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Zara: A lifeline for orphans in Bulawayo

Situated in Emganwini area along Nketa drive, some 200m before Emganwini Supermarkert is an orphanage called Zara, an acronym for Zachary and Rachael, two Jewish children who thought of setting up a place where children could play freely.


The orphanage offers a safe haven for children orphaned by HIV and Aids and other vulnerable children around Bulawayo aged between five and 18 years.

The centre is registered as Zara’s Centre Trust in Zimbabwe to cater for the country’s orphans.

Most of the children at Zara’s centre have lost one or both parents and need support.

According to Gibson Connick, the centre’s executive  director, “Zara started its operations at Nketa, at a Baptist church, then moved to a permanent home in Emganwini Township in 2013, where it quickly registered 80 children. Currently Zara provides services to 125 children. The local community has embraced Zara centre and there is a waiting list for registration.

“The need is so big at Emganwini centre. Children bring their birth certificates for registration after which we go and assess the situation at their homes before considering them for admission. Even those children with both parents or whose parents have been rendered jobless are considered, depending on the degree of vulnerability,” Connick said.

“At Zara, we provide schoolchildren with breakfast before they go to school, a hot meal after school and a hot meal each weekend. The children attend schools such as Emganwini primary and secondary, Senzangakhona, Nkulumane high School, Samathonga at Hlekweni, Ngonyama primary School and Rangemore. We also provide them with academic enrichment, tutoring, computer instructions, internet access when doing research  for home work and we promote a culture of reading. We pay their school fees or facilitation of third party payment, recreation, supervised plays and monthly birthday celebrations. We also teach them the arts like playing marimba, dance, both modern and tradition and life skills such as gardening.”

Connick further said the centre had good relations with the entire community where members of the community regularly volunteered their time to assist the centre.

He said the community also donated items for children and the centre also invested in wider communication through resource sharing and outreach by sharing water as the centre has the only borehole in the area.

Connick said Zara boasted of an extensive library which the community had access to. It has over 1 500 books, including all current public school textbooks and a photocopier. The centre also offers the only internet and computer access in the area and has shared space with other community members preparing for public exams.

Connick said: “We have got a marimba band which performs at local homes for the elderly to boost the spirits of both the elderly and children and last year we bought school shoes for all the children. Last week we gave children and the elderly hampers as Christmas gifts. We also provide guidance on wide-ranging topics, including school registration and how to acquire birth certificates. We also give them traffic safety lessons and help them to get drivers licences.”

Connick said they had plans to apply for a piece of land to do agricultural activities such as poultry production, gardening, orchard, including basic welding to cater for those who reach 18 years, with nothing to fall back on.

One of the community members, Sinanzeni Ndlovu said: “We are very grateful to Zara, especially for helping the Emganwini community out of all the communities in the country and coming in during this time of need. It has gone a long way in uplifting the standard of living for both the elderly and children.”

“It is a noble idea and a positive one, considering the high rate of unemployment and the challenges brought about by HIV and Aids in the country’’ said Phelela Masuku, Member of Parliament for Nketa Mganwini constituency.

He said Bulawayo city council should be ready to assist because the centre was doing the job on their behalf since there were no recreational facilities in the area.

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