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By the grace of God: The orphans of Zimbabwe
Christie R. House, New World Outlook
December, 2005

Read Rev Irene Kabete's article - Who is responsible for the children in Zimbabwe?
View Caring for Orphan Children in Zimbabwe - Photos by Richard Lord

Chirpo Makowi Fandera is just 50 years old. She lives with her family in the Glenview Falls section of Harare. She cares for 25 children in her home, six of her own and 19 "dumped" kids.

"I donít know who their parents are," says Fandera. The police bring them here, the welfare office brings them here." The "dumped" kids were dumped on the streets by their HIV-positive parents or by teenagers who couldnít care for them, explains Farayi Tiriwepi, a community-based health-care worker with the Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVC) project of Africa University and the Zimbabwe United Methodist Church. When the police or the Harare social welfare office pulls kids off the street, they try to find people who will care for them.

Fandera has cared for orphans since 1991. "I think God shall make one of these kids Iím caring for a doctor or a prime minister," she says. She earns money to feed the children by selling soap and firewood. Her youngest son also provides a little income to help. She doesnít have the money to pay their school fees. The OVC project can help with that.

Shamiso Mangongo, an administrative assistant with OVC, says that the government pays only the fees for "level A" schools in urban areas. In order for their children to attend school, rural families must pay school fees, buy uniforms, pay into building funds, and buy school supplies. This can add up to about $1000 a year.

The OVC program helps orphans, the majority of whom have lost their parents to the AIDS virus, meet the requirements to attend school. The OVC program specifically targets AIDS orphans who need help with school fees, food, and health-care, the top three priorities. Case workers with the program spend much time in the communities talking to the childrenís caregivers and school officials to identify the children in need and help provide for them.

Sometimes they need clothes, shoes, or soap; at other times, medical care. At present, they have close to 400 registered in the program.

The $3 million startup grant for the program came from a US family that was moved by the plight of AIDS orphans in Zimbabwe. At present, there are about 1 million in Zimbabwe alone - that is one in every five children.

"Are there many women like Chirpo Makowi, who will take children off the streets like this and care for them," Richard Lord asked Farayi Teriwepi. "Yes," she said. "Yes there are. Because of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, we have a lot of these ladies who have been touched by the plight of the children and they volunteer their homes and whatever else they have to care for them."

*Christie R. House is the editor of New World Outlook. Richard Lord is a freelance photographer from New York City based in Virginia.

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