Uganda (MNN) ― A report from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) shows that Uganda has the highest school drop-out rate for females in East Africa.
The rate shoots up to claim roughly half the class before the girls finish primary school. The reasons are many: lack of interest, pregnancy, early marriages, hidden costs at school, and family responsibilities have driven thousands out of school.
The future for a girl who doesn't finish school is grim.
The Ugandan Education System won't allow a girl who drops out in primary school to return. Boys can come back and continue, but for a girl, once she leaves, she has missed her opportunity for an education. As a result, sexual exploitation and abuse is the most common scenario, but sometimes it includes far worse.
The "what" factor is keeping the girls in school. It's the "how" that gets complicated with limited resources. Although AMG International has sponsorship programs, Child Development Centers, and many other programs geared for the children in Uganda, there was something missing in the family structure itself. Florence Musiime established a ministry to teenage girls called the Dorcas Ministry, an AMG mentoring program.
Why "Dorcas?" Musiime explains, "In Acts 9:36, there was a lady who was called Dorcas. She had a ministry for orphans and widows, and that's how I came to the name: to be there for the girls."
AMG's Stephanie Pickard works with the child sponsorship program. She explains that the vision grew from the seed of hope and the $10 that started it. "They started with the ladies, the teachers, and got the teachers together and were able to help counsel the girls, help keep them in school and provide for some of their basic needs."
However, at-risk teenage girls need more than just a program. They need a friend. Pickard says, "This ministry is helping bridge that gap between not having a mother figure in their lives to being able to raise them up in the power and the knowledge of Christ."
Every girl aged 13 or older who is enrolled in an AMG CDC or sponsorship program is a part of the Dorcas Ministry. Every female staff member is, too. "There are approximately 430 girls in the program. It's even extended to their mothers and their grandmothers," Pickard notes. "The program specifically has extended to a discipleship program. It isn't simply providing for their physical needs, but also there's an emphasis on their spiritual growth and questions they have as they grow into women."
As the girls age out of secondary school sponsorship, there are still questions about their future. Some take on vocational training; others become mothers. There are a select few who have more opportunities. Pickard explains, "The Dorcas ministry is actually sponsoring two girls who have qualified for university. Through their own faith and their own initiative, they're putting them through school. In the future, a lot more girls will be look for that opportunity."
Many times, sponsored students who graduate from college also return to the organization that helped them achieve their potential.
Most importantly, Pickard shares, "The girls have gained self-confidence. They've learned how they're supposed to grow up, that they have worth and value in God's eyes. That confidence brings them to a point that they're able to stay pure in their relationship with Christ."
Scripture notes Dorcas as a disciple of God. She is not only seen as a compassionate woman, but also as an evangelist.
Like its namesake, the Dorcas Ministry shares the love of Christ with more than 500 girls who are part of this AMG outreach. Because of its rapid growth, there are financial challenges. Click here for more ways you can help.