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!
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Chair, Board of Trustees