Update From Our Director
As this year comes to a close, I'm pleased to share the good news on what we accomplished together. It’s the support of donors like you that make all of this possible.
Since my last newsletter, Zimbabwe has gone in and out of COVID lockdown a handful of times. Despite the closures, we are happy to report that all of the children have remained healthy and that the Center has been open for full programming since September.
The wonderful news is that vaccines are now widely available in Zimbabwe, meaning that 100% of our staff is now fully vaccinated. We hope to host a vaccine clinic when COVID vaccines become available to children under 16.
The following program updates provide an overview of the many ways the work we do at Zara continues to serve children and their families in Emganwini.
Computer Coding Partnership
- We are thrilled to announce our new partnership with Uncommon Coding to provide computer coding instruction to our children. Uncommon conducts its programs in solar-powered "innovation hubs", made out of recycled shipping containers. We were excited to be able to offer our property for construction of Uncommon's first innovation hub in Bulawayo. We are so pleased with the beautiful design and the training we now can provide for our community. (see photo below).
- Five of our alumni (ages 19-24) are currently enrolled in Uncommon's coding bootcamp. In exchange for the bootcamp, our alumni will teach our younger kids to code. In this way, all of our children will have the opportunity to learn invaluable tech skills that will prepare them for the 21st Century workforce. A priority now is to identify US and UK-based companies interested in hiring our coding graduates to work remotely. We are grateful that we live in a time when this dream is entirely possible.
- In a country where only 4% of young children are receiving a minimum acceptable diet [UNICEF], we are pleased to report that 98.5% of our kids are at a healthy weight. Those who are underweight are being closely monitored.
- In 2021. Zara's Center served over 20,000 home cooked meals when the Center was open for to-go or in-person meals. During COVID closures, Zara provided monthly food distributing emergency food hampers, containing:
- 11,819 lbs of Maize Meal
- 283 gallons of Cooking Oil
- 590 lbs of Dry Beans
- 2,364 lbs of Sugar
- 590 lbs of Soy Protein
- 2,364 lbs of Rice
Access to both traditional and new modes of learning is critical for our children. With over 1,500 books in our lending library, new computers, and an expansion of our job readiness programs, we are working to cover all of our bases, even during these challenging times. For example:
- To mitigate lost learning due to covid school closures, we purchased 50 chromebooks, 150+ new library books, and 125 solar lights (for the kids to use at home). The learning resources are set to arrive soon.
- The Center paid school fees for all children (during trimesters when schools were in session) and exam fee costs for young adults and alumni.
- We supported four alumni attending university by providing 100% tuition and transportation coverage.
- We are proud that two of our alumni, Peacemaker Ncube and Ayama Dube, graduated from university in November. Ayama graduated with a first class degree in Quantity Surveying and Peacemaker with a honours degree in Finance.
Physical and Mental Health Support
Zara’s team forges deep connections with our children’s caregivers and also identifies community partners that generously share life-protecting resources. We're proud to report that:
- Staff conducted regular home visits to ensure the children’s well-being. Home visits were especially important during COVID closures in order to maintain open communication with children and caregivers.
- Zara's Center provided annual check-ups for each child through a partnership with a local doctor.
Thank you for taking the time to learn about just a few of our accomplishments over the past year. We are endlessly grateful for the support of our donors around the world - and could not do any of this without you.
On behalf of the children and families we serve, I wish you a happy holiday season.
Gibson J. Connick
Executive Director, Zara's Center