In early July, Joni, her family and a team from St. Luke’s Anglican Church in Hilton Head traveled to Africa for the grand opening of their first orphanage in Dar es Salaam, The Valentine Home.
“I can tell you that seeing the place and the children in person was one of the greatest experiences that my family has shared together, and it was truly emotional for all of us. Our lives will forever be intertwined with the beautiful children we met in Tanzania this summer.” – Joni Vanderslice
The Valentine Project orphanage, named The Valentine Home, opened on July 6, 2015. The 19 children residing there, ages 3-7, are precious! They come from baby orphanages that only accommodate children from infant-3 years old, from grandmothers who have 10 or more children to care for, as well as from many other at-risk and tentative situations. One of the children was abandoned by his mother and was picked up by a family who found him. Thankfully, this little boy now has a home at the Valentine Home and a family who will care for and love him as he grows.
The campus includes a dormitory, or home, for the 19 children and 2 Mamas. This building sleeps 10 on each side of a duplex design. There is also a kitchen and a small administrative building. Gardens have been planted on the property, and a fence encloses the entire campus.
The staff includes two Mamas (Sister Janet and Sister Irene), a Senior Mother (Sister Lucy), a Mamas’ helper, a guard, and a teacher (Viola) and is led by our Director of Operations, Simon Seruwooza Musoke.
The children are learning to speak English, which will be needed in order to attend the Anglican Schools when they are of age. Montessori materials that were donated in 2009 are being used to teach the children. Medical care is provided by the Anglican clinic. The children also help with food preparation and have a great schedule including tea and clean up. Videos on our website show the children in action during these activities.
“Four years ago, in 2010, I was blessed with the privilege of going to Tanzania for the first time, on that trip we went to visit an orphanage that was in very bad shape. The government there does not believe in orphanages, so they were not paying to keep the lights on, the water going, or for basic needs like food and clothes. There were only 2 care givers for about 100 children. When I went to this orphanage I met Loveness and immediately fell in love. From that day on Loveness has been where my heart for orphans has come from and she has never left my thoughts or prayers. Because of the bad conditions of her orphanage there was no way to keep in contact with them, and even if we could, she did not speak English. This past July, when we went back for the opening of the children’s home, we were at the 50th anniversary celebration of the Anglican Diocese of Dar es Salaam, when some people from our church in Hilton Head, who had already been to the children’s home were showing us pictures of the children and telling us their names. One picture came up of a little girl and they said, that’s Loveness. Knowing that the number of 6 year olds named Lovensss in Dar that are orphans has to be limited, I immediately broke down and realized that I would be reunited with Loveness the next day. The next day when we got to the children’s home, Loveness was at the clinic because she had a cyst on her ear that potentially needed to be removed but when she got there later that day, even though she could not speak English, I think she knew who I was. This is just one of the examples of how God always has a plan and even though I did not know how he was working in my life, he has had that plan since I met Loveness in 2010.” – Grace Vanderslice (pictured above)
For more information about this project or to view more images please visit www.valentineproject.net
While Joni’s family was in Africa, they attended the 50th Anniversary of the Anglican Diocese celebration. The celebratory ceremony was about 5 hours long and was attended by nearly 5,000 people. The ceremony included dancing, many different musical performances and a religious ceremony. One really unique aspect of this celebration is the fabric shown below. The fabric was specially made for the 50th Anniversary celebration and most of the men and women who are wearing this fabric in the images to follow, have handmade each of the garments they wore.
This was such a memorable and life changing trip for Joni and the team from St. Luke’s. Make sure you visit The Valentine Project website for updates.