It has been a very busy January in Zimbabwe as it is the start of a new school year and the feeding program, with our partner Ruffs Kitchens, progresses and expands further within the rural area of Chinhoyi. The current rainy season has brought heavy rains on very dry land, causing flooding and making our mission of delivering food to remote schools an extremely challenging task. Our team have worked day and night to make this happen and we are proud to be a part of feeding 4,100 children with a highly nutritious mahewu meal every day at 7 schools and 5 ECD centres (nursery/preschool). Thank you to everyone who supports our work as this would not happen without you!
Our dedication to Zimbabwe’s Forgotten Children is unquestionable. With the support of our extremely loyal and generous donors throughout the world, we can reach many more children just like Esther, Obert and Grace – the 3 who started this, and will continue to champion our cause for thousands more children!
Speaking of which – how are Esther, Obert and Grace?
In one word – GREAT! Can you believe it’s been 6 years since we were introduced to them in the film Zimbabwe’s Forgotten Children?
Esther and her (not so little) sister Tino live at the SOS Children’s Village outside Harare in a safe, secure and loving environment. They are excelling in school as can be seen in this short film of Tino reading from one of her school exercise book. Esther is a young teenager now giggling with her friends and asking when she can travel out of Zimbabwe to the UK to meet everyone. We remind her that she has been a huge part of changing many lives and she simply replies” That’s good – it makes me happy”. She really has no idea!
During 2016 Grace continued with her studies (thanks to you, our loyal donors) at Young Africa College where she has been studying for more O’level subjects. Young Africa is the same college she attended to get her Early Childhood Development qualification to be a Nursery teacher. She is presently looking for more volunteer or paid work as a Nursery assistant, whilst studying.
Obert is in the last stages of his A’level exams – thank you to everyone who sent him a message on our Facebook page, he was very grateful to receive your support. We are in the process now of moving Gogo from her home in the rural areas to a small 2 room home nearer the town (thank you Fredrik Eklund and Derek Kaplan) as she requires constant medical attention after many years of working extremely hard farming land. This is a big step for her and one she has wanted for so long so she can see more of Obert and be closer to our Community Field Officer, Peter, who has become like a son to her now.
Thanks to Fredrik Eklund and WTMD we started 2016 with a feeding program for the youngest children at our Chinhoyi school and were able to assist many grand-parent headed families in the community – the very elderly struggling to look after young children whose parents have passed away from HIV/AIDS. We all remember Esther and Obert’s heart-breaking stories – there are just too many children just like them within this remote, rural community.
Our priority has always been to keep these children in school! Hearing stories of children fainting, either on their way to school or during lessons, and attendance levels dropping are all totally unacceptable, especially after your loyal support and the hard work of our volunteers!
To complement the school feeding program, we piloted a family Conservation Agriculture program, whereby we provided training and specific inputs for families within the school community to start their own Pfumvudza (“new beginnings”) plot at home.
This plot is a mere 16x39m area making it easy to plant, mulch and manage, using only natural techniques such as composting, and a hoe! At the end of the season, during one of the country’s worst droughts, those who had correctly followed the principles not only achieved their goal to feed a family of 6 for the whole year, they exceeded our expectations by a long way.
With the feeding program and the Conservation Agriculture program we are on the way to children receiving 3 meals per day, improving their well-being and enabling them to attend school. We will be continuing and expanding the family Conservation Agriculture program through this 2016/2017 season where we will encourage those who did so well to train and pass their knowledge onto their neighbours – many have already started!
Whilst this CA pilot program continues to grow we are extremely fortunate to have partnered with Ruffs Kitchens who committed to increasing the feeding program through 2016 and into 2017. Ruffs Kitchens will be feeding an astonishing 4,100 children at 6 primary and secondary schools in the community we work in, as well as 4 pre-schools.
Our goal for 2017 is to not only feed the tummies of these children to keep them in school, but to feed their minds with a quality education. We will be partnering with Redearth Education to deliver training to their teachers using strategies to make lessons more engaging, exciting and effective. The children will become more motivated and inspired improving the quality of their education and their life chances.
The Chinhoyi Secondary school now has their first ever classroom block! The building, completed in 2015, consists of 3 large rooms housing 3 different year groups.
The secondary school is small when compared to the primary school (950 children vs 300 children). This is due to the rise in fees children face upon entering the high school. Unfortunately, many families are no longer able to afford school, and many young teenagers are sent out to work, or worst, become young brides and mothers.
We are working with the school and parents to educate families of the risks involved in taking these desperate routes. Encouraging them to keep their children in education is part of a long-term plan to stop the poverty cycle.
Thanks to our friends Fredrik & Derek, in 2015 we managed to fund school fees for 55 of these children. This has paid for their entire high school education!
We would like to say a very sincere thank you to all our loyal supporters! We have had such a wonderful response to our plea to continue and expand the Feeding Programme.
The children we work with in Chinhoyi are from very deprived families who struggle to survive. This means many children often arrive at school extremely hungry.
Our Feeding Programme has already brought relief to so many of these children. However, in 2015 we were only able to feed the very youngest children at Chinhoyi Primary. This meant that we had to turn away the older children, who were also hungry.
However, the severity of the problem with all children attending the school was soon realised. The Headmaster found out that some children were going without food for periods of up to two days.
Because of your recent support, we are happy to say that we can now continue the programme into 2016. Not only this, we can now also make the programme available to the WHOLE primary school! Thanks to your donations, we can ensure the older children are also well-fed and ready to thrive in their learning!
2016 still looks to be another difficult time with more drought predictions. However with your loyalty and support we can bring light and hope to their lives!
Our aim is to expand the programme to the neighbouring schools in this deprived, rural area, where more children are faced with hunger every day. Providing food will help improve these children’s concentration and performance at school. It will also give them further incentive to attend their classes rather than going out to work or beg.
We are THRILLED to announce that Obert has received his O’level exam results and has passed with great results. What a star!! Thank you to all those who have supported Obert over the years – we could not have done this without you.
Obert has now been registered to do his A’levels which is dream come true for him. If you are able to help out with sponsoring Obert please do, so we can help this very bright young man reach his full potential and give back to the communities he has come from.
Find out how you can help Obert here.
We are sometimes asked about Esther and Tino’s older sister, Yvette, who featured briefly in our film Zimbabwe’s Forgotten Children.
Yvette ran away from their abusive Uncle to live on the streets of Harare. She fell pregnant at 16 and gave birth to a little boy called Blessing. Together, they lived on the streets for as long as they could- as you can imagine, this was an extremely difficult time for her.
We finally managed to track her down and tried to help her, however she was very confused. One day she came to us asking for help as she could no longer look after Blessing and desperately wanted to go back to school.
With the help of SOS Children’s Village we managed to find Blessing a home together with Esther and Tino. Yvette was given the opportunity to attend a good school, however she could not cope and we have since been unable to find her again. Unfortunately the trauma of her childhood and the suffering she endured meant that Yvette was a very troubled girl – we are all very sad about how things turned out for her and hope that one day she will return safely.
In the meantime Tino has built a very special bond with Blessing, and both she and Esther look after him.