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Chiedza Child Care Centre - Providing a helping hand at a difficult time
Taurai Maduna, Kubatana.net
August 16, 2005

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Girls from ChiedzaIt’s just after 10 o’clock and some children from the Mbare and Sunningdale areas in Harare are fortunate to be having some tea and bread. Many children in Zimbabwe can no longer afford to have breakfast due to the harsh economic conditions.

Breakfast is now a word that means nothing to many children. They survive on one meal a day and at times even this evening meal is not available. And each day is a new day bringing new challenges.

Children who have lost either one, or both parents, are the hardest hit by the crisis in Zimbabwe. The extended family system that used to support orphans has crumbled while everyone tries to adjust to the increasingly difficult way of life.

Chiedza Child Care Centre, situated in Harare, is one of the few places that assist vulnerable children. But the current economic crisis in the country has severely affected the work of some of the childcare centers. Budgets that were initially meant to cater for the entire year are now only adequate for 3 months.

Still, Tendai Chipunza (pictured on the right), an outreach worker at Chiedza, soldiers on saying that she loves her job.

Tendai and children from ChiedzaTendai believes that when schools open in September children will find themselves in an even more difficult position because the government has recently raised school fees by a 1000%. Some children who were paying Z$200 000 are now being asked to pay Z$1.2 million dollars per term.

Chiedza assists the local community in a variety of ways through programmes for pre-school children, after school activities for adolescents, as well as help with medical and counseling needs. The children get assistance with their homework, learn different skills and get a nutritional meal before they go back home.

Tendai describes the work being done by Chiedza as "a drop in the ocean" - listen to audio file. She says that there is a waiting list of more than 500 children that need assistance and at the moment Chiedza is only able to help 120 children.

Part of Tendai’s work is to go into the community and talk to the caregivers and guardians of the children. She also goes to schools and speaks with the teachers and requests an update on the progress being made by the children who have their fees and uniforms paid for by Chiedza.

Children from ChiedzaDuring one of her regular visits, Tendai was shocked to find that some of the households they were assisting had "vanished’ in the Governments clean up campaign which is known to local people as the Tsunami.

And because of the clean-up operation, Tendai says some of the homes that they are supporting are now overcrowded. She cites a household that previously accommodated 8 people, now accommodating more than 20 people.

The cramped conditions have led to some of the children having to be treated for measles. Chiedza is concerned that there is likely to be an outbreak of more diseases such as tuberculosis (TB) if the issue of overcrowding is not addressed.

Chiedza cannot offer long-term assistance and Tendai feels that the community guardians of the children should do more in trying to help the children. She says that there is a general belief that Care Centres should take full care of the orphans. In a bid to change these sorts of attitudes in the community, Chiedza conducts workshops where they inform the community of what type of assistance they can offer and that they are not there to completely support orphans.

Child from ChiedzaThrough Chiedza’s interventions women support groups have also been setup. During these sessions women are taught some basic self-sufficiency skills such as growing vegetables and knitting.

While the staff at Chiedza battle to source funding for next term’s school fees, children sitting under the gazebo in the centre’s yard recite AIDS poems and play games together.

Yolanda Dzumba recites a poem called Beware of AIDS. She is in Form 2 at a high school in the Mbare area. She said her late mother helped her to write the poem - listen to audio file

At least for now, those below the age of 18 who are being assisted by Chiedza, can relax and hope that life in Zimbabwe improves by the time they finish school.


Audio File

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