Hello friends! It’s been a great few months at Zimkids thanks to your continuing support. I just arrived back in the States to begin meetings with our friends across the country. Here’s the latest news!
Over the past two months, we’ve built the welding training program into a serious operation. We’ve now constructed a covered welding area, with the donation of our good doctor’s metal carport. Our boys and girls over 15 years old are becoming great welders. And they just finished Zimkids’ first commercial welding job: the construction of railing, a bookcase and wardrobe for a private client, using her old railings as the materials.
Meanwhile, the older boys and girls also built a stunning obstacle course, complete with a tunnel made from enormous old tires, balance beam, swinging tires, hanging rings, a tightrope, and a climbing structure.
As if they weren’t busy enough, Foster and Collen who joined Zimkids 7 years ago, who were a big part of our building team and are now on staff installed an electric fence to further secure the property, thanks to the continuing generosity of private donors and the Independent Pilots Association. Foster and Colin, also installed our solar array under the guidance of a local solar energy contractor, needed no guidance this time. The contractor was so impressed that he asked if he could train them to install solar hot water heaters for his company in the hope that he can spin them off into their own business, to serve as a subcontractor for him.
They’re facing some pretty serious choices since we’ve enrolled them in professional courses, Colin in electricity and Foster in boilermaking. For the moment, they’ll work at Zimkids during the work, take their courses on Saturdays, and work for the solar company as needed, which gives other Zimkids coming up time to hone their skills and replace Foster and Collen as they set out on their own. You can imagine how proud we all felt that our plans for these young people are turning into realities. Our dream to enable our kids to gain myriad skills and eventually go into business is becoming a reality. We are thrilled.
Meanwhile, Sithabisiwe is continuing her counseling training with Contact, currently interviewing HIV-positive teenagers to develop her technique. Week by week, we’re watching her understanding grow – and being brought to bear with our own kids.
The new program we began for children ages 3-7 years is thriving. The kids are clearly gaining weight and energy thanks to the feeding program. They are all now happily playing games on our computers and beginning to write as well. Samantha, Pauline and Angel are doing a great job running the program. The incredible Julie Tazzia of Michigan sent underwear for the girls, none of whom had ever HAD underwear. We could use more underwear for both girls and boys, all sizes. (Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for further information)
We had another amazing clothing moment with a 6-year-old boy named Francis who lives with his 78-year-old grandmother and grandfather. He just joined ZImkids and always appeared in the same rags every day. So we reached into the suitcase filled with clothes dropped off by a donor from London and outfitted him in bright lime green soccer shoes, red shorts, a yellow T-shirt, and a bright yellow fleece hoodie and his first pair of underwear. As he walked home that afternoon, the neighbors all began cheering. He’s a different boy now, not hiding in a corner but smiling and playing with the others.
Our garden has fully recovered and is yielding bountiful tomatoes, chimulia, butternut and spinach. We use our drip irrigation system in the greenhouse and upturned 2-litre soda bottles to water vegetables that are planted in maize meal sacks to conserve water.
We’ve been receiving an increasing amount of local support, which is extremely gratifying. A local NGO that is installing water tanks – and delivering water to fill them monthly – offered us the same water supply. Drought conditions continue so this will help a lot. Then a church in northern Zimbabwe sent us a full set of marimbas – musical instruments that are sort of wooden xylophones – and Energy Maburutse, the former lead marimba player for the band Liyana and one of our trustees, will be spending part of his summer break from Lynn University in Florida teaching our kids to play. Drillwell, the well digging company, appeared with more playground equipment, this time monkey bars to add to the swings, see-saw and merry-go-round that they’d already built for us.
The biggest news about local support came from the foundation funded by Strive Masiwa, the owner of Econet, the largest cell phone company in Zimbabwe. They are coming to install Internet at the site and are giving us the money to pay for it for three years. So now our kids can skype schools in the States from the site, receive and send emails, learn to google and see the world.
In January we shipped 68 boxes of books, sewing equipment, games, sports equipment, etc and it will be arriving at the center the last week of May. So it will be a big holiday when they arrive!
I’m leaving, then, filled with pride, excitement and a little bit of exhaustion. But mostly, I’m relaxed, knowing that things are moving ahead beautifully, thanks to a fantastic staff and extremely loyal donors.
Let me start this update with some general comments:
Things have been very tough in Zimbabwe over the past several months. Last year’s drought pushed up the price of food yet again, and this year’s forecast is for more of the same. The World Food Program is warning of widespread hunger. The drought also left the city in a water crisis that led first to cut-offs of water every other day, then for 72 hours at a time and now for 96 hours off, 24 on. Unfortunately, our new well went dry, so we’ve been scrambling for both water and food.
Nonetheless, we’re thriving. After almost two years of frantic activity to get our new Center built and the programs redesigned to our new realities, we’re finally settling in to a routine. With our own site, and since Pumula schools are on two shifts, we are able to meet with our young people daily. The trainees who built the new facility with Dennis and Tinashe are now managing the Center programs. They are running daily tutoring programs in our library, especially for the teenagers currently sitting their high school graduation examinations. Foster, who is running sports programs, has recruited the older kids to help him build an obstacle course. Tinashe is leading everyone through the complexities of computers, starting, literally from the inside (of the machine) out. And Sithabisiwe and Collin have just completed a First Aid training course and are getting our clinic up and running.
We are about to bring in a group of younger orphans, preschoolers, because we are seeing too many young children wandering the neighborhood without supervision or stimulation – and with dangerously swollen bellies. We’ve recently dealt with a case of full-blown malnutrition with Fiona, a 13 year old who is HIV positive, so we’ve become even more sensitive to signs of serious hunger.
Our big news is that starting on November 1, we’ll be competing in the Girl Effect Challenge sponsored by Nike and Global Giving. It is going to be our toughest challenge since the winning charities will be those with the greatest number of individual donors, not the largest total amount of donations. We’re aiming for 1000, and if we prevail, we’ll be in good shape for funding a special training program for girls that will result in a series of microenterprises that we’ll eventually spin-off for the girls themselves to run and own.
It is enormously important because once girls hit 16 or 17, their caregivers want to marry them off as soon as possible, usually to older men, those most likely to abuse them, to want polygamous marriages and to be HIV positive. So we’d be really grateful if you could throw a bit into the pot at http://www.globalgiving.org/projects/building-girls-futures/
A $10 donation counts as much as a $500 donation!
Now, an update on our caregiver program: We’ve reserved Wednesdays for meetings with them. We have a lawyer coming in to teach them about everything from property rights to the importance of wills, a physician to talk about basic medical needs, and we’re even teaching them how to use computers.
A wonderful foundation in New York that ships books and other educational materials to Zimbabwe has offered us some container space, and we have been frantically searching for donations of reading glasses to ship over. They’re coming, although slowly.
Their greatest interest, of course, is finding ways to make money. And that’s where the container space is an enormous boon. We’ve received a donation of four very good sewing machines that we hope will be the basis of a small business making school uniforms, which are always in demand. And we’re trying to develop plans for several other small businesses that can provide them with some income.
Overall, we’re feeling very confident that we can build this program into one that will provide the caregivers with significant support. The workshop with the lawyer, for example, was provoked when the grandfather of one of our children died without a will. Since the home was in his name alone, his wife could not inherit it. The relatives who did, kicked her and the orphan out. It was then that we realized the importance of teaching everyone how critical a will is. As we work more closely with the caregivers, we know that we’ll keep learning about their problems so that we can respond more effectively to their needs.
None of this is possible without you. So, thank you!
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