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.
Nov 10, 2014

Zimkids volunteer to help other orphans nearby.

Children from our outreach program
Children from our outreach program

Zimkids’ latest program is taking our young people 7 miles from our center and a world away, beyond the edge of the city into a small settlement of crude shacks, without water or electricity, into a world where children’s prospects are even dimmer than they are in Pumula, where we operate. 70 percent of the children in the community are orphans, most of the teenage girls already have two or more kids, usually by two or more fathers. So babies are raising babies.

 For our older kids, going to Methodist, as the community is called, is giving back, taking their days off to transfer the skills they’ve acquired at Zimkids, bringing joy and knowledge where there is so little. We tried something similar several years back with the families squatting at the dumpsite, but it was simply too far away – and our older kids did not yet have the initiative. That has changed now, and our seniors and alumni are doing an amazing job at Methodist – and we hope to find the money for a vehicle that will allow this to become a formal Zimkids program.

 Meanwhile, back at the Center, we’re gearing up for a whole new cohort of kids to enter our vocational training program and become leaders in our outreach effort at Methodist. They just sat their O-level examinations (following the traditional British system, Zimbabwe has two levels of high school, Ordinary and Advanced level, with the latter being primary for those oriented toward university education.) Results will not be out until February, but we expect that most of our young people will not pass since they received little education during primary school, a time when teachers were on strike for several years. Usually, our pass rate is well above the national average, but that’s not saying much since, nationally, only 1 in 5 children pass their exams.

 So we’re bringing in supplies for welding and sewing, construction and carpentry – and Samantha is looking forward to extra help in the preschool, where she’ll be training childcare workers.

 Our littlest Zimkids are preparing for graduation, and they are more than ready for Grade 1. They not only know the alphabet and basic numbers, taken their first steps toward mastering computers, and have been awash in the books generous donors have been sending their way. While they’re been with us, they’ve been well-nourished, thanks to our feeding program and our abundant garden; well-dressed because of donations of shoes from the Buckner Foundation; and warm because of the Texas grandmothers, who keep making them amazing blankets.

 Once they’re in school, we won’t lose track of them, of course, since they’ll be back at “home” with us on weekends and over school holidays.

 Tinashe Basa, our director, arrived in October, on his annual reporting and fundraising trip. We’ve been thrilled at the growing number of schools and churches interested in our work, so he’s been racing around with Dennis, our founder, from Texas to Maryland, Cincinnati to New York, and then on to Alaska. Knowing that Philip, his number 2, is capably running things back home, Tinashe can enjoy the relief from the constant power and water cuts, from the incessant road blocks where police always find a reason – often a non-reason – to demand a $10 fine, and from the late-night phone calls about a medical emergency. (And the latter would be a major emergency at the moment since the hospital physicians are all on strike!)

Tinashe trained Nkosi, Nkosi trains our new kids
Tinashe trained Nkosi, Nkosi trains our new kids
Their first computer experience at ourteach
Their first computer experience at ourteach
Samantha on day off works with our newest Zimkids
Samantha on day off works with our newest Zimkids
Tinashe opens a world to US kids skyping Zimkids
Tinashe opens a world to US kids skyping Zimkids
Two of our youngest at Methodist encampment
Two of our youngest at Methodist encampment

Links:

Apr 28, 2014

April 2014 Update

Foster showing the boys bricklaying 101!
Foster showing the boys bricklaying 101!

Last Saturday, I arrived late at our Center in Pumula, and this is what I found:

 

Foster Dingani and Collen Makurumidze were training and supervising a crew of younger boys and, in two days, they almost had the brick foundation of our new Sewing Center completed – plumb, square and level! Three years ago, when I told our Seniors that we were going to build the Center ourselves, Foster admits that he thought that I was a crazy old man. Now, he’s the teacher – and I no longer need to get my hands dirty!

 

Foster didn’t join Zimkids on his own initiative; his grandmother ordered him to attend just after he lost his father and his mother moved back to her rural home, 200 miles away. “For the first year, I only went because I was forced,” he admits. “Then, I wanted to spend all my time; it was just too stressful at home. If not for Zimkids, I don’t know what I’d be doing now. I’d probably be hanging out at the shops drinking like everyone else.”

 

Having skills is essential for him since he is raising his younger sister and his niece.

 

Collen, whose father died when he was four years old, was sent to Zimkids by his mother, who lives in an 18x18 foot one bedroom house with Collen, his sister and her two children. He quickly became our “artist in residence,” creating some of our most amazing dolls and teaching our younger children to draw. He and Foster are our resident builders – and Collen has now finished a course in electrical installation.

 

They haven’t just learned all the basic construction skills. Perhaps more important, they’ve learned how to learn. Recently, they were revamping and updating our solar grid and hit a wall: Something was wrong in one of their connections and they couldn’t figure it out. That night, they each went home and searched the net for answers, intent on finding a solution before the arrival of our solar expert the next day. At 5:30 a.m., Collen called Foster. “I have a couple of ideas,” he said. “Let’s do it. Let’s figure it out!” By 7 am, our mini-grid was functioning perfectly – and Foster and Collen realized the power of not giving up.

 

As I left the building site, I ran into Lindiwe Mabhena, who wanted to show me the new primary school uniform she’d completed. With Charity, Lindiwe will run the sewing center, a project that will provide income both for our older girls and Zimkids, as well as training for younger girls.

 

Pauline Mhendo was moving around between the kitchen, where the older girls were cleaning; the resource center, where Sithebisiwe and the group of girls were working with our younger dollmakers; and the playground, where a few of the toddlers from our weekday preschool program were hanging out. “You know, I’ve been thinking,” she said, pulling me aside to talk about her latest idea for cutting costs on the program. That’s Pauline, a seamless multitasker, natural organizer, and superb planner.

 

Pauline joined Zimkids after the death of her mother in 2005. Just 28 years old, she’d lost her husband ten years earlier. Pauline moved in with her grandmother who sold veggies at a street-side stand, but she, too, passed away, leaving Pauline to live with her aunt and uncle. Pauline was always one of Pumula’s best students, and when she passed her Ordinary Levels with flying colors, we sent her to a church-run boarding school not far from town for her Advanced Levels. Now, two years after she completed her education, she’s essentially acting as our assistant director.

 

I look around then, in near-awe. We – the trustees and staff, the volunteers and you, the donors – are succeeding almost beyond our wildest hopes.

 

Not everything is rosy, of course. We still struggle to maintain the health of our HIV-positive young people. And too many families continue to treat our orphans abusively. Most importantly, we’re still stymied by the realities of Zimbabwe: Zimkids is working, but the country is not. After years of runaway inflation that reached 360 MILLION percent, in 2009 government suspended the local currency and moved toward the use of the dollar. The economy began to stabilize and business to rebound. But this year, things have begun sliding back in the wrong direction.

 

Transparency International Corruption Index ranks Zimbabwe 163 out of 174 countries. So far this year, Zimbabwe’s Registrar of Companies has struck more than 176 companies off the register and they expect to deregister another 634 companies over the next three months. Over 70 percent of the country’s exporting companies have shut down. Every day, we hear about another business that has filed for bankruptcy, another shop that simply can’t make it.

 

The solar energy company that had hoped to launch Foster and Collen into a business as their subcontractors hasn't had the capital to do so. And while they have both completed advanced training courses – Foster in boilermaking and Collen in electrical installation – neither can find a paid internship, a necessary step for their licenses, and neither can afford to work for free.

 

For the moment, then, we’re concentrating on helping our beneficiaries develop skills that will allow them to work on their own – whether by selling and installing low-cost solar panels, welding metal burglar bars, or sewing school uniforms. Our kids are ready…all they need is a chance. 

Collen is teaching Shaun
Collen is teaching Shaun
Lindiwe and Charity model the uniforms they made
Lindiwe and Charity model the uniforms they made
Pauline supervises kitchen &kids enjoy the results
Pauline supervises kitchen &kids enjoy the results
Pauline leads talk on relationships with our girls
Pauline leads talk on relationships with our girls

Links:

Aug 26, 2013

August 2013 Update

Sithabisiwe and Collen with first aid certificates
Sithabisiwe and Collen with first aid certificates

Hello friends!  We’ve been working hard at Zimkids thanks to your continuing support. Here’s the latest news!

 

The US Embassy in Harare has issued a grant to Tinashe Basa, our 25-year-old Director to visit the US.  We are looking forward to welcoming him in the States with a full schedule of events. He will not only visit many of our supporters in schools, churches and synagogues, but he will attend TEDX events and be our leader at AID WALK DC, our reminder to all that AIDS is a global pandemic.

 

It has been one year since we opened the Center that was built by our Senior beneficiaries, and I thought you should hear a bit about how those seniors are doing to get a sense of the trajectory we’re forging. So, consider Collen Makurumidze, now 20 years old, who has been with Zimkids since he was 13.  Collen mixed cement, laid brick and block, assembled roofing infrastructures, installed all our electric wiring and, along with Foster, installed our solar panels.  After we opened and fine-tuned operations, we sent Collen to a formal course in electrical wiring. He could probably have taught it himself, but the course provided the certification to work in the field. In the meantime, a local company has taught him and Foster to install solar hot water heaters, with the goal of starting their own business. I recently spoke with Collen, who expressed interest in taking an advanced course in electric wiring. When I asked him about the cost, he said he’d pay for it himself so ZImkids could use that money to put someone else through the course that could give him or her a real start.

 

It was a very proud moment for me to watch Collen take responsibility for himself and wants to lift others into a trade. He will need to go on attachment for a year to be fully certified, so we are working with the national electricity supplier to get him placed. Foster had finished his boiler-making course and we are waiting to hear about an internship with a local engineering firm.

 

As Collen and Foster move on into their own businesses, we are moving others up behind them and into similar courses and, we hope, out into their own businesses. And we are currently paying school fees for four students to do their Advanced level high school work.

 

Samantha Jumira, 18, with Zimkids since she was 11, is taking a somewhat different path. Before we even began our pre-school program - for 50 children between 3-6 years old – she’d already written lesson plans for them! Now she’s in charge, doing a terrific job revising lesson plans, teaching the alphabet and a bit of math, introducing our youngest kids to the world of computers, arts, games and sports. She began training in early childhood education in August for two weeks every three months.

 

Meanwhile, we’re ramping up to start a sewing project is to make and sell girls’ school uniforms, both for our own income and to train young people in what is potentially a quite lucrative business since all children wear uniforms. Dee Duhe of Dallas got us sewing machines, and many have already been shipped, along with electrical transformers, thread and supplies, thanks to our friends at US Africa Fellowship. Lindiwe Mabhena, one of our Seniors, who began with Zimkids when she was 10 years old, will be in charge since she’s a wonderful seamstress. Unfortunately, we don’t yet have enough space for a sewing room, so we’re waiting to hear back on a grant application for a used shipping container we can convert and initial materials.

 

Our council of Elders, our 15-18 year old beneficiaries, are taking the lead in running our activities, as always.  Marvelous and Susan are overseeing the girls’ welding program. And Shaun and Anele are putting the boys through the paces. Both groups are doing a great job and learning how to make artsy bookcases, shoe racks, sculptures, burglar bars, benches and chairs. Look at the photos! They’re moving fast!

 

We are, of course, facing challenges.  Several of our teenage boys have started drinking, an extremely common problem in the neighborhood. Tinashe, our director and Philip, our program manager, are working with the boys’ caregivers to encourage them to intervene when older relatives entice our boys into alcohol and with the boys themselves to move them from drinking into more productive activities. Three seem to now be on the right track, working in welding rather than hanging out on the streets. But we suspect this will be an ongoing challenge.

 

Even more disturbing are problems facing kids who have been neglected, abandoned or kicked out of their relatives’ homes, some of whom are seriously ill with HIV-related illnesses.  Many of our caregivers are very old and some simply can’t cope with their teenage grandchildren, especially ones who require a lot of care because they are HIV+. Recently, one gogo – grandmother -, who has a 30 year old severely handicapped son and a granddaughter who is HIV+ was at her wits end and wanted to throw the daughter out. Philip and Sithabisiwe, who is being trained as a counselor, intervened and made arrangements to ease her stress and things seemed to have settled down. Another, who takes care of nine orphaned children, became so ill last week that we had to rush her to hospital. Just recovering from cholera, she was so dehydrated that she needed litres of fluids. Sithabisiwe and Collen received their certificate for successfull completion of first aid training course. They are our first responders!

 

As always, then, we going from triumph to challenge. And, as always, we move forward thanks to your generosity.

Francis just got his new clothes
Francis just got his new clothes
Shaun supervised the welding of the shoe rack
Shaun supervised the welding of the shoe rack
Tutoring in the library
Tutoring in the library
Books for library given by donors are inventoried
Books for library given by donors are inventoried

Links:

 
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