Letty McMaster founded Street Children Iringa after resolving not to let kids at an orphanage be homeless.
When a 26-year-old British woman decided to spend her gap year volunteering abroad, little did she expect the decision to change her life forever! Letty McMaster was just 18 when she went on a month-long trip to Africa to volunteer her services at an orphanage. However, the duration of this visit was lengthened by three years after the orphanage shut down and she decided to support the kids staying there. There were nine youngsters who would have been rendered homeless if McMaster hadn't taken them in. Today, seven years later, the kind woman lives with those kids after becoming their legal guardian. She has also adopted five more kids who she met on the streets or at a safe house that she runs, reports The Sun. "I'm just like any mum raising teenagers - I made a commitment to them and I just feel so blessed to have two families!" she said.
British woman, 26, adopts 14 orphans after gap year trip to Africa & they are thriving now they have a family home https://t.co/02v2ly9Aqu— Ray (@Ray49203316) October 30, 2020
After completing her A-levels back in 2013, an 18-year-old McMaster decoded to volunteer in Tanzania for a month before returning home to attend university. But when she realized that the children were being physically and mentally abused by staffers, who she claims would feed them once a day and pocket the money donated by tourists for their schooling, she decided to stay. "I chose to fly to Tanzania after seeing figures that showed hundreds of thousands of children living on the streets. Voluntourism and white saviourism at this orphanage is why I've done all this," she said. "I saw the awfully damaging impact it was having on the children and how it was fueling an ongoing cycle of abuse."
Speaking about the alleged exploitation of the orphaned kids, she continued, "Many orphanages are like this - it's all just a money-making scheme and an exploitation of the children. The kids still don't understand it and I'm sure the Westerners had no idea - they thought they were helping but were actually causing so much damage. The abuse the children were going through in the orphanage was horrendous and I saw the impact that it had on the kids and knew immediately something had to change. I couldn't leave them in that situation so my new goal was to get them a family home." So when the orphanage shut down in 2016 by the council, McMaster fought for her right to open a home in Iringa for the nine homeless kids who were left behind.
Finally, she founded Street Children Iringa which is registered as a UK charity, and took in another five children. When McMaster first met them, none of the kids were attending school and would mostly spend their time at the orphanage or on the streets. However, this changed since they moved into her home. For McMaster, who is from Tunbridge Wells, Kent, these kids are her whole life. "These children are my whole life, I raise them all on my own and they keep me going through the long hours of juggling everything," said the 26-year-old, adding that her wish to help kids struggling on the streets for nothing new for her family and friends. "I'd always had in mind that I wanted to help street children so my family and friends weren't surprised but I never expected to end up doing all this," she said. "I am the parental figure in the house - some of the little boys who never had a parent view me as their mum but most see me more as a big sister as I'm not that much older than some of them."
McMaster shared how she found one of her boys, Eliah, on the streets in the middle of winter after his mom had passed away. Now he is one of the top 20 students in his class at school. 11-year-old Fred had been starving for days when she found him cowering in a dump. Ever since he moved into the family home last year, he had been accepted into a prestigious football academy. Iddy, who was just 2 when his parents died, moved into the home in 2016 and now he is a talented boxer and musician, whose music is often played on local radio stations. "Since having a place to call home, they have all excelled in education and in every aspect of their lives," said the proud guardian.
"I decided I wanted to create a place for these children to call home where they would be safe, stable and loved and no longer treated as if they were in a zoo. I wanted them to have a normal family life and the charity has helped to pay for running the home and food costs as well as medical and educational needs," said McMaster who live sin Iringa with the kids for nine months and spends the rest of the year in the UK to raise funds through sponsored events and an annual charity ball. She also runs a safe house that opens three days a week to provide access to food and shelter to street children. At nights she ventures out with her eldest boys to look for homeless children in need. Sharing her future plans, she continued, "Over the next five years, my plan is to help as many children off the streets as possible. If these children are not guided on a path, they very often get caught up in gangs, drug violence and criminal activities with the risk of jail or even ending up dead. The more donations the charity is able to get, the more children and young adults that are supported in a life off the streets."