In April 2011, we started a new Zimkids group, our Seniors, young people who have been part of our program for years but had passed the age of 18. Over the years, they’d stayed in school because we’d provided them with the necessary fees. They’d stayed healthy because we’d provided them with food and medical care. And their world had expanded with trips around the country, weekend training programs, and new ways to think about themselves and their futures. They’d been trained in computers, leadership and planning. But that was not enough to provide them with futures.
The city of Bulawayo had given us several acres of land, and generous donors in the U.S. had contributed the money that would allow us to build our own home. The building project, we realized, could be the ideal opportunity to provide our young people with marketable skills. So we involved them in the planning, costing and construction of the center. Under the supervision of Dennis Gaboury, they received on-the-job training in bricklaying, concrete work, plastering, plumbing, solar installation, electricity layout and welding in the hope that they would become sufficiently skilled to find employment on their own. In order to encourage them, our Board of Trustees put together a pot of money to pay them small monthly grants to help with their subsistence for the duration of the building.
Three of those first trainees are now working at Zimkids, including one whom we sent for a special course that certified her in counseling. Two others have their own solar installation business and, on the side, train younger Zimkids in construction skills.
Since then, we’ve opened a preschool – and sent three of our older girls to a course that certifies them as Early Childhood Education Teachers. The building itself is being constructed by new trainees, supervised by several of our original building crew. And as we open our doors to paying children, all of our costs will be covered even as we continue enrolling orphans for free. ,
Several of our older boys have been trained in welding or automobile mechanics, which has really come in handy! And we even have two licensed nurses’ aides.
Our next step will be a Sewing Training Center, which our trainees have already constructed. The Center will train our young people in a skill that is actually marketable even in a country where jobs are so scarce that unemployment tops 90 percent. And our trainees will produce school uniforms to help move us toward sustainability.
The trainees are constantly busy designing and building furniture for our buildings – and we are now filling orders from clients impressed with their original work!
And, of course, ALL of our children, even our 3-year-olds, are active in our Computer Center, whether learning to type, or learning to fix machines, skyping with children from around the world, or playing games.