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Interview with George Seremwe, Founder of Child Future Africa and owner of Small World Lodge
Upenyu Makoni-Muchemwa, Kubatana.net
July 29, 2009

Read Inside/Out with George Seremwe

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How did the Child Future Africa Project (CFA) come about?George Seremwe

CFA came about through my development work in Zimbabwe, West Africa, Vietnam and also my time in the Netherlands. I'm from a family who were affected with the same problems that I have taken up and am trying to solve. My parents died when I was abroad and I had to send money home to support my brothers through school and things like that. They managed to complete their studies and then I thought let me take it further to other families who might be in the same situation. Initially I sent clothing. My brother didn't make it in school so I sent a tractor and a truck for him to start farming. In that truck I put a lot of clothing, which I distributed. And then of course as I did that I thought I should do it in a more constructive way and also an organized way. That's when I started Child Future Africa.

When you were carrying out your development work, what organization were you affiliated to?

I was affiliated to the Netherlands Development Organization, which is supported by the Dutch government. That was then, now it's more in consultancy.

How is Small World Lodge linked to Child Future Africa?

I'd worked in the Netherlands and when I came back home to make sure that I do the work of Child Future Africa, I sold my belongings in the Netherlands and I came to look for a house in Zimbabwe. I stayed at the Small World Lodge. The amount for which it was being sold was more or less the amount I had in my budget to buy a house. I decided to buy it since I didn't have a family; I'm not married and I needed only one room. So I started running the business. I also let Small World be the platform for volunteers or tourists who are passing through to get them to know more about the plight we are experiencing. I finance Child Future Africa from the proceeds of Small World - Small World gives ten percent of its proceeds to Child Future Africa. Listen

What exactly does Child Future Africa do?

CFA supports children in communities by buying school fees and also promoting income-generating activities, be it market gardening, or raising poultry. We have been working with four schools, which we gave small grants to. They buy chickens and then resell, and things like that. From the proceeds, they have managed to buy books and pay school fees for the orphans of their own choice. The idea is to promote the community to solve their own problems. It's not to give them handouts. I don't believe in that. That's why you see that the set up is kind of a business venture. We also have an orphanage, a village, not a home as such. I can call it even a transit home for orphans. It's basically for those who are really destitute and have nowhere to go. We do an assessment into the community to see if there is extended family that can take care of them or a child headed family and then we take them to the orphanage village. They stay there, and as the situation improves back home, in the village where they come from, or a family member comes back from abroad, or whoever is willing to take them up we send them back with the reintegration programme. Listen

Would you say your long-term vision for Child Future Africa is to make it self-sustaining?

This has been the long-term vision from the beginning. I think its proving to be working because so far what I've been having is basically capital investment in terms of the irrigation on the orphan which we established and now the farm is producing enough food to take care of the children. At the same time we are covering a little bit of our operational expenses of the orphanage itself. So I think I'm getting there.

How many children are resident at the orphanage and then in total how many children do you support?

The total number we support I would say is 224.

One of your CFA starting points is helping children develop their natural skills and talents.

At the orphanage we have got a number of activities going on. For example, agriculture for those who are interested in agriculture and small business initiatives like chicken projects, pig projects. At the same time we are located close to a vocational training centre with which we try to link those one who might not be able to make it to university. We link them to that school and we give them the chance to get practical training that is done professionally. Listen

What are your success stories?

Within a short period of time, during the difficult times even, we have seen the project managing to establish itself and in a position to generate some income to be able to cover some of its own expenses. Listen

How do you stay positive in supporting children and growing their skills in a country that has massive unemployment and such poor formal sector opportunities?

Positive energy helps. I try by all means to see positive where there is negative. I avoid by all means negative energy. And at the same time I try not to hang around too much negative energy. Where I can I avoid it completely. Listen

What challenges does Child Future Africa face?

Our resources don't come on time. It's a struggle so we do it bit by bit. But on the other hand I would see it also as positive because if I let the project grow very fast we'll lose control and also maybe the sustainability might go away. It depends how I look at it but at times that is quite a challenge. Also there are some cases where we have one or two handicapped children or have disabilities and we do not have the resources to take care of that. We have some challenges in giving them proper training and also to link then to institutions which could take care of those children. We have started a new school. I think the community is struggling to build that school so we are trying by all means to support them. It is hard on the children because they are learning in a harsh environment, under the trees with no books. Recently we also managed to donate some furniture for a classroom block, which we built for the school. But basically the agreement is that the community is supposed to do that. They will continue to do that and we just keep on encouraging them.

Stay at the Small World Lodge and support Child Future Africa! Phone +263 4 335 176 or email info@smallworldlodge.com for bookings.

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