HIV/AIDS has had devastating effects in Zimbabwe. This country has the 2nd highest orphan rate in the world; a staggering 1 in 6 children have lost one or both parents as a result of HIV/AIDS!
Sethule’s innovative project is bringing an orphan a new life and family at the same time. It achieves this by encouraging bereaved grandmothers to take in bereaved orphans. This way both find a new future together. The orphan gains a place to call his or her own, a home to belong to, and an identity with his or her new foster-parent. The grandmother gains a new prospect and purpose. The orphan gains a place in society which is pivotal in the local culture. Both find a new life where they support each other: a true win-win situation! This concept fits beautifully into the African concept of the extended family, and has been welcomed without demur.
Sethule is also involved actively in obtaining a Birth Certificate for every orphan who does not possess one. This is vital; for without such documentation, an orphan cannot take examinations, cannot own property, cannot learn to drive, cannot marry, and cannot run a business. By conducting family interviews, pursuing family tracing, and helping with administrative tasks, Sethule is facilitating and achieving this absolute necessity. A recent survey of local schools demonstrated that 1239 children did not have birth certificates.
This scandalous situation must be changed!
Also through a special interest in family tracing, there is also the possibility of finding more distant relatives.
An initial register of orphans in the Natisa district was compiled in 2007: this showed that more than 500 children under 12yrs live without parents in a community of about 5000 people. Those orphans with both parents deceased or missing, presumed dead, and those in especially severe circumstances are prioritized. Some 24% of children in Zimbabwean schools have lost both parents. (UNICEF Data)
The primary need is to reintegrate orphans into the life of the community. Sethule does not run an orphanage but focuses on integrating every child into families in the community, thus ensuring they can lead as normal a life as possible. Having established orphans in a new family, Sethule promotes integration by providing both for grandmothers and orphans bereavement counselling programmes based on the Tree of Life for the younger children and Emotional Logic and for the older children, and adults.
Furthermore, Sethule endeavours to give a future to orphans by helping in providing education, access to healthcare and nutrition. Assessments and follow-up studies have shown that, with appropriate support, orphans rapidly re-integrate into community life.
In June 2006 the first Emarika Sethule pre-school was established at Natisa in Matopo. No other pre-schools were in existence at the time in the whole District. In 2007 Sethule finished building its second pre-school named Salika at Halale, 5km away. By 2012 three more pre-schools were set up, several in remote locations. Currently Sethule works with seven pre-schools. Each pre-school enrolls 25-50 children, aged between 5 & 6, annually for a two-year course.
The schools are registered with the Zimbabwe Ministry of Education (ZMoE) and all the teachers follow a training programme conducted locally for indigenous staff by Sethule, following ZMoE guidelines. The pre-schools provide basic early childhood development learning including Counting, Drawing, Singing, and Play. This initiative has hugely helped rural children, especially orphans, to integrate well and succeed at the next stage, the primary school.
Currently Sethule supports a total of 7 community pre-schools attended by a total number of 280 children.
After completing their two years, and a colourful popular graduation ceremony, children move up to local primary schools. Sethule is also in partnership with them, assisting by providing educational material and subsisting financially those orphans in dire need. Most of the primary schools, with which Sethule works, are located deep in the rural area where access is difficult and basic resources are scarce. Many of these schools had not received structural refurbishment for over 20 years: Sethule has helped repair doors, windows, floors, roofs, and install desks, and other essential equipment.
Currently Sethule Trust financially supports 21 pupils in severe need in primary schools.
Sethule is also involved with rural secondary & high schools, mostly by providing educational materials and renovation of school buildings. Sethule backs a scholarship programme to enable gifted orphan children, who otherwise have no prospects, to pursue secondary and tertiary education. Recently with support from the Leysin American School (LAS) in Switzerland one school was entirely refurbished and an electricity supply installed and connected. Another school had a whole new classroom built, and play-centres have been established.
Currently Sethule Trust financially supports 26 pupils in severe need in secondary and high schools.
The pre-schools also serve as feeding centres, being used by other NGO’s in times of drought and crisis. Throughout the year, Sethule networks with other organizations to ensure that all pre-school children receive two nutritious meals per day.