School holidays - a time for fun and rest!

Fun fact: the education system in Zimbabwe goes year-round, with three 30 day holidays to give everyone a chance to rest, help out at home and see their families. Many high school students go to boarding school, so it's an important time for young people to connect with their families. 

Children at Kuda Vana look forward to school holidays as their older siblings return from high school, and joyful reunions between friends. Kuda Vana's high school students attend a variety of boarding schools based on their academic and emotional needs. 

Two of our high school girls attend a competitive high school in Harare - one wants to a doctor, the other a teacher. Their school takes annual trips to culturally significant spots on Zimbabwe and abroad, and this past school holiday they had the opportunity to travel to Nyanga National Park.  We thought you'd enjoy seeing photos from their trip! 

 J enjoys a view and some sunshine on a cool winter day

J enjoys a view and some sunshine on a cool winter day

 J and D are best friends - they have so much fun together in school. 

J and D are best friends - they have so much fun together in school. 

 Goofing around with friends from school

Goofing around with friends from school

 D enjoys participating in some traditional dancing 

D enjoys participating in some traditional dancing 

 J shares a smile on a hike to a waterfall

J shares a smile on a hike to a waterfall

Junior Achievement Success Skills Day

On June 19, Junior Achievement Zimbabwe held a life skills and entrepreneurship training for 28 teens living near or at the Kuda Vana Youth Transition Program site in Buhera. Participants included Kuda Vana young people currently in the Youth Transition Program, as well as members of the community. Junior Achievement (JA) is the world's largest nonprofit dedicated to inspiring and preparing young people to succeed in a global economy.

The goal of the program was to equip each young person with the skills to generate income as small business owners, and to ensure they have a solid understanding of how to manage their finances.

The day began with an overall assessment of where each young person was at in terms of their existing skill sets and confidence levels. The baseline testing measured knowledge and skills such as business planning, financial statements, saving and investing, stress management, problem solving and communication. The training then focused on the skills gap identified.

 Ice breaker and team building games helped warm everyone up for the day. 

Ice breaker and team building games helped warm everyone up for the day. 

Because many of the young people participating have experienced significant trauma and setbacks in their lives, many of them identified as having low-confidence and resilience levels. Thus, JA spent the first part of the day focused on soft skills, an essential component to be successful in life, at school, and at work! The morning focused on fostering personal development such as work ethic, decision-making, effective communication, self-awareness, confidence and team work. This personal development work set a firm foundation for learning about entrepreneurship and launching a small business. 

JA encouraged participants to use innovative thinking to learn business skills that support positive development. The group formed a "Company" that will launch a business enterprise with the potential of job creation and sustaining their needs. They elected Company officers, including a President, Director of Marketing, Finance, Human Resources and Production. In fact, Kuda Vana's own Blessing and Lovemore were chosen as President and Director of Marketing respectively! 

 Kuda Vana's Lovemore (far left) and Blessing (third from left) pose proudly as Company officers! 

Kuda Vana's Lovemore (far left) and Blessing (third from left) pose proudly as Company officers! 

The young people had to identify a need in their community and come up with a product or service to meet that need.  As part of their business plan, they were also encouraged to use a part of their profits to benefit their community and assist other disadvantaged or vulnerable people. Learning to give back is an essential component to success. 

Ultimately, the group decided on launching a chicken business, which will sell eggs and stationary at the local school. Each young person agreed to contribute $1.00 towards the enterprise. JA will monitor and support the new Company with monthly visits to ensure the new business venture is a success. 

We are so excited for this new partnership, which gives our young people real-world skills that will propel them to self-sufficient adulthood! 

 All smiles at the end of a long, productive day with JA! 

All smiles at the end of a long, productive day with JA! 

 

 

 

Appreciating Moms on Father's Day

 Giving little M a bath

Giving little M a bath

When you are family to the fatherless, being a father-figure is an important job. Uncle William, Kuda Vana's Director, Uncle Davis our Administrator and Uncle Knowledge, our Assistant Administrator all act as mentors and father figures to the children at Kuda Vana Children's Home. They are there to listen, guide, discipline and love each child as if they were there very own, while also running the daily operations of Kuda Vana. 

This past Father's Day Uncle Knowledge decided to take the meaning of being a dad to a whole new level - by taking on a bunch of tasks our amazing Mamas do every day! 

Uncle Knowledge spent the day learning to cook a meal, washing and changing babies in the nursery, tending the garden and much more. 

 

"What I did today helped me understand more how important all of the Mamas, my mom and my future wife are. "

We are grateful for Knowledge and all of the other father figures at Kuda Vana! 

 Playing with kids on campus

Playing with kids on campus

 Knowledge waters the family gardens

Knowledge waters the family gardens

 Cooking a meal under the supervision of a Mama

Cooking a meal under the supervision of a Mama

 Learning to change a smelly diaper

Learning to change a smelly diaper

A typical evening at Kuda Vana...

 House 4 tries to get a good photo together on their veranda. 

House 4 tries to get a good photo together on their veranda. 

One of the highlights of visiting Kuda Vana Children’s Home is sharing family dinners and worship with each of the houses. I had the privilege of joining House 4 several times. Below is a typical evening at any of the four houses at Kuda Vana. 

When you run a house with ten children ages three-16, routine is of the utmost importance. Each evening, Mama Nomsa of House 4 serves a traditional dinner of Sadza (stiff grain porridge made from maize that is the staple carbohydrate food in Zimbabwe), greens and a side of scrambled eggs with tomato or meat at 6pm. The older children help in meal preparation and clean-up. I had my first experience eating Sadza without utensils (it is traditionally eaten with the fingers, and used to scoop up the rest of the meal), and was fairly proud when I didn’t make a giant mess. 

After the meal is eaten, every child pitches in to clean up and the family gathers for evening worship at 7pm. The children take turns leading out in song service, which they all enthusiastically participate in. Tonight, it was Vaidah, the eldest, who stood in front of the family and lead a chorus of songs that even I recognized – “Peace Like a River,” “Jesus Loves Me,” “Deep and Wide.” This was particularly poignant to me, given that earlier that day Vaidah had bravely shared the story of house her and her four siblings had come to Kuda Vana under incredibly tragic circumstances. 

Afterwards, Toastmaster style, Vaidah introduced her sister Videline to give the opening prayer, followed by 11 year old Blessed who gave the evening’s devotion. Blessed read from a primary devotional book titled “Hiking With Jesus”, which offers short allegories that teach important life lessons and point to Christ. Tonight the story was about the amazing Loofah sponge and its many uses – how even as a dead creature it offers a superior way to cleanse our bodies. God provides for us in so many ways! The children read from the Bible and learned about how God can cleanse us not just of the dirt on the outside, but our sin on the inside. 

After the devotion, each child was asked to share what they personally learned from the story. Rose said that she felt like the problem with sin was, unlike dirt, you didn’t always know it was there, and she was glad that if she asked for forgiveness Jesus could show her the sin and make her clean. Prayer and more songs followed, and then household announcements closed the evening. Each child shared something about their day, or mentioned a problem they were having with a sibling so that Mama Nomsa could talk about it with them. Even the three and four year olds participated, and sat quietly through the entire family worship. 

Participating in this special family time was a highlight of my time here – it is so evident that these children are growing to be responsible, caring individuals that love God and others. 

- Tara Petersen 

 House 4 gets ready for family worship in their living room. Little V really needed a tissue! :) 

House 4 gets ready for family worship in their living room. Little V really needed a tissue! :) 

Growing Food, Growing Skills

Summer is quickly approaching in the United States, which means if you have a garden, chances are you've begun planting in anticipation of a juicy summer tomato or a giant zucchini. Zimbabwe has a temperate enough climate that even in winter, which is approaching now, we can grow a variety of crops in our family gardens to supplement the food we purchase and provide a healthy diet for each child. Winter crops include leafy greens, cabbage, onions and peas. 

Each group home and family has a garden plot that helps supplement their diet. Every member of the family helps with watering, weeding, planting and harvesting. This helps ensure that our children know how to care for their own gardens one day, an essential skill in a country with chronic food shortages. 

 Kuda Vana's Maize crop did well this year! 

Kuda Vana's Maize crop did well this year! 

Without reserve, every family garden contains Kavo, a leafy-green that is utilized in almost every meal. Beyond this, the sky is the limit! Mama Ana in House 1 loves Pawpaws and they have planted several Pawpaw trees in their garden which are now blooming with soft yellow flowers and coming close to bearing fruit. Their garden also includes orange and yellow-gold marigolds for beauty and bug control around their garden’s perimeter.

Mama Josie in House 3 has a real green thumb, and their garden plots extends further than any of the others. In the summer months, they grow red hot peppers, potatoes, acorn and butternut squashes along with Maize and a variety of flowers, including purple climbing clematis and red geraniums.

 Many of our houses express their personality by creating small sidewalks and flower beds off their front porches.  

Many of our houses express their personality by creating small sidewalks and flower beds off their front porches.  

House 4 was the last of our houses to be built, and so their garden is still the smallest but little Videline is determined to change that. She is proud of the small strawberry seedlings she has growing, and has a plan to plant tomatoes, potatoes and Maize next year. 

 Videline from House 4 stands before the small garden plot they have big plans for

Videline from House 4 stands before the small garden plot they have big plans for

The children at Kuda Vana are not only learning skills that will help them provide for themselves and their families in the future, they are also learning to appreciate the wonderful ways in which God provides for us through proper care of the garden.  

 Hot Peppers, Marigolds, Squash and Kavo grow well in this family garden plot

Hot Peppers, Marigolds, Squash and Kavo grow well in this family garden plot

A friend, a miracle

This post, and the accompanying photos, is written by one of our student missionaries, Keelia Trively. Kuda Vana is working hard to ensure our young people have the skills to become self-sufficient adults, which is why we are so excited about the opportunity N has to learn a skill to support herself. True to our name (Kuda Vana means "Loving Children" in Shona, our goal is for every child to know that they are cherished and loved, just as they are. It warms our hearts to see this happening! 

"One of our girls, I will call her ‘N’, recently turned 15! She is such a sweet and strong girl and is very hard working. N has been going into town lately to work with a cosmetologist and learn how to do manicures and pedicures, and she is loving it! It’s so fun to see her in her slacks and dress shirt and her trusty notebook where N and her boss make notes on procedures and homework.

 When she smiles, it lights up the whole room. 

When she smiles, it lights up the whole room. 

N has had an extremely difficult past, which includes sexual assault. But when you talk to her, you’d never think she went through that. She is so happy and loving and her laugh just makes your heart so happy! On her 15th birthday, she led singing at church, and when we sang her Happy Birthday, she started crying when she said her best friend was her Momma [The main caregiver in each group home is known as a Momma]. Some of the other kids weren’t nice to N when this happened, but the Aunties and I started getting teary eyed knowing how much having Momma as her best fried meant to N. This shows just how good it is for these kids to actually live in a home with a Momma.

 N (far right) with her family and her Mama (Far Left) 

N (far right) with her family and her Mama (Far Left) 

 N snuggling the youngest member of the family

N snuggling the youngest member of the family

It has been such a privilege and an honor to get to know these kids that God truly has been blessing. Before coming here I really wasn’t sure if I believe miracles happened anymore, but after meeting these kids and seeing how they still love and care for others regardless of what they have gone through, it’s been proof to me that God still works miracles." - Keelia Trively

 N shares some laugh's with friends

N shares some laugh's with friends

It's Employee Appreciation Month!

OK, actually Employee Appreciation Day was March 2nd, but we appreciate our staff so much that we wanted to make it last! Our team is truly the heart and soul of our organization, especially the Mama's who care for up to ten children in their homes and love them as if they were their own. 

Mama Kuziwa has been with Kuda Vana for more than two years and came to us after another orphanage closed because it did not meet government standards. Her commitment to children is embodied in her choice to stay on to care for the children there, even after there was no money left to pay her. When she came to Kuda Vana, several children who were there came with her. Mama Kuziwa loves and parents ten children, ages 2-18, in House 2. She has four grown children of her own. 

What do you love most about your job?

I love caring for the children and giving them guidance, helping to mold their lives and shape their future. I want them to have the best start like any child - I don’t want them to feel neglected or disadvantaged. I want them to feel like I am their real mother and know they are loved. 

What is the hardest part of your job? 

I’m trying hard to teach our children, especially the older ones who were abused when they were younger, that their bodies are the temple of God. We have to change the cycle of abuse here. I also want to help them take advantage of the special time they have here, and to take their education seriously. I don’t want to let them forget how blessed they are to be here. 

How do you work to create a family? 

When we are here in our home, we forget about everything else, where we came from, what our stories are. Now we are a family, even though we have different backgrounds and last names. We are brothers and sisters. Now, even if an older child in this house hears a baby outside crying, they will go to them, just like they are siblings. I’m so glad that we’ve been able to build that for them here. They are developing mentally, emotionally and we are a family. We are connected together forever. 

Why do you work for Kuda Vana? 

There is a huge difference between Kuda Vana and the orphanage I was at before. The children there had terrible behavior. Here at Kuda Vana, we are teaching them discipline, and they understand consequences. I think it’s because this place is managed so much better, and the mamas truly care. We all have our own kids, so we treat them like our own children. In the future, they will remember “Mama used to do this, say this; she guided me.” They may not know it now, but they will know later. 

Is there anything else you’d like to say? 

I’m so grateful to the people in the U.S. and other countries who are helping our children. This will change their lives. They had a terrible future and now it is brighter. Jeremiah 29:11.

House 2 Best.jpg