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don't want to see a child suffering: Interview with Sister
May 02, 2012
with Sister Mercy Mutyambizi
Orphans are so often
the forgotten members of our society, relegated to lives on the
outskirts of society characterised, by second-hand clothing, cheap
cuts of meat (if they are that lucky!), minimal education and little
access to other opportunities in life. It may be that we believe
so little in the potential of orphans that we tend to invest so
little in their futures. Reverend Sister Mercy Mutyambizi, founder
of Shungu Dzevana Trust, home to 464 children (at the moment), has
dedicated her life to giving orphans in Harare a fighting chance
at a better future. As she puts it, "To respect a human being,
we have respected God".
think that there is a culture of social responsibility in Zimbabwe?
We lack social responsibility in our country that is the truth of
the matter. As Shungu Dzevana Trust, we approached a lot of organizations,
but did not see many positive responses; maybe one or two companies,
maybe after 2 or 3 years. These days everybody has got an excuse
of the economic hardships. "The companies are struggling,"
"We don't even have salaries," "We are about
to close down," or "We are retrenching." These
are the answers we get most of the time. But you read in the newspapers
their audit reports and you see the profits they have made, and
what they say has gone to social responsibility. But when we come
together in the circles of social work, no one will be saying, "I
have received so much from this company" so, for me, there
is a lack of social responsibility in our country or in our people.
think that people's perceptions of orphans' affects how they help
your organisation and how much they care about the work that you
People don't regard the orphans as people that are capable of doing
something in life yet here at Shungu Dzevana Trust, we have a mining
engineer who's working in Howe Mine - he did his Mining Engineering
at the University
of Zimbabwe. We have mechanical engineers, (about three of them)
- two who are now overseas, and married; we have 16 nurses who have
graduated through this place; we have 15 teachers who went through
formal training in a teachers' college in Zimbabwe. Most of these
people whom I'm talking of - we took them from the streets. They
were living a street life because of being orphans. We have so many
children who have passed through our hands who are doing different
works and who have different diplomas. Some are electricians, plumbers,
and mechanics. When we want our car to be fixed, we call one of
ours; and if it has electrical problems, we call one of our children
who passed through here. And we also have a lot who were not that
sharp at school, but they did dressmaking, interior decorating,
and they are making a living from that. We have a lot of boys and
girls who did blacksmithing and they are making a living from that.
Some are married, some are not, but they are making their living.
From April 1992 when this organisation started, we have graduated
97 children to date, and we are very happy about that. We are proud
of them because they are able to look after themselves now. You
know it's just fulfilling to see a child whom you salvaged from
the streets with glue throughout his or her nose, and was very difficult
to rehabilitate, who is now a gentleman, putting on a suit and a
tie, but people never thought those children would be able to do
that. But it's just a way of thinking. We are all people of God.
It's us people who stigmatize people. But an orphan can be a CEO
tomorrow. An orphan can be a mining engineer; he's now a boss to
people who were brought up by both parents. So I always say lets
try by all means to regard them as people.
do these children come from?
When Shungu Dzevana started, most of the children came from the
streets of Harare. Then later, in 2002, the Department of Social
Welfare and the police as well, started giving us children who are
born and abandoned on the same day by desperate mothers. In 2003,
sometimes we would receive 3 babies in a day. On the 27th of February
this year, we were given a baby who was abandoned along Domboshawa-Borrowdale
Road. She was just a few hours old when she was brought here. Most
of the children who are maybe 11-12 now, were abandoned from the
day or birth, without being cleaned by the parent, with their umbilical
cord hanging like this (gestures). They survive through antibiotics
from the local clinic. Some died, some survived. I think we were
most of time seen at Granville cemetery, KuMbudzi uko, burying the
children. It was very, very painful because these were innocent
souls. It's not right, hah? But there is nothing we can do.
We have to take care of God's people.
us about yourself and your journey to Shungu Dzevana
I'm a Catholic nun as you see. My background made me start
this organisation. My parents separated when I was 3 months old.
I didn't stay with them. My grandmother brought me up. She
was very nice and loving. Our grandmother was a staunch Catholic.
And I think that is why I have my roots in my church, and no one
will shake me from the Catholic Church. A lot of people were coming
in my grandmother's house, for food and clothes, but this
is how we grew up. And I was so close to my grandmother that my
uncles ended up like my brothers. And even up to now I always say,
"I wish my grandmother was here today to see what I am doing
now." And also my father, he was looking after a lot of people
in his house, sending them to school, giving them food, buying them
clothes, housing them. Walking this journey, I had a loving grandmother,
but I did not experience my parent's love, and it pained me
so much. But it was also an advantage, because I was brought up
well. And I know, even if I didn't choose this vocation, I
think I was going to be a very good wife. But my grandmother was
very happy to see me responding to my vocation, which helped me
so much to look after these children. Whenever I saw the children
in the streets and I sat down and talked to them, their cases were
similar to my case, and it pained me so much. I don't want
to see a child suffering. It's unfortunate that I don't
have enough to help the whole country, or the whole of Harare, but
I would love to do that. I've loved children since my childhood.
I realised that social work and dealing with children is really
where my vocation is.
us bit more about the daily needs and challenges of running the
Shungu Dzevana has got 464 children. We have a company who gives
us $4,000 every term, but I need $15,000 for school fees, without
examination fees, without college fees, without crèche. This
is from Grade One to Form Six. It's very difficult that the
children go to school, and stop before I finish paying the school
fees. I should have started paying the school fees for next term
now, but I don't have that money. We need money to pay salaries.
We have a piggery project
in Mhondoro, but the people whom we supply, give us low prices.
Now it ends up being like a hobby, because it's not benefiting
the children. We are asking for money to put up three to four green
houses so that if we start planting tomatoes, we know we will be
able to get something. We once had a green house here. It was giving
us a lot of money. We were able to pay salaries. Our last chicken
project did not produce much because they were stolen. For me, this
is livestock. And I know for livestock you go for 15 years in prison,
but the thieves are walking scot-free and they are still stealing
We want to start having
blacksmithing in Mhondoro, just to help free those boys and girls
who are just loitering around, or giving each other AIDS. We have
started a football club in Mhondoro, we have given some netballs
but the girls are not forthcoming. At least the boys are occupied.
They go and compete with other football clubs in Mhondoro, and they
are always winning. We are very proud of that. We want to do anything
to keep them busy, so that they don't think of doing other
things, which are bad practices.
dreams do you have for the future of Shungu Dzevana Trust?
My future dreams for Shungu Dzevana are big and vast! My first wish
is to get the land, which is across the road. I want this land because
I want to build a children's village, which will have about
15 houses with 5 bedrooms, so that every house will be hosting about
8 children. Just a normal house like everybody else, so that all
these children may grow up not feeling like they are in a home,
but in a family. So that they can have that family setup. My other
wish is to have a clinic at that village, which will help the children
in the village and people surrounding us. My third wish is to have
a school from Form One to Form Six. Our children will attend that
school, and other neighbouring children can come at a minimal fee,
so that everybody will be able to afford to go to school. Another
immediate priority is a truck and a bus, to ferry the children to
school, especially when it is raining or it's cold.
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