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Catalina Lobo-Guerrero is a freelance journalist and anthropologist currently living in Barcelona, Spain. For the past decade she has been working as an investigative journalist and correspondent in Bogotá, Colombia and Caracas, Venezuela where has written about politics, corruption, the armed conflict and violence. Her work has been published by The New York Times, The Guardian, El País and other smaller and independent media outlets in Latin America.
In the 1990's, there were no more than 2,000 children living in orphanages in Uganda. Now there are more than 55,000 and the numbers keep climbing. Children are not loosing their parents or families, they are being exploited, recruited and used as hooks for naive international donors. The Ugandan government has been trying to crack down on more than 500 illegal homes, but as soon as they close one, another one opens up.
The BBC Assignment Podcast investigated what happened with one particular orphanage in Kampala, called the Rock of Joy. More than 25 kids were living in this house with no running water and filthy bathrooms. Some suffered abuse from the people in charge, including beatings, and a lack of proper care. One of the boys, interviewed by reporter Anna Cavell, had contracted typhoid. Others had different kinds of infections.
Cavell talked to one of the mothers who were fooled into giving her boys to this rogue orphanage. She was a poor widow, a manual labourer who couldn't afford to care for them properly. A recruiter told her about Rock of Joy, she promised her children would receive good food and education. The man responsible for the place was a "mzungu", a white british man known as Uncle Pat.
The BBC found Patrick Oldham, from Manchester, was a volunteer taking advantage of another organisation's name and prestige – The Rock of Joy Trust – which was legally registered and raised money for schools, farms and projects related to self-sufficiency in Uganda. Oldham even organised fundraising events in northern England, such as concerts, to raise money for his rogue charity.
While the UK's Department for International Development stopped funding for orphanages overseas, it's impossible to regulate individual donations. There are more than 300 registered charities in the UK raising around £10,000 a month. Imagine how much money these fake orphanages in Uganda are making from donors who don't know they are actually contributing to the exploitation of children.