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is responsible for the children in Zimbabwe?
Extracted from New World Outlook, November/December 2005
World Outlook article - By
the grace of God: The orphans of Zimbabwe
Irene Kabete, a pastor in the Zimbabwe Annual Conference, how children
are cared for in Zimbabwe when their parents are no longer around.
Kabete: In the Zimbabwean culture, an orphan is anyone
who has lost one or both parents. If the father is dead, then the
child is an orphan, though its mother may be alive and caring for
it. Traditionally, if a man dies, his brother is responsible for
the surviving wife and children—he inherits them—but this custom
is no longer followed by many in Zimbabwe. If a mother dies, the
children are more likely to end up on the streets, since a surviving
mother will try to care for them, but a surviving father is less
likely to do so.
We have street
children in Zimbabwe. When I was pastor of Innercity United Methodist
Church in Harare, I worked with them all the time. Some were on
the streets because they had no one; their parents were dead. But
some had parents, or more likely stepparents who abused them, so
they preferred to live on the streets. Some runaways had no good
reason for being on the streets. They saw their friends there and
and in most of Africa, the family is responsible for a child who
has lost parents. But our family is a great extended family, so
grandparents or relatives on either the mother’s or father’s side
may take the child. The state has nothing to do with raising the
children; it does nothing. In larger cities like Harare, the village
can’t be depended on either. It is not the same dynamic, but definitely
the extended family is counted on to care for the children.
UMC, I started a feeding center at the church for street children.
But then there were so many coming, the church couldn’t handle them
all, so I went to the conference center in Harare to talk about
their needs. Between the bishop’s office and the Women’s Desk, enough
money was offered to buy a huge tent to set up the feeding station,
but we had no room for it, so it was set up at the conference center.
the children and in many cases were able to reunite them with their
parents. Sometimes that involved counseling the parents as well.
We’d promise to pay the school fees if they stayed home and stayed
in school. For those who had no parents or who were not able to
return home, we’d try to put them in an institution close to the
church to remove them from the streets. On Sunday they would come
to church. I baptized about 40 of them. Our goal was to get them
off the streets.
Irene Kabete, a GBGM director, is currently studying for her MDiv
from Drew Theological Seminary in Madison, NJ, and working at Park
Avenue United Methodist Church in New York City
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