First Time Family
To respect the privacy of those featured in this story, the names used have been changed and no identifiable photos are included
In 2018, we closed our Cherish Homes and launched a new ministry in its place: Cherish Life Program. Instead of offering institutionalized care for children, we now work with families to offer guidance and get a child out of long-term housing and into a forever home.
Cherish Life Program is encouraging families and adults to step into partnership and responsibility through educating families on fostering to adopt and HIV care.
Many of the children from our former Cherish Homes were resettled into homes with an aunt, uncle, or older sibling. The CLP team walks alongside these families to prepare them to welcome a child into their family unit, not just their house. The CLP helps families navigate spiritual development, the logistics of budgeting for this new child, making sure a child with HIV is taking the right steps toward their HIV care, and/or helping them understand that we don’t need them to house the child “for now,” but to welcome the child into their family for forever.
While many children were being resettled, we knew one boy who didn’t have family to find. Andrew was rescued as a baby on the day he was born, and then was put into another children’s home that was full of abuse. Andrew endured and persevered through that tough journey and finally made his way to Cherish Uganda in 2014. While other kids were being resettled with their parents or distant relatives that our social work team had located, Andrew began acting up at school and causing trouble.
No matter how helpful and loving we could be in our previous program, the Cherish Homes, Andrew needed a the love and support that comes with individualized attention. Andrew needed someone to call his own and some place to call home.
There were 4 children that were unable to be resettled, so our CLP team first went to our staff to give them the first opportunity to foster these children. We had several staff members who, with no hesitation, volunteered to foster a child. We then interviewed all the staff members interested in fostering, and paired the kids with staff members that would be the best fit. Employees at Cherish Uganda often talk about how they view their work as a calling rather than just a job. It was encouraging that our staff members see and understand the vision of what we’re doing to a point that they would even foster these kids. They see the importance of our work to a point of personal sacrifice.
A sweet married couple, Esther and John, were among these willing staff members. Esther, the lead teacher at our high school, pictured herself fostering a young child that she could bond with as they grew older. God had a different plan for her. Esther and John (who is a teacher at Cherish Primary School) were given Andrew, a 6th grader. Andrew was not who Esther had pictured fostering, but John and Esther happily opened their doors to Andrew, wondering and how God would use them.
Now, Esther’s face lights up talking about Andrew and how he immediately started calling Esther and John “mom” and “dad.” Through Andrew’s eyes, she’s getting to see what it’s like to have a family and home for the first time. She’s delighted by his curiosity and joy of simply being at home and spending time together.
As soon as Andrew was welcomed into his new family, his behavior started improving at school.
His behavior changed so drastically that he was made the class monitor for primary six, and this February, Andrew even campaigned for the student council position of Head Compound Boy for Cherish Primary. The votes were counted in front of the student body, and when Andrew won, his friends picked him up and threw him on their shoulders. After the chanting and cheering and his peers let him back down, he proudly ran straight to Teacher John to give his new dad a big hug.
We all need people to call our own, friends to lift us up, and family to celebrate victories with. The Cherish Life Program is putting the interests of our children first and foremost to make sure those relationships are cultivated in a family setting.