Rotary grant provides coats, hens to African orphans
Rockport — West Bay Rotarian Deborah Hitchings has just returned from working with a group of AIDS orphans in a remote region of Lesotho — a third world country geographically surrounded by South Africa.
While there she was able to provide more than100 winter coats and facilitate the purchase of 100 laying hens thanks to funding provided through a Rotary Foundation District Grant.
Hitchings is the co-founder of Qholaqhoe Mountain Connections, a non-profit organization whose mission is to benefit the people of Qholaqhoe, Lesotho by providing financial grants to fund education, cultivate sustainable farming practices, and to alleviate hunger.
QMC was established in 2009 in response the dire needs of the population of the rural Qholaqhoe Mountain region of Lesotho.
"A group of determined grandmothers in the small, remote village of Likiting have cared for their orphaned children for over ten years," Hitchings said in a news release. "They created and continue to manage a vegetable garden whose purpose is to provide food for the village’s population of HIV/AIDS orphans. The grandmothers and orphans tend this garden so that the orphans survive within their community rather than being sent away to far off orphanages. The children are actively involved in the care, maintenance and harvesting of the crops that stave off the hunger they face on a daily basis. When we arrived last month we found 175 orphans dependent upon the Orphan Garden."
Two grandmothers plan, design and manage all their own projects on a plot of land donated by the local village chief. QMC, at their request, has helped with several projects over the past five years including the building of a water storage tank, a new kitchen building and barn as well as the purchase of a jersey cow.
This year West Bay Rotary and Rotary District 7790 teamed with QMC to provide funding for coats for an increasing population of orphans. Temperatures can be extremely cold in the upcoming winter months and snow is not uncommon. They also identified the need for laying hens to provide protein rich eggs for the children as well as being a source of income through any extra eggs sold. That income provides the funding to purchase feed and medicines for the layers.
"It was overwhelming to see the reaction of the children when they received their new coats. Most of the kids wore them immediately even though it had to be 75 degrees that day! These kids have perhaps two sets of clothing to their names, one pair of shoes, if they are lucky. So the fact that they received a coat of their own is cause for celebration," Hitchings said.
While Hitchings was at the garden the laying hens were ordered and will soon be providing approximately 90 eggs a day.
"West Bay Rotary has a long tradition of support of international projects that provide assistance in the areas of water and sanitation, basic education and literacy, maternal and child health, economic and community development and peace and conflict prevention/resolution." she said. " I am extremely grateful for Rotary's ongoing interest in the work QMC is doing in Lesotho. With the help of Rotary's generous funding we are truly making a difference in the lives of a group of desperately poor but deserving children."
More information about Qholaqhoe Mountain Connections is available at qmconnect.org. West Bay Rotary's website is: westbayrotaryofmaine.org.