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.
We at Zimkids hope this fionds you well and happy!
And now the latest news:
In Zimbabwe, parents and teachers push children to finish secondary school, then continue on to the Advanced Level and strive to go to University. The belief that more education will guarantee a good future is so firmly embedded in the culture that it is rarely questioned. But as the leadership of ZimKids looked around, we found university Honors graduates working at fast food restaurants and young people with Masters Degrees driving taxis.
Should we push our young people, most of whom spent at least three years without much education because of constant strikes, to sit their high school graduation exams again and again? Should they be made to feel futureless is they continued to fail?
Of course, continued formal education is the right path for some of our beneficiaries. But most needed to find other ways to build their futures. Deciding to buck the trend freed us to think more creatively, which led to our vocational training programs.
The lynchpin of that program has been multi-skills training in construction. Trainees learn how to design and lay out foundations, mix cement, pour foundations, lay block and brick, plaster, paint, weld, install electrical circuits, and install solar panels and batteries. This broad approach flies in the face of the long tradition here of narrowly skilled workers, and it has already won us plaudits from local businesses. The largest solar energy installation company has been using two of our first trainees, Foster and Colin, for much of their work – and the owner adores them precisely because they can do almost anything.
When Foster and Colin are not working for the solar company, they are helping with the upkeep of our center and, most importantly, training younger boys to replace them and to deal with problems when they are not onsite (which we hope will be an increasingly common situation.) Currently, they are taking the lead in the building of our new Sewing Center, a new vocational training program that will generate income both for Zimkids and the young people who choose to train there through the production of mandatory school uniforms. This time, then, they are the supervisors, the planners, the instructors for the younger builders.
Simultaneously, a group has begun building the scaffolding we need, our security doors, and the frames for our furniture. As they did when we were building the Center in the first place, they are learning not only how to weld but how to be creative in designing necessary elements. Our security door, then, was welded into a gigantic zipper.
We work hard to offer our beneficiaries at least a taste of a variety of vocational opportunities, and at the moment, Nkosikhona and Thandi have been putting their major energy into computers. As they begin mastering html and video editing, you’ll begin to see what Tinashe, our director, can lead them to create.
Finally, almost everyone puts some time in to our greenhouse, which is giving them a taste of the world of permaculture. Initially, we installed both the greenhouse and a drip irrigation system. This year, after flooding in our beds, we moved to raised beds.
And that’s the story!!!
Zimkids has just marked the fifth anniversary of the death of Brian, a 10-year-old Zimkid born with HIV but undiagnosed and untreated until we intervened with his family. By then, his immune system was seriously compromised. He had contracted tuberculosis. And while we managed to get him on antiretroviral drugs and a TB regimen, it was too late. The day we drove his body to be buried at his rural home, we decided to honor Brian with a vow of “NEVER AGAIN.” All of our children were tested for HIV, those who are positive are enrolled at the local pediatric AIDS clinic for drug treatment, and we can now mark five years without a funeral.
It isn’t easy, unfortunately. Several months ago, Cynthia, who is 16 years old, fell ill. When we took her to the clinic, doctors realized that her antiretroviral treatment had stopped working and that she had tuberculosis. Happily, she was quickly put on a new drug regimen and beat back the TB. She is once again at school, thriving.
We’re still struggling with the health of Langilihle, also 16. Although the local pediatric AIDS center sees her regularly, the doctors there missed the fact that her antiretroviral regimen was no longer working. We struggled to get her help, waiting in long queues to little avail. We discovered that the only way to avoid waiting hours for attention at the emergency room was to arrange an ambulance to take her to the hospital. –Although we avoided the wait, the ambulance drivers who transported her were drunk, dropped her on the way from her house to the ambulance and stopped en route to the hospital for bananas! IV drips increased her strength, and her drug regimen was changed. Still, every day, Langilihle’s family has to carry her a mile each day to the local clinic for her TB drugs. We’re optimistic, but she’s not yet out of the woods.
Even as we battle to keep everyone healthy, we’re keeping our focus on building the young people in other ways. As I hope you’ve seen from the photographs we’re posting on our Facebook page (search zimkids orphan trust), our pre-school program is thriving almost beyond our wildest dreams. Our program was designed and is run by Samantha, 18, who has been with Zimkids since she was 10 years old. The local kindergarten teachers were so impressed with the training of the children who “graduated” last year that we had lines of people at our gate looking for places for their kids.
We’ve begun the process of certification for a licensed crèche, which means we can charge fees to non-orphans to cover the expenses of our orphans and make the crèche entirely self-supporting. At present we do not charge. We’d already sent Samantha for professional training, and she’s now about to receive her license. Pauline and Sithabisiwe, who’ve been working with Samantha, have started the same training. Our ability to serve the children well is bolstered by the counseling training we arranged for Sithabisiwe, who is about to finish a year-long course taught by European psychologists, the youngest person ever to do so. In fact, all 18 of her classmates, all older than her by a decade or more, quit the course. We’re hoping to open our doors to fee-paying non-orphans in January.
We’re getting ready to launch yet another training/income-generating project, a school uniform business. All Zimbabwean children are required to wear uniforms to school, and they’re an enormous financial burden on families. So we’ve sent two of our girls, Lindiwe and Charity, who are competent seamstresses to an advanced tailoring course so that we can produce uniforms below the cost charged in town – and train the younger girls in skills that can sustain them. Our hope is that as each group of girls become competent, we can send them off to open their own small businesses – perhaps with sewing machines because of the generosity of our amazing Texan grandmother Dee!
No, we haven’t neglected the vocational training programs we began with the construction of our Center. Colin and Foster, two of the first trainees, are now teaching the younger boys and girls to lay brick, repair equipment and weld. (In fact, one of our sewing trainees, Lindiwe, has just finished welding a new railing at our site!) They will take the lead in the construction of our new sewing building.
So, even as we struggle with regular medical nightmares and with an economy that has now waned beyond collapse, we’re still bringing joy, education and serious futures to a wonderful group of orphans – because of your help and support.
Look forward to our next report, which should include this year’s high school and primary school examination results. Last year, our Zimkids beat the national pass rate by 300 percent – and we’re keeping our fingers crossed for 400 percent this time round!
Zimkids has been thriving and growing – but before providing you the latest details, can we ask a favor? On Dec. 3 beginning at noon east coast time until funds run out Microsoft will match your donation to Zimkids 100 percent! A Microsoft logo will appear on our project page (below click on URL) if matching funds are available. BUT the closer to twelve the better, and only at THIS site: http://www.globalgiving.org/projects/vocational-training-for-200-zimbabwean-orphans/
Thanks so much.
In these updates, we thought that we should tell you a bit about the challenges we face, and we’ve dealt with a particularly difficult one over recent months. In July, one of our caregivers, 76 year-old Linah , fell ill. Linah cared for eight orphans, her grandchildren, between the ages of 1 and 16, and managed to keep them in school by cleaning for neighbors and school authorities. We worried, then, not just about her but also about all those children. So Tinashe spent days ferrying her back and forth to the hospital and breaking through the bureaucracy there to make sure she didn’t languish. Despite our best efforts, however, Linah died in mid-September. In Zimbabwe, proper funerals and burials are important, and Phillip and Tinashe made sure that Linah’s did her justice. They drove the Zimkids car carrying her coffin from the funeral parlor to Linah’s home, and spent the night with the children and neighbors to pay their final respects, leading the group in an all-night round of traditional African drumming and dancing. The next day, they drove the family to the cemetery and dug the grave in which Linah was buried. Ever since, we’ve been working 14 year old Roseline who now heads the family to make sure that her brother, sister and cousins ages 8 to 1 are cared for, fed and remain in school.
That’s one part of what Zimkids is about.
The other part, of course, is about the positive changes we are making in the lives of the children we serve, and we’re seeing it most vividly these days with our newest Zimkids, the 50 three-to-seven olds in the pre-school program we began last year. They include Nokuthula , age 4, whose parents both died of AIDS. She lives with her grandmother and seven other family members in three rooms. Since the grandmother is frequently ill and has no source of income, Nokuthula depends on the preschool feeding program for regular nutrition. Or Wayne , whose father died and whose mother abandoned him on the doorstep of an aunt when he was three months old. Mentally ill, the aunt can barely feed herself, not to mention Wayne. Or Lotrica , 6, born HIV positive. She lives with an aunt none too happy to have been left with the burden of a sick child after her parents died.
We just had our first “graduation” of our pre-school kids, complete with graduation robes (required by government) and the children are thriving: eating at the Centre daily, mastering computer games, and learning to read and write. We don't have a group shot because we rented one cap and gown for all of our kids.
The vocational training programs for the older children are moving along well, and our oldest children, who are awaiting the results of their high school exams, are working hard to master new skills. We’re hoping to find the money for some added space in order to begin a sewing program which will also generate income for us and for the young people we train through the sale of school uniform skirts made by our kids and priced affordably.
Hello friends! We’ve been working hard at Zimkids thanks to your continuing support. Here’s the latest news!
The US Embassy in Harare has issued a grant to Tinashe Basa, our 25-year-old Director to visit the US. We are looking forward to welcoming him in the States with a full schedule of events. He will not only visit many of our supporters in schools, churches and synagogues, but he will attend TEDX events and be our leader at AID WALK DC, our reminder to all that AIDS is a global pandemic.
It has been one year since we opened the Center that was built by our Senior beneficiaries, and I thought you should hear a bit about how those seniors are doing to get a sense of the trajectory we’re forging. So, consider Collen Makurumidze, now 20 years old, who has been with Zimkids since he was 13. Collen mixed cement, laid brick and block, assembled roofing infrastructures, installed all our electric wiring and, along with Foster, installed our solar panels. After we opened and fine-tuned operations, we sent Collen to a formal course in electrical wiring. He could probably have taught it himself, but the course provided the certification to work in the field. In the meantime, a local company has taught him and Foster to install solar hot water heaters, with the goal of starting their own business. I recently spoke with Collen, who expressed interest in taking an advanced course in electric wiring. When I asked him about the cost, he said he’d pay for it himself so ZImkids could use that money to put someone else through the course that could give him or her a real start.
It was a very proud moment for me to watch Collen take responsibility for himself and wants to lift others into a trade. He will need to go on attachment for a year to be fully certified, so we are working with the national electricity supplier to get him placed. Foster had finished his boiler-making course and we are waiting to hear about an internship with a local engineering firm.
As Collen and Foster move on into their own businesses, we are moving others up behind them and into similar courses and, we hope, out into their own businesses. And we are currently paying school fees for four students to do their Advanced level high school work.
Samantha Jumira, 18, with Zimkids since she was 11, is taking a somewhat different path. Before we even began our pre-school program - for 50 children between 3-6 years old – she’d already written lesson plans for them! Now she’s in charge, doing a terrific job revising lesson plans, teaching the alphabet and a bit of math, introducing our youngest kids to the world of computers, arts, games and sports. She began training in early childhood education in August for two weeks every three months.
Meanwhile, we’re ramping up to start a sewing project is to make and sell girls’ school uniforms, both for our own income and to train young people in what is potentially a quite lucrative business since all children wear uniforms. Dee Duhe of Dallas got us sewing machines, and many have already been shipped, along with electrical transformers, thread and supplies, thanks to our friends at US Africa Fellowship. Lindiwe Mabhena, one of our Seniors, who began with Zimkids when she was 10 years old, will be in charge since she’s a wonderful seamstress. Unfortunately, we don’t yet have enough space for a sewing room, so we’re waiting to hear back on a grant application for a used shipping container we can convert and initial materials.
Our council of Elders, our 15-18 year old beneficiaries, are taking the lead in running our activities, as always. Marvelous and Susan are overseeing the girls’ welding program. And Shaun and Anele are putting the boys through the paces. Both groups are doing a great job and learning how to make artsy bookcases, shoe racks, sculptures, burglar bars, benches and chairs. Look at the photos! They’re moving fast!
We are, of course, facing challenges. Several of our teenage boys have started drinking, an extremely common problem in the neighborhood. Tinashe, our director and Philip, our program manager, are working with the boys’ caregivers to encourage them to intervene when older relatives entice our boys into alcohol and with the boys themselves to move them from drinking into more productive activities. Three seem to now be on the right track, working in welding rather than hanging out on the streets. But we suspect this will be an ongoing challenge.
Even more disturbing are problems facing kids who have been neglected, abandoned or kicked out of their relatives’ homes, some of whom are seriously ill with HIV-related illnesses. Many of our caregivers are very old and some simply can’t cope with their teenage grandchildren, especially ones who require a lot of care because they are HIV+. Recently, one gogo – grandmother -, who has a 30 year old severely handicapped son and a granddaughter who is HIV+ was at her wits end and wanted to throw the daughter out. Philip and Sithabisiwe, who is being trained as a counselor, intervened and made arrangements to ease her stress and things seemed to have settled down. Another, who takes care of nine orphaned children, became so ill last week that we had to rush her to hospital. Just recovering from cholera, she was so dehydrated that she needed litres of fluids.
As always, then, we boing from triumph to challenge. And, as always, we move forward thanks to your generosity.
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Chair, Board of Trustees