The Olive Branch for Children was born in 2005. That year, after completing her master's degree,
Deborah McCracken went to Tanzania for 3 months to volunteer at the Iwambi Orphanage.
After experiencing the desperate need of the people, and especially the children, she decided to remain there and devote herself to improving the lives of the many orphans and HIV/AIDS infected adults and children.
In 2006, Zion Lutheran Church was celebrating its 200th anniversary and decided that the best way to show their gratitude for 200 years of ministry was to find an outreach project. Zion’s pastor met Deborah at a Toronto ministerial gathering and invited her to speak to the congregation. The congregation was impressed by Deborah’s sincerity and dedication. This was the special project they were looking for.
To show their support for Deborah and the work she was doing in Tanzania, the congregation of Zion committed itself to raising $5,000 for the Olive Branch for Children by holding two concerts that year. The congregation was successful and far surpassed its goal.
The funds raised provided seed money for the establishment of a home for HIV infected orphans. The home was named “Zion Home” in appreciation of the congregation’s effort. In June, six beautiful orphans found a new home where they received medical care, good nutrition, lots of love, and hope.
Deborah & Putiyei with the Zion Home Children
That year, the Evangelical Lutheran Church declared that, as a national synod, it was encouraging all its regional synods and congregations to become churches that were “In Mission for Others.” Not only did Zion have an anniversary project, but the congregation could proudly announce that it was indeed living out their national church’s goal with its continued support of the Olive Branch for Children. Our children in Tanzania became part of our church family.
In 2008 and 2010, Zion’s pastor made trips to Tanzania to visit our children and to work alongside Deborah in the many projects that have evolved and are part of the work of the Olive Branch. The work of the Olive Branch has evolved as the needs of the Mbeya regions of Tanzania became more evident.
The Olive Branch for Children supports four cornerstone programs:
1. The Community Home Based Care Program for patients living with HIV/AIDS
2. The Montessori Outreach Program
3. The Irrigation and Water for Remote Communities Program
4. The Orphans and Vulnerable Children Program of which Zion Home is a part
Our Zion Home now houses thirty children from toddlers to teenagers. They have grown into a real family of caring and loving children. The older ones watch and care for the younger ones. They never fail to show their appreciation and gratitude for our continued support. During our 2008 visit, Boniface told us that he prays every night that their good fortune doesn’t end. In June of 2010, Peace Home was opened in a remote area that has many orphans. One of the Home Based Care workers takes care of them, another family of fifteen children. In addition to the two homes, the Olive Branch supports many orphans, marginalised and vulnerable children in their villages with remaining family members. The children receive food, medical and educational help.
With all its outreach efforts, the Olive Branch helps more than 500 of the world’s poorest, sickest, and neediest. Its medical clinics have touched over 50,000 people. What a great opportunity to be a part of something so big and wonderful!