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Saturday, December 1, 2007

Matthew Rusike Children's Home

Mrs Mashorokoto is one of the house mothers at Matthew Rusike Children's home. She was our guide during our unannounced visit. She says in the video:
"My name is Mrs Mashorokoto. I have 12 children under my care, including the baby on my back. The baby arrived when he was three weeks old and now he is one year, 5 months old. The eldest girl in this home attends secondary school (high school). She is thirteen years old and in form 2 (9th grade). Five of my kids are in grade 6 (6th grade) and one of them is in seventh grade. Next there is a nine year old girl in third grade followed by two children who graduated from nursery school and will be in first grade next year. So I will only have one child, a boy, attending nursery school next year. The child on my back does not go to nursery school."

I took a suitcase of Care Bears and music cassettes ranging from Peter Pan to Lion King for the kids at Matthew Rusike Childrens Home on Monday. I bought these on Craigslist for next to nothing. They were very grateful for this donation. Mr Kupeta, who runs the home, was not available when we arrived so one of the house mothers (Mai Mashorokoto) who has been there for over 15 years took me & my mum around. She was so cheerful and full of energy and you could tell that all the kids loved her. She took us on a tour of her home and some of the other homes – she has 12 kids in a 4 bedroomed home. Her house was one of the first to be built in 2004 and furnished entirely by one local Zimbabwean business woman who refused to be named. I was deeply amazed at the generosity of this one woman, whoever she is. The furniture was good quality & very well maintained & the kids bedrooms had lots of toys. Two of the other houses were fully furnished by the British embassy.
To your left some of the kids pose with the new Care Bears I purchased on Craigslist. I also donated the casettes below with childrens music & stories.

I also learnt that the toddler in this home, one cute little boy, has been adopted by a Zimbabwean couple in diaspora. He was adopted at age 2 months but has not moved in with his parents because they are waiting for his passport! Everyone tries to make him call his house mother Gogo or Ambuya (grandmother) but all the time we were there he was calling her Mama like his house siblings do. Below is his picture. He's so adorable!
As I toured the homes I tried to get a real sense for what was needed by observing & chatting with 4 of the 12 or so house mothers. The recurring request was for food. The Catholic Commission & Methodist church, as it was explained to me, are the only regular donors of food. One house mother I interviewed said her family had not eaten meat in a month. She showed me her fridge and it was empty - she is responsible for 11 kids! I have attached the photos for you all to see. I asked her what they ate on a daily basis & she said for breakfast they’ll eat bulgur wheat which has a high nutritional value, or tea with no milk plus bread if they are lucky, but with no margarine or jam. I arrived there during lunch and the kids were eating boiled chibage (mealies/corn) with nothing else. She said this is typical for lunch. For dinner they may have sadza (like polenta or grits) & veggies with no cooking oil, onions or tomatoes. They have no access to fruits, milk, bread and other staples on a regular basis.

To your right is the house mother's refrigerator. I was completely shocked!

The home used to have a chicken breeding project & a piggery, but this was discontinued due to lack of stockfeed. I’m sure any skills or donations in this area would be very much appreciated.
In spite of this, everyone was very cheerful and the kids seem happy and secure in their environment. The local police station has provided them a policeman to man the gate 24hrs since the Christmas season is when thefts occur. The house mothers have been trained on herbal remedies & each household has a herb garden to treat basic illnesses like a common cold or tummy ache. There is a clinic on the premises which was previously being run by the matron but now a registered nurse has been provided by the Ministry of Health who will also be available to the surrounding Epworth community. Painkillers etc.. would be welcomed too…
Children play after lunch

There are separate dormitories designated for teenage boys and girls. They live on their own and cook for themselves under the supervision of a house mother. They are sent for basic skills training like hair dressing & carpentry, and some have gone as far as becoming doctors and lawyers. Sadly one of their lawyers was killed in a car accident recently.
To your right is one of the girls dormitories. Here they cook for themselves (see 2 plate stove on the left side of the photograpgh) in order to prepare themselves for the outside world when they reach the age to leave the home.

There is a crèche (kindergarten/nursery school) which is open to the public as well as the children from the home. The crèche is on the premises & it has lots of swings in the playground. The playground could be spruced up a bit (paint etc..) but overall the equipment seems to be decent shape.The home continues to build new residences using donor funds. One of the main outside donors is the staff of Quantas airlines who started their relationship with the home many years ago & for which the Home is extremely grateful.

Children's creche and playground
There is a new section for teenage boys & girls but they have not yet moved in due to lack of furniture. The thing that struck me most about the home was how serene it was, how joyful the mothers & their kids were and how clean the place was. I mean ALL the kids bedrooms were amazingly neat & clean, from toddlers to the teenagers!!

I’ve tried to be as detailed as possible but if anyone has any questions please just let me know. If you want to donate money please e-mail me on The fundraising committee typically have a series of fundraising events within the Methodist church. For example a golf tournament or an annual dinner dance. Two or more committee members will go to Makro (mega grocery store) or wherever else to buy food & personally take the food rations, blankets etc.. to each house & make sure it’s in the pantry … If you prefer to send the funds directly please go to the Matthew Rusike website on The only problem with their website is that they accept checks in Zimbabwean currency only. Tashanda knows the fundraising committee members personally & guarantees proper delivery & accountability of funds or donations in kind.

Based on my own observations during the 2 hours I was there, the home needs the following in order of priority:
b) Furniture (ANY) for the new dormitories. Kids bedrooms look like they need new bedcovers.
c) Clothing – the home is expanding outside Harare
d) Penpals and sponsors for individual kids – one teenage girl remained asleep when we walked into the teenage girls dorm rooms. Her sisters claimed she was awake & they thought she was being rude. This girl was probably feeling depressed/sad & had no one to talk to. I felt bad for her & this is why I think mentoring through letters in general could be very effective. The house mothers or the kids take their letters to the office where they are posted free on their behalf. This small investment could have a huge impact on a kid.
e) Anyone with a skill that could benefit the home. This can range from agriculture to sewing, art, soccer, party planners, computer gurus – ANYTHING
f) Books! I saw lots of toys in the kids bedrooms but no books to help further their reading skills.
No appointment is necessary & they welcome visitors with open arms, always. The office is open during the week only but you can visit he house mothers anytime.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Back from Zimbabwe

I've literally just returned from 2 weeks of vacationing and working in Zimbabwe. It was great to be back home, I enjoyed it immensely. I saw a side of my country I had never really paid attention to before and I believe it was a great experience for me. My e-mail access was limited to dial up when I was home, so daily blogging was out of the question. Instead I'm going to update this blog slowly over the next few months with tales of my arts & crafts adventures as well as some of my other adventures related to issues of poverty, women and land. I'll start with Batsiranai, the women's cooperative for mothers with disabled children, then I'll talk about the sadza batik craft, wire art, shona sculpture, tye & dye, natural jewellery making, woodcrafts, "granite-crafts" - if there is such a word and much more... I'll introduce you to the Association of Women's clubs, Kudhinda, Silvera House, Dangwe Arts and the Menyere brothers, makers of Tashanda's new Afrobag line. Finally I'll tell you about my visit to Mathew Rusike Children's Home, Hatcliff Clinic, Hatcliff Extension nursery school and my visit to a sub-divided commercial farm.

Keep checking this blog for updates!