In 2010, the film “Zimbabwe’s Forgotten Children” aired on the BBC. This is when we first met Esther.
On the outskirts of the city, a squatter camp unfolds into a dusty stretch of tin shacks and tents blowing in the stifling hot air. With no running water, electricity or sewerage, life here is gruelling. For nine-year-old Esther, life was a near impossible struggle five years ago. Left alone to care for her baby sister Tino and her terminally ill mother, Esther has hardly been able to attend school in over a year. The burden of being the sole family carer weighed heavily on her small shoulders, made even weightier by the pains of her own illness. Like one in seven Zimbabweans, Esther too is HIV positive.
After their mother’s death, Esther and Tino were left with their unsympathetic Uncle who locked them out of their tent every day with no food or water. We went back to find them and amazingly, after much negotiation with their Uncle and children’s social services, we were able to bring Esther and Tino into the care of SOS Children’s Village Bindura, where orphaned children are provided with a safe new home and an SOS family to care for them. Within a few days their lives were completely transformed. The girls love their new home and get on well with their foster mother and 5 new brothers and sisters.
Catching up on missed education was essential for Esther, who was behind in her learning, so she had to start school from the beginning even though she was quite a bit older than the other children. She was also given private tutoring to help her progress. Today, Esther attends an outside community school (the best in the district) and continues to improve and advance every day. On a recent visit to see her, she told us she loves school and her favourite subject is Maths, which she is passing well. When we asked her what she likes to do in her spare time, she said “I still love to read books – the bible and novels”.
Having the comfort of a caring guardian and mother means that Esther has been relieved of the burden of looking after her little sister. She is taking her ARV medication and receiving good nutrition to combat the effects of HIV/AIDS which was passed to her by her mother. Fortunately Tino did not contract the disease and is in good health.
Both girls have a very bright future ahead of them and hopes are already high for Esther to attend the SOS University in Ghana