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.
Happy New Year, friends of Zimkids! We’re gearing up for an amazing new year in Pumula, thanks to your continued support.
Several weeks ago, the new U.S. Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Bruce Wharton, made Zimkids his first stop outside the capital, Harare, following his appointment. Sithabisiwe and Thandi took him on a tour and described the impact that the Zimkids training program had both on them and on the building of the center. The younger children performed and even got him dancing. And the caretakers were extremely generous in their compliments. One grandfather pointed to a welding machine and said, “I’ve never seen anything like this in my life. Now, my granddaughter even knows how to use one!”
That night at dinner, Ambassador Wharton told friends that he thought Zimkids should be an international model. Needless to say, Tinashe and the team were extremely pleased!
At the moment, everyone is waiting anxiously for the arrival of the 65 boxes that we shipped thanks to the generosity of the US African Children’s Fellowship, which ships books and other supplies to rural schools. The books we sent – donated by schools in the Catskills and individuals from all over – will more than quintuple the size of our library. We’ll have new equipment for our sports programs. Scores of board games will keep the kids mesmerized when it rains since they’d never seen board games until we brought a few back last year. Scrabble has become the hot competitive “sport,” and fortunately, we’ve shipped plenty of dictionaries!
Three donated sewing machines courtesy of a donor in Texas will allow us to try our hand at a new income-producing projects. And we think that we can train both boys and girls to gain skills and income.
Finally, we’ll be able to ramp up our clinic with a scale, blood pressure cuffs, assorted equipment and a whole range of supplies. Sithabisiwe and Collen have gone through a 3-day First Aid training course, and we’re planning to give them more training so that they can serve as a first line of care in coordination with our private physician. The drought in Bulawayo is so severe water is turned off for 4 days a week. It needs to be boiled and many of our families have no electricity and are forced to burn wood. As a result many of our kids are getting sick. Tinashe has spent the last couple of months ferrying children to our doctor for treatment and we are doing all we can to educate about water borne diseases.
Now that things are organized and running smoothly at the new Center, we’ve begun an intake of new children, concentrating on kids ages 4-10 years. We’ve arranged to purchase a high-nutrition porridge to feed them in the morning. We’re hoping that providing it to the younger children will help their development, both physical and mental.
We have not forgotten our Girl Effect plans, of course, and we plan to use the money we are receiving from the Nike/Globalgiving Challenge to continue training girls to weld and to create the first of what we hope will be the first of several spin-off businesses, ZimGirls Welding.
Many, many thanks to our board of advisors, Ric Keeley in San Francisco, Mzu Ngwenya (Team Siyakha) in London, Gloria Slagle in Fairbanks and Julie Tazzia in Michigan. Their work on behalf of Zimkids has been amazing and wonderful. Also thanks to the Ross School Friends Academy in New York, Andes and Roxbury Central Schools in the Catskills for their generous and welcoming support. And of course, to the thousands of individual donors who through their contributions have made possible a rainbow of opportunities for our orphans.
Dennis is on his way back to Zimbabwe on January 15. Since things are running smoothly without him, he plans to exercise a light touch in the daily operations and concentrate on new initiatives, creating vocational training programs and business management programs.
For Zimkids, then – and we hope for all of you – 2013 promises to be an amazing and productive new year! Thanks to all of you!
Hello! If you don't have time to read at least check out the PHOTOS!!!
THANK YOU ONE AND ALL FOR YOU KINDNESS AND TRUST AND GENEROSITY!!!
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 for the month of November, 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!
As you might have noticed, we updated our GlobalGiving project page to reflect that Zimkids now has a new home. We are happily and productively operating out of our new building. We worked 7 days a week for the last few months to open on July 31st. We’ve entered a whole new era – thanks to so many of you. You can see the project in a 2 minute slideshow by going to https://www.vimeo.com/47694837.
Now that we have land, along with a greenhouse and drip irrigation system, we can produce much of the food the orphans we serve require – along with training in modern agricultural techniques using little water or fertilizer. Our goal, after all, has never been to foster dependency. While we will continue to provide them with staple foods, we are encouraging them to work with our staff to grow the vegetables and – later -fruit that will add such critical nutrition to their starch-heavy diet. Our donations for kale will be used for seed or soy protein. We are ending beef distribution because meat inspection is now untrustworthy because of corruption.
We’ve been able to improve our educational programs substantially. In addition to paying school fees, we will be offering tutoring in our own resource center, a library and a fantastic computer center that will allow the children to enter the 21st century in style. Our old Council of Elders, who “graduated” into Seniors, and who built our center and who will now be referred to as Staff will receive ongoing training in first aid, counseling, management, accounts which in a year’s time they will pass on to our next generation of Seniors.
Our staff members are receiving basic first aid and minor medical training so that they can work with our physicians.
We’re also expanding the on-the-job vocational training we gave to the Seniors with training in metalwork (take a look at the phenomenal metal shields that hold up our computer desks – we’re already offering similar ones for sale!) And our center is entirely powered by solar energy!
With our new space, we have been able to broaden our recreational activities to include netball, which is popular with the girls, an obstacle course which under the guidance of Foster Dingani, one of our exceptional Seniors, will build the obstacle course as a carpentry training program for the older children, and board games for rainy days, in addition to our old programs in performing arts, visual arts, and soccer. If you take a peak at the slide show you will see the murals on the walls that surround the Center, you’ll see the work of our amazing new art teacher, Shaka, who is currently working with the children to design and paint murals on the inside of the walls.
Finally, we’re making a serious push on special training for our girls, who are growing up in a society where rape is an epidemic, families press for early marriage to gain access to cash (since the husband needs to pay for the privilege of marriage), sanitary napkins are expensive, and obedience is prized. Two of our trainees who built the new center are young women, and they are taking the lead in designing programs to help teach the younger women and girls the lesson that they have learned about protecting themselves, the value of saying NO, and standing up for their rights. They will be bolstered by a nurse who will teach them about family planning and reproductive health.
You can visit our facebook page at www.facebook.com/zimkids or our website, currently being updated to see photos of the project. Our website is currently being updated.
Stay tuned, please. We have already been widely recognized as one of the most innovative orphan projects in Africa, and we’re just getting going to show what can be accomplished by a center built by orphans and run by orphans for orphans.
I am in the States until I return to Zimbabwe in December and have lots of frequent flyer miles if you or your organization would like to host Zimkids for fundraising events. Wherever possible we can set up skype video conferences with our kids and yours bridging the miles and bringing the smiles to opposite sides of the globe!
Project Reports on GlobalGiving are posted directly to globalgiving.org by Project Leaders as they are completed, generally every 3-4 months. To protect the integrity of these documents, GlobalGiving does not alter them; therefore you may find some language or formatting issues.
If you donate to this project or have donated to this project, you will get an e-mail when this project posts a report. You can also subscribe for reports via e-mail without donating or by subscribing to this project's RSS feed.
Chair, Board of Trustees