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.
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:

Apr 28, 2014

April 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:

Apr 15, 2014

April 2014 Update

Lindiwe & Charity model the uniforms they made!
Lindiwe & Charity model the uniforms they made!
  •  Exciting news!   April 16th = Bonus Day + Recurring Donation Match!
  • Microsoft YouthSpark matching is applied at 50% for every donation from $10 up to $1,000 per donor per project.
  • Bonus Day begins April 16th, 2014 at 12:00:01 PM (noon) EDT
  • This ZIMKIDS project is eligible! 
  • But you have to get your donation in between noon and 12:15 because matching funds run out very fast!!!  Thank you so much for your support!!!

And now the latest news:

 

In communities like Pumula, where we work, poor girls are extremely vulnerable to the predations of older men offering them money, gifts, and the illusion of an escape from poverty and boredom. Providing them with a way to earn money – and the sense of self that brings – is critical – not an easy task in a country with 90 percent unemployment.

 

We began our vocational training program for girls by emphasizing non-traditional skills. Learning to build, to weld, to paint and plaster instilled a powerful new sense of self in the girls and sent an important message to men in the community. We continue that work and have ramped up the program recently when we begun a new building project on our site, with our older girls receiving small stipends for their on-the-job training planning and laying out foundations, digging and pouring them, laying block, welding tables and other furniture, installing windows, and painting.

 

That building will house a new sewing center that will be used both for training and for income-generation both for our girls and for our center, a new phase in our vocational training program. In Zimbabwe, all children are required to wear school uniforms, which are extremely costly. We are launching, then, a school uniform business, expecting that as our girls are trained, we will send them out on their own – with sewing machines and business skills - to earn money from this bottomless market.

 

To that end, we sent Lindiwe and Charity, recent school leavers who already knew sewed well, to an advanced sewing and patternmaking course. They, in turn, will train the younger girls even as they acquire the business skills necessary to the project.  We expect the building to be completed by early June and the business to be launched immediately thereafter.

 

Furthermore, last year, we began a preschool for younger orphans that turned into an important if unanticipated vocational training program. After we launched, we sent Samantha, who, at the age of 17, designed the program, to a special training and licensing course, and Pauline, our assistant program director (and both have long been our beneficiaries) joined her three months ago. Only once our first group “graduated” and were declared the best prepared Grade One students did we sense the broader opportunity. Dozens of small preschools have cropped up around the city, and we realized that we could prepare young people to open such businesses on their own. Thus Samantha and Pauline are now training younger girls who work with them, and as they move on, those younger girls will take over.

 

All of our girls, from age 3 up, are also trained in basic computer skills, which puts them way ahead of their peers since students here are lucky to have access to computers for more than an hour of week. And we don’t neglect “proper” training for boys, which means that cooking, for example, is an equal opportunity responsibility, and all of our boys are expected to be respectful to females.

 

 

Finally, some of our vocational training has turned out to be individual, reflecting our assessment of the strengths and potential of individual girls. Thus, for example, we sensed early on that Pauline, our assistant program director, had natural leadership schools as well as great intelligence. We thus paid for her to complete her Advanced Level of secondary school, and we are doing the same with another girl at the moment. Several years ago, we realized that Sithabisiwe, who was raising her two younger brothers on her own, had a real gift for reading people and helped them understand their own feelings. We thus arranged for her to participate in a two-year course to be trained in counselling. The only participant under the age of 30, she was also the only student to graduate!

 

Given the current economic situation here, we’re still holding our collective breath to see whether our training will lead to economic self-sufficiency. But one thing is abundantly clear already: Our girls are clear about not wasting their lives: They are not getting pregnant, not selling themselves to the highest bitter, and are focused on moving forward with their lives on the basis of their own work. 

Multiskilled Sithabisiwe teaches welding to girls
Multiskilled Sithabisiwe teaches welding to girls
Our Senior Girls muscle bricks to our greenhouse
Our Senior Girls muscle bricks to our greenhouse
Our Seniors mapping out foundation for sewing bldg
Our Seniors mapping out foundation for sewing bldg

Links:

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