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.
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:

May 26, 2015

The story of our two newest Zimkids

Praymore, (left) and Pritchard
Praymore, (left) and Pritchard

In most of our updates, Zimkids Orphan Trust attempts to provide you with an overview of our work and the progress we’re making. But we realized that it might be useful for you to understand a bit more about the immense challenges we face in keeping our young people healthy. So let me tell you the story of two brothers, Pritchard, 14, and Praymore, 11, who recently joined us.

 The father of the two boys died of complications from HIV/AIDS, and their mother, with no means of support, quickly remarried. Unwilling to tell her new husband that both she and her sons were HIV positive, she threw away hers and the boys’ medication lest he find it and realized that he’d been deceived. Within months, she was dead and both boys were extremely ill.

 They were taken in by their grandmother in a rural village, and she sent them to herd cattle despite their conditions. Their other grandmother in town, who is HIV positive herself and already had three other orphaned children living with her, rescued them. After installing them in her home, she promptly brought them to Zimkids. For the first month, they were so weak and so traumatized that they could barely manage a smile. So malnourished their growth is stunted.

 We took them to the hospital and got them on regular anti-virals. And we provide the grandmother with food, clothing and school fees for herself and the children in her care. Praymore has perked up considerably, but with Pritchard, things remain touch and go as he has enormous difficulties keeping down food. Our physician, Sashka Maksimovich, is watching over him. But  we’re bracing ourselves for the possibility that he’s simply too weak to thrive.

 I wish I could tell you that this story is unusual, but, sadly, it speaks volumes about daily life in Zimbabwe, about how its children are all too often seen as something to be put to use, about its warm hearts without resources, about its poverty, and its appalling lack of health care.

 We struggle to keep our children both safe and healthy. Our staff – and all of our older children – watch carefully to see who is growing and who is not, who suddenly lacks energy and who is zooming across the soccer field. When children don’t show up at our Centre, staff members call or stop by to check on them. We feed the young 'uns at the Centre and provide extra food to the undernourished, most often onsite lest their relatives grab what we give them. And Dr. Maksimovich is their steady champion, always there when something unexpected occurs or when the public health system fails them, as it so often does.

  Despite our best efforts, over the past 10 years, we have been forced to bury three of our own. With each funeral, we rededicate ourselves, vowing – hoping – NEVER AGAIN.

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