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Helping orphan families thrive in Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe is home to an estimated 720,000 orphans. ZOE (Zimbabwe Orphans through Extended Hands) believes local churches have a vital role to play

Written by Denford Munemo and Qobolwakhe Khumalo 2017 Available in English, French, Portuguese and Spanish

ZOE provides orphan families with livelihood opportunities, and church volunteers offer support. Photo: Eleanor Bentall/Tearfund

ZOE provides orphan families with livelihood opportunities, and church volunteers offer support. Photo: Eleanor Bentall/Tearfund

A foster child in Chiang Mai province, Thailand.

From: Caring for orphans – Footsteps 101

Stories of individuals, organisations and churches who are working to provide loving families for orphaned and vulnerable children 

Zimbabwe is home to an estimated 720,000 orphans, partly as a result of deaths from AIDS-related illnesses. Traditionally, the extended family would care for orphans. However, the difficult economic and social conditions in the country have left relatives struggling to cope. ZOE (Zimbabwe Orphans through Extended Hands) believes local churches have a vital role to play. 

Mobilising churches 

Mobilising churches is at the heart of ZOE’s work. Often churches have a desire to care for orphans, but do not know how to help. This is where ZOE steps in. 

The strength of the ministry is in churches working together. When a church leader approaches ZOE for help with caring for orphans, ZOE first asks the pastor to gather all the church leaders in the area. ZOE staff then envision the leaders together about the biblical message to care for orphans. The leaders go back to their churches and share the vision. They ask those in their congregations who have a heart for orphans to become volunteers. 

ZOE then trains church volunteers to visit and support orphan families (families who are caring for orphans). Each volunteer is responsible for visiting four or five orphan families regularly (fewer if any of the families are child-headed households, as these need more support). 

Family strengthening 

Church volunteers are trained in parenting skills, budgeting, child protection, psychosocial support, child development, and sexual and reproductive health. They pass on this training and knowledge to the families they support. 

Churches and community members are also encouraged to speak up for orphans through advocacy. They protect orphan families’ inheritance rights and help orphans get birth certificates, which they need for accessing other services. Building supportive relationships is central to the volunteers’ role. As part of their training, they are encouraged to use their God-given resources to support orphan families. 

Sustainable livelihoods 

ZOE also helps orphans and caregivers find ways to make a living. They provide them with small livestock (eg goats, chickens or rabbits) and train family members in animal management. They also train orphan families to grow crops and offer vocational training to orphans in a trade of their choice, setting them up for a more secure future. 

Pastor Bob Chimboo

Bringing dead lives to life

Pastor Bob Chimboo from south-east Zimbabwe shares his experience of working with ZOE. 

With ZOE’s help, between 2003 and 2016 we envisioned 135 churches in Masvingo to care for orphans. A lot of lives that seemed dead have been ‘raised to life’. Churches have found many different ways to meet the needs of orphans and widows. These include paying school fees and teaching skills in hairdressing, motor mechanics and sewing. Some of these orphans now have jobs and can provide for their families. We are training orphan families in gardening, fish farming, candle making, goat breeding and peanut butter making. We have also been advocating against child marriage and all forms of child abuse. 

The ZOE model has helped us as pastors from different churches to be united for the cause of orphans. We meet once every month to discuss the issues volunteers from our churches come across during their visits. We are now a relevant church in our communities. 

Using your God-given resources

ZOE staff use these inspiring ideas as part of their training for church volunteers. Could you make a copy of this handout (PDF 325 KB) and use it in your church? 

God created us with a heart, eyes, ears, mouth, hands and feet. Church volunteers can use these God-given resources to build supportive relationships with orphan families. 

Heart A heart filled with love because of the cross of Jesus. A heart like God the Father’s, to love and care for orphans. 

Eyes To see the soft brown hair and swollen hands and feet that speak of kwashiorkor (malnutrition due to a lack of protein and other nutrients)… To look into the child’s eyes and see ‘abuse’… To observe the home – the hole in the thatch, the absence of pots and pans etc… 

Mouth To give messages of hope from the Bible and wise advice. To let families know what help and services are available in the community. To speak out and be a voice for the voiceless through advocacy. 

Ears To listen to the children and understand their pain… To listen to the old grandfather who now has six children in his care and knows he has four more on the way when his next son dies… To listen when no relative has asked: ‘How are you?’ or ‘How are the children?’ But now this volunteer comes to visit, and asks: ‘How many children are you caring for? How are they? How are you?’ This volunteer says they want to help in any way they can, and gives the old man a chance to talk for the first time in months. Then the volunteer asks if he can come back – and does come back! 

Hands For practical help, such as mending thatch, preparing the ground for planting, teaching sewing or carpentry etc. 

Feet For taking messages, bringing supplies, escorting children to the clinic etc – as well as for playing sport and games! 

God has given us these abilities to care for others and to reveal Jesus’ love. They are totally free! Church members can use these resources to begin to build a strong orphan care ministry. 

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Written by

Written by  Denford Munemo and Qobolwakhe Khumalo

Denford Munemo is National Director of ZOE, and Qobolwakhe Khumalo is ZOE’s Programmes Manager. Website: Email: [email protected]

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