Children of Hope and Faith invites sponsors to assist orphans in Tanzania

Co-founders of Children of Hope and Faith are, left, Father Johndamaseni Zilimu, shown with children at a diocesan orphanage in Tanzania in 2006, and Jane Walsh of Champaign, holding two of the organization's recent newsletters.

CHAMPAIGN — Considering there are millions of child orphans in the world, the efforts of a group founded locally to assist hundreds of them in northwest Tanzania may not seem significant.

That is, unless you are one of those helped.

“We really try to help the individual child reach their full potential,” said Jane Walsh of Champaign, president and co-founder of Children of Hope and Faith. The not-for-profit corporation invites individuals, families, or groups to sponsor a child’s Catholic education or contribute to projects supplying  needed water or health care in the region.

The group’s other co-founder is Father Johndamaseni Zilimu, a native of the eastern Africa nation who is now pastor of Saint John Paul II Parish and chaplain of OSF Saint Luke Medical Center, both in Kewanee.

“This is a poor region and remote,” said Father Zilimu of northwest Tanzania. The area saw an influx of refugees during the Rwandan genocide in the early 1990s, and the combination of AIDS, extreme poverty, and lack of health care also results in thousands of children living without parents.

Walsh felt called to help them in 2004.

A HEART FOR HELPING CHILDREN

“I had been sponsoring kids for more than 20 years in different organizations,” she told The Catholic Post. During Lent of that year, when she would hear the word orphan “I would get a stab in the heart.”

She discussed it with Father Zilimu, who at the time was taking classes at the University of Illinois and assisting at St. John’s Catholic Newman Center.

“Father John had the faith to think (starting a new organization) was possible,” said Walsh. “He had already taken two children off the street and to his father’s home, promising to help with their education. He already had a heart for helping children.”

Children of Hope and Faith began with just three sponsored children. Today, there are 110 being assisted in grade school, high school, and college.

The cost of sponsoring a child to a Catholic grade school or high school is $60 per month or $700 per year. Half-sponsorships are also welcomed.

One of the first sponsored children, Arsenius Gotifrid, was ordained to the priesthood in July for the Kayanga Diocese, one of two dioceses through which the organization works. Others are in professions such as teaching or medicine.

“There is an African saying that ‘education is the key of life,’” said Walsh, a member of St. Matthew Parish in Champaign who sponsors two children. “For me to see the graduation pictures of these kids, orphans, and know they have a promising future is a great reward.”

VISIT WAS “EYE-OPENING”

Walsh saw the good work being accomplished in 2012 when she accompanied Father Zilimu to Tanzania. While meeting the sponsored children was wonderful, the need for health care was “very eye-opening,” she said.

In addition to child sponsorships, Children of Hope and Faith also invites gifts to help provide medical care for pregnant women and children, food for children at Angel Home Orphanage, and support clean water or solar energy projects.

Father Zilimu, accompanied by Mark and Mary Ebert from his Kewanee parish, will begin a two-week visit to Tanzania on Nov. 13 — which happens to be World Orphan Day.

They will be bringing school supplies and medicine donated by members of Saint John Paul II Parish. The parish’s school, Visitation Catholic, sponsors a grade school girl through Children of Hope and Faith.

“We will be visiting three schools, a hospital, and an orphanage” on the mission trip, said Father Zilimu, who would like to see the organization continue to grow.

“She’s doing a wonderful job, very good work,” he said of Walsh.

Walsh, meanwhile, expressed gratitude for local support from St. Matthew Parish and School, which sponsors an annual arts and crafts fundraiser, as well as Holy Cross Parish and The High School of Saint Thomas More, both in Champaign.

Further information is available at childrenofhopeandfaith.org.

 

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