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.
Aug 25, 2016

Starting our own Camp Invention!

Andile created his first wire bicycle
Andile created his first wire bicycle

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 children are trained to memorize, copy and repeat, and where artisans tend to churn out dozens of identical sculptures and paintings to sell to visiting tourists.

 

We’ve tried encouraging the Zimkids to draw outside the lines, to imagine fantasy worlds, with limited success. But now we have an entirely new vision of how to proceed and we are excited to share our plan with you since we believe that it will nurture our kids in entirely new ways.

 

Have any of you sent a child to a science camp like Camp Invention, where young people are taught to build robots and to make plastic birds fly? For American children, such experiences are terrific, but for Zimbabwean children, such experiences are beyond the realm of imagination. And that is precisely why we are beginning to build our own approach to Camp Invention starting with the creation of wire figures wrapped in strips from soda cans.

 

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.

 

That’s where we are starting, and we plan to move on to small robots, animals and robots so that they will simultaneously explore the artistic and the scientific.

 

We are currently preparing grant applications to scale up this step by bringing a trainer from Camp Invention or a similar organization both to work with our children and to train older Zimkids and staff to serve as camp counselors. They will thus be able to offer regular “camps” to our kids and to reach out to the wider community for special camps that will generate income for them and for Zimkids.

 

Step 2 will be geared toward our youngest children, the preschool kids, who are trapped pretty firmly in the rigid curriculum mandated by the Ministry of Education. But during holidays and weekends, we are free to broaden their learning, and we plan to do so by bringing to Zimbabwe an amazing preschool teacher who has been a firm supporter of Zimkids. As with Camp Invention, we plan to have the teacher work with the children directly and with our staff so that her programs can continue.

 

Finally, while we already have a terrific artisan working with the children on the wire cars and figures, on building cars out of tin cans, and imagining how to use other scrap materials to CREATE, we hope to bring in a professional from South Africa to challenge them further.

 

So please keep your fingers crossed for us in our search for grant money. Our children are confined by traditional expectations and traditional ways of thinking. We’re about to make a major push to open their minds and let their imaginations flow.

Mongameli wants to make his gekkos walk!
Mongameli wants to make his gekkos walk!

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:

Jun 28, 2016

Our older boys have done it again!

Exterior of new pre-school Gate designed by Peter
Exterior of new pre-school Gate designed by Peter

Our older boys have done it again! Another building – our FINAL building – has risen and is open thanks to their efforts digging a foundation on a rocky plot, carting tons of rocks to the site to fill the foundation to floor level, laying the block for the walls, raising a 30-foot log to hold up the roof, applying plaster and paint, tiling, installing the plumbing, welding the burglar bars an security gate, building the furniture, laying a path into the new structure and installing the playground equipment.

 

And aside from one electric saw, one drill and a single welding machine, they accomplished all of this with shovels and picks, hammers, trowels, brushes, strong backs and a lot of will! And they did it even while helping the younger children to take their first steps with paint brushes, wheelbarrows, trowels and bricks.

 

In the process, they not only acquired all of those building skills, but they also learned how to plan, how to anticipate the need for more materials, how to make decisions as a group, and perhaps as importantly, how to persevere despite the heat and a lot of aching muscles. 

Interior of preschool
Interior of preschool
Left interior
Left interior
The little ones loved learning to lay brick path
The little ones loved learning to lay brick path
Some of the Zimkids crew with Dennis
Some of the Zimkids crew with Dennis
Classes have begun!!!
Classes have begun!!!

Links:

 
   

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