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!
This Wednesday, June 13th, beginning at 12:01 am EST GlobalGiving is having a bonus day. Since we are a Global “Superstar” all of our donations up to $1000 will be matched 50% by Global until the funds run out. Also there is an extra award for the most donors and the most funds raised. So every $10 donation is a gift to Zimkids that we will use wisely and with gratitude. And with Global’s $5 bonus we can even do more. Thank you in advance for your support.
We are heading toward the finish line with the completion of the Center. Security is a big issue here in Zimbabwe especially with all that we plan on offering at the center so we are just now completing a small cottage that will house our caretaker/security guard and office. He will also serve as our librarian. Yes, we will be wearing multiple hats!
We picked our first batch of tomatoes from our new greenhouse. Dee-licious!
Tinashe, our director, has begun designing and welding the tech center desks. He has become a master welder! Sithibisiwe is learning to cut and lay tile for the bathrooms. Foster is installing the gum poles and roofing on the cottage. Collen is completing his first set of steps and Thandiwe is painting. This week the plumber begins to install pipes, fittings and hardware while teaching the Seniors. Next week the solar panels arrive and will begin to be installed.
The kids are doing great. Our Elders are in training for all the tasks they will be handling once the center is open. Phillip, our program director is organizing workshops on leadership, first aid, children’s rights etc. Our Seniors will be tasked with supervising the Elders.
We’ve had one case of tuberculosis this month. It’s common for HIV+ kids here to get TB. He’s under treatment now and is doing well coping with the six month regimen as well as his anti-retrovirals.
And that’s the story for now. We are ever grateful for your kindness and generosity and we strive to put it to the best possible use. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.
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.
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Chair, Board of Trustees