Full-time care for the most vulnerable children has been an integral part of Project Mercy's service to the community since the organization first started work in the Southern Region over two decades ago. Many of these children have lost one or both parents due to death from HIV/AIDS, were just abandoned on the street or in a bush, and/or are from families suffering from pure poverty, etc. At its peak, Project Mercy had over 80 children in its full-time care. Today that number is closer to 40 children, as many have reached the age where they could seek higher education, take jobs to support themselves, and/or returned to the community from which they originated.
In collaboration with Oromia Region, a region with the highest number of vulnerable and children in adversity, Project Mercy is working to expand its child care program in Legatafo. When the current MOU is implemented, the program will have 36children in its care. Informed by research and the insights of an expert who has designed and planned successful programs in Asia and other third world environments, there are several unique aspects to the design of this program. First, children will live in a home-like environment with six children of various ages, one house mother, and one house mother's assistant. Living in the nearby neighborhood are a volunteer “aunt and uncle” pair that have their own children as well as a volunteer “grandparents”. Each home will also have staff for home care needs, i.e. preparing food, helping with laundry, keeping homes and shared facilities clean, etc.
The long-term vision is to build 32 homes to serve 200 children. We’re starting with a staged approach and the basic structures for six homes have been completed, while work is underway to finish as well as furnish these home to receive children. We plan to have 15 children living in three of the six homes by the end of 2016 and reach the capacity of 36 children in six homes by the end of 2017. Then Project Mercy will start the construction of two additional homes as well as other common service facilities, i.e. space for assembly, a library, recreation room, etc.