Church helps rehabilitate children living on the streets

The Roman Catholic Church in Zimbabwe is relocating children living on the streets to institutions where they are taught self-reliance, technical skills and academic lessons before being reintegrated into the community.

Emilia James
Emilia James

Zambuko House situated in the Harare suburb of Hatfield is one of the church’s 14 social welfare centres dotted across Zimbabwe that provide accommodation for children living on the streets and those from marginalised communities.

Those who are willing stay at the house until they finish their studies, while others check in for day activities and return home in the evenings. Life skills taught include building, welding, poultry, gardening and housekeeping. Motor mechanics, carpentry, cosmetology and tailoring will be introduced in the near future.

Besides formal education and life skills children are taught about health and reproduction by volunteer experts and other specialists.

Theory and some practical lessons are carried out at Zambuko for a year while six month attachments are done at training centres such as Nyamombe, Tongogara and Chambuta. To help the children appreciate social harmony, forgiveness, tolerance and inclusiveness they attend church services on Sundays and hold regular devotion and prayer sessions at the centre.

Zambuko House project director, Emilia James, recently told The Zimbabwean: “It is not always easy to convince children living on the streets to have a feel of home life at Zambuko House as some of them have become so used to the rough street life. Some of them always return back to the streets.”

Despite this the house has managed to assist thousands of children to resume a normal life and acquire identification documents. Officials visit homes of the children to investigate the causes of their resorting to street life and assist then rejoin the families.

“We have learnt that some families are actually looking for the children and are happy to accept them back into the family structure. Unfortunately others would have fled their families after abuse by family members,” added James.

Outreach programmes officer Alphonce Masiyenyama said some 1,500 children had passed through the centre since it was established in 1995. Over 500 are now working in the informal sector while 50 percent have been re-integrated into their families equipped with life skills.

“Drug addicts continued to pose a challenge to our attempts to rehabilitate children living on the streets,” said Masiyenyama. But despite the challenges some graduates have gone on to university, polytechnics and other institutions of higher learning. One of them was among the beneficiaries of the presidential scholarship scheme and is now studying at a South African university.

Masiyenyama and James called on the corperate world to extend their social responsibility efforts to social institutions struggling to turn around the fortunes of the marginalised.

Churches in Zimbabwe play a vital complementary role towards government efforts to improve the welfare of the poor and the marginalised.

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