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Army Masiye Camp
November 19, 2005
Since 2000, the Masiye
Camp had been trying to come up with ways to provide employment
for girls and boys who were orphans and responsible for the support
of their families.
A group of camp counselors,
volunteers and orphans hatched the idea of the Splashgirls, a bicycle
delivery service in Bulawayo. A business had already been started
to provide employment for orphaned boys, and they were looking for
something for the girls.
Becoming a Splashgirl
meant learning a lot of new things for Faith — the first being
how to ride a bicycle. "I had to learn to ride a bike when
I was 19. When I was young I never thought that one day I would
ride a bike. Why? Because children who usually ride bikes this side
are regarded as children from rich families."
The Masiye Camp hired
a man to come and teach the girls. Faith remembers those early days,
"It was scary riding for the first time, especially in town
where there is a lot of traffic. In the beginning, I used to push
the bike when I got into town.
"It took me about
3 weeks to be able to ride in town confidently," she says,
"Though of course men never accepted it. They used to say all
sorts of things when we were passing by and it was a bit discouraging.
I mean, it's rare to see a lady on a bike this side." But not
all the men felt the same way, "At the same time, others thought
it was unique! We have walkie talkies, helmets, and racer bikes,
so I think when they see that, they go, 'Wooah!'"
Being unique is important
to Faith. "We came up with the name Splashgirls because we
thought it would be nice and modern and unique. You know how when
there is a splash of water, and the water goes up high? We thought
that what we were doing is just like the water."
Faith works from 8 AM
till 4 PM, and she's very proud to be a Splashgirl. "Many girls
in the city envy us. I mean, it's a girls-only cycling project and
it's unique. It's a business of it's own kind in town.The first-ever
before in Zimbabwe. It's a great thing!"
But the Splashgirls have
hit on hard times in the past year, and their original staff of
10 has dwindled.
Faith describes the current
situation, "Yes, it's true that 3 Splashgirls (currently) are
the ones that are on bikes full time. The rest were put on standby
recently... because the project was not generating sufficient income
to sustain the girls' monthly allowances. All the girls are still
Splashgirls but on a volunteer basis now, which is sad and a set-back."
The Splashgirls who are
on standby come to visit, "But," Faith says, "they
don't come often. They come when they feel like, because they are
still part of us. But now that we don't have money, they just come
when they want to. And it's hard for them, they are not doing anything,
and most of them, they are the breadwinners for their families."
But they aren't giving
up. "So what we have been working on, is trying to find more
business. But the hindrance has been finding resources to advertise
and market ourselves. Looking for business is the most hard —
I have to go there face-to-face or sometimes phone them. It's hard,
sometimes I get so tired that I can't even concentrate when I am
reading. Sometimes I get so discouraged and I feel like quitting.
But if I quit, there's nothing to do."
Stefan Germann explains
more about the problems the Splashgirls face, "They are running
at a loss, [so] they have no marketing, [and] they didn't have enough
business. Quite a number of the girls were just sitting in the office,
not driving out in the street. They couldn't do any marketing, like
getting on billboards and newspaper adverts, [and therefore] they
just didn't have enough work."
Germann believes that
the absence of a professional business manager is at the root of
the problem, "That's where the lack of management comes in.
Last year, in the church I was going to, there was the regional
manager of one of the biggest retail companies in Zimbabwe, and
he was willing to get them a job for one branch, which was about
3000 deliveries of their club magazines, and because they didn't
manage it well, they had to stop it. There were late deliveries...you
know, the girls who were riding and managing the business, were
coming out of disadvantaged population groups, all of them have
been orphaned due to HIV and AIDS, and in the absence of a sound
business manager, they just couldn't cope with that large a job."
Germann goes on, "But
it's a pity because the Splashgirls could easily create the jobs
for 40 young girls orphaned. And it's a critical age, because that's
the age they are very vulnerable to HIV infection."
Visit the Salvation
Army Masiye Camp fact sheet
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