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Newsletter February 2014

All good news to report from the key children who featured in the film Zimbabwe’s Forgotten Children… by Sharon Thompson

Esther & Tino

I spent quite a bit of time with Esther & Tino at SOS, Grace & Michelle in Chitungwiza, and Obert at his school.  They have all grown up so much and speak beautiful English – we had a lot of great conversations and laughs!  Esther is now a young lady (12) although she likes to think she is younger because she is the eldest in her school year and finds it a bit embarrassing.  She has the most gorgeous temperament and you can see how happy she is all the time.  She is doing great at school and proudly showed me all her books, chatting away about this subject being “BOOOOORING” and that subject being “much better”.  Tino has now started school and is just as feisty as ever and laughs continuously.  It was like they were born at SOS and had never been through anything else!  We are extremely grateful to all the family at SOS for bringing out the true potential in Esther and Tino and allowing them to be – children… with no worries, suffering and a lot of loving care! 



Grace & Michelle

Grace has matured very much – she is 17 now and I very much enjoyed spending time with her.  We have noticed how hard she has tried over the last 6 months and you can definitely see a big change in her development.  We took the hard decision last year to take her out of school and put her into college to do vocational training (Early Childhood Development course to be a nursery/pre-school teacher) and it was by far the best decision for her.  She is much happier and seems more in control of her future now that she has something to work towards that she enjoys. 

Grace is a natural with young children and has found a way to inspire and give back which has given her life more meaning.  Michelle passed her grade 7 exams and has now progressed into high school which we are very proud of, considering how much she struggled.  Both girls talked about their love of books and reading – they often visit the library and spend hours reading in their school gardens.  They continue to receive extra lessons from a private school whose teachers volunteer tuition to disadvantaged children, and are also in a mentorship program with their church.



Obert & Gogo

Obert is going into his O’level year now and will write exams in November.  Unfortunately he did not do as great as he usually does in his last exams – we think it’s because he has too many subjects – twelve in total!!  We talked about dropping a couple but apparently it is compulsory to do that many at his school so he is going to focus on the ones he really wants to pass and go on to do at A’level ie. Chemistry, Physics, Maths plus compulsory subjects like English.  The pressure seems immense, so we are supporting him as much as possible and have confidence that Obert will produce the results he needs to continue onto A’levels. 

When we met Obert he had just spent a long school holiday at home with his grandmother and his friends so he was looking refreshed and happy.  Gogo is well and is being looked after by our friends at the school, near her hut.  She puts everyone in the area to shame with her lush vegetable plot.  She laughed continuously when we were there and reminisced about the first time we spoke to her about taking Obert to a bigger school to give him better opportunities – she said she missed him very much but is now happy to see him go as he is growing in to such a great young man.  As always she said we MUST tell all who give to her grandson that she is “eternally grateful” (with tears of happiness flowing) for everything.



Education Project

To be honest I didn’t expect too much from the school during my visit – only because the need is often so daunting out there, and they’ve had many struggles!  I was very wrong!  Having the new school buildings has given them more confidence - they happily showed me around and said “we are now… A SCHOOL!!” which is wonderful!  The Head and the School Development Committee have worked hard during 2013 and their leadership has seen a huge improvement in so many areas, but none more so than within their own committees and teams who have come together to implement a range of innovative ideas and much needed structure. 
I met with the School Development Committee and all the sub committees – Building, Agriculture, Water & Health, Child Protection.  I don’t think they (or we) realised the progress they have made – it was like being at a different school!  It felt like everything was finally slotting into place - all the training they’ve received, coming through some tough experiences and the support from our staff on the ground has brought them on leaps and bounds.  They all work together extremely well and the functioning of the school seems very natural now.    
But there is still so much work to be done! 

Feeding program – As we do not have sufficient funding or experience to cover this, we have tried to help those who are urgently in need and in the meantime we are approaching NGO’s working within Zimbabwe who specialise in this area.  Xmas funding has been used to expand their agriculture plot which should see approx. 50 children receive vegetables.
Second school block – we confirmed that the last of the school fees money will be put towards building materials for a second classroom block.  Those kids without a classroom are squashing up under small trees or sitting in 30+ degree heat or rainfall which is not a conducive learning environment.  If all goes well this could be complete by the end of 2014 and will see nearly all kids in a classroom – a major achievement for the school.
The agriculture plot, building materials for a second classroom block and teacher training are about as far as we can go with the donations we have left and will only cover school fees for 2014. 

We have sometimes really struggled with this project but, again, it seems our hard work and that of the recipients is finally paying off.
We started with 26 children having their school fees sponsored from approx. 20 families, who we help to start up small income generating projects.  Many are making enough money to buy their families food and provide better shelter.  Half have managed to pay the school fees for other children within the family who were not going to school (and not in our program) and a few are ready to be weaned off our assistance completely.  So not bad!  Even if some families do not manage to cover all school fees at least they are not starving now.  We are very pleased with this outcome as the project was very much a pilot which has shown potential and great sustainability.
During 2013 we increased the monitoring and support visits from monthly to fortnightly.  We held community meetings and gave further/refresher training according to the needs of the small business owners.  Everyone has worked hard to make this work and you can tell!  Every single project has kept detailed records of their takings, outgoings, profits, what it has been used for, etc.  They were knowledgeable about their markets and some had ideas to expand.  I was impressed and really happy for them!
Having said all of that – the situation is still dire!  The township and living conditions some of them have to deal with is just horrible!  But they are trying extremely hard and we will continue to support them as long as possible to seem them through to being independent and in a position to cover school fees themselves – which is the whole objective!

We are asking for your help in raising more funds any way that you can think of to keep these children in school – run a marathon, dress down days at work, charity auction, skydiving or even climbing Mt Kilimanjaro like our wonderful friend Chipo…


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