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! 

Pictures tell a thousand words...

We are so grateful for our "resident photographer and blogger" Keelia Trively, who keeps sending us beautiful photos and stories of her and the other Student Missionary's time at Kuda Vana Children's Home!

These photos of birthdays, hugs and smiles capture the spirit of family and love that is present every day in the lives of the children at Kuda Vana thanks to everyone who so generous gives to our work. Enjoy! 

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Kids can just be kids on Funny Day!

Kuda Vana's Funny Day is an annual celebration for our kids and staff to relax and have some fun near the end of the school year. Funny Day was Chitatu 12 Mbudzi 2017 (Wednesday 15 November 2017 for our non-Shona speaking friends). 

The Theme for Funny Day this year was "Together as One Family", and Uncle Davis kicked off the festivities with a reminder that even though we want to all do our best, everyone is still a family and we should support and cheer for each other as such. 

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Modeling "Sabbath Best"

Modeling "Sabbath Best"

Showing off traditional clothing

Showing off traditional clothing

Kuda Vana Children's Home is not your typical orphanage, and we are thankful that our supporters make it possible for each child to not just survive, but thrive (and giggle, and dance, and sing, and laugh!). 

The day began with a potato race (put a potato on a spoon and run!), frog jumping, sack races, three-legged races, running races and so much more. Each House also competed in an "Academic Bible Quiz" and were given 20 questions prepared by Madam Esther to see how much they've paid attention in family worships and Bible classes this year. 

Everyone loves to laugh at Kuda Vana, and so we actually had a Laughing Competition! Judging winners for that was especially difficult. A Clowning and Modeling Competition were up next, with categories in Best Dressed, Sportswear and Traditional. The day was finished off a Dancing Competition - can you imagine the giggles, wiggles and silliness? Prizes and a special lunch were part of this special Funny Day, where our kids could just be kids. 

What's more fun than a potato sack?

What's more fun than a potato sack?

Just clowning around

Just clowning around

Leap Frog across campus: the best way to get the wiggles out! 

Leap Frog across campus: the best way to get the wiggles out! 

         

November 13: World Orphans Day

According to a recent UNICEF report, there are more than 140 million children around the globe who have become orphaned for many reasons: war, famine, displacement, disease or poverty. To make sure that they are not forgotten, once a year there is a special day dedicated just to them: World Orphans Day, which falls on the second Monday of each November. This special day has been put in place in order to draw attention to the plight of the world’s orphans, and so on this day, people are encouraged to actively participate in helping raise awareness, support, and funding for motherless and fatherless children worldwide.

Orphaned children at Kuda Vana receive love and personal attention from our caregivers

Orphaned children at Kuda Vana receive love and personal attention from our caregivers

The History of World Orphans Day
The first people to officially care for orphaned children were the Romans, who opened the first orphanage in history in around 400 AD. Long before them, however, both Jewish and Athenian law required that orphans be supported until age 18. The great philosopher Plato once said, “Orphans should be placed under the care of public guardians. Men should have a fear of the loneliness of orphans and of the souls of their departed parents. A man should love the unfortunate orphan of whom he is a guardian as if he were his own child. He should be as careful and as diligent in the management of the orphan’s property as of his own or even more careful still.”

The Bible also calls for us to care for those who do not have parents. We are told to "Defend the cause of orphans" in Isaiah  and "Uphold the rights of the poor and the orphan" in Psalms. It is no accident then, that later, in Medieval Europe, orphans were cared for by churches. By the early 1900s, a number of orphans in England had reached truly alarming proportions, not to mention the conditions in which the orphaned children lived, which were often appalling and abusive. Charles Dickens’ most famous novel, “Oliver Twist”, depicts perfectly the hardships orphaned children had to endure in orphanages. Many modern orphanages still leave a lot to be desired, especially those who still have children in institutionalized settings. This is why Kuda Vana Partnership strives to provide our children with the most normalized childhood possible, where they are growing up in family units and receiving individual attention and love from their caregivers and teachers. Of course, a forever home is still the best option and where possible we seek adoption and foster care for each child. 

The children at Kuda Vana enjoy playing on our playground - an activity every child deserves

The children at Kuda Vana enjoy playing on our playground - an activity every child deserves

How to Celebrate World Orphans Day
There are a lot of ways to bring this issue to the forefront. Have conversations at home with your kids about the importance of family, and educate them about the plight of orphans around the world. Start planning to get your church or school involved in 2018 by participating in events like Orphan Sunday, sponsored by the Christian Alliance for Orphans. Have a family walk or fundraiser to raise money for a local or international nonprofit that cares for orphans. Or, sign up to sponsor a child with a monthly gift of $25 or more to Kuda Vana Partnership. 

Loving Children, Loving Africa

"Kuda Vana" means "Loving Children" in Shona, one of the many languages spoke in Zimbabwe. Keelia Trively, one of the student missionaries spending time at Kuda Vana Children's Home this year, wrote this poem about her experience in Africa thus far. We just had to share it with you, along with some beautiful photos she's taken of the children at Kuda Vana  just being kids! 


Loving Africa

Because I love you Africa,

I will teach you to speak

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English so one day you can

Leave your Shona tribe and be that

Pilot or that

Doctor or that

Firefighter or that

Policeman

You’ve always wanted to be.

 

Because I love you Africa,

I will spend hours tearing out my

Hair and crying out my

Eyes thinking of ways to get you to read.

Because once you do that I know

You will conquer the world.

 

Because I love you Africa,

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I will walk 30 minutes with a child on my

Hip just to get to the

Dam so you can swim and be

Happy because

I don’t know if your first family locked you in a

Dark

Closet and

I don’t know if this

Will be your

Last time seeing these waters.

 

Because I love you Africa,

I will run laps around our circle

Campus with a new

Ankle that throbs each time my

Foot hits our concrete path because

Your giggles and cheers for each other gives my

Heart wings and for a moment I soar to Heaven.

 

Because I love you Africa,

I will burn my fingers eating sadza because

You love when your Murungu auntie eats like you because

That proves that you are not less than anyone else.

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Because I love you Africa.

I will protect you until my dying day because

You are worth more than gold and silver and ruby and emerald and

Maybe protecting you will cause me to

Die but I will

Die knowing you know you are

Loved that much and so much more.

 

Because I love you Africa,

I will make a fool of myself by

Swaying my hips to the

Beat of your drums because

You love knowing you know more than me and,

Let’s be real,

You do.

 

Because I love you Africa,

I will tuck you in at night and kiss your forehead because

I want the last thing you

Think to be of how much

You are loved because

No matter what your first family put you through

That’s all that matters.

 

Because I love you Africa,

I will pray for all your children by

Name even if

It takes me an hour because

I know that God created each one of you for such a

Unique purpose and I

Can only stand in amazement as I

Watch you accomplish that

Purpose.

 

Because I love you Africa,

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I must leave you so you can

Soar past the

Shadows of the mountains we

Live in so you can

Make this world a better place.

 

My Africa,

You have taught me the meaning of laughter and

That life is the best medicine for sorrows.

 

My Africa,

You took my hand and

Caused me to fly as high as the

Black birds and my soul remains there.

 

My Africa,

You stole my

Heart with your

Sweetest eyes and your

Heart of God and I

Do not want it back.

 

My Africa,

Though I know your stories of fear and pain and trial and suffering,

You are making new

Lives and it has been

Splendid being a part of those

Lives.

 

My Africa,

I’ve never known a love as thee.

Your drums are

The beat of my heart your rivers are

The veins of my body your love is

The center of my soul.

 

My Africa,

You have taught me what true love is:

The giving of one’s self for the betterment of someone else.

And it turns out when

I thought I was giving all of

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Me for the betterment of

You,

You gave me all of

You for the betterment of

Me.

 

And for that,

All I can say is,

I love you,

My dear Africa.

- Keelia Trively

A place to be loved

October is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, and we would like to honor one of our Kuda Vana children by sharing his memory with you.

Earlier this month, Social Services brought us a baby boy, thought to be just a two weeks old. Tragically, he had been found abandoned in a pit toilet. No one knows what caused his mother to have a change of mind after the birth of this blessing. It's believed that Max stayed with his mother for a week before being thrown down into the pit, because when he was found he was fully clothed. A passerby heard his cries and rushed to Max's rescue by hooking his clothing with some wire and pulling him out. He was then rushed to the hospital for medical attention before being brought to us. We cannot imagine the circumstances that would drive someone to throw away an infant, but unfortunately it is a reality that has been shared by many of the children in Kuda Vana's care. 

Max and Mama Gertrude snuggling together

Max and Mama Gertrude snuggling together

Little Max, as we called him, was brought to our nursery and loved and nurtured by our caregivers and the other children. Unfortunately, a week after joining us, Max developed an infection and was brought back to the hospital. Tragically, they were unable to revive him, and he passed away with a loving Mama at his side. He was buried in a local cemetery.

We share this sad story with you because without our supporters, Max would not have had the opportunity to be loved and cared for in the way he deserved for his short life

As his caregiver, Mama Progress says:

"Being thrown into the toilet was only a way of directing Max to his real home, Kuda Vana. Despite the bad things that happen, God has ways of showing that he is God all of the time. "

Max was the eighth infant to join the Kuda Vana family, and we are so grateful for the financial support that allowed us to build a nursery to care for these sweet babies and provide Max with a loving home. Signing up as a monthly donor is the best way to ensure Kuda Vana has the resources needed to keep our doors open to the children that need us the most. Thank you for your support! 

Perspective from the field

Kuda Vana Partnership is thrilled to have three Student Missionaries join us for the next year! Keelia, Kaylan and Carrie arrived in September and have been busy helping in the school and in a million other ways. Keelia writes a blog, and we thought you might like to hear her perspective and experiences on life at Kuda Vana. Enjoy! 

"So it’s October, which is weird. I’m going to miss Halloween and the pumpkin carving  and the costumes and the candy (probably a good thing I’m missing that) and the scary stuff and especially my dad’s chili. This week was fun and busy and very reflective for me. I had kids singing the Muffin Man song (how in the world did that cross the equator?), a game called Where’s My Cupcake (cupcake and frosting recipe included), our 7th graders starting their big exams, and there are a lot more spiders everywhere. 

Keelia in her 1st and 2nd grade classroom

Keelia in her 1st and 2nd grade classroom

Our 7th graders are feeling really good about their tests! These tests are to get them into secondary school (high school). The first week of tests are all multiple choice and the next week (which starts tomorrow) is all writing the answers and probably essays. Please keep them in your prayers! My kids (1st and 2ndgraders) come back in the afternoon most days and they either finish their work, write down their homework, or we play games. Monday we played Where’s My Cupcake, which ended up just being a matching game that used pictures of cupcakes. The kids seemed to really enjoy that, and they always ask me to play with them which makes me so happy. I don’t think any person, sane or not (obviously I’m not sane) would say no to these kids if they asked you to play a game with them.

On Tuesday Madam Jessie (one of our teachers here) told me a brief history of Zimbabwe. I learned that the word ‘Zimbabwe’ actually comes from a different word that means ‘built with soap stones’ because the men that built Zimbabwe (their forefathers) used stones to build homes so they could stop living a nomadic life. She also told me how clans were set up. Everyone in one clan was related, and they all lived together.

The most amazing thing happened, too. My kids who weren’t really able to read, ARE STARTING TO READ!!! I was so proud when they were reading words and putting sounds together and were starting to read a page or two of a small book. I am so proud of them, and I can tell they are proud of themselves which is so important.

I found my new favorite song here:

‘Bigger than all my problems, bigger than anything. God is bigger than any mountain that I can or cannot see. Bigger than all my questions, bigger than anything. God is bigger than any mountain that I can or cannot see. Bigger than all my shadows, bigger than anything. God is bigger than any mountain that I can or cannot see.’

I really love that song and what it means. God really is bigger than anything. I read a quote somewhere that said we should stop telling God how big our problems are, and start telling our problems how big our God is (my apologies to the owner of that quote because I don’t remember your name). I think about that a lot, not just here but when I was in the States, as well (the quote, not forgetting the author’s name). How many times have I let my problems, how many times have I let Satan, scare me into believing he is bigger than my God? Have you ever done that? I want to be the kind of woman who the Devil is scared of, and that can only happen when I can look at him and tell him how big my God is (because let’s be real, our God is beyond big and beyond imagination and beyond everything)." - Keelia

Yes He is! We at Kuda Vana are so grateful for our Student Missionaries, and look forward to continuing to share their experiences with you!