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By the Grace of God:

the Orphans of Zimbabwe

by Christie R. House

Privilege has been cared for by her grandmother, Endime, since her parents died.  She attends school and helps with household chores.  Drought destroyed Endime's Maize crop, which she normally grows on her acre of land.  They have no animals,
Privilege has been cared for by her grandmother, Endime, since her parents died. She attends school and helps with household chores. Drought destroyed Endime's Maize crop, which she normally grows on her acre of land. They have no animals, "not even a chicken," says Endime.
Image by: Richard Lord
Source: New World Outlook
A child fortunate enough to attend school discusses work with his teacher in Clare, Zimbabwe.
A child fortunate enough to attend school discusses work with his teacher in Clare, Zimbabwe.
Image by: Richard Lord
Source: New World Outlook

New World Outlook, November/December 2005

Chirpo Makowi Fandera is just 50 years old. She lives with her family in the Glenview Falls section of Harare. She cares for 25 children in her home, six of her own and 19 “dumped” kids.

“I don’t know who their parents are,” says Fandera. The police bring them here, the welfare office brings them here.” The “dumped” kids were dumped on the streets by their HIV-positive parents or by teenagers who couldn’t care for them, explains Farayi Tiriwepi, a community-based health-care worker with the Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVC) project of Africa University and the Zimbabwe United Methodist Church. When the police or the Harare social welfare office pulls kids off the street, they try to find people who will care for them.

Fandera has cared for orphans since 1991. “I think God shall make one of these kids I’m caring for a doctor or a prime minister,” she says. She earns money to feed the children by selling soap and firewood. Her youngest son also provides a little income to help. She doesn’t have the money to pay their school fees. The OVC project can help with that.

Shamiso Mangongo, an administrative assistant with OVC, says that the government pays only the fees for “level A” schools in urban areas. In order for their children to attend school, rural families must pay school fees, buy uniforms, pay into building funds, and buy school supplies. This can add up to about $1000 a year.

The OVC program helps orphans, the majority of whom have lost their parents to the AIDS virus, meet the requirements to attend school. The OVC program specifically targets AIDS orphans who need help with school fees, food, and health-care, the top three priorities. Case workers with the program spend much time in the communities talking to the children’s caregivers and school officials to identify the children in need and help provide for them. Sometimes they need clothes, shoes, or soap; at other times, medical care. At present, they have close to 400 registered in the program.

World Aids Day December 1, 2005

Information and Resources on GBGM

The $3 million startup grant for the program came from a US family that was moved by the plight of AIDS orphans in Zimbabwe. At present, there are about 1 million in Zimbabwe alone - that is one in every five children.

“Are there many women like Chirpo Makowi, who will take children off the streets like this and care for them,” Richard Lord asked Farayi Teriwepi. “Yes,” she said. “Yes there are. Because of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, we have a lot of these ladies who have been touched by the plight of the children and they volunteer their homes and whatever else they have to care for them.”

Christie R. House is the editor of New World Outlook. Richard Lord is a freelance photographer from New York City based in Virginia.

Who is responsible for the children in Zimbabwe?

We asked Irene Kabete, a pastor in the Zimbabwe Annual Conference, how children are cared for in Zimbabwe when their parents are no longer around.

Rev. Kabete: In the Zimbabwean culture, an orphan is anyone who has lost one or both parents. If the father is dead, then the child is an orphan, though its mother may be alive and caring for it. Traditionally, if a man dies, his brother is responsible for the surviving wife and children—he inherits them—but this custom is no longer followed by many in Zimbabwe. If a mother dies, the children are more likely to end up on the streets, since a surviving mother will try to care for them, but a
surviving father is less likely to do so.

We have street children in Zimbabwe. When I was pastor of Innercity United Methodist Church in Harare, I worked with them all the time. Some were on the streets because they had no one; their parents were dead. But some had parents, or more likely stepparents who abused them, so they preferred to live on the streets. Some runaways had no good reason for being on the streets. They saw their friends there and joined them.

In Zimbabwe and in most of Africa, the family is responsible for a child who has lost parents. But our family is a great extended family, so grandparents or relatives on either the mother’s or father’s side may take the child. The state has nothing to do with raising the children; it does nothing. In larger cities like Harare, the village can’t be depended on either. It is not the same dynamic, but definitely the extended family is counted on to care for the children.

At Innercity UMC, I started a feeding center at the church for street children. But then there were so many coming, the church couldn’t handle them all, so I went to the conference center in Harare to talk about their needs. Between the bishop’s office and the Women’s Desk, enough money was offered to buy a huge tent to set up the feeding station, but we had no room for it, so it was set up at the conference center.

We counseled the children and in many cases were able to reunite them with their parents. Sometimes that involved counseling the parents as well. We’d promise to pay the school fees if they stayed home and stayed in school. For those who had no parents or who were not able to return home, we’d try to put them in an institution close to the church to remove them from the streets. On Sunday they would come to church. I baptized about 40 of them. Our goal was to get them off the streets.

The Rev. Irene Kabete, a GBGM director, is currently studying for her MDiv from Drew Theological Seminary in Madison, NJ, and working at Park Avenue United Methodist Church in New York City


See Also...
Topic: AIDS/HIV Children Christian love Communities Family Health Justice Missionaries Poverty United Methodist Church Volunteers Women Partners/partnerships Methodism
Geographic Region: AfricaZimbabwe
Source: New World Outlook

arrow icon. View Listing of Missionaries Currently Working in: Africa    Zimbabwe |   

Date posted: Nov 01, 2005