TARIRO   JANUARY 2010

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It was lovely to visit Tariro House and find it flourishing. There are now nine full time residents: Edwin and Byrone who are both about 22, come from poor homes and provide a leadership and role model within the house; Jowett, Harry, John and Nelson who are in their mid teens and are orphans with tragic stories behind them; Terrence who is only 10 and whose mother died last year and two recent arrivals from St Augustine's, Penhalonga Chengetai and Tendai, both about 15. There is also Terrence's sister Belinda but as it is obviously not good for a single girl to live with a crowd of boys she has gone off to boarding school near Headlands.

It seems a happy house and each time I went the boys greeted me in a relaxed and friendly way. Carl, before he left, had clearly helped them to find a good way of living together. They are not perfect. The house has got a bit scruffy from teenage hands leaving marks on doors but they do keep most of it tidy. They take turns in cooking and if the food is pretty basic (Shona food always is) they have learned some useful skills of baking bread from Byrone. They have also supplemented their diet with vegetables from the garden. The first attempt at growing seems to have been remarkably successful: good tomatoes and corvu. I left them with more tomato, corvu and cabbage seedlings which I hope have been planted by now.

We discover problems as we go along. This time it was the sheer cost of schooling. The Government's promise of free schooling has never been a reality and is not now. Fees and uniforms cost us quite a bit, not least since John and Nelson couldn't get places in the local government school and so have had to go to a private establishment. Their expectations are not very high (one thought he had done well to get 27% for maths!) and they will need coaching and encouragement to make the most of this chance of education.

Chengetai and Tendai have a different problem. Despite seven years in what is supposed to be a good primary school they can barely read or write. We have yet to work out why. It may be simply due to low intelligence or it could be the chaotic life style of the Home they were in or trauma from having never known parents; it could be dyslexia, or it could simply be that the school was overcrowded (60 to a class) so that special needs could not be met. Now we must spend money on assessing their needs and then finding a way of meeting them.

At least the chickens have been a moderate success; moderate because they caught Newcastle illness over Christmas and about 15 died, which robbed us of the profit margin. But as I left, the boys were killing and plucking the 80 chickens, not a pleasant sight for a wimp like me but they are the fruit of a lot of hard work, particularly from Edwin who appears to know a lot about chicken rearing. We hope the next lot will make a profit. It is very good for the boys to grow vegetables and raise chickens and helps to give the house its creative atmosphere.

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One interesting fact: you may wonder why we only have one girl. Apparently destitute girls are much better catered for than boys by specific girl charities. That is good of course and reduces our potential problems.

There is room to expand the numbers in the House, perhaps to about 14 but for the moment we think it better to stay as we are and learn to do things properly and well. Also we need to find more money before we can take more youngsters.

Trustees and administration

There are seven trustees of whom Carl and I live here and the others in Harare. I met with the trustees while I was there. Phillip Mutasa is the Chairman of the trustees and he has a very hands on approach, visiting the house almost every day. He takes young Terrence into his own home at weekends to give him a break from teenage boys. Phillip is also the conduit of all the money I send since being an insurance broker he is well able to deal with it. The boys have to produce receipts for everything they spend.  

Mary Zhuwankinyu, as well as being a trustee, is responsible for the administration of the house. She is a trained social worker. Another lady, Bev Lawes, has taken on the book keeping and established careful procedures of accounting for money. The other three trustees are Dr Beata Tumushine, Fr Innocent Motsi and Mrs Tambu Mutasa.  

Penhalonga   Meanwhile Carl, before he left encouraged the CZR sisters at Penhalonga to get together a Tariro Group. Sr Elizabeth and Sr Annamore have got about 12 youngsters together. I met and photographed them all and they are really delightful. These young people lack at least one, and usually both, parents and are looked after mostly by grandparents who sometimes cannot afford to feed them, let alone get them into school. The Sisters help with feeding them and have got all of them into school (more school fees). We also bought them uniforms and basic books. The sisters are beginning also to sew their uniforms and as they get more skilled at this will teach the girls to do it themselves and hope to turn this into a profitable industry that will help the neighbourhood by providing uniforms at a reasonable price.

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Funding Money for Tariro in particular and our Zimbabwe work in general keeps coming in but having spent a lot on school fees etc, as well as the basic household expenses, we are going to have to raise more. People in England do like to sponsor children in need. Would you like to enquire among your friends, church groups, work places whether anyone, or any group, would like to do that? 5.00 a month will suffice to provide school fees and books for a child at Penhalonga (I can let anyone have details). About 10.00 a month is needed for the boys at Tariro House.

Sadness  Here is sad story that demonstrates the need. Two years ago the Government took  three children a boy and two girls from St Augustine's Home and forced their mother to take them back. She and her new husband live nearby. The children were so badly abused that the older girl went mad and is now in psychiatric hospital. The second girl has disappeared. The youngest child, a boy of about 12 called Revai, has just been discovered to have spent the past year living in a drain at the mission and scavenging for food in bins between St Augustine's and Penhalonga itself. The sisters are going to try and rehabilitate him. They will feed him each day and get him into school (I left money for that) and try and persuade the mother to give him shelter without abusing him. Sadly he already looks as if his year of rough living may have affected him for life but we must at least try to rescue a child of God. Sadly, too, there are thousands more like him.

Carl Melville Those of you who know Carl may know also that he is now happily settled into a placement in a parish in Handsworth near Sheffield. It is very much because of Carl that Tariro House and its offshoots got started and it was his work that produced much of the basic funding. So please do pray for him in his new work.                                                                                                                                              

Nicolas Stebbing CR