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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
First, we at Zimkids want to extend our deepest gratitude for your support and kindness. It has not only allowed us to continue our work but has given us enough stability so that we’ve been able to begin building our new home, which will give the orphans we work with a classroom and clinic, a computer lab, library, playing fields and a full kitchen – all powered by solar energy!
The building project is not only giving us the space that we need but is providing the older children we’ve worked with for years with training for their own futures in a country where unemployment now tops 90 percent. Several years ago, we turned Zimbabwean tradition on its head by appointing these older children to a Zimkids Council of Elders and teaching them to run activities with the younger kids – from chess to traditional dance and choir - and even to provide first aid.
Before we broke ground, those Elders (aged 17 & 18) – all of whom have finished school but cannot find jobs – became our Seniors and are now hard at work under the supervision of professional builders who are training them in every aspect of the process, from preparing the foundation to building walls, thatching, plumbing and electricity. If all goes well, we hope that by the time we’re done, they’ll be ready for some training in running a business so that they can spin themselves off into Zimkids Builders!
There’s still a huge amount of work to be done, of course. The wall encircling the 2-1/2 acre building site is almost complete – and it has been an enormous job! The Senior boys and girls have not only been laying brick and pouring concrete; the boys have been living on the site to provide much-needed security and have already chased off men in donkey carts with their eyes on our bricks, blocks and sand! They’ll be taking a break soon to go to a nearby national park to harvest thatching grass. Then it will be time for the construction of our buildings! We are working closely with Dr. Sashka Maksimovic to make sure our clinic/first aid room has what she needs to serve our kids and their families. All of our children were tested for HIV last year. Those HIV+ children are closely monitored.
Meanwhile, our new Council of Elders, having grown up under the influence of our Seniors, have taken over our activities with great skill and have begun learning computers, for themselves, so they can in turn teach the younger kids and as part of our long-term goal of opening an Internet café. That is just one element of self-sustainability plan. The other two elements include a market garden based on environmentally sound drip irrigation processes and a project to raise chickens. Fortunately, a local chicken farmer has promised to train our Elders and Seniors to raise both layers and broilers and to recycle their waste so that we can avoid the use of chemical fertilizer in our garden.
We have many new children who have joined us over the last 2 years so in an effort to bring them together in a shared experience all the kids and the Seniors went to Masiye Camp for 6 days of fun, games and barbecues in April. They had a great time making happy memories that will last a long time and returning to Bulawayo as a Zimkids family.
Life is frantic, then, at Zimkids. But, immodestly, we believe that we’re creating a model center for orphans that will allow us to care for their educational, social, medical and personal needs even as we help train them to become leaders and business owners that will equip them to care for their families, their community, their environment, and their nation’s future.
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Chair, Board of Trustees