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.
Jul 10, 2014

Zimkids is on fire! What an amazing three months!

Our new Sewing center with our builders!!!
Our new Sewing center with our builders!!!

Zimkids has been mighty busy since our last update in April.  You can check out the latest news from us on our facebook page. Just search Zimkids Orphan Trust. There you will see a short video of the construction of our latest effort, a Sewing Training Center.

Thanks to you not only were we able to train 25 new kids in all areas of construction. In the new pink building – constructed by our seniors under the supervision of two of the older boys, Foster DIngani and Collen Makurumidze, we trained during the building of our complex.  Now boys and girls are making patterns, cutting cloth and sewing school uniforms, pillows and slipcovers, all trained and supervised by two of our Seniors, Lindiwe and Charity. This project was born out of our realization that since no child is permitted to attend school without a uniform, there’s a near-limitless market for such items, which are absurdly expensive in town. Opening a uniform business, then, allowed us to meet two goals: moving us along our path to self-sustainability and providing young people with skills they can eventually use to open their own enterprises. We have to thank our Texas Grandmother, Dee Duhe, who collects and sends us all of our sewing machines. Also thanks to the Shea Family Foundation and the Independent Pilots Association for grants that funded the building of the center.

Ngqabutho and Zibusiso added a a dollup of creativity when they constructed a big zipper sculpture for the front of the new building and also welding a security door with the same zipper motif.  As a result, when visitors came one day they told others about the center and we got our first order for a sculpture for a new peace center. Denver, Ncosi and Brighten created the piece.

Meanwhile, Hlonaphile and Engeline just received their first order – for a set of shoe racks – and are busy designing something “out of the ordinary,” what we hope will become Zimkids’ hallmark. And serious solicitation of more orders has finally begun!

Although this is dry season and no rain will fall before November, our greenhouse – maintained by our older children – is bursting with tomatoes and spinach, collards, onions and garlic. Our hungry workers – and our littlest children – have to eat, after all, and we are producing an increasing amount of our own food.

In the Resource room, our 35 youngest children are finishing up their afternoon nap after a full day of lessons in the ABCs, computer games, sports, and art. Run by Zimkids alumnae sent to special classes for government certification, the pre-school will soon open its doors to paying parents while continuing to charge nothing to orphans. We never expected to turn it into a training and income-generating project; we were just trying to provide an educational and social opportunity for children ages 3-6. But the Grade 1 teachers in the area were so enthusiastic about our little ones that local parents lined up at our gate. We had another terrific opportunity to meet our dual goals, so we jumped at the chance to expand our operation.

In the midst of all the activity, the older young people are learning about costing and marketing, about recordkeeping, careful pricing of goods, and sales. After stabilizing a bit once the government gave up on the local currency, the economy has begun sliding back in the wrong direction. So far this year, Zimbabwe’s Registrar of Companies has struck more than 176 companies off the register and they expect to deregister another 634 companies over the coming months. More than 70 percent of the country’s exporting companies have shut down. Every day, we hear about another business that has filed for bankruptcy, another shop that simply can’t make it. Our young people, then, need not only practical skills but also training in running small businesses, which are their only realistic hope for independence.

That’s what they’re getting at Zimkids, and every month I feel more confident that our model is working: Our “alumni” are teaching the younger children, who are becoming more confident, more organized, more skilled – and more on target for bright futures.

Zibusiso and Ngqabutho with their Zipper Sculpture
Zibusiso and Ngqabutho with their Zipper Sculpture
Brighten, Denver and Ncosi with Peace sculpture
Brighten, Denver and Ncosi with Peace sculpture
The Girls with their first welding order!
The Girls with their first welding order!
What a harvest from our greenhouse!
What a harvest from our greenhouse!
Heads up for little ones computer class!
Heads up for little ones computer class!

Links:

Jul 7, 2014

Girl Power! July 2014 Zimkids Update

Charity working on a pillow cover for a client
Charity working on a pillow cover for a client

THank you for all you have done to make Zimkids a loving, nurturing home for our orphans! For the latest ongoing news check out Zimkids facebook page, search ZImkids Orphan Trust.

Two weeks ago, Lindiwe Mabhena and Charity Museba, who run Zimkids’ new sewing center, learned their first serious business lesson, the hard way: Despite their training in costing, the girls were so anxious to please their first customer that they undercharged for a set of six quilted pillows. The result: $8 profit for five days of labor. NEVER AGAIN, they declared, as they began finding their feet in the new world of financial realities.

 

The sewing center is teaching our girls dozens of new lessons – and not just about money. As they joined the boys in building the new facility, they mastered the basics of mixing mortar and laying brick. Now they’ve gone on to learn about pattern making and cutting cloth, about maintaining sewing machines, marketing, costing, and planning, skills that will help them build independent futures.

 

This new initiative was born out of our realization that since no child is permitted to attend school without a uniform, there’s a near-limitless market for such items, which are absurdly expensive in town. Opening a uniform business, then, allowed us to meet two goals: moving us along our path to self-sustainability and providing young people with skills they can eventually use to open their own enterprises.

 

The demand for uniforms begins in earnest in December, just before the new school year begins in January. So Lindiwe and Charity have been busy training younger girls and boys in sewing and cutting to stockpile for the new year – even as they solicit and accept orders for pillows, aprons, bed covers, and non-school clothes.

They began with three sewing machines and an overlock– and another nine have just arrived in a shipment from the States, so they’re ready to ramp up production. We have to thank our Texas Grandmother, Dee Duhe from Texas who collects and sends us all of our sewing machines. Also thanks to the Shea Family Foundation and the Independent Pilots Association for grants that funded the building of the center.

 

Meanwhile, Hlonaphile Ndlovu, Thamani Nyathi and Engeline Hlazo are working on the other side of our complex, the dirty side. Trained in welding last year, they’ve just received their first order – for a set of artsy shoe racks – and are busy designing something “out of the ordinary,” what we hope will become Zimkids’ hallmark.

 

Several other girls are training at our pre-school, which will soon open its doors to paying parents while continuing to charge nothing to orphans. When we began our pre-school program, we never expected to turn it into a training and income-generating project; we were just trying to provide an educational and social opportunity for children ages 3-6. But the Grade 1 teachers in the area were so enthusiastic about our little ones – who could read and write a bit, speak some English and work on computers – that local parents lined up at our gate. We had another terrific opportunity to meet our dual goals, so we jumped at the chance and sent Samantha Jumira and Pauline Mhendo to special classes that would certify them to run a licensed pre-school.

 

Inside our gates, then, things are flowing beautifully, with our older girls leading and training the younger ones. Outside…that’s another matter. We lost Cynthia Britz on July 5th to her lifelong battle with illness. She had just finished TB treatment. Weak and exhausted she simply gave up. One of our HIV-positive girls are not doing well, fighting meningitis at the moment. And too many of the extended families with whom they live – not to mention the men in the neighborhood - continue to treat them abusively.

 

Thanks to your generosity, they all have access to our wonderful private doctor, who has managed to keep the majority of Zimkids relatively healthy. Our staff continues to work with families to catch problems that we can help with. And we’ve recently received an offer from a local ta kwon do expert to work with our girls so that they will become able to defend themselves.

 

Most importantly, we’re providing them with the ability to build independent futures, which has become all the more critical since the economy, after stabilizing a bit after dollarization, has begun sliding back in the wrong direction.

So far this year, Zimbabwe’s Registrar of Companies has struck more than 176 companies off the register and they expect to deregister another 634 companies over the coming months. More than 70 percent of the country’s exporting companies have shut down. Every day, we hear about another business that has filed for bankruptcy, another shop that simply can’t make it. But our girls – with practical skills, business training, experience, and confidence – are defying the odds. 

Lindiwe with her apron and hat made for a client
Lindiwe with her apron and hat made for a client
Samantha and Sithabisiwe pre-school storytelling
Samantha and Sithabisiwe pre-school storytelling
Our girl crew putting together the latest order
Our girl crew putting together the latest order
Our girls with the finished shoe rack
Our girls with the finished shoe rack
Cynthia lost her long battle with illness July 5.
Cynthia lost her long battle with illness July 5.

Links:

May 21, 2014

May 2014 Update

Foster showing the boys bricklaying 101!
Foster showing the boys bricklaying 101!

Last Saturday, I arrived late at our Center in Pumula, and this is what I found:

 

Foster Dingani and Collen Makurumidze were training and supervising a crew of younger boys and, in two days, they almost had the brick foundation of our new Sewing Center completed – plumb, square and level! Three years ago, when I told our Seniors that we were going to build the Center ourselves, Foster admits that he thought that I was a crazy old man. Now, he’s the teacher – and I no longer need to get my hands dirty!

 

Foster didn’t join Zimkids on his own initiative; his grandmother ordered him to attend just after he lost his father and his mother moved back to her rural home, 200 miles away. “For the first year, I only went because I was forced,” he admits. “Then, I wanted to spend all my time; it was just too stressful at home. If not for Zimkids, I don’t know what I’d be doing now. I’d probably be hanging out at the shops drinking like everyone else.”

 

Having skills is essential for him since he is raising his younger sister and his niece.

 

Collen, whose father died when he was four years old, was sent to Zimkids by his mother, who lives in an 18x18 foot one bedroom house with Collen, his sister and her two children. He quickly became our “artist in residence,” creating some of our most amazing dolls and teaching our younger children to draw. He and Foster are our resident builders – and Collen has now finished a course in electrical installation.

 

They haven’t just learned all the basic construction skills. Perhaps more important, they’ve learned how to learn. Recently, they were revamping and updating our solar grid and hit a wall: Something was wrong in one of their connections and they couldn’t figure it out. That night, they each went home and searched the net for answers, intent on finding a solution before the arrival of our solar expert the next day. At 5:30 a.m., Collen called Foster. “I have a couple of ideas,” he said. “Let’s do it. Let’s figure it out!” By 7 am, our mini-grid was functioning perfectly – and Foster and Collen realized the power of not giving up.

 

As I left the building site, I ran into Lindiwe Mabhena, who wanted to show me the new primary school uniform she’d completed. With Charity, Lindiwe will run the sewing center, a project that will provide income both for our older girls and Zimkids, as well as training for younger girls.

 

Pauline Mhendo was moving around between the kitchen, where the older girls were cleaning; the resource center, where Sithebisiwe and the group of girls were working with our younger dollmakers; and the playground, where a few of the toddlers from our weekday preschool program were hanging out. “You know, I’ve been thinking,” she said, pulling me aside to talk about her latest idea for cutting costs on the program. That’s Pauline, a seamless multitasker, natural organizer, and superb planner.

 

Pauline joined Zimkids after the death of her mother in 2005. Just 28 years old, she’d lost her husband ten years earlier. Pauline moved in with her grandmother who sold veggies at a street-side stand, but she, too, passed away, leaving Pauline to live with her aunt and uncle. Pauline was always one of Pumula’s best students, and when she passed her Ordinary Levels with flying colors, we sent her to a church-run boarding school not far from town for her Advanced Levels. Now, two years after she completed her education, she’s essentially acting as our assistant director.

 

I look around then, in near-awe. We – the trustees and staff, the volunteers and you, the donors – are succeeding almost beyond our wildest hopes.

 

Not everything is rosy, of course. We still struggle to maintain the health of our HIV-positive young people. And too many families continue to treat our orphans abusively. Most importantly, we’re still stymied by the realities of Zimbabwe: Zimkids is working, but the country is not. After years of runaway inflation that reached 360 MILLION percent, in 2009 government suspended the local currency and moved toward the use of the dollar. The economy began to stabilize and business to rebound. But this year, things have begun sliding back in the wrong direction.

 

Transparency International Corruption Index ranks Zimbabwe 163 out of 174 countries. So far this year, Zimbabwe’s Registrar of Companies has struck more than 176 companies off the register and they expect to deregister another 634 companies over the next three months. Over 70 percent of the country’s exporting companies have shut down. Every day, we hear about another business that has filed for bankruptcy, another shop that simply can’t make it.

 

The solar energy company that had hoped to launch Foster and Collen into a business as their subcontractors hasn't had the capital to do so. And while they have both completed advanced training courses – Foster in boilermaking and Collen in electrical installation – neither can find a paid internship, a necessary step for their licenses, and neither can afford to work for free.

 

For the moment, then, we’re concentrating on helping our beneficiaries develop skills that will allow them to work on their own – whether by selling and installing low-cost solar panels, welding metal burglar bars, or sewing school uniforms. Our kids are ready…all they need is a chance. 

Collen is teaching Shaun
Collen is teaching Shaun
Lindiwe and Charity model the uniforms they made
Lindiwe and Charity model the uniforms they made
Pauline supervises kitchen &kids enjoy the results
Pauline supervises kitchen &kids enjoy the results
Pauline leads talk on relationships with our girls
Pauline leads talk on relationships with our girls

Links:

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