense of belonging, these children suffer from a delay in development, struggle to negotiate conflict and are more likely to become victims of exploitation. Furthermore, 60 percent of women brought up in orphanages become single mothers who, in turn, use orphanages to care for their children, thereby perpetuating this negative cycle. In financially stunted social care systems one care-worker frequently needs to take care of anything from 15 to 50 children. It is impossible for them to provide the safe and nurturing environment that children need to excel and, by implication, their brain development is unequivocally affected.

Distressingly, between 80 and 90 percent of children in orphanages still have one or more parents or extended families. Most of the children in orphanages are, therefore, not orphans. They are placed there due to poverty, disability or discrimination. Apart from the exceedingly negative impact orphanages have on children, they are also extremely expensive to maintain due to their high staff numbers and large infrastructure requirements. A quarter of a billion US dollars in aid money flows into Uganda annually to keep children in orphanages. Imagine reinvesting those resources into sustainable systems that benefit the children and the societies from which they come.

By treating philanthropic donation with the same significance as financial investment, the UBS Optimus Foundation is ensuring that a large amount of the aid money reaching Uganda is propelling sustainable, impactful solutions. The foundation believes that investing in children is the single most important contribution a philanthropist can make. As such, they are working closely with the Childs i Foundation (CIF), a supporter of organisations like Pastor Ruth's Smile Africa. The CIF's aim is to, firstly, prevent children from entering institutional care. They support vulnerable, at risk families through education, skills development and income generation. Secondly, they work at reintegrating children in orphanages by either tracing the family and returning the children to their parents, or having them adopted by government approved adoptive parents.

Support from the UBS Optimus Foundation has proved invaluable to the CIF. By ensuring that donor funds are channelled in the right direction, these investments result in the creation of well balanced, educated, happy children that grow up to be citizens that can build strong and stable societies, thereby helping their communities out of poverty.