Children
 Zimbabwe
Project #10884

VOCATIONAL TRAINING FOR 200 ZIMBABWEAN ORPHANS

by Zimkids Orphan Trust
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:

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!!!

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Nkosi and the crew preparing the concrete flooring
Nkosi and the crew preparing the concrete flooring

Long before Zimkids decided to mount its vocational training program, we were already informally engaged in helping a least one young person prepare for his future, Tinashe Basa, our director. Tinashe, who co-founded Zimkids with Dennis Gaboury, was 17 years old, living on the streets yet volunteering at a small orphan project when he and Dennis met. With no family support to pay his fees, he hadn’t been able to finish high school. He had no idea how to develop a budget, keep accounts, operate a computer or run an organization. He had never welded, sewed, layed brick, plumbed, or fixed a phone.  Today he can do all that and more.

 

He learned on the job, and last week we saw once more how much that training paid off when he was awarded a Mandela Washington Fellowship, a program run by the U.S. Department of State for Young African Leaders. He and the other fellows from across the continent will spend 6 weeks at universities in the U.S. (Tinashe is headed to Appalachian State in Boone, North Carolina) and then convene en masse at a special summit for a meeting with President Barack Obama.

 

Pretty great vocational training, don’t you think?

 

At the moment, our young trainees are hard at work building our new preschool. They’re almost at roof level, and because of their hard work digging the foundation, mixing cement, laying blocks and bricks, plastering and painting. All of our Zimkids will play a role helping to bring the building to completion.  Ngqabutho will handle the plumbing and Nkosi will connect the building to our solar electrical grid.  We expect that our preschool will move into its new home by the end of April.

 

This year, Bulawayo has suffered from record heat and very little early rain, so even the plants in our greenhouse were suffering. But our young people installed extra shading cloth and now we are harvesting another bumper crop of tomatoes and peppers, onions, collard greens and kale.

 

We are continuing with our program of sending selected young people for special training we cannot do in house, and at the moment, Mthokozisi is being trained to work as a nurses’ aide. He is our first boy to take this training.  Shaun begins his automotive attachment in May and Peter continues with his welding training.

 

All the good news about the progress of so many of our young people was dulled by the death of Energy Maburutse, a long-serving member of our board. Energy, who was wheelchair bound from birth by severe osteogenesis imperfect (brittle bone disease) had just graduated from Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida. But shortly after he arrived home to Zimbabwe, he developed a severe cough and died in a tiny rural hospital near his family home. He will be sorely missed. 

The walls start going up!
The walls start going up!
Window frames are installed
Window frames are installed
Our Pre-schoolers help harvest our vegetables
Our Pre-schoolers help harvest our vegetables
Shade cloth helps protect the crop
Shade cloth helps protect the crop

Links:

Foster instructing Nkosi on foundation building
Foster instructing Nkosi on foundation building

Happy Holidays to all our friends around the world. In the months since our last report we have poured the foundation to our pre-school building and are now laying brick to floor level. We are hoping to complete by April. 

 Foster, who became a real professional during the building of our Center and now operates his own business installing solar arrays around Zimbabwe, stopped by to supervise the construction.  One of the most difficult parts of construction is making sure the four corners are level and since we do not have lasers we have to be extra careful.  And Foster has the professionalism and acumen to make sure we are successful. We are so proud of his accomplishments and the fact that he returns consistently to help out and train others in solar installation. He is a testament to our emphasis on passing it forward.

Sisasenkhosi is busy sewing the school uniforms for the pre-school. The Ministry of Education has approved our plans and is helping us make sure we have dotted our i's and crossed our t's. For the first time we will be taking fee-paying non-orphans into our school which covers for the costs for orphans we will be admitting. Prior to this our pre-school was informal but our graduates received high praise from their first grade teachers. That praise prompted the Ministry to encourage us to become official. Many thanks to Proctor and Gamble Alumni Association and the Independent Pilots Association for grants enabling us to build our pre-school building.  Samantha, Sithabisiwe and Thamani now are certified Early Childhood teachers having completed all coursework.

We know you are busy this time of year so we are making this short and sweet.  Wishing you all the best in the coming year and thank you again for your support, trust and kindness.

Getting the level correct is crucial!
Getting the level correct is crucial!
Sisasenkhosi did a great job on the uniforms!
Sisasenkhosi did a great job on the uniforms!
Nkosi and Ngqabutho building the foundation
Nkosi and Ngqabutho building the foundation
It takes a crew to hand mix cement, gravel & sand!
It takes a crew to hand mix cement, gravel & sand!

Links:

Ngqabutho in 2008 at age 11
Ngqabutho in 2008 at age 11

Greetings from Zimbabwe, where winter has ended and the heat has begun. We are hoping the experts’ predictions of severe drought will not come to pass. Last year’s drought left millions of people without sufficient food. Staple food shortages and price hikes are now the norm.

 Generally, our updates to you are about programs and challenges, and we thought that this month we should show you what those programs actually mean in the lives of the young people of Zimkids. The clearest way to paint you that picture is with the story of a single young person whose life has been dramatically changed.

 Ngqabutho joined Zimkids in 2008, when he was 11 years old. His father, Innocent, had died two years earlier, and his mother struggled. That was a difficult time, then, for a first-born son who assumed he’d carry the family mantle. His name means “heir,” and although he had two older sisters, in African tradition, gender always trumps age.

 Of course, Ngqabutho had no idea how he’d do that. All he could think of was to become a policeman. But his first experience with the cops was anything but positive. When he was 14, while walking to church on a Saturday afternoon, he was accosted by a group of neighborhood thugs who were playing soccer. “Run and get that ball,” they ordered him after it rolled off into the bush. When Ngqabutho did not hear them, one of the young men stabbed him in the back, missing his lungs by less than an inch. Ngqabutho knew who his attacker was, as did the police. But they refused to do anything because the thugs not only terrify the neighborhood; they terrify the authorities.

 In 2010, when Ngqabutho’s mother, Thoko, died, he no longer had to worry about supporting his family. He was too young to do so at that point, and the responsibility fell squarely on the shoulders of his sister, Sithabisiwe, who was 17 years old. With Zimkids’ help, she kept Ngqabutho and his younger brother on the straight and narrow.

 When Ngqabutho finished high school in 2013, he immediately joined Zimkids’ training program. He not only learned to weld and apprenticed with both a plumber and electrician, but he became an integral part of the training team that built our sewing center in 2014, mastering everything from laying a foundation to brickwork, painting and plaster. He also constructed our bookcases and security door and was part of the small group that created our amazing zipper sculpture.

 Now, at the age of 18, Ngqabutho watches his old friends from high school and from his neighborhood hanging out at the local shops, or wandering the streets aimlessly, without skills or jobs. He, on the other hand, is overseeing all of our center’s plumbing, our greenhouse and orchard, and maintaining our drip irrigation system as well as the wiring of our electric grid. Trained in computers, he’s also responsible for submitting monthly reports about those areas of responsibility.

 A fervent soccer player in his free time, Ngqabutho, is honing his skills with tremendous excitement and dedication. The Zimbabwean economy appears to be plummeting once again with even more businesses closing their doors and government squeezing the few that remain. But when things begin to improve yet again, we’re confident that Ngqabutho will be ready to train his replacement and move out into the world of work.

Other news: Tinashe Basa, our director is now in the USA meeting with schools, civic groups and churches in our annual fundraising and outreach to American school children. See video link below.

     We are sad to inform you that Pritchard died on September 10 after a lifelong illness at age 15. He knew brief periods of happiness with us at Zimkids. We are making sure his younger brother, Praymore is well taken care of.

Ngqabutho maintaining our solar electric equipment
Ngqabutho maintaining our solar electric equipment
Ngqabutho installing plumbing pipes
Ngqabutho installing plumbing pipes
Ngqabutho (left) with zipper on sewing building
Ngqabutho (left) with zipper on sewing building
Ngqabutho harvests and maintains drip ittigation
Ngqabutho harvests and maintains drip ittigation
Ngqabutho (left) designed a new shelf for client
Ngqabutho (left) designed a new shelf for client

Links:

 

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Organization Information

Zimkids Orphan Trust

Location: Bulawayo - Zimbabwe
Website: http:/​/​www.zimkidsorphantrust.org
Project Leader:
Dennis Gaboury
Chair, Board of Trustees
Bulawayo, Zimbabwe

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