Amitofo Care Centers in Africa Raising Thousands of Orphaned Children
BD Dipananda Buddhistdoor Global | 2017-10-30 |
Venerable Hui Li, a Buddhist monk from Taiwan, is raising thousands of underprivileged children from several southern African countries, who are now growing up at Amitofo Care Centres (ACCs). Many of the children staying at the ACCs came from remote villages and became orphans after their parents died of HIV/Aids. Alone, the children were missing the care of a loving family and had little access to proper food and healthcare. Observing this situation first hand on a visit to the continent in 1992, Venerable Li decided to establish the ACCs, which include orphanages, schools, and clinics, to provide the necessary livelihood for those children.
The guiding principles that lie at the core of the ACCs draw on local African culture, Chinese culture, and Buddhist philosophy. The children also learn Chinese as part of their curriculum, to help them secure a future. The Chinese language is becoming more important in today’s world, and learning Chinese may provide the children with the means of obtaining a good job and to end the cycle of poverty.
Ven. Li is an advocate for humanistic Buddhism, a new religious movement that originated in Chinese Buddhism, and is one of the founding members of the African Buddhist College, which has trained more than 500 monastics from the Congo, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe.
“I am truly grateful to Venerable Hui Li and to everyone who has contributed positively to the propagation of Buddhism in Africa as it has not only given me an opportunity to study and practice the profound teachings of the Buddha, but has also enabled many students from across Africa to study the Dharma,” said Ven. Ben Xing, a Buddhist monk who grew up in the ACC in Malawi, in an article he wrote for Buddhistdoor Global. “Buddhism still needs more support in terms of local pioneers who understand the teachings and its concepts on a deeper level and who can pass them on to others.”
The first ACC was established in Malawi 12 years ago and now houses 500 children. ACCs have also opened in a number of other African countries, including Burkina Faso, Gambia, Lesotho, Namibia, Swaziland, and and there are plans to open more in the region. The ACCs include dormitories for children and youths, a kindergarten, preparatory school, library, medical center, vocational training center, religious center, kung fu training center, and more. Not all the centers have a high school, for instance the center in Swaziland, so the children go to a secondary school in the area. The ACCs are associated with two charity organizations; the Yuan Tong Culture and Care Association and the ACC African Executive Association, which continuously organize and manage ACC activities. Most of the funding for the centers—70 per cent—comes from donors in Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, and Taiwan.
The ACCs are organized like a “big family” or a “children’s village.” Groups of 16–20 children stay together, living under one roof with one nanny or one “mommy,” and one childcare teacher. These adults manage the home and take care of the children.
To date, the ACCs have adopted some 8,000 children, who live at the centers until they reach 18, when they go university or on to other vocational training. Twenty-six students from the center in Malawi are currently studying in universities in Taiwan, and according to forecasts, the centers in Lesotho and Swaziland, which have been running for five and six years respectively, will have similar numbers.
Through a “sponsor parents” scheme, people can support the children financially throughout their secondary and tertiary education. Last August, some sponsor parents in Malaysia had the chance to meet the children they sponsored when they visited Malaysia for a cultural program. “These children are here to show gratitude to their sponsor parents and let them know about their wellbeing,” said Kimmy Wong, vice-secretary of ACCs Malaysia.