International Day of Families 2024: The role of family in shaping our future

Author: David Adoke, Country Director at Child’s i Foundation

On this International Day of Families, the 2024 theme ‘Families and Climate Change‘ draws attention to a critical issue: the impact of environmental changes on family life. 

In Uganda, where a significant portion of the population is young and vulnerable, the challenges are particularly acute. With a high number of children not in school, coupled with weak enforcement of care regulations, our approach focuses on strengthening  families in crisis, promoting family care and community awareness to address these systemic issues.

We work to shift away from institutional care to support families and communities—a move that ties closely to environmental sustainability.

The impact of climate change on families

Climate change is not a distant phenomenon by any means. It is a reality that affects us all, particularly the most vulnerable in society. 

Extreme weather events like hurricanes, droughts, and floods have devastating impacts on family structures, displacing communities and exacerbating poverty and insecurity with long term effects

These challenges are felt acutely by families who rely on natural resources for their livelihoods, such as those in agriculture and fisheries.

Our advocacy for family and community-based care

In light of these challenges, we are dedicated to advocating for the importance of family care and the harmful effects of institutionalisation on children. We organise and coordinate awareness sessions, workshops, and conventions aimed at a wide range of stakeholders including policymakers, community leaders, and civil society organisations.

Our goal is to foster a coordinated multi-sectoral understanding of deinstitutionalisation and to develop alternative, family-based care systems. 

By doing so, we improve the lives of children and empower families to be at the forefront of advocating for and adopting sustainable practices that mitigate the impacts of climate change.

The role of families in climate action

Empowering families through education and advocacy is essential for effective climate action. Families are fundamental in passing on values and habits that contribute to and promote sustainable living. 

Through our programmes, we encourage the integration of circular economy principles into family and community life, advocating for reduced waste and the regeneration of natural resources. We encourage families who have received livestock like chickens, pigs, and goats to use the animal waste to fertilise their gardens. 

Some families have also started collecting plastics from their communities and selling them to recycling plants. This helps create a safer environment with less plastic waste and promotes a safer environment while creating an income.

Furthermore, our involvement in forums such as the National Child Protection Working Group and the Uganda Child Rights NGO Network allows us to push for policies that strengthen family resilience against climate change. By documenting and disseminating successful models of family and community care, we influence policy makers and help redirect funding towards sustainable community development.

Combating misconceptions about orphanages

In addressing misconceptions about orphanages in Uganda, we focus on the psychological and developmental impacts of institutional care and emphasise the link to climate change, its effects and how to create resilient communities. 

The care reform process plays a vital role in creating strong communities that can handle climate challenges. By improving child protection and social support systems, we can provide stable and healthy environments for children, even in difficult circumstances.

Through our community awareness and family strengthening programmes such as the peer groups of grandmothers who have started saving groups and have benefited from government grants to start businesses, we have seen families stay together, become more resilient, and provide for themselves during difficult times.

Addressing the risks of voluntourism

The popularity of voluntourism has significant environmental impacts, particularly in countries like Uganda where the presence of orphanages is correlated with tourist spots rather than actual need.

Child’s i Foundation is working to reshape the narrative around voluntourism by promoting awareness of these environmental impacts. Our campaigns encourage potential volunteers to consider the broader implications of their travel, from carbon footprints to local resource use. We advocate for responsible volunteering that supports sustainable projects and minimises environmental impacts.

Moreover, our approach encourages the redirection of funds and efforts towards community-based projects that enhance family resilience to climate change. By supporting sustainable agricultural practices such as use of waste from animals in the home to improve soil fertility, water conservation measures through rain harvesting methods to ensure their is availability during times of drought, and local education programmes that are facilitated by community volunteers (evidenced during the lockdown when schools were closed), we acknowledge that  volunteers can contribute positively to both community welfare and environmental sustainability.

Looking ahead

As we continue to document our journey and that of our partner organisations, we are showing that another way is possible. We highlight the stories of families who have moved away from dependency on institutional care to becoming advocates for both child welfare and environmental sustainability.

On this International Day of Families, let us reaffirm our commitment to the families we serve. Let’s embrace the role of families in driving the transition to a more sustainable world, where community well-being and environmental health go hand in hand.

Child’s i Foundation stands ready to lead and support this vital mission, working alongside our partners and stakeholders to strengthen families and, consequently, our planet.