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.
A dozen times a month, the health of our children challenges us, and not just because of HIV. This week’s struggle involves Bukhosi, 14 years old. He recently enrolled in Zimkids and we were immediately alarmed by the condition of his knee. It turned out that while home in the rural area when he was 6, he had broken his knee – and received appallingly bad treatment at the local hospital. Pieces of bone remain that has caused infections for the last 8 years. Now, his knee is badly infected again. We took him for an x-ray and Dr Sashka said that we will treat the infections until he is fully grown and then find a surgeon to remove the pieces. Getting surgery here is very risky and she thinks it is better to wait.
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 Jumira, 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 – and, no, Dennis does not need to break his back to help them. In fact, they are now so skilled that the local dealer of solar panels and hot water heaters hires them whenever he has work. “I tried out two other boys, but they just couldn’t cut it,” he told Dennis. “YOUR boys I can just drop off to do installations because they know how to weld, to build, to wire, and to work!”
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 Ndlovu, 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 Mpofu, 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 Ncube, 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 Ngwenya, 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.
The rains have come so we planted our field. We bought more seeds to add to our garden and with the raining season around we have to start working on the outside garden. We planted carrots, cucumbers, chomolia (kale), green pepper and onions. Some of the seeds were put straight in the greenhouse while some of them were put in the nursery beds outside the greenhouse and will be transplanted as soon as they are seedlings.
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.
Finally, Tinashe, our director, just spent two months in the U.S., his first trip to America, and we had an amazing few weeks traveling across America thanks to our accumulated frequent flyer miles and the generous hosts around the country to thank many of you for your support, making new friends, and establishing relationships with new schools. The latter is important not just or fundraising but because the Skype conferences between our Zimbabwean children and their American counterparts are so important to awareness and understanding on both sides.
We end yet another year, then, with our hearts full of gratitude to our supporters and our amazing kids.
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. Sithabisiwe and Collen received their certificate for successfull completion of first aid training course. They are our first responders!
As always, then, we going from triumph to challenge. And, as always, we move forward thanks to your generosity.
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. 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 email@example.com 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.
The past few weeks at Zimkids have been exciting, so let me try to boil it all down:
The big news: Across Zimbabwe, only 18.4 percent of high school students passed their national exams, but 70 percent of our Zimkids prevailed. Those results were deeply satisfying, as you can imagine. All that tutoring, encouragement and training really paid off. We are paying for those students continue to the second level of secondary school – Advanced Level.
One of the others, Samantha, is running a new program we began for three to six year olds who are with us every day 9am to 3pm. This program offers a feeding program using a high-nutrient supplement that is receiving rave reviews in South Africa. The latest, and littlest, Zimkids, are already learning English, reading and taking their first tentative steps onto computers.
Tinashe is busier than ever in the Tech Center, continuing his training with the older children even as he begins training both the small newcomers, including some three-year-olds, and the caregivers, including 80 year-old grandmothers who have never actually touched a computer.
Go to our website – www.zimkids.com - to see the latest video news or, if you are on facebook you can find the videos on our facebook page www.facebook.com/zimkids.
Our greenhouse and open air vegetable garden is back in full swing following an invasion of army worms that demolished our vegetable garden in December. They literally climbed the walls in the thousands and ate like locusts. We are growing kale, spinach, tomatoes and butternut squash and even have a field of sunflowers. Also the kids brout=ght in seeds for mango and advocado trees for our planned orchard.
We’ve made a terrific new alliance with Contact, a local counseling center funded by the German and Greek governments. They will be offering workshops for our staff, for the older children, and the caregivers, and are making their professional staff available when we confront difficult family situations. They run a counseling training program, usually limited to candidates over the age of 25. But they have agreed to include Sithabisiwe, who will begin training part-time in March.
The Center is in beautiful condition, being carefully maintained by its builders. We recently added a roof for shading over the 15 meter art table behind the resource center. Built entirely by former trainees with the help of current ones. We are expecting the container being shipped from the States to arrive in Mozambique the end of April. We will be doubling our library offerings, adding the donated sewing machines to our programs and myriad other supplies and educational materials.
Some wonderful new friends in New York are working on a Bra drive because bras are expensive and in short supply here. We’d also talked about doing something to address the awful problem of the high cost of sanitary napkins. At first, we’d thought about a fundraising drive for reusable pads, but our physician here protested because of the difficulty of keeping them sanitary. Instead, we’re investigating the possibility of borrowing a page from a terrific Indian group that has invented three machines that allow for the creation of a small-scale sanitary napkin factory. The biggest challenge is sourcing the materials needed here. So many businesses are closed or closing, but we’re excited by the possibility of opening a small business that would provide experience, employment, and the cheapest sanitary pads in the country! That would be a wonderful addition to our training program for girls, which is continuing with welding. They are in the midst of welding shelving for our expanded library and storage room. This requires them to plan the size, shape, and height to fit the space so they are getting a lesson in drafting. Then they have to measure and cut the pieces and finally weld so that the shelf is level. The girls are in great need of experience in planning, organizing and administration as we move forward with microenterprises for them. A small factory would certainly provide them with on-the-job training. So as we look into the possibility - we hope the necessary materials can be sourced locally.
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Chair, Board of Trustees