Rev. J. B. Jardine
An important part of the work of the Mission in Zimbabwe is to provide for orphans and abandoned children, according to Psalm 146:9: “The Lord preserveth the strangers; He relieveth the fatherless and widow”.
Thembiso Children’s Home is situated in the district of Luveve on the outskirts of Bulawayo. It was founded in the 1970s, through the instrumentality of Mr Jan van Woerden, with funding from Holland. It is a privately registered children’s home, owned and operated solely by the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland. It can house 54 orphaned and vulnerable children from birth to 16 years of age. A new Youth House, for young people between the ages of 16 to 18, is now connected to the Children’s Home. There are currently 33 children in the Home. Both are able to cater for those with disabilities. The Home is under the direct supervision of the Home superintendent, Mr Maphala, an elder in the Church.
Accommodation in the Home is in family units, in full compliance with the Zimbabwean Child Care and Residential Standards. Originally there were five separate houses, using the maximum capacity for residents. However, due to downsizing as a result of financial constraints, this has now been reduced to three houses plus a Youth House. Each house has two caregivers, who take care of at least 9 children. Each house has three or four bedrooms with bunk beds and fitted wardrobes. Boys and girls have separate bedrooms and share with others of a similar age. The caregivers have their own ensuite bedrooms. Each house has its own kitchen and a lounge area in each house with two sofas. Each house has a boy’s bathroom and a girl’s bathroom. There is also a comfortable dining room in each house for meals and for studying.
Connected to each house is an area where the different family groups can keep chickens and grow a variety of vegetables for their own use or for sale locally. These activities are a useful tool, passing on useful life-skills to the children. Members of the local community, acting in a voluntary capacity, help to maintain the garden. “Defend the poor and fatherless: do justice to the afflicted and needy” (Ps 82:3).
The Youth House has been established in recent years to accommodate children who are over 16 years of age and are too old for the Children’s Home. Some will still be at school and others will have nowhere else to go. Their time in the Youth House prepares them for further education or some other career path. The time is also used to reintegrate them with their own communities, families and relatives. Currently six young people are staying in the Youth House. It has its own separate projects such as poultry management, baking and selling, and each youth has his or her own garden, which all help to teach them useful skills in self-reliance. The Former Thembiso Residents Trust has recently been set up to provide guidance and support for when the young people leave the Home. This includes regular social contact, help with getting to and from church services, home visits, opportunities to visit former “family” members at Thembiso, reunions, day trips and measured (in amount and duration) financial assistance for educational fees, clothing, travel and housing (either renting or assistance with construction).
There is a library building on site stocked with a good variety of books. The building is used each weekday evening after school and three or four times a week during school holidays. There is a stock of dolls and toys for the younger children to play with. A carpentry workshop allows children over 13 to learn carpentry for a couple of hours each week. Classes in computer literacy also take place on a Saturday for the older children.
There is a good recreational area with a netball pitch, and play equipment for the children, such as swings and a roundabout. The House Mother supervises the children’s play in this area.
Everyone receives three meals a day and attends family worship morning and evening. The Home has its own bus for taking the children to church for the services every Sabbath, and for the prayer meeting. The children regularly attend Sabbath school. The younger children attend the local Primary School, also run by the Church, and follow the Bible Knowledge course provided there. The bus is also used to take the children on day trips. The Department of Social Welfare provide an Assisted Medical Treatment Order for any children that become sick, to ensure that they receive medical care. Everything is done to ensure that the children receive as ordinary an upbringing as possible in a Christian environment. “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world” (Jas 1:27).