They were neglected. No one would have thought they could be among the best employees in the hospitality industry.

Their current employer was quite skeptical about their attitude and capabilities. It was fear of the unknown until he offered them a chance.

Today, Asnath Abas, 20, and Yusufu Hamisi, 22, who grew up in orphanages, are among the first-rate employees in one of the five-star hotels in Dar es Salaam.

Unlike yesterday’s revelation in this newspaper about many who have ended terribly after vacating the orphanages, the two present proof of how orphans vacating their centre after reaching 18 years can make a difference in building a compassionate society if proper plans to support them are set and implemented.

The Commissioner for Social Welfare, Dr. Nandera Mhando, says there are always specific rules and procedures on how orphans are to be reintegrated into society and receive proper care and support.

She says this can be achieved by their “being removed from the centres before reaching the age of 18 through reintegration procedures based on the National Guidelines on Children’s Reintegration with Families 2019.”

To some degree, however, the situation on the ground presents a different picture. There have been many cases where responsible individuals or authorities have failed to enforce these established regulations.

A survey by The Citizen that focused on life after vacating orphanages has discovered huge gaps as far as post-orphanage life is concerned.

Asnath and Yusufu were educated at the Ijango Zaidia orphanage centre located in Sinza, Dar es Salaam, where they grew up.

But like many other orphans, they were uncertain where they would go after reaching 18 years of age.

“I was very scared and afraid because I had no one to help me. I placed all my hopes on the centre,” says Asnath, who holds a diploma in pharmaceuticals from Jordan College of Health and Allied Sciences.

Asnath, who has no idea where her parents are, says the rejections she faced earlier when she tried to find a job were a huge disappointment to her.

“Joining Johari Rotana Hotel as a pastry chef is a miracle. This is a chance for us to show we can also contribute to the development of our country, unlike the way some people perceived and treated us,” says Asnath.

The unemployment crisis had disappointed Yusufu. Employed as a waiter at Johari Rotana Hotel, Yusufu believed he could not have finished his bachelor of Accounting with Information Technology at the Institute of Finance Management (IFM) until the hotel gave him a helping hand.

The five-star business hotel located in the central business district, like other companies, was initially hesitant to take him, according to Mr. Joerg Potreck, the hotel’s general manager.

“We were very skeptical when we were approached for the idea. We were not quite sure if they would be successful until we decided to try it out,” says the manager.

He says getting a chance was one thing, but what made the new staff successful was their good attitude, hard work, and determination to fulfill their dream.

“To our surprise, the three are now our top performers, and we don’t regret giving them a chance to showcase their potential,” he says.

The lucky moment

While the government insists there are available procedures for integrating children at orphanages or children’s homes with the community before the age of 18, Asnath says she has not seen those.

“We never saw such a reintegration. We always stayed at the centre until an opportunity came to some of us,” says Asnath.

The opportunity came when the Tanzanite Support Organisation (TSO), a recently launched non-profit entity, knocked on the doors of various orphanages around Dar es Salaam, including Ijango Zaidia, and expressed their intention to support desperate youngsters.

According to TSO executive director, Ms Bahati Chando, having started as a charity organisation, they came to realise that, as much as they helped children in the centres, there was a group that needed urgent intervention.

These, she says, were those who were supposed to vacate the orphanages but had to do so in the centres because there were no reintegration programmes.

She says when the NGO was launched in 2021, their focus was to do charity work to help vulnerable children in foster homes access basic needs such as food.

“But during one of our visits, we realised that there were young adults in these orphanages who were legally required to have left the centres but were still there. They had nowhere to go,” she says.

This situation changed our focus totally as the group of adult orphanages was being isolated within the orphanages,” she says. She says in many orphanages, some teenagers happen to have graduated at various levels of education but lack people who can hold their hand and take them to opportunities outside the orphanage.

“There was no one to help them, so we decided to lead the rescue mission. We decided to start finding and connecting them to opportunities and unleashing huge potential in them,” she explains.

However, in 2022, when they planned to start implementation of the project, they found that they did not have the funding to at least help the group join vocational training for hands-on training.

“We had to start knocking on the doors of some private companies to see how we can partner through corporate social responsibility (CSR) arrangements to help this vulnerable group.

“We didn’t need cash; what we needed was for them to help us train the youngsters with skills that are easily attainable in their companies or organisations,” says Asma Mkwata, TSO’s programmes manager.

“We also request that they employ the selected ones if they deem it fit. This is how one of our partners, Johari Rotana, quickly understood us and picked the three peers,” she notes. TSO has so far managed to connect 18 youths with some companies. Of these, three were taken by Johari Rotana, and the rest got slots in other companies that bought the idea,” she says.

Mr. Potreck says: “Now they have a chance to be part of those we normally take abroad for further experience. They can later come back and play a bigger role in improving the hospitality sector in the country.”

“However, I can confirm that although they have had a lot of challenges in their upbringing, they are now determined to achieve their dreams and prove they are the right choice for the jobs we offer them.

“They are very polite, motivated, and keen to learn and do better. With such an attitude, I’m quite sure they will excel and make a difference in the hospitality industry,” he explains.

A solution?

Mr. Potreck says TSO is a platform that can be supported to help change the tide for many vulnerable groups, including those in orphanage centres.

“The private sector can take on the challenge of employing underprivileged people in society and giving them a future without having to always look at the paper experience. If TSO’s venture succeeds, then there will be a huge turnaround on this matter,” he observed.

Dr. Amos Mtambaza, a sociologist from the University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM), says: “There needs to be a system that brings together the private sector and the government to ensure that opportunities are available for such groups.”

Dr. Devotha Mkaria, a psychologist based in Dar es Salaam, says TSO is a great platform to begin with. “There are many; we meet them in various orphanages, and the government should seek partnership with TSO and the private sector on this issue.”

A human rights activist based in Dar es Salaam, Mr Kan Zubeir, says some big hotels can imitate Johari Rotana to help the underprivileged in society.

“Other hotels, catering service providers, factories, and security companies, as well as political leaders, need to open their eyes and set strategies to welcome these young people into the community,” he advises.