MPOPOMA – Situated in one of Bulawayo’s oldest townships of Mpopoma, is Vulindlela Orphanage, which has become a refuge for many children across Zimbabwe’s second largest city.
The day care orphanage, founded by Patricia Tshabalala 22 years ago, is home to a total of 450 orphans and vulnerable children.
Tshabalala, who is affectionately known as MaTshabalala in the community, started the home working with Ruth Feignbaum, a Jewish lady, whose family was well known in the Bulawayo business community.
“We together realised that the elderly women were stressed; suffering high blood pressure because of failure to pay school fees for orphaned grandchildren, whose parents had succumbed to the HIV pandemic,” MaTshabalala told ZDDT News.
“We then thought of an orphanage that would look after the children.”
She said while they had up to 500 kids last year, when they started in 1996, they had 1000, who are now grownups with some living abroad.
The children, attending both primary and secondary schools, get assistance from the orphanage for the payment of schools fees.
MaTshabalala explained: “We help them in the payment of school fees because we value the right to education. We then later realised that school fees and uniforms were not enough. We realised that they also needed food because they were still underperforming in their studies.”
The benevolent MaTshabalala said before they used to give children rice but now they give them the nutritious e’Pap porridge.
“Children come here every Monday and Wednesday to eat, while Saturday they spend the whole day here,” said MaTshabalala.
She said those who excel at school are helped to university level, subject to funding being available.
“I started this project with nine volunteers but some of them have since passed on. Then only three remained but then two more left leaving just me.” said the enthusiastic MaTshabalala.
“I have a strong passion for children and this is basically what inspired me. I found it much easier to work with the children.”
She said the funding that she has is inadequate because the number of children.
“I am being assisted by the Australian-based Rotarian, David Grill; there is also a UK-based lady, Chantry Elseworth, who learnt at Girls College,” disclosed MaTshabalala.
She said Elseworth does fund-raising for the secondary school fees while Grill is assisting
with the fees for primary school kids.
Feignbaum is helping MaTshabalalawith the e’Pap porridge fed to children.
On the challenges faced by the orphanage, the lover of children had this to say: “This place of ours is a rented facility and the City Council wants to repossess it.They do not want us to use it as an orphanage and, because of this challenge, we are not settled.”
She said although the Council had extended their lease for three more years they would still continue to persuade the city fathers to allow them to continue operating from the location.
With funds permitting, MaTshabalala said they would want to have their own facility on another piece of land.
“There are still so many children out there who require help; I have so many on the waiting list becausewe are even taking care of children whose parents are alive but ill,” explained MaTshabalala.
“We need fees for these kids; I need uniforms for these kids. Rotary has in the past bought us uniforms which have lasted for four years. We need assistance in the area of books because the new curriculum is now too demanding; so many books are now needed.”
She added that their facility also requires electrification.