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