‘To the Ends of the Earth’
…Foundation spreading out wings
Over the past 10 years, the Just Children Foundation (JCF), which started off with just one office building – where the children under its care were also housed – has startlingly braved the socio–economic hardships that have become an unofficial anthem in Zimbabwe to spread its wings around the nation. Such an unprecedented economic meltdown has precipitated the closure of several other care–giving organisations that had since folded up.
But by the grace of God, JCF is still marching forward, giving a classic testimony that underpins the late Mr. Kas’ vision, denoted by Jeremiah 29.11: “For I know the thoughts that I think towards you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.”
The organisation came into being at The Shelter of Joy, which, riding on the foundation’s phenomenal growth over the years, has since been translated into its headquarters and administration centre. Located at 11 Luck Street in the Kopje area of Harare, it operates like the gateway into the organisation, a warm, receptive nest where physically, emotionally and psychologically bruised children are nestled back to life like nestlings. It is here that children – abandoned, lost, abused or trapped in grim circumstances beyond their control – are dropped in by individuals, the police and Social Welfare officers.
The new Executive Director, Pastor Philani Nyatsanza, remains upbeat about, and inspired with, their work: “Our greatest joy as the JCF is to see all vulnerable and needy children reintegrated with their families because we see it in our vision, that God sets the lonely in families.”
They might have scored phenomenal successes in restoring children, re–uniting them with their families or seeing them off into a successful future over the last decade, but Pator Nyatsanza harbours no illusions. He refuses to let the shining gains trap them into comfort zones. As far as he is concerned, the future is still beckoning.
“Even though we are celebrating our 10th anniversary, as a foundation we believe we have achieved a lot and looking ahead we believe there is indeed still much to be done so that we have a legacy for generations to come,” he said.
Faith and Hope Centre, a 9–acre farm located in the Old Snake Park at the outskirts of Harare, was the first off–shoot from the Shelter of Joy. It houses 55 children, some of whom attend school in Kuwadzana Suburb.
This centre, according to Pastor Nyatsanza, is their biggest, and plans are underway to construct housing units, each with a house parent looking after 10 children at most. They are looking at an estimated cost of US$13000 in the setting up of each unit.
The centre, which runs a thriving vegetable garden and animal husbandry project as well as the Bird of Paradise flower, will soon be on the market.
The organisation, sensitive to the needs of children far and wide, has refused to be limited to Harare, and has so far gone as far as Karoi, 204km from Harare, where the Come Unto Me Centre is located. The registered home has 69 children on its books.
Just like at the Faith and Hope Centre, Pastor Nyatsanza said plans are in the pipeline to work on the building and establish “individual housing units that will house 10 children each with a house parent.”
Meanwhile, negotiations with the Karoi Town Council are underway to have the land ceded to JCF so that construction work would start.
Another centre is located in Chikomba district, 210km from Harare. Although the children are under the care of their biological grandparents and others not related to them, JCF has come in to ensure that the children do not lose out on education.
Said Pastor Nyatsanza: “We run an education programme and care for 115 children at three schools…Some of the children are from child–headed families.”
He explained that they were also looking at opening an office there and bringing in a resident counselor to attend to the needs of the children.
The latest baby in the family, Rudo Centre, is a baby home. Situated in Chitungwiza, a dormitory town located 30km from Harare, this was an answer to a festering social cancer at Chitungwiza Hospital, where mothers were dying in hospital leaving behind their newborn babies, while others, confronted with the daunting challenge of motherhood unprepared, opted for the easy, convenient way out and dumped the babies to their fate.
“No one comes to claim these children because of fear of taking responsibility and as a result the children end up living in hospital,” Pastor Nyatsanza said.
In 2004, he added, they intervened and took seven children into their care, a feat of love they were to repeat again this year, when they took another five babies. It was against this challenging backdrop that they responded to yet another call from God that step into the situation and do something about it.
Pastor Nyatsanza said they have now purchased a house which they are currently renovating, and named Rudo (Love) Centre as a tribute to the supernatural, unconditional love of God, who is the Father of the fatherless.
Once operational, added the JCF Executive Director, the home would need critical amenities such as baby milk, cereals, linen and nappies, which will go a long way in addressing the challenge.
The foundation is also running an ambitious project in the Chikomba/Maware area, where they have 115 children under their co–fostering programme, and another educational programme throughout Zimbabwe where they continue to extend lifelines to children who had since been re–united with their family after spells under the foundation’s care.
“We assist them with food, school fees, uniforms and stationery,” Pastor Nyatsanza said.
The Executive Director also spelt out the foundation’s intentions to open yet another centre in Tynwald, Harare, which will specifically cater for survivors of abuse who had become mothers between the ages of 13 and 14. Currently, they are using it as a skills training centre in agriculture.
Pastor Nyatsanza believes that owing to their commitment to this ministry, they will take all the challenges as they come in their stride, as they are standing on “a solid foundation of faith”.