Mingi, the ritualistic killing of infants and children believed to be cursed, is largely practiced in the Hamer, Kara, and Bena tribes of the Omo Valley. In these tribes, it is believed that evil spirits or a "curse" will bring ill fortune such as drought, famine, disease, and death to their villages if Mingi children are not killed.
A child may be declared as Mingi in these circumstances: if the top teeth grow before the bottom one (Teeth Mingi); if a girl gives birth before getting married (Girl Mingi); and if a married woman gives birth before receiving a blessing (approval) to get pregnant from elders (Women Mingi).
Omo Child was founded by Lale Labuko and his wife Gido Sura in 2009, with the goal of stopping Mingi killings. Besides creating awareness to end the harmful practice, the organization works on rescuing Mingi children who were about to be abandoned in the bushes, thrown in the river, or left in a cave to starve to death.
In 2012, Lale and his teammates succeeded in convincing the elders of the Kara tribe to end Mingi. This helped save many children, who now are allowed to live in their villages. But the Hamar and Bena tribes still practice the tradition. With the motto “Mingi is not a curse, it is a blessing” the organization has a long-term plan, to eliminate the practice once and for all, by 2030.
With all the challenges and the hardships they face from the community members and elders, 51 children have been rescued and live under the care of the organization. It provides them necessities such as food, housing, clothing, healthcare, and most importantly education.
“Our hope is that these children will become future leaders and change-makers in their tribes and communities,” said Lale when he talks about the children.
To fulfill its obligations and to continue its work, the main source of the organization’s financial support comes from sponsorships. Through the sponsor portal on their website, individuals and organizations make donations, where anyone can select a child to sponsor or give other forms of gifts.
“Omo Child as a children-based organization believes in the importance of quality of education,” Lale said about the work Omo Child does.
Considering the shortage of education in South Omo, the organization launched the “Supplementary Education Project” to provide quality learning and opportunities for all children. It has built a primary school that serves 260 students who live in the area.
“After we built this big project by ourselves, the South Omo zone government still didn’t help us,” said Lale. “We have no electricity, no drinking water, and no road access to our school.”
The school is now expanding to serve up to 400 students, and it is hoped to generate income to support the children in the organization.
“We are forgotten and neglected by the government,” adds the founder of Omo Child, Lale Labuko.
Currently, there are more than 37 staff members in the organization, including Mamas (who take care of the children), cooks, janitors, administration, and teachers. The organization is looking for support of any kind. Volunteer teachers, school buses for the rescued children, and money are some of the resources they need urgent assistance with.