Let me start this update with some general comments:
Things have been very tough in Zimbabwe over the past several months. Last year’s drought pushed up the price of food yet again, and this year’s forecast is for more of the same. The World Food Program is warning of widespread hunger. The drought also left the city in a water crisis that led first to cut-offs of water every other day, then for 72 hours at a time and now for 96 hours off, 24 on. Unfortunately, our new well went dry, so we’ve been scrambling for both water and food.
Nonetheless, we’re thriving. After almost two years of frantic activity to get our new Center built and the programs redesigned to our new realities, we’re finally settling in to a routine. With our own site, and since Pumula schools are on two shifts, we are able to meet with our young people daily. The trainees who built the new facility with Dennis and Tinashe are now managing the Center programs. They are running daily tutoring programs in our library, especially for the teenagers currently sitting their high school graduation examinations. Foster, who is running sports programs, has recruited the older kids to help him build an obstacle course. Tinashe is leading everyone through the complexities of computers, starting, literally from the inside (of the machine) out. And Sithabisiwe and Collin have just completed a First Aid training course and are getting our clinic up and running.
We are about to bring in a group of younger orphans, preschoolers, because we are seeing too many young children wandering the neighborhood without supervision or stimulation – and with dangerously swollen bellies. We’ve recently dealt with a case of full-blown malnutrition with Fiona, a 13 year old who is HIV positive, so we’ve become even more sensitive to signs of serious hunger.
Our big news is that starting on November 1, we’ll be competing in the Girl Effect Challenge sponsored by Nike and Global Giving. It is going to be our toughest challenge since the winning charities will be those with the greatest number of individual donors, not the largest total amount of donations. We’re aiming for 1000, and if we prevail, we’ll be in good shape for funding a special training program for girls that will result in a series of microenterprises that we’ll eventually spin-off for the girls themselves to run and own.
It is enormously important because once girls hit 16 or 17, their caregivers want to marry them off as soon as possible, usually to older men, those most likely to abuse them, to want polygamous marriages and to be HIV positive. So we’d be really grateful if you could throw a bit into the pot at http://www.globalgiving.org/projects/building-girls-futures/
A $10 donation counts as much as a $500 donation!
Now, an update on our caregiver program: We’ve reserved Wednesdays for meetings with them. We have a lawyer coming in to teach them about everything from property rights to the importance of wills, a physician to talk about basic medical needs, and we’re even teaching them how to use computers.
A wonderful foundation in New York that ships books and other educational materials to Zimbabwe has offered us some container space, and we have been frantically searching for donations of reading glasses to ship over. They’re coming, although slowly.
Their greatest interest, of course, is finding ways to make money. And that’s where the container space is an enormous boon. We’ve received a donation of four very good sewing machines that we hope will be the basis of a small business making school uniforms, which are always in demand. And we’re trying to develop plans for several other small businesses that can provide them with some income.
Overall, we’re feeling very confident that we can build this program into one that will provide the caregivers with significant support. The workshop with the lawyer, for example, was provoked when the grandfather of one of our children died without a will. Since the home was in his name alone, his wife could not inherit it. The relatives who did, kicked her and the orphan out. It was then that we realized the importance of teaching everyone how critical a will is. As we work more closely with the caregivers, we know that we’ll keep learning about their problems so that we can respond more effectively to their needs.
None of this is possible without you. So, thank you!