Context of Our work
Once named the Bread basket of Africa, Zimbabwe has been badly hit by economic and political crisis in recent years. For children this has had a particularly devastating impact:
Bright Tomorrows Zimbabwe became a locally registered trust in 2010. The emphasis of our work is to achieve sustainable care for orphaned children in the rural areas of Mutoko and Mhondoro (in the North East of the country). This is channelled through a holistic programme that focuses on building relationships in the communities and strengthening the capacity of local people to provide care for the children.
There are three main strands to our work: Education, Farming and Care giver support/Counselling
Education is a fundamental right for children and a key to sustainable poverty alleviation. It is also a crucial part of a child’s holistic development. Bright Tomorrows’ mission is to bring “lasting change to children at risk” and we see education as a high priority in achieving this. Although school fees are not high, they are beyond the reach of many orphan families. Through individual sponsors we are able to ensure more children are in school. We also help resource a pre-school in Mutoko which is enabling children to start their schooling earlier, without having to make the long journey on foot to schools that can be up to 20 kms from their homes.
Although our support for orphans in Mutoko and Mhondoro could go further if we only concentrated on school fees, we realise that, due to the poverty in these areas, some assistance with food security is essential. Children who go to school with empty tummies can’t concentrate on lessons are also susceptible to malnutrition. We have been developing a programme of sustainable seed planting based on the “Foundations for Farming” methods which enables families and care-givers to plant their own maize and harvest in one season. The following season they replant and are able to support themselves and their children. In the third season the families have enough not only to provide for their needs, but also enough to sell and thus become self-sufficient!
Currently we have over 80 orphan families in Mhondoro and 30 in Mutoko who are already successfully growing their crops. These families have donated the 2kg of seed that they were first given to another family to create a cascade effect that will benefit more and more children in the communities. We are also training young people in potato farming, giving them opportunities to learn skills and to generate some income.
Caregiver Support and Counselling
This important part of our work focuses on providing practical training and much needed support for those who are providing care for orphans. In rural areas, care givers can often be very isolated and are often elderly or very young. Weekly sessions where they can come together, share their problems and gain vital training are invaluable in helping them give orphaned children the care they need. Counselling for the children helps them come to terms with the loss of their parents and understand their situation more fully. Here’s one caregiver’s story..
“We have benefitted greatly from these lessons. I was caring for 11 children. I had to work very hard as a farm labourer, which left me feeling angry and bitter towards life. My four sons got married and had families of their own and then all their wives dies with the HIV virus and all their children were brought to me to look after. I had no choice but to take them in. But these lessons have made me realise that the orphaned children are also carrying their own burdens and need help and support. These sessions have removed a hardness that was inside me, so now when I see an orphaned child I am able to feel and show compassion. I have a good relationship with the children that live with me; they can come and talk to me about some issues troubling them. I am now able to sit even with other care givers and give them advice on how to handle their children.”
Jeannie Sinclair Scott
Director of Bright Tomorrows Zimbabwe, Jeannie is a trained teacher and counsellor. She returned to Zimbabwe from the UK in 2004 and was involved in counselling and training in the field of HIV/Aids. Jeannie is passionate about her work and her country and is determined to see the lives of orphans and the care that they received improved. She oversees all aspects of our work in Mhondoro and Mutoko, liaising with key members of the community to ensure the best outcomes and accountability for projects.
Despite his own difficulties in childhood, Simon has achieved a great deal and has a compelling compassion for orphans and their carers. Simon was trained in “Foundations for Farming” and he spent the next two years working in rural communities teaching them how to farm. He has also trained Agritex Officers and trainers working for other NGOs. Simon’s joy for life is infectious and combined with real dedication to the task; he is fully able to equip families with the skills they need to grow their own crops successfully.
Kudzi is 8 years old. When he was 4 both his parents died from HIV. He was sent to live with his aunt and uncle in Murewa. Within a couple of years, both his aunt and uncle had succumbed to the virus. Kudzi was sent to another aunt and uncle in Mutare, but unbelievably both of them also died when he was with them. Finally, Kudzi was sent to a very distant relative in Mutoko. This was not an ideal situation and the relative resented having to look after Kudzi and treated him badly. At this stage Bright Tomorrows heard about Kudzi and got involved. The carer was given support through a counselling and practical skills course and a kind sponsor paid for Kudzi to go to school. Now he has a happier life and remarkably, he is doing so well at school that he comes first in every subject!
There are many more children like Kudzi who would so love to have a hand on that first step of their education. Why not fill out a form to sponsor a child and make a difference today?
Mutoko pre-school now teaches 55 children every day and feeds them lunch from crops growing on site. All the children have tough lives; many have lost their parents, others have HIV themselves or are at risk of malaria. However the primary schools tell us that they all do well when they start, with many coming top of their classes!