29 June 2010
Peaceful doesn’t describe the stunning location where Shadreck and his sister Primrose live.
Wild flowers are in bloom, butterflies and birds are in the air and the heat of the Zimbabwe sun is comfortably warm, yet not scorching on the back.
With rolling countryside, forested hills and views for miles, it’s an idyllic rural scene, the perfect place to grow up as children.
Perfect that is if you have parents to look after you, enough food to sustain you and a home to provide adequate shelter.
Shadreck and Primrose have none of these. Turn your view from the countryside to their lives and you see a 12-year-old boy and a 10-year-old girl facing a daily struggle for survival.
Tearfund is launching an appeal to help vulnerable Zimbabweans like Shadreck and Primrose, who are among the poorest of the poor. A power-sharing government has brought relative political stability to Zimbabwe and created an opportunity for the local church to step up its help to the needy.
The neediness of Shadreck and Primrose, who live in a village near Zimbabwe’s second biggest city Bulawayo, is obvious when you see their home.
Shadreck spends hours each day working. Photo: Eleanor Bentall/Tearfund
It’s a 100-year-old dilapidated thatched hut which has crumbling mud walls and holes in the roof crudely covered up with corrugated iron. Inside, a small wooden table laden with pots and pans is the only furniture.
Both their parents died from AIDS-related illnesses, their father in 2004, followed by their mother four years later.
No income means having enough food is a constant problem. They’ve become expert at making what supplies they have last as long as possible, so most days they eat just two meals.
Shadreck said, ‘We cook porridge in the morning, then sadza (a meal derived from maize) in the evening. So it will last longer, we don’t have lunch.
‘Yes, we feel hungry but there’s nothing we can do. We have been living with hunger since our mother died.’
Despite their young years, their lack of food is not through want of effort. In a small patch of land, they’ve grown some maize, a staple part of the Zimbabwean diet, but no rain at a key stage of the growing cycle means the plants will fail.
Shadreck, Primrose and Selhi outside their crumbling home. Photo: Eleanor Bentall/Tearfund
The old lady has failing sight and walks slowly with a stick but her mind is all too keenly aware of the family’s plight.
‘I have hope that God will protect us,’ says Sehli. ‘Yes the children are surviving but they need more food because they are always going short.
‘The building they live in is very old and is about to fall down. I’m afraid the children will be hurt.
‘Life was better when I was a youngster. I cannot walk or work for the children. Instead they are the ones working to look after me. It’s frustrating for me. I would like to be able to look after them.’
The children attend the Agape Missions Pentecostal church and, with support from Tearfund partner Zoe (Zimbabwe Orphans through Extended Hands) it is reaching out to the children and giving them physical and spiritual support:
• The church gives them a porridge called mealie meal, sugar beans, cooking oil and maize supplies once a month.
• Clothes are donated by church members to the youngsters and Primrose gets help to pay her school fees.
• Maize seeds have been given by local church volunteer Sellinah Farakeza who visits the children regularly to offer support. She taught them how to dig and plant the maize.
• Zoe is mobilising the local church members to help rebuild the family home.
There are thousands more orphaned children in need in Zimbabwe. Lack of rain at the start of this year has left many facing worsening hunger.
Tearfund is appealing for your support. Your generosity can enable our partners to help more people survive in a country where life expectancy is just 44 years.
The final word is with Shadreck, ‘We think God is good and is going to bless us. He has been our protector.’