Drop-in Centre Grand OpeningSteve Collins and I travelled to Victoria Falls in late November last year (at our own expense) to participate in the opening of the recently completed Drop-in Centre.
The principal purpose of the Centre is as a place for children from out-lying areas - who are attending the town high school to study for O and A levels (Years 11 and 12) - to live during term time. Rural high schools don’t extend to the final two years of secondary education. The Centre will also serve as a short-term refuge for (commonly) parentless children who are in a position of vulnerability.
The Drop-in Centre has separate girls’ and boys’ bedrooms and bathrooms, a common area and accommodation for the resident husband and wife guardians.
The completion of the Drop-in Centre represents another plank in achieving the Trust’s objective of providing the opportunity of education to children who are without parents - often living with older siblings or extended family. The Trust also provides money for school fees, uniforms and school materials for the supported children.
Building of the Drop-in Centre would not have been possible without the support of the Victoria Falls municipal government, and the local community. The land upon which the Centre sits was contributed by the local government, and the bricks of its walls and fence were fashioned by hand by numerous volunteers.
At present the Trust supports around 30 children ranging from six to 17 years of age. The children variously attend a town or rural school. These schools are Chinotimba Primary, Mosi Oa Tunya High, Chimbombo Primary, Ndlovu Secondary, Chamabondo Primary, Mashake Secondary, Ndimakule Primary and Chidobe Primary. Without the Trust’s support, these children simply wouldn’t be able to attend school.
The Opening Ceremony was graced by the presence of a number of dignitaries, including His Worship the Mayor Mr Sifiso Mpofu and The Chief Mr Bishop Sibanda. A number of church and civil service leaders also were in attendance. The local MP, the Honourable Mr Bekithemba Mpofu, was acknowledged in absentia.
We were thrilled that many of the children supported by the Trust travelled in from the rural areas to participate too.
Special mention needs to be made of Mrs Daniso Ncube who spoke powerfully about the plight of family-less and vulnerable children, and who, over the years, has taken into her home many of those children.
The Opening Ceremony was no brief affair! Around 100 people were treated to three hours of joyous singing, dancing and speech-making. Steve and I took many megabytes of video footage, and work is underway on a ‘highlights package’. The celebrations were tempered with sadness, however, having learned on our arrival of the very recent death of Washington Moyo, a 17 year old boy who had been supported by the Trust for a number of years. Steve spoke movingly in memory of Washington, and the assembly observed a minute’s silence in his honour. Steve next spoke at length about the Trust’s history and work over its 10 year history, culminating in the Centre now being able to provide shelter and safety for children in need. I spoke after Steve to acknowledge by name the contributions of the donor community and volunteers in Australia, and to say how privileged I felt to be their representative.
During our time in Victoria Falls, Steve and I - along with one of the local trustees Mr Thembinkosi Dube - visited Chinotimba Primary and Ndlovu Secondary Schools, which are about 30 km out of town, where we met with some of the children supported by the Trust and with their teachers. We also took the opportunity to pay due school fees in person.
This presented us with an opportunity to visit The Chief in his home village to pay our respects.
My abiding feeling upon returning to Australia is that while no-one can hope to save all the children in any one place, a small amount of money, directed to education, can be genuinely life-changing for these few Zimbabwean children who have so little - not even a parent’s love and care.