Zimbabwe financial woes increase orphanage struggles

When Tsungira Makoni’s mother visited her at the Home of Hope, the 16-year-old was glad to see that her mother was healthy, but she wasn’t anxious to leave the orphanage that has been her home almost since birth.

“I would like to stay here until I finish my school. I want to go to the university,” says Makoni, a soft-spoken girl who talks easily about her mother’s struggle with mental illness, but clearly views the orphanage as her home. The Nyadire United Methodist Mission, founded in 1923, is the church’s oldest mission in Zimbabwe.

“My mother told me my father is dead,” she says.

how you can help

Donations to help the Home of Hope can be made through the Nyadire Connection or the Advance.

Learn more about sponsoring an orphan’s education through the Connection.

Donate online to the connection’s support of the Nyadire Mission.

Learn more or donate to Advance #13792A to support the Home of Hope.

The Rev. Nyaradzai Matonga, chaplain for the primary and secondary schools at the mission, says that like many of the children at Home of Hope, Makoni’s relatives cannot help with her expenses.

Big changes are in store for the 18 children who live at Home of Hope, though.

The Zimbabwe government is requiring all orphanages to provide family-style homes with a small number of children of various ages living with a “mother” — the model used for the Fairfield Children’s Home at The United Methodist Church’s Mutare Mission.

Land at the mission is being cleared and prepared for construction of four homes and an administration building, paid for by a $500,000 grant from The United Methodist Church in Finland.

Sister Ruth Lindgren, a retired missionary from Finland who was an orphan herself, began adopting children while she was working at the mission. She later worked with the Church of Finland to fund the current orphanage, which opened in 1998.

The Home of Hope costs about $6,000 a month to run. About $3,500 comes from the Nyadire Connection, a nonprofit founded by a group of United Methodists in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, who provide continuing support for the entire Nyadire mission, as well as working on special projects such as renovating medical clinics operated by the mission.

While the Zimbabwe government once provided grants that helped pay expenses at the orphanage, Matonga said that isn’t happening right now because of the poor economy.

Income-generating plans

Emmanuel Chiimba, the administrator of the orphanage, is in Japan studying how to build and manage projects, explains the Rev. Forbes Matonga, pastor-in-charge of the mission.

Drew Harvey, a member of the Nyadire Connection, says Chiimba is determined to expand income-generating projects to make Home of Hope more self-sustaining.

The orphans and staff have a grinding mill, garden, chickens, cattle and a piggery that all contribute to their upkeep. Chiimba hopes to generate more income through those projects. The children already sell eggs and teachers have helped with fundraising.

Mary Beth Zollars, another member of the connection who works closely with the orphanage, says the old orphanage will become staff housing, saving rent money and travel costs for staff. She said the women who live with the children are paid about $110 a month, which is well below the poverty level in Zimbabwe.

Zollars says the Zimbabwe’s social ministry worked to locate family members who can care for the orphans, but that has a downside.

“A couple of the kids who have been moved to live with family come back to the orphanage to eat because they are hungry,” she explains. “They will walk an hour to get a meal. One of the boys is at the primary school, and he comes back to the Home of Hope for lunch every day.”

One 16-year-old taken from the orphanage to live with a grandmother is now the head of the household for two young children because her grandmother has AIDS and is on her deathbed.

“They all say life is hard, that they had a good life at the Home of Hope,” Zollars says.

The sponsors who send money for the children through the connection are getting harder to find. Many of the first sponsorships came through World AIDS Day, as many of the children are orphaned because of AIDS, she notes. The 14 children there currently each have multiple sponsors.

Matonga says people from the Zimbabwe West Conference of The United Methodist Church will bring groceries and other supplies, but the program gets no direct funding from the church in Zimbabwe.

Elina Nyabote, acting administrator of the Home of Hope, says most of the children are referred by the Zimbabwe Ministry of Social Welfare.

Hope for the future

The children who live at the Home of Hope have plenty of hope for their own future and care for each other.

A girl named Precious, 12, is watching over 6-year-old Tatenda during a lunch break. Many of the children don’t know their surname and have no memory of family.

Loremore Mbozri, 16, plans to become a doctor and Godknow Mapika, another 16-year-old who has lived at Home of Hope for 11 years, plans to become a soldier when he is 18.

He remembers his parents, but doesn’t know what happened to them.

Brown is news editor for United Methodist News Service. Contact her at [email protected] or 615-742-7400.

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