God Rescued the Stream of Hope, Uganda Children. He did it 4 years ago and again last week!
The ending is perfect. The story is shocking. There was a cry out and I believe that God sent help. By the end of May the children were again happy and full of hope, all were in school and working on their future, and praising Jesus. I am convinced that God intends for this home to remain open.
The following is a brief summary to describe the justification and actions taken to remove Paul Isabirye as Director of Stream of Hope Home and replace him. I apologize for the lengthy disturbing content of this post. Mission Servants Ministry has been operating in Africa for 10 years, known Paul Isabirye for over 4 years and worked with him as Director, while building the facilities that is the current home. The land and all assets are owned by Mission Servants Ministry for the home.
Greg and I booked an emergency and unannounced trip, arriving on May 20th, to the Stream of Hope Home (SOH) in Uganda just over a week after receiving an email and follow-up communications from Emma, one of the Social Workers at the home. The initial email included three attached letters. The first was from one of the 16 year old girls at SOH and detailed an account of an extended period of sexual abuse by the Director of SOH, Paul Isabirye, written to the social workers. The 2nd was from the Director demanding the letter. The third was from one social worker to me describing that they were pressured to stop working at SOH. The subsequent follow-up communications revealed more details and allegations and prompted our urgent visit to investigate.
Upon arrival at SOH and for the next several days, interviews and investigations were conducted which led to a conclusion that the Director, Paul Isabirye was acting in long term and sustained sexual abuse of children, sexual harassment of employees, mental and emotional abuse of children, child labor, embezzlement, mismanagement of the duties of Director, Fraud, and theft. Many individual allegations and incidents were brought to light. It was further concluded that the Director, and wife Ritah, were solely involved and responsible.
It was evident that funds were diverted from Stream of Hope Home and used elsewhere and or personally by Paul Isabirye. Discovery was made of recently purchased property near the orphanage used for brick making and gardening, and of purchase and construction of a Guest House (Hotel) in the nearby trading center. These properties were tied to many of the reported child labor and abuse incidents and allegations. In addition, an establishment of an “Orphanage” roughly 15 KM away for the purpose of defrauding donors was found. Evidence of goods leaving SOH for the other home called Malta Children’s Home was found and testified. We visited this home site, found no children at the time, but some goods that originated at SOH. The night following our visit, it was packed up and moved to an undisclosed site. The 52 children alleged at this home were presented as orphans to donors on Facebook but were actually just kids that were coerced from their parents and homes by Paul Isabirye with promises of funded schooling. This was testified by the management of the initial school the children attended. A Facebook page for this home can be found under Natocho Ritah. They have been misrepresenting themselves to good hearted supporters and donors….this is a fraud.
These findings in more detailed form were reported to the proper Ugandan authorities including the Child welfare authorities, local government, and the police along with documentation and supporting statements. Cases were opened with the police for child abuse and defilement, theft of organizational funding, personal theft, and property theft, as well as operating an unauthorized Children’s Home. The Child Officer is moving immediately to shut down the Malta Home. Paul Isabirye is currently being sought for arrest. He had a defiant attitude in communications with us, reacted on Facebook in a slanderous way toward us, and never met us during our visit. He has since taken down the Stream of Hope Facebook page.
With the complete backing of the authorities and police, a new management was installed at the home. Emma Ssengoba, SOH Social Worker, was installed as Interim Director. Meetings were held with the community and extended families of children at SOH to explain the situation. Gorretti Kirabo was reinstated as Girls Social Worker. Unanimous support was received from the community and even several members volunteered to help on an on-going basis (a first for me in 10 years of work in Africa). The Child Officer requested that we change the name of the home so that they can pursue legal proceedings against Paul Isabirye, who is named Director of the Ugandan NGO known as Stream of Hope for the African Child, without interrupting the operations of the home. The new name of the home now is Child Redeemed Mission (CRM).
In the past 6 weeks, significant funds had been sent by MSM to Paul Isabirye for school fees, bedding, clothing, school supplies, and trade school tools, in addition to regular food and supplies. Upon arrival we found the funds gone but very little of the fees or goods purchased. There also was very little food and firewood and no funds for them. After working two weeks, Greg and I left Uganda this week with every child in either Primary, High, or Trade School and proper goods and operations restored. We have established reliable communications and operating guidelines with Emma. The computer, keys, and bank cards were taken by Paul Isabirye and several things were broken. Hightened security has been established and everything at the home is restored and operating normally now. All problems resulting from embezzled funds including payroll arrears were corrected. Laughter was restored to the children. God surely rescued them.
These findings and actions needed are shocking especially considering that Paul Isabirye was church Pastor, and founder of the home. He will be replaced as Pastor of the church as well. I believe in the beginning that he was sincere and God focused but I have no answer as to how he lost his way and became self-serving, nor how long ago it started. The damage he has done through his betrayal of trust and power to the faith of the children and image of Christianity is terrible. Children and church members thought he was leading them in a Godly way, donors thought he was serving God. He has my prayers that he seek God’s grace and finds restoration in relationship to Him.
Taking care of 40+ Children in a Third World country is not a simple or hands off ministry. It is a hard and messy mission. Kids can and do get sick and can even die, Children and women in that society are devalued and preyed upon, Spiritual battles with darkness is open and fierce, poverty is profound and creates desperation, and thinking and preparing for the future is a luxury most do not have. What happened with Paul Isabirye at SOH is disgusting and wicked but is a call to stronger faith, love, and resolve, not a reason to give up. The kids of Child Redeemed Mission have a new start and are not giving up.
The mission statement of MSM and our conviction is still strong. We honor God with all we do, we serve and protect Children so they can grow into what God intended for them to be, and we protect our testimony and goal to be a witness to the love of Christ Jesus to the world. The work being done for the children will continue. I firmly believe that God has shown Himself to be fully in control and faithful. He rescued the children at CRM and answered their prayers. Mission Servants will continue to honor His call to stand with these kids. Thank you for your support and prayers. Please contact me with questions you may have.
Bob Hillebrand – Director, Mission Servants Ministry