The Shinga Children’s Village and Farm is giving Zimbabwe’s HIV/AIDS orphans hope for a proper start in life

HIV/AIDS has decimated Zimbabwe’s population and left hundreds of thousands of orphans.The Shinga Children’s Village and Farm, near Mutare, east Zimbabwe,offers a home for the area’s orphans, and will eventually take up to 30 children aged 18 months to 18 years. Many of thesewould have faced a desperate future, but now have a safe, caring environment, where they can hope for a stable childhood, go to school and to get a proper start in life.

A million and a half AIDS orphans

Zimbabwe has one of the highest figures of people affected by the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Africa, a recent report showing that 1.5 million Zimbabweans aged 15 to 49 are HIV positive. This has left 1.6 million orphans, many of whom are left to roam the streets, or taken in by grandparents, who did not have the money or ability to care for them. Over 150,000 of these orphans are infected with HIV, and because of their symptoms are ostracised as people believe they are bewitched.

Shinga Children’s Village and Farm

In 2000 Margaret Makambira and her husband set up the Shinga Development Organisation (SDO) to offer educational, vocational and nutritional support for orphans from villages near Mutare. After her husband’s death, Margaret continued to support orphans and set up a Children’s Village and Farm, which takes in referrals of orphaned children from the local authority. The first‘children’s house’ in the village is now full of children and their carers. Work is set to begin on the second ‘children’s house’, until the village reaches total capacity of about 30 children.The SDO also runs a farm, and uses its livestock and vegetables to feed the children and carers.

Learning to smile

The first child to arrive was 10-year-old Tatenda, who suffered a history of abuse, including physical beatings, burnings and sexual assault. She is now settled and attending 1st Grade Secondary School. The second child was 19-month old Junior, HIV positive and suffering from malnourishment. When he arrived he weighed 6kg. He now weighs 7.5kg, is learning to crawl, and has started to smile and to play with toys.

Long-term plans

The orphanage has started to exchange visits with children from another orphanage about 30 kilometres away, so the children can learn from, and play with each other. In the long term the SDO wants to establish a training centre to equip the orphans, and other children living in the community, with life skills. They intend that the children will in high school, and then go on to college and become professionals.