From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Orphans' lives focus on basic survival

From "NewsDesk" <NewsDesk@UMCOM.ORG>
Date Thu, 19 Dec 2002 15:13:00 -0600

Dec. 19, 2002 News media contact: Linda Green7(615)742-54707Nashville, Tenn. 

NOTE: Photographs are available. This report is a sidebar to UMNS story #587.

By Linda Green*

MUREWA, Zimbabwe (UMNS) - The will to survive is the thread that weaves
together the lives of the 968 children of the Nheweyembwa Orphan Trust.

The 3-year-old trust was established to "help alleviate the pathetic
situations some of the children were living in," says the Rev. Stanley
Kaseke. He is the pastor in charge of the Dandara area of the United
Methodist Church's Murewa District, which co-operates the orphan trust.

"Children were sick and had no one to care for them," he explains. "There
were households throughout the township headed by children who were looking
out for their siblings the best way they knew how. The children, especially
those orphaned because their parents died of AIDS, needed to be fed, school
fees paid and part of their medical bills met."

During a United Methodist News Service visit, the children of the trust
perform a variety of skits and songs that give a realistic and poignant look
into their daily lives. They sing about death and the scourge of AIDS while
asking the Holy Spirit to enter and comfort their souls. Other skits show how
their guardians at home misuse the money that their trust caregivers provide,
leaving the kids with nothing. In the skit, the guardians are reported and
the caregivers provide more money for school fees and food.

"I survive through the help of those who are merciful," says 16-year-old
Naomi. "I also believe that I am here because of God's grace."

Asked to provide a glimpse of what her life is like, she becomes somber and
tries to choke back her emotions. "My life is very hard to describe because
my parents passed away, and the most difficult part is that my mother died
before I had time to get to know her." Naomi lived with her father but grew
up under the guidance of aunts. When her father died, she and a younger
brother were on their own.

She and her brother do what they can to eke out a daily living. Sometimes
they have little or no food. "But," she says, "through God's grace and
people's mercy, we survive."

Twelve-year-old Delia describes her life as the Cinderella story without the
happy ending. Instead, she says, it is filled with pain. She and a sister
live with an aunt and her family. "I ask for soap; there is none for me but
there is soap for the others," she says. "There is nothing for me, no money
to go to school, but there is for the others. It is painful, but there is
nothing that I can do about it. There is no love in the way I've been
treated. I feel unwanted."

Another girl describes having to fight off a father who "drinks heavily and
when he is drinking, he comes into my room, wakes me up and wants to get in
the same bed with me." Her mother died last December, and "my father does not
provide." She stopped attending school in the seventh grade to help care for
herself and her sister's 2-year-old son. United Methodist News Service is
withholding her name.

Trust, 14, lost both parents in 1999 from AIDS, and he tries to earn a living
by making and repairing watches. He and his three siblings live with an
elderly grandmother. "We have to do everything on our own," he says. "Each
one of us looks for food and money to pay our fees to go to school."

When Trust prays to "my Savior," he does not only pray for a way out of his
situation, "but I pray for help in all of the difficulties we and other
children face in life." The difficulties include acquiring food and clothing,
he says.

As UMNS departs for the day, Trust, with tears rolling down his face, asks
that the United Methodist Church in America "realize that in Zimbabwe,
children are suffering because we don't have parents to give us food, clothes
and provide for an education. Please help us survive."

Kaseke says Nheweyembwa is unusual because it is a Christian organization
based on the village concept, coordinated by people who as a church and a
community are obligated to look after the welfare of the children.  

His calling as a minister and a caregiver to the orphans stems from his
desire to help the people in Dandara and the surrounding areas "see the
church at work in the community," he says. In a society that shuns the
children, the church must be different, he says. "If people would return to
the Africa proverb that it takes a village to raise a child, then the
children would be better off."

Helping the children survive is the mission for the people of the Dandara
Township and the officials of the Nheweyembwa Orphan Trust. The community is
building a mill for grinding grains, and the proceeds will benefit the

The mill was dug last year, and the builder was paid Z$4,000 (US$72) for
excavations, but work has not been completed because of politics. Since
Zimbabwe's 2000 elections, there has been a dearth of volunteers and able
bodies to develop strategies and work for the trust. "At one time, we were
very viable, but since the 2000 elections, it has been risky to bring people
together to do the work and discuss business because of political tensions,"
Kaseke says. He explains that the bulk of the work force has been lost
because of job transfers and relocations driven by the country's bleak
economic climate.

Kaseke would like to see the orphan trusts throughout the Murewa District's
179-mile radius pool their resources and open an orphanage for all children,
one that would be supported by the church and government alike.

"The problems of orphans are serious," he says, "and we need to be organized
and do something to care for them all."

# # #

*Green is United Methodist News Service's Nashville, Tenn., news director.

United Methodist News Service
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