In 2005 Batsirai Children’s home was destroyed during Operation Murambatsvina (Operation drive out the dirt). The volunteers who started the home have since struggled to build it back up again and it now compares to a very large, hot tent.
In 2012, we started Project Batsirai with the help of Astute Ltd who generously donated one year’s worth of school fees for 26 children. We worked with the lead community volunteer of Batsirai Children’s home to identify 26 of the worst cases of orphaned and vulnerable children in the Hatcliffe township area, who have been out of school for long periods of time, and desperately need support. As the funding and time was limited we decided to take a chance, expand our remit and, working with our amazing friends at ESNY, we offered the 20 families a training and start-up opportunity to enable them to provide for themselves and not depend on donations for school fees. With unemployment at 90% in Zimbabwe, the only way for these families to support their own children or those orphans left in their care by relatives who have died from HIV/AIDS, is to have their own income generating projects/small businesses. The pressure of the guardians to look after these children is immense and mostly unmanageable.
Whilst we committed to sponsoring the school fees for targeted children (71% of the children are orphans living in extended families), it was important for us to work together in a family-centred approach, thus offering them the following opportunities:
- Basic training in planning, budgeting, record-keeping, marketing and small business management.
- Using this training, the families were then invited to submit a proposal for a small business idea. Some of the proposals were approved immediately, whilst we assisted others to a point where their ideas could work.
- Once approved, each family was given a small donation (in the form of relevant materials) to begin their business. For example, the poultry project was bought chickens, bicycle repair shop was bought tools etc.
- We undertake monthly monitoring and fortnightly support visits of both the family businesses and the kids in school. They are asked to keep a record (using the training they received) to show how the money has been used, provide constant feedback, and ask questions.
- Community workshops and further training have been provided to inspire those who are struggling, acknowledge those that are doing well and encourage them to learn from each other.
- We are in the process of holding a community get-together with counsellors and teachers to encourage the guardians to help their children at home, and give support to those children grieving, thus affecting school performance.
Summary of success
Families chose to set-up their small businesses in the form of tuck-shops, hardwares, poultry projects, cross boarder trading, dress-making, among other projects. To date, approximately 67% are still operational and providing financial support for the family, mostly in the form of food. Among the projects that are currently operational, 30% have diversified their projects so as to expand their income base. Most have reported an increased sense of well-being for both the guardians and the children, as they previously suffered from depression, anxiety and stress related illness. Some have even presented their proposals of business expansion and diversification which shows how they are incorporating innovative ideas in order to improve their businesses. 33% have managed to contribute to school fee payments or purchase school related stationery/books, on top of buying food for their whole family. Several of the children that have benefited from the education support project are excelling academically and will carry on doing well if they continue to receive financial and social support. Some of the children are showing the potential to succeed, however they require more support to reach that potential.
Please read a letter from one of the children here.
WHAT STILL NEEDS TO BE DONE
Please help us do more!! We would love to be able to expand this project, get more children back into school, and allow more families to support themselves and the children they are looking after. It’s that simple…