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04/13/2023 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – Over and over the workers dug their shovels into the eastern Congo ground, removing the dirt one shovelful at a time. Backbreaking work, they spent a week digging four 15×15 ft holes in a small plot of land the local chief had given for an important project – a venture that will change the trajectory of life for more than 200 children.

But not just any children. These children, ranging in age from four months to 21 years, have been orphaned by the ADF militants who stormed their Christian villages and homes and murdered their parents and siblings… and destroyed everything they owned. These 200 children have been rescued from the front lines of war and are now living at Compassion Orphanage in Butembo.

Recently, in just a matter of months, seven more babies were found in the arms of their dead mothers when people went looking for survivors after yet another ADF attack. The rescuers brought these babies to Compassion Orphanage as well.

Yet the children’s home is operating in dire destitution–overcrowded and stretched far beyond its capacity to provide for the basic survival needs of so many children, let alone supply them with all they need to flourish physically, emotionally, and spiritually in the wake of gut-wrenching atrocities.

Compassion has been operating for 30 years and is led by Dorcas Kiharami and her husband Pastor Immanuel Kiharami. Occupying a small plot of land, there is no room to expand, and the needs are urgent – children are starving and sick. They are getting sick from a lack of clean water, and they have nowhere to sleep. They needed food, medicine, safe water, and mattresses.

In 2022, ICC gave the orphanage emergency aid funds to help provide for some of the most pressing needs, which included food, medicine, safe water, and mattresses. However, given the ongoing nature of the conflict and the long-term care the children need, something more sustainable had to be done.

Considering the small plot of land the chief had given, a wise strategy for how to best utilize the space was key. In conjunction with the Kiharamis, ICC decided to construct and launch a fish farm there. This dual-purpose project would provide the orphanage with an ongoing source of food and generate income.

ICC’s partners in Butembo collaborated with Dorcas to get the farm up and running – about a six-month process – and it is expected that the orphanage will begin reaping the benefits of the farm this spring.

Dorcas brims with gratefulness as she outlines all that will be achievable because of the fish farms.

Children will have adequate food. Selling fish eggs will allow caretakers to address specific needs such as purchasing formula for children under three years old. In addition,

the orphaned children will learn fish breeding, and income from the fish farm will be used to purchase a field where the children can learn other farming and agriculture skills, enabling them to sustain themselves in the future.

Acknowledging the financial assistance received for this project, Dorcas said, “This is a demonstration of your great and deep concern for the orphaned kids at the orphanage. You have responded positively to James’ [divine] declaration that ‘Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father consists in visiting orphans and widows in their affliction’ (1:27).”

While not all the hardships these orphaned children have faced and continue to face will be alleviated with the fish farm, having nourishing food and a new source of funds to provide for their needs will play a profound role in bringing healing to their bodies and souls.

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