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.

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The healing power of a friend

We wanted to share this latest excerpt from the blog of one our our student missionaries. These three young women have been friends, teachers, playmates and everything in between to the children on our campus, and we are so grateful for the year they've given to this cause. Friendship and trust takes time to build, but once it's built,, walls come down!

"One of our pre-teens has been having some very bad nightmares, and he hasn’t been sleeping or feeling good (go figure, I don’t think any of us would feel good having nightmares). He is one of our boys who doesn’t really open up to anyone about his past, and no one knows much about where he came from before he came to Kuda Vana. The Aunties and I have been praying about him and with him, and God gave me an amazing opportunity to talk to him one day.
We have a “tower” (one of our play equipment) and I noticed that he was doing his homework at the top. I waited a few minutes and then walked over there. I asked him if I could come up, because I didn’t want to push him or make him think he has to talk to me. He said I could come up, so I did, and we sat in silence for a while, so he could finish his homework. Once he finished, I asked him how he was doing and if he slept. He told me he did sleep, and he didn’t have a bad dream. I asked him if he remember any of his other dreams, and at first, he said no. So I changed the topic and we talked about something happy. When that conversation died off we sat in silence again. I wasn’t sure if he wanted me to leave, so I asked him if he wanted to get down and he said no, then I asked if he wanted me to leave or stay and he told me to stay. Then I asked if I could ask him some questions about his past and where he was before he came to Kuda Vana. At first, he didn’t seem to want to tell me anything, but he eventually told me a little bit. After he answered some more of my questions, I felt like it was getting to be too much, so I asked if I could pray with him. He let me put my hand on his shoulder and I prayed, and I could tell that he was crying even though he kept wiping away his tears with his shirt. Before I left I made sure to have a light and fun conversation, so he didn’t have to think about bad things all day. When I got back home I realized I had been sitting with him for over 2 hours. I am so proud of that boy for opening up, and I am so glad I got to be a part of that.
A few days after this Uncle Knowledge (our church and weekend activities coordinator) told us that the boy opened up to him about his dreams and about more of where he was before he came to Kuda Vana. I was so happy when I was told that! But this boy still has a long way to go to recover from the things he’s seen, in real life and in his nightmares, so please keep him in your prayers. Keep all these kids in your prayers." 
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Look Who's... Walking!

  Just after heart surgery in May 2017

Just after heart surgery in May 2017

Baby R* turns one today! One year ago she was another abandoned infant in Zimbabwe, and was not expected to survive. She was found by a policewoman and brought to the hospital, and it was clear something was very wrong.  Doctor's determined that she had Patent Ductus Arteriosus (PDA), essentially a hole in her heart. Corrective surgery was possible, but not without the money to do it. And there was no one to step forward and take care of Baby R.

                   The Birthday Girl

                 The Birthday Girl

Zimbabwe Social Services knew that we had recently opened a nursery, and brought her to us. We made an appeal to our supporters to help, and within a week her surgery was scheduled! At just three months old, Baby R underwent what few adults will ever have to experience. But this bright, sweet girl stunned us all and pulled through. She quickly recovered and was soon the princess of the nursery, as for quite some time she was the only girl. 

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Anyone who meets Baby R knows that she is special - her sweet smile and disposition captivate everyone. We are hopeful that one day she can be adopted - but in the meantime she has a family who loves her deeply at Kuda Vana. Some research shows that on average the country processes only 15 intra-country adoptions annually, out of the more than one million orphans in its borders. International adoption is not typically allowed. This is why supporting Kuda Vana and organizations like ours is so important. 

Baby R will have a chance at a bright future because of Kuda Vana's supporters - she is walking, talking, learning and laughing like any other one year old. Thank you for your part in investing in her future! Check out this sweet video of her takings one of her first steps! 

*To protect the privacy of our children, Kuda Vana does not use their names on the internet

A Sweet Partnership

Did you know that "Kuda Vana" means "Loving Children" in Shona? Show our kids (and your special someone) some LOVE this Valentine's Day and order a Bellafina Chocolates Special Edition Kuda Vana box of truffles featuring artwork from our children! 

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Bellafina Chocolates and Kuda Vana Partnership are pleased to announce a new collaboration to help orphans and abandoned children in Zimbabwe. This Valentine’s Day, Bellafina Chocolates is featuring gifts with beautiful artwork created by the children and 100% of profits benefit Kuda Vana Children’s Home. Gifts can be ordered online and shipped across the U.S. 

“It’s an honor to work with an organization such as Kuda Vana Partnership who is truly committed to loving and nurturing some of the most vulnerable children of the world,” said Brenda Barnicki, Founder and President of Bellafina Chocolates. “Supporting Kuda Vana is a natural fit with our mission to help threatened children and we’re thrilled to be a part of this endeavor.”

As Valentine’s Day approaches, Bellafina Chocolates will feature elegant artisan chocolate truffles in special edition gift boxes showcasing several paintings by children at the Kuda Vana Children’s Home.  Customers also have the option to select other personal or corporate gifts from across the Bellafina Chocolates website and can designate profits to benefit Kuda Vana Partnership.  Order online at www.BellafinaChocolates.com/kudavana

“One of my favorite things about Bellafina Chocolates is that 100% of profits are donated to charity,” said customer Martha Cole. “For me, it’s a feel-good gift to give and receive.”

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Our partnership was recently featured in the Tri-Cities Channel 11 news: you can watch HERE 

About Bellafina Chocolates:  Bellafina Chocolates is an artisan chocolate company whose sole purpose is to help threatened women and children around the world.  100% of all profits benefit charities helping children threatened by disease, poverty, abuse, or neglect.  The company is run entirely by volunteers, plus the paid positions added to help women recovering from addiction, abuse, or other personal struggles. Bellafina Chocolates truffles and customized corporate gifts are available online and in the Bellafina Chocolates Gift Shop at 123 Cherokee Street in downtown Kingsport, Tennessee.  More information about this two-time KOSBE-award winning company can be found at www.BellafinaChocolates.com.

 

Back to School!

January in Zimbabwe means it's time for school to start up again! The older children got their new school uniforms and are headed back to boarding school, and the younger students are geared up and ready for a brand new year at the Kuda Vana Home School. 

The Kuda Vana Home School currently provides PS – 8th grade education to our children. School is administered in two small classrooms on campus while we work to raise the funds to build a K-12 school just up the road. You can learn more about that project at www.kudavana.org/school-project.

Madam Esther, our 3rd-7th grader teacher, recently shared the following thoughts about the progress her students are making: 

“I had always known that orphaned and vulnerable children are exposed to a variety of economic, social, psychological and educational constraints. This extends to the classroom, where the common student ratio of 1:50 in Zimbabwe makes it difficult for a struggling student to have the individual attention they require. Additionally, many teachers look down upon such pupils because of their unknown background. More often than not, an orphaned child will be far behind from the expected educational standards.

I feel honored and excited to be a part of the Kuda Vana Home School as I have always wanted to prove a point that ‘being vulnerable or orphaned’ does not necessarily mean that you are different from anyone else and that you always have to be the last in everything. 

When I first started teaching, the children were very behind academically. They had lacked attention in public school, and you could easily see it by the way they longed to be loved and to be listened to. As a teacher, one should be able to give attention to the student in order to know their strengths and weaknesses and be able to help them address their challenges. 

The Kuda Vana Home School is proving beyond any reasonable doubt to be of great benefit to the students as we have small class sizes and the children are now improving and mastering concepts. It has brought tremendous positive changes to these children, and to my surprise, there are a bunch of intelligent pupils who were being looked down upon at the school which they used to go to.

As an example, I have been teaching our two 7th graders, D and V, to prepare them for their big exams this term. They were far behind, especially V. We worked tirelessly together, and I can’t even describe the way V has improved from one-on-one attention. The teachers looked down upon him at the school which he used to go to and had labelled him an under-achiever, but surprisingly during the mid-year exams he came out in 6th place at that same school and D was 1st respectively. This alone is evidence enough that Kuda Vana Home School has brought a bright turnaround for these children.

It is with my sincere appreciation that I want to express to whoever is supporting this school: you are building a bright and educated future for our children. I pray that God continues to bless you as it is written in ACTS 20:35 that it is more blessed to give than to receive.”

 Our primary students gather to sing songs on their first day of school

Our primary students gather to sing songs on their first day of school

 D (center) is starting boarding school this year, and was so excited about her new uniform!

D (center) is starting boarding school this year, and was so excited about her new uniform!

 This high schooler is ready to go! 

This high schooler is ready to go! 

 The first day of preschool for these three - what a big day! 

The first day of preschool for these three - what a big day!