Zimkids Orphan Trust

Zimkids Orphan Trust is a neighborhood-based safe haven for orphaned children in impossible circumstances. We are committed to ensuring that the children and their caregivers have access to food and medical care, as well as creative, recreational, vocational and educational opportunities and training in the tools essential for self-reliance so they can grow into productive, healthy adults who are literate, energized, assertive and ready to take initiative for themselves, their families and their community.
Sep 30, 2016

Heading into the future

Our girls built a new obstacle unit for our course
Our girls built a new obstacle unit for our course

Over the past several years, we at Zimkids have become increasingly concerned about how to foster the creativity of the children. That’s not an easy task in a country where kids are trained to memorize, copy and repeat, where artisans tend to churn out dozens of identical sculptures and paintings to sell to visiting tourists, and when sidewalk vendors all sell tomatoes, onions and cabbage.

Given the absence of employment, and thus the need to be creative in devising ways to make a living, we encourage the Zimkids to draw outside the lines and think outside the box.

To do so, we’re working on a three-pronged project with both a personal development and vocational emphasis. The first prong mimics what is done in many American science camps like Camp Invention, where young people are taught to build robots and to make plastic birds fly. Tinashe, our director, just took our first steps in that direction by working with a group of children to motorize one of the wire cars that Zimbabwean children build for their own entertainment. Children here always push their cars or trucks with sticks. They might have seen motorized machine-made toys. But they have never seen or imagined motorizing their own creations. Next step? Small robots, animals and robots so that they will simultaneously explore the artistic and the scientific. We’re currently writing grant applications to bring trainers from the U.S. for this prong and the other prongs.

The second prong is geared toward our youngest children and thus is irrelevant to vocational training. But the final one is entirely oriented in that direction. We recently hired a terrific artisan to work with our girls to make wire cars and figures, to build cars out of tin cans, and imagining how to use other scrap materials to CREATE. And those creations are not only marketable, but when combined with new technology have serious potential to CHANGE the market.

 

Take a look at the girls’ first attempts at wire/beaded and or shredded metal can Christmas ornaments, whether small trees, Santas, cars, or bicycles.

 

Many of our older girls are too busy preparing for their final Ordinary level examinations to be involved in much beyond our tutoring program that we hope will help them pass – especially the much-dreaded math exam.

 

But almost all of them are involved with a new garden project that will provide vegetables for our internal use and for the families of the neediest children. Involving them in more modern gardening techniques is another way to provide them with a bit of a safety net. For the past several years, Zimbabwe has experienced terrible droughts that have dramatically increased food insecurity even in urban areas since almost everyone keeps a tiny plot of vegetables. At Zimkids, the girls learn how to use drip irrigation to reduce the amount water needed for gardening, low-cost shading materials and composting.

 

So we’re moving, more slowly than we would like, of course. But given the circumstances on the ground in Zimbabwe, some days we are surprised that we’re able to move forward at all!

Designing wire art.
Designing wire art.
Tilling the Garden
Tilling the Garden

Links:

Sep 30, 2016

Pumping up Creativity

Craft creations
Craft creations

Over the past several years, we at Zimkids have become increasingly concerned about how to foster the creativity of the children. That’s not an easy task in a country where kids are trained to memorize, copy and repeat, where artisans tend to churn out dozens of identical sculptures and paintings to sell to visiting tourists, and when sidewalk vendors all sell tomatoes, onions and cabbage.

Given the absence of employment, and thus the need to be creative in devising ways to make a living, we encourage the Zimkids to draw outside the lines and think outside the box.

To do so, we’re working on a three-pronged project with both a personal development and vocational emphasis. The first prong mimics what is done in many American science camps like Camp Invention, where young people are taught to build robots and to make plastic birds fly. Tinashe, our director, just took our first steps in that direction by working with a group of children to motorize one of the wire cars that Zimbabwean children build for their own entertainment. Children here always push their cars or trucks with sticks. They might have seen motorized machine-made toys. But they have never seen or imagined motorizing their own creations. Next step? Small robots, animals and robots so that they will simultaneously explore the artistic and the scientific. We’re currently writing grant applications to bring trainers from the U.S. for this prong and the other prongs. The second prong is geared toward our youngest children and thus is irrelevant to vocational training. But the final one is entirely oriented in that direction. We recently hired a terrific artisan to work with the young people to make wire cars and figures, to build cars out of tin cans, and imagining how to use other scrap materials to CREATE. And those creations are not only marketable, but when combined with new technology have serious potential to CHANGE the market.

 They’ve been turning out some amazing creations, either small scale ones out of wire and shredded cans or larger ones welded out of scrap metal.  

In the meantime we are finishing up a chicken coop that will provide income and food for the center,

 We think we’re on the cusp of striking a major blow to gender expectations in Zimbabwe. (Okay, it’s not a MAJOR blow, but it’s an advance). Early Childhood Education is perhaps the only fast-growing field of endeavor since government has mandated that all children have a year of education before Grade 1. Virtually every certified early childhood educator in the country is female, and we’ve been searching for the right boy to send for training for our preschool. We think we’ve found the ideal candidate brave enough to cross the gender divide!

Installing chicken wire in our newly built coop
Installing chicken wire in our newly built coop
Welding the door to the coop
Welding the door to the coop

Links:

Jun 28, 2016

The travails of Delight

Delight
Delight

In our last update, we tried to give you a sense of the struggle we face to launch our girls into independence. Several of you suggested that we follow that up with specifics, so we want to tell you about Delight.

 

Like so many of our orphans, Delight, who just turned 17, has not had a stable home since the deaths of her parents. When she was younger, she lived with an aunt, but as she’s grown up, her uncle has demanded that she stay in his household. This was not an act of generosity or familial affection: Her uncle has a young child, and he wants Delight to serve as a live-in babysitter. The situation is less exploitative at her aunt’s, although there, she suffers regular beatings.

 

And in both cases, Delight is stuck at a community called Methodist, an informal settlement 20 minutes by foot from Zimkids, little more than a collection of tin and mud shacks scattered, ironically, around a Methodist church. It’s rare to go to Methodist and not encounter two or more drunks arguing and fighting. There’s no electricity, and there’s a single communal tap to provide residents with water.

 

Last November, Delight sat for her O-level examinations, end-of-high-school tests given nationally. To gain an O-level certificate, a student must pass exams in five different subjects. Delight was optimistic that she’d pass at least three since her marks in three subjects were good. But in February, when examination marks were released, her school refused to release her grades because her school fees had not been paid for three years.

 

If we had known about the problem, we would have paid those fees, but she hadn’t told us. If she’d attended a government school, we could have demanded the release of her results since the courts recently ordered schools to do so even in cases of non-payment of fees. But Delight had been enrolled in a Catholic School by an international NGO that promised to pay for her education and then failed to do so. The first Delight heard of the change was when the school sent debt collectors to her aunt’s house in an attempt to squeeze juice out of the driest of lemons.

 

It took Zimkids almost four months to find the right person to pressure at the NGO, then to convince the organization to pay the back fees, and finally to get the paperwork necessary to prove that the cash had been transferred to the school. After all that effort, the results were depressingly disappointing: Delight passed only one exam, and that one with a D.

 

Delight is a serious, focused young woman who has her eye set on joining the police force. But without an O-level certificate, that dream will elude her.

 

We are responding with a two-pronged strategy. We currently have two tutors working with Delight to prepare her to retake – and ACE – her exams. Simultaneously, we’re employing her in the hopes of developing her other skills: organization, anticipation, planning, and decision=making.

 

But neither strategy will succeed if Delight’s uncle continues to resist her desire to spend her days at Zimkids rather than at his house serving more or less as his maid or if Delight loses the strength to resist a community constantly pressuring her to find a man and get pregnant.

 

That’s where Philip, our Program Director, who is a licensed social worker, comes in. Every day, Philip finds himself trudging to one household or the other to intervene with a family blocking the aspirations of a young person like Delight. Thus far, he has kept her uncle at bay. And every day, he and the rest of our staff work to bolster Delight’s determination not to wind up another pregnant young woman living in a shack and raising a new generation with no future.

 

Is this thoroughly depressing? It shouldn’t be because for every loss we’ve suffered, we’ve had our fair share of wins, whether with Pauline, who is now works as a pharmacist assistant, or with Samantha, who runs our preschool and many many others.

At Zimkids, we try to focus on the positive. 

Links:

 
   

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