A 26-year-old British woman has become a mother to 14 children after volunteering in an orphanage on her gap year.
Letty McMaster was 18-years-old and had just completed her A-levels in 2013, when she decided to head over to Tanzania on her gap year to spend a month doing volunteer work.
Her month-long trip ended up becoming a three-year stay to support the children who experienced physical and mental abuse.
When the orphanage she volunteered for shut down, she did not think twice and adopted nine children who would have been homeless if not for her efforts.
Fast-forward seven years, McMaster now runs a home in Tanzania, a legal guardian to all nine children plus five more that she met on the streets.
“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 McMaster.
“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.”
“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,” she added.
“I’m just like any mum raising teenagers – I made a commitment to them and I just feel so blessed to have two families!”
When she first met the children, she realized that the staff only fed them once a day, pocketing the cash donated by tourists that was meant for their schooling.
“I chose to fly to Tanzania after seeing figures that showed hundreds of thousands of children living on the streets,” McMaster explained.
“I saw the awfully damaging impact it was having on the children and how it was fueling an ongoing cycle of abuse. 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,” she added.
“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.”
When the orphanage was closed in 2016, she fought for the right to open her own home for the nine children that were left homeless.
McMaster founded Street Children Iringa, a UK registered charity, and made significant changes on the lives of the children that moved in her home.
“Since having a place to call home, they have all excelled in education and in every aspect of their lives.”