The Woman Behind the Hope
Over a decade ago, Abigail Bachopi had just completed a two-year diploma in psycho-social counseling when she began volunteering one day a week to run a support group for 61 women affected by HIV and AIDS. The group was located in Katutura, near the informal settlements and squatter camps of 130,000 plus people. It wasn’t long before Abigail noticed the women always brought children to the meetings which made it difficult for them to discuss the intimate and complex issues they faced with HIV and AIDS. She also noticed that the children weren’t in school. And, putting two and two together, Abigail realized they came to eat something, since a meal was provided at the weekly meeting.
Surprised to See So Many Hungry Kids
Being someone who grew up in a community where there was no need for food programs, it was a natural reaction for Abigail to find a solution.
“In my home village near Francistown, Botswana, every house would feed at least an extra two people who had nothing. So, no one ever went hungry.”
It was seeing the hunger in Katutura that motivated Abigail to step into action.So, with the help of Jeniphar Gatsi Mallet, Abigail started small by providing play activities for the children and, of course, a meal. Abigail and Jeniphar also applied for funding from the World Bank to undertake a study to find out the underlying reasons why so many kids weren’t in school. They soon discovered that there were many reasons.
“You need to remember that lots of people here are caregivers to children that have been orphaned or who are vulnerable because their guardians are sick or have died. You end up with poor people, already burdened with huge survival issues, caring for relatives, or younger siblings, or the children of friends,” says Abigail. “There is often no money to feed these children decent meals, let alone send them to school. Sometimes kids even need to work to provide money for the household. It is complex and we knew we had to find a way to change things for these kids,” says Abigail.
Started in 2003 with 18 Kids
So, Abigail focused on the primary needs of the children, and in 2003 she formerly established Family of Hope Services. She gathered volunteers and raised money to pay for school requirements, to provide tutoring, and to feed the children at least once a day. In the first year FHS supported 18 kids in one way or another. They grew to 84 kids in their second year, and to 150 in their third year. And it didn’t stop. In 2008 Abigail took things one step further and became a registered welfare organization with the Government Ministry of Health and Social Services. Today they are helping over 450 kids.
“Our success is because of the community. We identify issues as a community… make decisions as a community… and help out as a community. We have over 30 volunteers who cook, feed, clean, and watch over the kids every day. And these volunteers struggle themselves to make a living but we all know that the only way to change the path so many are on is to educate the children with knowledge and skills so they can help themselves as they get older.“
The work is never-ending. Abigail works on average 16 hours a day to keep FHS operating so they can help over 450 kids. She works for only enough money to cover her basic needs.
Abigail knows this is her life calling.