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Bulawayo orphans get involved in a unique toy competition
Taurai Maduna, Kubatana.net
April 13, 2006

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Mike Dlamini from Pumula North in Bulawayo holds his "Marcopolo" bus
Mike Dlamini from Pumula North in Bulawayo holds his "Marcopolo" bus

13-year-old Mike Dlamini from Pumula North in Bulawayo carefully checks out his "Marcopolo" bus to make sure that everything is in order. Mike has been working on his bus for the past two weeks and is ready to submit the wire toy in a competition that might earn him an opportunity of a lifetime – a ride in a real plane!

Mike is one of the many orphans that gathered in Pumula North to submit their toys and dolls to Dennis Gaboury, an American resident currently visiting Zimbabwe. The idea of encouraging children to create toys came after Dennis met Patricia Tshabalala who works with a volunteer counselling group in Mpopoma.

Dennis said he that he’d noticed a lot of children in the townships moving around with home made toys and thought that it would be a good idea to organize a competition. "I thought it would be a lot of fun for the kids whilst being productive," said Dennis. listen to audio file

Dennis Gaboury admires a doll that has been made by one of the orphans for the competition
Dennis Gaboury admires a doll that has been made by one of the orphans for the competition

As well as having fun the children would also be able to raise funds through the sale of the toys to help them with their living costs.

According to Dennis, the competition was open to orphans who lost their parents through HIV/AIDS. The children were identified by various volunteer organisations that are working with orphans in their respective communities.

Sipho Nyoni from Pumula North has been working with Dennis to make sure that the children follow the strict rules of the competition. One of the rules is that the children themselves must make all the toys and dolls by hand. Sipho hopes that the project will be self-sustaining in the future and will help the orphans by keeping them productive and off the streets.

Most of the toys are made out of local products, which include old shoe polish and Vaseline tins. In an effort to keep the project running, Dennis said he was keen to send photographs to companies and organisations that have their products used by the children and ask them if they might be interested in contributing funds for the children’s organisation. listen to audio file

Take a look at our dolls! Girls show off their hand-made dolls.
Take a look at our dolls! Girls show off their hand-made dolls.

The competition turned out to be extremely popular with over 200 submissions. Dennis said if he had let every child enter he would have had thousands of entries making the judging very difficult.

The top four winners will get to fly over their neighbourhood in a light aircraft. This treat has been made possible courtesy of a colleague of Dennis. However Dennis said all the children who submitted their toys are going to receive a prize and will participate in the opening of the exhibition at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe in Bulawayo.

Although the coordination of this project might look easy, Dennis said it took a lot of hard work but he does not regret the time he has spent working with the various volunteer groups and children. "The bottom line is about having fun and doing something productive," he said.

If you would like more information about the toys being made by Bulawayo orphans, kindly send email to Dennis Gaboury at d_gaboury@yahoo.com

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