Poverty often means a life lived in isolation, unconnected even from those who share the same struggles and challenges. A ZOE working group provides orphans and vulnerable children a community where they experience understanding, compassion and acceptance. Together, they begin their journey towards a better life.
To form a working group, ZOE program facilitators first contact community leaders and local officials to educate them about the empowerment approach and to ask for their help in identifying children. During the first meeting, the children and their young caregivers learn how they will change and improve their lives within three years. Then ZOE takes a step back.
Working group members elect their own leadership, make rules to guide their meetings, choose a group name and decide where to hold weekly gatherings. These once-marginalized children learn from ZOE staff that their community and their Hope Companion partner have faith in their ability to succeed.
The eldest child from each family attends weekly meetings to discuss their activities, both achievements and challenges, and to share in prayer and reflection with each other. Additionally, ZOE’s staff and selected community members hold regular training sessions covering the topics of food security, health and disease prevention, business management, and child rights.
One of the first actions the group takes is to select a project, such as a group farm, or decide on a mutual help activity, like building dish drying racks for each other. This group endeavor fosters companionship and teaches the children that they can depend on each other as they journey together towards a new life of self-sufficiency.
There are 5 working groups (pictured above) with 147 households and a total of 328 members. Most heads of households are between the ages 15-20 oftentimes having siblings and dependents between the ages of 3 months and 12 years. ZOE works with orphaned and vulnerable children ages infant through college age. Occasionally, an older person lives with the family, but is unable to provide for them due to age or illness. Although ZOE obtains name lists with both first and last names, ZOE uses first names only in public lists to preserve the privacy of children in the program.
Please note, children joining the ZOE program are living in extreme poverty situations. Often they have no parents or birth documentation and have suffered multiple traumas in their young lives. Occasionally the children give conflicting information on their names and ages. Additional orphans are frequently adopted by the group, and a small percentage of children will leave the group due to family reunification or other reasons. All of these children would love to have your prayers.