HE can be fittingly described as one of the many unsung heroes upon whom the public limelight, which makes many a man content, rarely shines.
But among family, friends, colleagues and partners in the vision, he is no ordinary man.
He shrugs off the nettings of fame. He is more comfortable with being described as just a vessel through which a greater power from high up makes life for those in the fringes of society worthwhile.
While many people, caught up in the trappings of this world, would rather establish their illustrious careers and lead a life of comfort and success determined by the material opulence they accumulate, Moosa Kasimonje opted for a life whose success is reflected through the successes that children from underprivileged backgrounds score.
The founder and executive director of the Just Children Foundation (JCF), Kasimonje, who insists that he owes to God all that he had achieved through the foundation, heeded the divine call to work with disadvantaged children.
“In 1969, I told my late mother that when I grew up, I wanted to be a priest or a pastor, and my mother said that was a good idea. But with the passage of time, I forgot about it and lived in the world just like any other young man,” he said.
But, as it was to emerge later, this was too strong a call to resist. Years later, the vision to resurface in Kasimonje’s mind, strengthening his conviction. He had no illusions about what he was about to commit his heart to.
How many would be prepared to give up what matters most in their lives to dedicate themselves to children who have no one to care for them? Kasimonje is one such man who sacrificed all that he had to take such a bold step.
“I was in business then, take–away business. I later sold the business and relocated. In the process, I was also trying other business ventures but I believed I had a call from God to work with children,” he said.
In 1996, he worked as a volunteer with the Harare Street Children Organisation, which provided food and shelter to children living in the street through its Drop–in–Shelter.
He said: “The vision I had was to work with the children, go back to my business and come back to feed the children. But as the vision got clearer and clearer, I understood that I had to start my own organisation from St. Luke’s Anglican Church in Greendale.”
When he established the JCF two years later, it superseded the Drop–in–Shelter. The major difference between the two, Kasimonje said, was that the JCF was a Christian organisation run by a board of Christian leader chaired by Reverend Tim Neil of the Anglican Church.
But the road, right from the outset, had not been easy; the typical journey of believer on a narrow, steep and winding path strewn with thorns. In the beginning, Kasimonje recalled, it was extremely difficult for him to walk in his vision.
Yet while somebody would have easily thrown in the towel, Kasimonje did not despair, even after the organisation had at first been denied registration. Instead, he went into retreat and prayed to God, whom he said revealed to him that he had to appeal not to man but to God.
“I struggled for a long time and it was really hard but I believed God had called me and he would help. I was inspired by Jeremiah 29.11, which reads ‘For I know the plans I have for you, declared the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future’,” he said.
From then onwards, Kasimonje said doors started opening everyday and each time he wanted something, he appealed to God, after which people started coming in to join and support the foundation.
“The members of staff we had then did not have any training in counselling. We sent them to get the training so that they could effectively work with children coming into the foundation,” he said.
Kasimonje, who is a family man, said it is difficult for him to refer only to his biological children as his children.
“All these children who are here (at the organisation) are my children,” he said, referring to the children under his care, all of whom affectionately call him Baba.
He also said that although the foundation had a capacity of accommodating 15–20 children (it has since grown phenomenally), it currently holds about 53 children with ages ranging from six to 16.
Kasimonje added: “But we continue to take in more children because the socio–economic problems being experienced in the country are forcing children into the streets in droves. They need assistance.”
Most of the children at the foundation are referred there by the police and Department of Social Welfare. When they take in the children, they also trace the children’s backgrounds to establish the roots of their problems. They also try to find alternative homes for the children in line with their vision – ‘God set the lonely in families’.
For all the successes that the foundation has recorded since the beginning, Kasimonje says, it was the hand of God that made it possible.
He said child abuse was rampant in the country and it was his prayer that more organisations would emerge and team up with the government to play a significant role in curbing the mushrooming social cancer of children living in the streets.