Zimkids Orphan Trust

Zimkids Orphan Trust is a neighborhood-based safe haven for orphaned children in impossible circumstances. We are committed to ensuring that the children and their caregivers have access to food and medical care, as well as creative, recreational, vocational and educational opportunities and training in the tools essential for self-reliance so they can grow into productive, healthy adults who are literate, energized, assertive and ready to take initiative for themselves, their families and their community.
Aug 24, 2015

Lots of news!

Blankets blankets from our Texas Gogos
Blankets blankets from our Texas Gogos

Zimbabwe’s economy is once again beginning to collapse. Over the past 18 months, more than 4,000 companies have closed and last month alone, 20,000 workers lost their jobs. At this point, 83 percent of government income goes to pay the salaries of government workers, so everything from hospitals and schools to roads and sewer systems is being starved of desparately-needed capital.

 

Poverty levels – and the levels are set at basic subsistence – are skyrocketing. In the region where we work, about 80 percent of the population is considered “poor,” and even experienced teachers are reduced to $230 a month. Food costs match the USA’s.

 

At Zimkids, then, we’ve tightened our belts as much as possible to extend our safety net, most recently to a group of children who live in a shantytown called Methodist several miles away. A year ago, a group of our older kids reached out to the children of Methodist on weekends with games, educational programs and other activities. Just as the southern hemisphere winter set in, boxes of shoes and blankets from our incredible Texas grandmothers arrived, so those children didn’t have to spend the cold months shivering. And now, using the harvest from our own gardens, we have extended our feeding program to those children, swelling our ranks to 300 children.  

 

In our continuing attempt to avoid nagging you and other donors for funds, we’re finally on our way to the one project we believe will help us most in moving toward some level of self-sustainability, opening our pre-school to paying children. Once we had our preschool opened and two of our alumnae licensed as early childhood education (ECD) teachers, we were inundated with requests for places from the families of non-orphans since there is only one other preschool in our area and it lacks almost everything such a facility needs. Our goal is to continue offering free places to orphans but to expand with paying students. In order to do so, we need a new building that is compliant with local regulation – and it took SIXTEEN MONTHS for city council to grant us a permit to begin construction.

 

With that in hand, our kids are now hard at work digging the foundation. We have sent two more of our older alumnae for ECD training and certification. If all goes well, we’ll actually be receiving income when school begins in January and expect that the entire preschool will be self-sustaining within a year. A major victory!

 

The other major victory of the past several months is the improvement in the health of Pritchard, one of our 14-year-olds, whom we feared we would lose weeks ago. Unable to keep food down, he was finally hospitalized. Three weeks after his released, he made his first return foray at Zimkids – wearing a HUGE smile. Although still very thin, he is gradually regaining his weight and strength – thanks to the donors who are helping to provide him with a healthy diet and anti-nausea medicine and to our beloved Dr. Sashka Maksimovic who is always there to help our young people stay well.

 

Tinashe, our director, arrives in the U.S. next month for a fundraising swing around the country. Given our need to build and support an additional 100 children, we’re stretched very tight at the moment. So we’d be extremely grateful if you could link us up with schools or churches that he and Dennis might visit, and if you could consider giving us a recurring donation of even $10 a month. That might not sound like a lot of money, but you’d be shocked how much food it can provide to hungry youth in Zimbabwe.

Clearing the land for our pre-school
Clearing the land for our pre-school
Pritchard with the smile we
Pritchard with the smile we've missed
Tinashe in the States with our partner schoolkids
Tinashe in the States with our partner schoolkids
Produce from our expanded greenhouse feed our kids
Produce from our expanded greenhouse feed our kids

Links:

Jun 23, 2015

The Demands of the Elders

Samantha leads our girls club meeting
Samantha leads our girls club meeting

It’s easy for charities to hide difficulties they face from their donors. After all we want to put the best face forward.  But you deserve candor if you’re to have continued confidence in us. So, here goes:

 

Many of our first groups of female vocational trainees were stellar: They were eager to learn, worked incredibly hard, and have proven themselves again and again. They engaged in welding, construction, sewing, nurse’s aide training, early childhood training and computer skills. Since then, we’ve struggled: Our present cohort of girls shy away from construction or other heavy work and take much less initiative than our first class of girls finishing school. And, most of all, their female guardians either discourage them from entering training programs, or undermine their ability to participate since they want them to stay home, cooking, cleaning and taking care of the younger kids in the household.  Boys are allowed unambiguous freedom; girls are tethered to the demands of often-elderly caregivers.

 

In an effort to deal with this problem, we began working with the caregivers to help them understand that, while they might experience a short-term loss of the girls’ labor at home, they had to think of the long-term gain of having income flowing into the household. It didn’t work. They don’t mind that their older girls aren’t busy enough and that six girls out of this cohort have already gotten pregnant. In fact, it became clear that the caregivers wanted to be paid to allow the girls to participate in vocational training.

 

So we’ve gone back to the drawing board, relying on the advice of Samantha, Zimkid since age 10, now our pre-school certified teacher at age 19, and Sithabisiwe, Zimkids since age 12 now our certified councilor, two of the first trainees. They both received a great deal of negativity from their female elders when they trained with us, but they are, by nature, more assertive than most local girls. Their advice, then, was to form a club for girls over the age of 13 to deal with the problem from the ground up, so to speak, by creating a new culture for them. They’re trying to break down the barriers against girls’ talking to each other about their problems (and there’s a strong cultural belief that other girls are your enemies, who will gossip about you), against cooperating rather than competing, and against initiative.

 

The first task is to forge them into a solid group – called Young Girls of Tomorrow. The initiative is in its early days, but we’re hopeful that this might be a more solid strategy that will help the girls move forward. They face such immense cultural obstacles, and we’re just beginning to play with more ideas for overcoming them.

 

Of course, we continue our training programs even as we work on cultural and personal matters.

 

So, this time, can we also ask for suggestions?  You make it possible for us to help our girls, so please don’t be shy!  Write Dennis Gaboury, Founder at dennis@zimkids.com or Tinashe Basa, Director, at tinashe@zimkids.com.   Thank you for your years of support.

Links:

Jun 23, 2015

Skills for the Future

Ngqabutho teaches how to plumb drip irrigation
Ngqabutho teaches how to plumb drip irrigation

Things are rolling at Zimkids, with young people tiling and planting, learning car repair and boilermaking, and using their new skills to keep our facility in tiptop shape!

 

But let me back up and give you the full picture. From the first, the goal of our training program was to help our kids gain skills on which to build their futures, which meant skills that would provide them with food, with the possibility of starting their own businesses, or finding employment. The latter possibility narrowed our focus dramatically since there are so few jobs in an economy in which less than 10 percent of the population is formally employed. And since people are so poor, demands for services are extremely limited. We’ve been careful, then, to home in on areas where there is some service demand.

 

I should interject here that teaching young people to grow food in more efficient and productive ways is part of this program because almost everyone in Zimbabwe, rural AND urban, plants gardens to reduce their need for cash. Given the lack of rain for almost eight months a year, though, they cannot maximize their garden space. So by teaching them about drip irrigation, composting, and greenhouses, we not only produce food for the children who come to the Center but teach the children new ways to plant year-round. So we bought the cement blocks, mixed gravel and cement for the foundation and built two new 18-meter raised beds. Ngqabutho learned plumbing and added an extension to our existing drip irrigation system extending it outside the greenhouse. Our trainees filled the beds with our own compost to add to our production of vegetables. So our vegetables thrive in the middle of Zimbabwe’s dry winter.

 

Early this year, Dennis worked with a group of young people on tiling, a skill for which there is some demand. As we often do, part of that training was a tiling project at our Center, in this case, our bathroom floors. They had been polished concrete, but the price of continually waxing floors over a year exceeded the cost of tiling. So we opted for saving money and providing a great training project. This time Dennis wasn’t there and they did a stellar job tiling to perfection.

 

And we continue to train all the older kids in welding and basic construction skills – and they get some experience since we’re always fixing or building something!

 

Finally, we don’t want to limit ourselves to training in skills that we already have. So, several years ago, we began sending young people for courses – in welding, electricity, early childhood education, counseling and nurse’s aid programs. This year, we broadened our focus a bit, and Shaun is training to be a car mechanic and Peter is learning boilermaking (which includes advanced welding and other skills).

 

I should probably end by saying that Collin and Foster, two of our first trainees, who learned about everything from laying foundations to roofing, bricklaying and solar energy, now have their own business. After training with us and being hired by a local solar installer, they continue to be his subcontractor while taking on their own jobs – and, yes, they are passing it on by hiring younger Zimkids and training them!

If you have any questions or concerns please feel free to contact us at dennis@zimkids.com.  

A winter bumper crop of green peppers!
A winter bumper crop of green peppers!
Putting their tiling skills to work
Putting their tiling skills to work
girls bathroom tiled to perfection
girls bathroom tiled to perfection
Shaun learning auto mechanics at training course
Shaun learning auto mechanics at training course
Peter learning boilermaking at training center
Peter learning boilermaking at training center

Links:

donate now:

Make a monthly recurring donation on your credit card. You can cancel at any time.
Make a donation in honor or memory of:
What kind of card would you like to send?
How much would you like to donate?
  • $10
    give
  • $20
    give
  • $40
    give
  • $80
    give
  • $100
    give
  • $150
    give
  • $500
    give
  • $10
    each month
    give
  • $20
    each month
    give
  • $40
    each month
    give
  • $80
    each month
    give
  • $100
    each month
    give
  • $150
    each month
    give
  • $500
    each month
    give
  • $
    give
gift Make this donation a gift, in honor of, or in memory of someone?