Reflections on the work of Tariro by Father Nicolas

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Zimbabwe at the moment is quiet. MDC has divided into 3 and Morgan Tsvangirai’s attempt to hang on as leader has effectively hamstrung the Opposition and ZANU PF don’t need to go around beating people up to keep their support. There is, however, a feeling that we are at the end of Mugabe’s time, though he seems fit and shows no sign of departing. People are grabbing what they can in the way of farms, businesses, and the usual profits of corruption. The government is stifling the private sector though it is hard to tell whether deliberately or accidently through its utterly stupid policies. It is stupid because they are terribly strapped for cash yet keep reducing the financial sector on which they rely for tax. The country desperately needs investment, but Government members keep on making speeches about indigenisation  which scare off all possible investors.

Businesses are failing in large numbers; most are struggling. The employment situation gets worse and worse. ZANU PF leaders are at each other’s throats. Grace Mugabe is trying to muscle her way into political leadership. Most people’s money seems to be on Joyce Mujuru as the next president who has a decent side to her character and is efficient; but she is corrupt and has blood on her hands. It is a hard environment for Tariro to work in, especially when it comes to finding jobs for our young people, or working out what sort of training for the future we should give them. It is a time for small things, and small successes, and fortunately we have a lot of those to brighten our lives.

We have a handful of kids who are very bright: Alliance at Bonda, Tatenda in Dangamvura, Anesu at Penhalonga, most of the kids in Chipinge and most of those in Shurugwi. Also in Harare, four of the boys now have jobs and are very happy in them. Kelvin is brilliant. It is important they go as far as they can academically. We also need to educate them into an attitude to work which is not about enriching themselves but caring for others, and building up their country. Most can see the failure of ZANU PF to do this. So we invest quite a lot of resources in tertiary education. Sometimes it will lead to jobs. Also it gives them a confidence which will be important in an uncertain future, and it gives them larger horizons, supplementing an inadequate secondary education and improving their skills.

The rest of the youngsters are only averagely intelligent and will not do much at O level. A handful of these have already discovered something they really love doing – Maposa with his chicken project; Tracey with her sewing; Chengetai with his cooking. Those who do recognise that there is no future for them academically, want courses – in catering, beauty, hairdressing, carpentry etc. It is hard to tell them these will lead nowhere unless they have a real passion for it. Most don’t really know what they want to do and we can’t spend money sending them on random courses until they happen to find it.

In Penhalonga we have started an agricultural project where we can see whether they are willing to work. Four girls – Learnmore, Valentine, Tafadzwa and Gloria – have shown they can do that. They may have to concentrate on making a living by this small scale farming, but perhaps we can help them do it better, more productively than the usual peasant farming is. I would like those four to work together as a girls’ group learning how to make a good life for themselves while specialising in a few products which have a market.

Teenage boys are more difficult to motivate. They need inspiring male leadership and at the moment we don’t have that, but we may find it. This is an area we really do need to develop as the children grow up into a jobless economy.

This Home was started in about 1982 and was reputedly given by Robert Mugabe to the CZR sisters who run it. It has suffered for a long time from poor funding. Social Welfare place children there but never give the small per capita grant they should provide. The sisters are not very good at admin and do not have much understanding of child care, particularly of boys (girls have been phased out) from this sort of background. The last few years have seen conditions deteriorate steadily for a whole lot of reasons. Edwin and I talked the problems through with various people from the diocese and with the Sisters and concluded the only thing we could do was to offer to take on the basic financing of the Home on condition that we laid down certain conditions as to how the finance should be managed and the Home should be run.

We have therefore committed Tariro to finding the salaries for five members of staff, for basic groceries and for light and water. This will cost about £20,000 a year. There are also a number of urgent renovations needing to be done – first will be the toilets and showers which are dangerously unhygienic, in fact hardly work at all. Then before the rains come the roof and ceiling need to be repaired. After that furniture, glazing, repainting and reactivating the borehole should transform the Home into a place where kids can be comfortable and feel loved. All this is new money we need to find and we hope to do it through various trusts and some specific fund raising initiatives.

That is the scary part. There is a lot of extra money to be found quite quickly. The good part though is the boys; they are really nice (when they are not being naughty!), great fun and long for affection and attention. I think we can quite quickly make a real difference to their lives.

Nicolas CR

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