Be A HERO partners with Iris Ministries by raising funds for development and expansion of their orphanages and vocational training programs.
Rolland and Heidi Baker, founders of Iris Ministries, are known throughout Mozambique for their dedication to the alleviation of poverty and suffering and, in particular, for their commitment to providing hope and a future for thousands of orphaned and at-risk children in Mozambique and other nations of Southern Africa. They have achieved the respect of the local communities and their leaders by accomplishing significant strategies to combat the causes of the prevailing orphan crisis.
About 700 of the 3,000 homeless children currently being cared for by Iris are in larger children’s centers. The rest are in local villages and communities, where they receive foster-care from local community leaders within the Iris network. These leaders are often pastors of village churches (of which Iris has over 3,000 in Mozambique and over 6,000 in the region); and they often have as many as 10 orphans each under their care. Iris Ministries is currently providing training, resources, and funding to enable these village leaders to undertake this vital community responsibility; but the logistical challenge of doing so (especially during the rainy season) is quite daunting. While Iris is committed to expanding this model of faith-based community orphan care to Africa’s growing number of orphans, the strategic vision for the future gives priority to implementing a model for decentralized economic sustainability in order to achieve long-term stability.
When Heidi and Rolland Baker began their work in Mozambique in 1995, Mozambique was statistically the poorest country in the world. According to the UN Human Development Index (2000)—which measured life expectancy, education, and standard of living—Mozambique ranked 168 out of 174 nations. That report showed 79.7% of the population as rural, with 71.3% living below the “extreme poverty” line of $0.40 US per day. The projected life expectancy for 2005, factoring in the impact of the AIDS pandemic, was a shocking 35.7 years; and the adult literacy rate was only 40%. The absolute dearth of resources available to Mozambican communities to implement any significant strategy to combat poverty, the lack of education and healthcare, the orphan crisis, and the lack of water and food security all demand immediate and strategically-targeted intervention by outside agencies.
The UN Common Country Assessment for Mozambique for 2000 projected a doubling of the number of full orphans in the three-year period 2003-2006 to 880,000. It is in response to this unprecedented human calamity that Iris Ministries is partnering with Be A Hero to provide new housing and community based care for 5,000 orphans in Mozambique over the next 30 months as part of Heidi Baker’s long-term vision to care for 1,000,000 orphans!
Iris Ministries is now pursuing a vision to develop a community center in nearly every rural village community in Mozambique—which will include a home for village orphans, a common meeting area, a village well, a bakery, in some cases a maize mill (or similar income-generating activity), and in some cases an associated farming project. The current proposal is intended to fund the initial phase of this vision through the creation of the orphan-care home and common meeting area on land acquired for that purpose.
Furthermore, because lack of vocational training is a major cause of Mozambique’s extremely high unemployment rate (in the order of 90% outside the few urban centers), Iris is actively strategizing to provide job training through creation of a “community college” on the large Iris property at Pemba. The auto mechanics shop being funded through the current proposal will be the first component of the new college. Subsequent components will include a woodworking shop, a welding and metalworking shop, an early childhood education program, child and community health care, small business management, hospitality industry training, and information technology (incorporating the facilities of the computer lab being funded by this project).