Hopes for children’s village stalled by lack of funds

Sister Mercy Mutyambizi’s dream to expand Shungu Dzevana Children’s Home is yet to come true. Despite being allocated land for a unique children’s village, lack of money is holding up construction.

Sister Mercy Mutyambizi, founder of Shungu Dzevana Children’s Home.
Sister Mercy Mutyambizi, founder of Shungu Dzevana Children’s Home.

The existing centre is home to more than 400 orphans and vulnerable children, and Mutyambizi believes that, given the opportunity, these children have the potential to be just as successful as those from stable or wealthier families.

She talked to The Zimbabwean about the vision behind the establishment of the children’s village, which she believes is going to be home to another 80 or more orphans.

“Orphans and vulnerable children are often placed in homes that don’t resemble the real set-up of a home. They grow up without experiencing what it is like to have the guardianship of parents. The establishment of the village is going to reverse this anomaly,” said Mutyambizi.

“Within the village setup, the children will be staying with a guardian, who will assume the rôle of mother. The hope is that each ‘family’ would live in a three-bedroomed house with a dining room, lounge, kitchen and a toilet,” she said. Mutyambizi said this arrangement would mean children were better monitored and nurtured than in boarding-style facilities.

“Orphans who grow up in children’s homes do not have a sense of belonging,” she said. The village would also have a crèche and an arts centre, which help women make an income.

Mutyambizi, who revealed that she is motivated by the work done by Oprah Winfrey and the late first lady of Zimbabwe, Sally Mugabe, said the construction of houses at the village was to start as soon as possible.

Said the nun, whose greatest fear is her fragile health,: “Resources permitting, I would aleady have started work as soon as we got the documentation that we now own the more than 2,500 square metres of land.”

But work has not started because there is no money to finance the project. And Mutyambizi is worried that conditions attached to the transfer of the land mean it must be developed within two years.

“Corporate social responsibility in this country is on paper only. Some of these companies only post figures indicating that they have assisted charities on their financial statements. When we find out who that money was given to, we realise that those figures are simply cooked-up. No-one within our circles can testify that they have received any money from local companies,” she said.

Mutyambizi revealed that, because of the escalating poverty levels in the country, there was an increase in the number of abandoned children.

“We are just so overwhelmed by the large numbers of children on the streets. Over the years, we have taken children from the streets before and we know that it is possible to rehabilitate those children in the right direction,” she said. “It is fulfilling to see a child that you salvaged from the streets with glue in their nose become a gentleman putting on a tie or being the chief executive officer for a big company,” she said

Mutyambizi said some of the children that had passed through the centre since its establishme-nt in April 1992 were now mining engineers, nurses, teachers and working in a host of other professions. More than 100 children from the home have graduated from university so far.

She acknowledged, however, that although most children became successful people, there were also a number whose performance remained a cause for concern.

“It’s just like in a field where some of the crops, though nurtured under the same conditions, fail to bear any fruit. For these children, we try to ensure that they get training in their areas of interest, such as welding, building and dressmaking,” she said.

Shungu Dzevana’s Children’s Trust runs several income-generating initiatives, including a piggery and chicken project and a vibrant gardening project.

“We are not making a lot of money from these projects, but we want to be able to reduce the costs of certain things like meat for consumption at our centre. We supply uniforms and overalls to individuals that need them, but the profits that we make are limited,” said Mutyambizi.

Her plea now is for businesses to help with the construction of the children’s village.

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