March was an exciting month for the Zimbabwe Educational Trust team, as two of our trustees and our Operations Manager flew out to Zimbabwe to visit each of our partner projects: so that we could learn more about their work, the communities they work in, and plan for the future at this exciting and dynamic time for Zimbabwe.
Our trip began in Bulawayo, where we met with Trinity Project and were able to see some of the exciting work they are doing on birth registration and child protection in the city and surrounding rural areas. This included visiting some of the families who Trinity have helped through complicated birth registration cases.
One such case was Kimberley, a young girl who had been abandoned by her parents due to her severe disabilities. This made it very difficult for her grandmother to get her registered, which prevented Kimberley from accessing the education and specialist healthcare that she so desperately needs. Trinity have supported the family with funds towards groceries and healthcare, a wheelchair which enables Kimberley to be more active and mobiles, and makes caring for her much easier for her grandmother, and support through every step of the registration process. At the time we visited, Kimberley had just got the final documents she needed, and should be registered within the next few weeks.
We also got the chance to visit some of the Kids Clubs Trinity run in several districts. These are clubs where children have the chance to play and have fun (something they may not always have the opportunity for in their daily lives), but also learn about their rights and entitlements, and be taught empowering syllabuses. For example, we visited one workshop on Gender Based Violence for teenage girls, and one on child abuse and the right to education for a mixed group of young children.
As well as visiting some of the birth registration and community interventions that ZET have been supporting Trinity with for the last five years, we also got an exciting look into Trinity’s plan for the next five – seeing first-hand the exciting ways this organisation is expanding and developing. The major change is that Trinity is adopting a wider approach towards the entirety of child protection.
Birth registration is like the first step on a ladder towards a child’s empowerment. You first need this, to be able to access all the other steps, like education, healthcare, social security and legal protections. However, although it’s an essential step, it is only the first one. Trinity wants to protect children right the way through, and this involves tackling other barriers to child empowerment. For this reason, Trinity is now launching interventions that look at child abuse, child marriage, and other child protection issues. The most pioneering of these is economic strengthening projects – because parents need enough money to put food on the table, and send their children to schools and hospitals, if they are going to effectively protect their children’s rights. As part of this expansion, we visited some of the authorities Trinity is working with, such as local councillors, village heads and the Department of Social Services, and also visited some of these projects, such as income-generating community gardens. It is clearly a very exciting time for Trinity Project, and ZET were thrilled to see the project developing and helping so many people.
The next week, we travelled up to Harare to visit our other partners. The first, Rafiki Girls Centre, were please to show us round the centre, which is currently teaching two cohorts of students – one in the first stage of the course and learning basic transferrable life skills, and the other in the second stage training in specific vocational courses such as catering or nursing. We were lucky enough to be served a delicious lunch by the catering class, many of whom have unsurprisingly already been snapped up for employment by the most exclusive hotels in Harare when they graduate! Rafiki also showed us some of the products crafted by the students on the Design course, featuring gorgeous Zimbabwean designs and patterns.
We then spent the afternoon talking to students and graduates about their experiences with the centre: what they had learned, what their lives were like before, and how they benefitted from the training. One word came up time and time again – hope. Every student resoundingly agreed that despite their personal circumstances, they felt dejected and out of luck before they came to Rafiki, and the education they received helped them to feel hopeful again. And rightly so, as almost 90% of graduates go onto receive further education or employment after the training. It was inspirational to hear all these personal testimonies.
It was also an exciting time for Rafiki, who have just recently expanded to double the centre’s capacity. They have accommodated the increased demands on teachers and resources incredibly, and it was a privilege to see so many more women – particularly young struggling single mothers, who have been the main social group the expansion was opened up to – benefitting from the transformational opportunity of Rafiki training.
Finally, we visited Foundations for Farming, and walked round their expansive grounds to see first-hand the incredible impact of their sustainable and efficient farming methods – including hectares of fresh fruit, vegetables and herbs, and maize plots up to seven foot tall! All this is grown without intensive gardening or machinery, without pesticides, sprays or enhancers, and without advanced water irrigation systems. The methods they use could be rolled out to any community or home-based farmer, for a low-cost low-effort approach with high yields so it was just unbelievable to see how effective it could be.
We also visited a school ZET has been funding since 2015, to see how their land plot and nutritional garden were coming along. It was great to see that St John’s Primary School were clearly still engaged with Foundations for Farming, were still implementing their methods – with good results! Not only had students had been able to practice the national agricultural curriculum in successful gardens, but the gardens had been so efficient that the school was able to introduce a food aid programme, ensuring that every child would have access to one school meal a day. This means they can be sure children are well-fed enough to concentrate and get the most out of their education, so it was very exciting to see the full benefits of the garden being enjoyed.
Overall, the site visit to our partners in Zimbabwe was very informative – helping us to learn more about our partners and they work they are doing, but also to get to meet with some of the individuals, schools and communities we have been working with for the last five years and see for ourselves the incredible impact ZET is having, working together for education and prosperity in Zimbabwe.
If you would like to find out more about the visit, please do get in touch with us on 0113 386 2257 or firstname.lastname@example.org. If you would like to support our partners as they expand and continue to do fantastic work on the ground, you can do so at www.zimbabweeducationaltrust.org.uk/support-us.
All the best,
The ZET Team