So much Zimkids news this month, both wonderful and tragic.
The good: Our amazing greenhouse – 50’x20’ - has been installed with a full drip irrigation system, thanks to the Ambassador’s Fund/PEPFAR grant from the U.S. Embassy here and Barnert Temple in New Jersey. Already, we have more than 500 tomato, pepper, cabbage, Chimulia plants growing, donated by the Israeli company that makes the drip irrigation and greenhouse system. The garden is flourishing. The open field next to the greenhouse has also been fitted with drip irrigation, waiting for our well to be hooked up. So more food is in the offing all being managed and cultivated by our kids.
Our Tech Center is virtually finished, and we’ve purchased 15 beautiful new laptops thanks to the generosity of the Proctor & Gamble Alumni Foundation and support on our behalf of Julie Tazzia, a member of our board of advisors who lives in Michigan. She and Shelley Kenigsberg of Sidney, Australia, gathered dozens of computer and non-computer games that the children are chomping at the bit to try out once we’re up and running.
Our solar array, which will power the entire complex so we can avoid connecting to the collapsing grid, have been ordered and should be installed next month – a gift from the Independent Pilots’ Association, thanks to the entreaties of Adrian Suskin, a member of our Board.
Drillwell Partnership, the local company that drilled our well, surprised us with a swing set and a see-saw that they build specially for us. And our soccer field has been graded, courtesy of Carly Bidner, a high school student in Kentucky who raised the money for the work.
Our kids lined up with bricks to help continue the construction of the path to our buildings that make Zimkids entirely handicapped accessible.
All of our Seniors have now mastered all aspects of building with cement as well as using the circular saw, drill, grinder, planer and welding equipment. Dennis trained Tinashe to weld and he has proved to be a master welder making all our burglar bars. Sithibisiwe in spite of her tiny hands managed to master the circular saw cutting gumpoles for our steeple from which the zimkids flag will fly.
It’s been a dizzying few months, as you can see, and the entire site has become a sort of local tourist attraction, with wedding parties gathering to have their photographs taken next to our lovingly painted walls and teachers using the imagery to show their students the development of Zimbabwe from bushmen cave paintings to the modern day computer era.
For the most part, our children are flourishing. Our Fairbanks, Alaska supporters, led by the inspiring Gloria Slagle, have sold a remarkable number of dolls, which has kept the kids and their guardians eating well. And the children are hard at work on a new set of dolls to provide them and their families with food and medical care over the coming year.
We’ve begun bolstering our educational programs and have great hopes for several of our elders who are about to write their O-level exams since they are being tutored by terrific volunteers from USAP (United States Achievers Program), all local students on their way to Harvard, Amherst and other top American universities. If they succeed in their exams, we will help them continue their educations by paying for their A-level studies, as we are currently doing with Pauline Mhendo, who is about to write her A-level examinations after two years at a local Mission school.
Finally, we have added a staff member to the Zimkids family, Philip Mudoyi, who we’ve known for 7 years and dreamed of adding him to the Zimkids family. He will serve as our program director, training our Elders to run programs for the younger kids and working with our caregivers. Philip, just 29-years-old, worked with a series of local children’s clubs and the highly-regarded Masiye Camp before leaving for similar work in South Africa several years ago. We lured him home with a large pay cut! If you befriend us on our new Facebook site, which is a work-in-progress, you’ll soon receive regular updates from him, as well as from Tinashe.
Our bad news is that the vulnerability of the children we work with has been driven home to us with particular vehemence in recent weeks. First, one of our 12-year-old girls who was born HIV+ was raped by her grandfather. He was arrested but let out on bail to return to his home. She’s since been removed to another family member.
Then two brothers were attacked in separate incidents. Mbuso and Nqabutho lost their mother last year and are cared for by Sithabisiwe, one of our seniors. First Mbuso, a 14 year old who looks about 11, was smacked on the ear for being late to school and can no longer hear out of his right ear since the blow demolished his ear drum. We took him to our Ear Specialist. Then, his older brother, Nqabutho, was stabbed in the back by some local bullies while walking to church. He spent three hours waiting to be seen at a local hospital and was finally treated for a 2” deep wound that just missed his lung. He is being treated by our volunteer doctor Sashka Macsimovic.
Thandiwe Mlotshwa, one of the Seniors constructing the center, lost her mother last week to what we think was meningitis. Her mother’s sister died that same week, both in their 50’s. Thandiwe is alone now so we are making sure she is well supported.
Ethel Ngwenya, who arrived at Zimkids a few years ago listless and sick with worms and following treatment brightened to smiles and energy had to move to one tiny rented room with her gogo (grandmother), Melta, after being kicked out of their home. Gogo, 63 years old, lost her husband of 35 years two years ago. As is customary here, his family took possession of the house, rented it and sent them packing with the clothes on their back. We are helping her get on her feet.
And that’s the story! We move forward ever hopeful to improve and in some cases save lives. Thank you for helping our kids learn to help themselves.
A reminder: Mark your calendar for June 13. It's Global's Bonus day where every donation to Zimkids gets a 50% matching grant from Global Giving!
We at Zimkids are exhausted, but happy since we're moving ahead at a dizzying speed, thanks to the help of a growing number of wonderful supporters. The seniors, Tinashe and I have now finished the skeletons of all our new buildings and the roof structure. Next we will be installing the roofing, the floors and window panes then on to plumbing. Our Senior girls are now the first trained female construction workers in the country, and Foster has become a master, expert builder.
Once the roofs, floors and interior finish work is done, our local guardian angel, Mike Randall, will give the Seniors on-the-job training in plumbing. We've made a terrific new friend who is installing solar traffic lights in the city, and he has designed a solar system that will allow us to operate entirely off the grid. Obviously, that's a huge relief since it means that we will always have electricity - unlike most of the neighborhood, which is dark as much as 8 hours a day - but that also we will have no on-going utility costs. He plans to train the Seniors in solar installation as part of an Environmental Stewardship program he's beginning.
At that point, we'll be ready to begin our self-sustainability programs, our Computer Center/Internet Cafe and our market garden (which is being designed using drip irrigation and tunnel greenhouses to conserve water).
Much of this has been made possible by two grants that we just received, one from the P&G Alumni for our Tech Center and the other from U.S. Embassy in Harare through the Ambassador's Fund and PEPFAR (the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief). A high school student from California, Carly Bidner, is raising funds for our sports program. And two Rotary clubs have expressed interest in assisting us with our solar installation. Thanks to St. Raphael’s in Fairbanks, Alaska for their Christmas Gifts.
Five members of the USAP Program (the United States Achievers Program, which helps talented disadvantaged youth to find scholarships to U.S. universities) have now begun tutoring all our 3rd and 4th form students who are preparing for their high school graduation exams. They're extremely excited since there education has been so spotty and they have watched almost all of their brothers and sisters fail.
Obviously, we're continuing with our "normal" activities, distributing food, working with the children, taking children and their caregivers to our doctor. Dr. Maksimovic is about to conduct a workshop with our older kids to give them basic skills we all have - like taking temperature, blood pressure and ask the first medical questions needed when someone has a problem.
All in all, then, despite the normal problems of electricity, water and bureaucracy, we're thriving and excited about the future.
We have one request as we move toward it (actually, we have many, but only one for this month): As we train all of our kids on computers, we'd like to collect as many computer games as possible, both educational and purely recreational. So if any of you have games - really, computer or not - gathering dust, please consider sharing them with us. You can write me at email@example.com to make arrangements.
ZimKids has been rocking and rolling over the past two months. All of the brickwork on the buildings for our new “home” is almost complete, and the roof structures are rising. Plastering has begun, and Zimbabwe now has its first two female plasterers, our very own Sithibisiwe and Thandiwe! The grounds have been landscaped with a dry garden of cacti and aloes. The paintings on the wall between us and the street have become such a local attraction that people constantly come by to admire and photograph them. Shaka Ndlovu is teaching our Elders who will teach our children how to paint wall art.The younger children have begun digging vegetable plots for their families. Students at Carmel, a local private school, raised $150 and bought us a solar cooker and some post and pans. We distributed glasses donated by an American medical researcher here on the Fullbright program. And thanks to the generosity of the Proctor and Gamble Alumni network, we’re in the process of purchasing a full solar array so that we can be independent of the crumbling electrical grid and operate without a monthly electric bill.
In terms of the building project, while the plastering team moves from building to building, the roof team hopes to have the buildings closed in by the end of February or early March. As we complete that work, the plumber will train our Seniors to connect the toilets to the sewer and the electrician will show us how to put in our wiring. We’ll still have a dozen small items to complete – putting the glass into the windows, polishing the floors, doing the final clean-up. But we’re on target to be done by the end of April.
As Tinashe and Dennis have worked with the Seniors at the building site, the Council of Elders have been continuing their wonderful programs with the younger children. Just this weekend, they began rehearsing with them for a special play for the Center opening!
Things are harder then ever here as prices continue to rise. Rents keep rising, and people now are paying $100 a month for two tiny rooms. Food prices for everything but vegetables are now well above what we pay in the U.S., and medical care is astronomically costly. We’ve managed to continue providing the safety net that was our first project and in December, Adrian Suskin, our ever-loyal guardian angel, sponsored a special food distribution. Our terrific doctor is still keeping people as healthy as possible when they live with water and electricity cut-offs and no money.
By the end of the year, we’re expecting that we’ll have an abundant garden and a functioning poultry project to help out our families and provide ZimKids with a bit of income. Once our solar panels are installed, we’ll begin networking our computers and training our young people so that we can open our very own Internet café and computer training center – the first one for miles around!
So, as we move into 2012, thank you again for all your support and encouragement. Every time officials stop by – from the community, the city, or from embassies – and admire what we’ve accomplished, we think with immense gratitude how far we have come because of the amazing generosity of our friends!
TO our donors: Your generosity and support have been remarkable and deeply appreciated. Thank you so so much.
The children are involved with their usual activities including soccer, art, dance, song, chess, and computer training. Every few weeks or so we take them to the site of our new center now under construction for cleanup day where teams win prizes for the most trash collected. They are also hard at work under the guidance of Shaka Ndlovu, an immensely talented local artist who donates his time to teach the children and is painting the front wall murals. He is working with our Elders (age 15-17) training them to develop and implement murals that they will paint on the interior of the security wall of our center that is under construction now.
The Zimkids building project is moving along swiftly now. All foundations are in; the sub floor (5” quarrystone/cement mixture) is in place for the Resource Center. The remaining sub floors for the bathrooms, gazebo, Tech Center and Office cottage will be poured in the next two weeks. The walls, windows and doors of the resource center are up. Once the sub floors are all in the walls of the Tech center will go up followed by the Bathrooms. A pump and piping have been installed in the well. The water tank stand is built. Following my return December 2 the roofs will be installed. Once the roofs are up then the final floor finish is poured and the walls are skim-coated inside and out. Our six Seniors (18,19 year old orphans) are working at the site and have learned how to plan, mix and build with cement. Two of them have become so proficient that they could easily be hired by construction companies now. They in turn will be training our Elders (age 15-17).
We have been chosen to be one of eight charities for the Barnert Temple Mitzvah Mall focusing on water projects. Our plan is to install drip irrigation and to have caregivers and our children participate in the planning, implementation and care of the market garden. Once the buildings are up we will enclose a space to raise broiler chickens and egg layers. Both the market Garden and Chicken project will both feed our kids and produce some income that will move us closer to self-sufficiency.
We have applied for a grant to purchase computers for our Tech Center which will be used to train our kids in the use of a computer and internet. When the children are in school the tech center will become an internet café for the greater Pumula neighborhood. Again, moving us closer to self-sufficiency.
Thanks to you all of this is happening. We are all very excited and are looking forward to the grand opening sometime in March, 2012 to which you are all invited!
Dear friends of Zimkids,
We at Zimkids want to extend our deepest gratitude for your support and kindness. We welcome our newest donors at Lilly who put your faith in us. Be assured your donations will be used wisely and directed entirely to benefit the children at Zimkids.
We continue with our food distributions and activities as described in our website at www.zimkidsorphantrust.org.
And we are still paying school fees for those who are at the top of their class. (Paying for everyone would cost us $50,000, so that is not an option, and our system seems to encourage the children to work hard.) This year one of our most active members passed her O-level exams with flying colors, a real accomplishment given how frequently her teachers were on strike for the past several years. Thus far, she is the only Zimkid to have made this achievement, so we are paying to send her to a wonderful boarding school in Matopos for her A-levels in the hope that she’ll finish well, be accepted into the United States Achievers Award (which helps disadvantaged kids find scholarships to U.S. universities) and fulfill her dream of going to medical school. We are all very proud of her. Kudzai Sithole and Lindiwe Mabhena, both 15 years old, are always at the top of their classes and we are hoping that they will follow Pauline’s example.
Construction on the Zimkids Center continues apace. The children of Zimkids, under the supervision of our Council of Elders are currently designing the interior murals that they will paint on the interior of the wall. In a few weeks, the children, Seniors, Elders and our Director Tinashe Basa will be painting classic Ndebele designs on the front wall of the site. And the children gather periodically to continue to clean the site and assist as needed in whatever ways are appropriate to their ages.
Once the first building is up, we will begin to furnish it. A clothing manufacturing company went out of business and sold us chairs and tables at rock bottom prices. The Bulawayo public library has agreed to sell us children’s books for $6 per large box that we’ll add to our library. We have received two more donated laptops for the eventual tech center. And we seem to be on the verge of free shipping for donations.
All in all, we’re feeling extremely proud of how far we have come – thanks to your kindness, assistance and good wishes. We will continue to work hard to deserve it and use it in the most cost-effective, focused and positive way to assist our children.
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Chair, Board of Trustees