By Clemence Muchedzi
Volunteers for Vulnerable children – a non-profit organization that helps disadvantaged and neglected children has called for the building of safe communities that protect children and support their personal development.
Project Officer of the organization Allen Chimombe said it is their dream to reunify all the children living and working in the streets across Zimbabwe and encouraged the building of safe communities.
Chimombe said Volunteers for Vulnerable Children got the zeal to offer specialist support to help vulnerable children outside family environments after seeing that a lot of national support programs were being done in communities through the National Action Plan for Orphans and Vulnerable Children and the National Case Management System.
“Volunteers for Vulnerable children started in 2012 doing street outreach, contacting the children on the streets, and making referrals to different services providers, especially health facilities and the Department of Social Development.
“We had realized that although the children were visible on the streets, they lacked access to basic child and social protection services compared to their counterparts in community environments,” he said
After getting the registration and guidelines to work from the Department of Social Development, Volunteers for Vulnerable Children stepped in to complement the government by supporting the key national objective of providing services for all children despite their circumstances.
“Children living and working on the streets lacked access to such services because they were outside of the traditional community support structures, “he added
Chimombe said Volunteers for Vulnerable Children’s key thrust is on reunification in line with the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child Article 18 which urges state parties to support parents in protecting children.
Since its establishment, the organization has helped a lot of vulnerable children to have access to services that include health, nutrition, hygiene, and education.
“We have assisted several children through various programs, but when it comes to reunification we have supported the Department of Social Development to reunify an average of 40 children per year from different district ever since 2012.”
Whilst helping these children, the Volunteers for Vulnerable Children encounters a lot of setbacks.
“Lack of specialized facilities and programs to deal with the emerging rehabilitation needs of the children is our main challenge.
“Many of the children resort to drug abuse as a coping strategy due to the hardships on the streets. Special rehabilitation support is required to help them detox before returning to communities so that they do not relapse,” said Chimombe
Volunteers for Vulnerable children urged members of the public to avoid stigmatizing and exploiting disadvantaged children living and working in the streets.
“Every child, no matter their circumstances, requires protection and it takes extra work to deal with the needs of children outside of the family environment. Every child matters and deserves a chance to grow to their fullest potential,” he said.
In a related case, the Wings of Grace Trust, an organisation that looks after the needs of vulnerable children in the Mufakose suburb, has pleaded with society to treat orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) with love.
Founder of the Trust, Gogo Winnet Gwanzura also urged society to love children unselfishly.
“Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a blessing in immeasurable ways,” she said.
“We should treat them equally and with the utmost respect.”
Gogo Gwanzura said she got the zeal to help vulnerable children when she saw a dumped child in front of her house in 1987.
“One day in 1987, I woke up and saw a child dumped in front of my house. I was emotionally touched with the situation of the child,” she said, adding: “I bathed, dressed, and fed him and then went with him to the nearest police station. From there, I was directed to social warfare offices at Machipisa in Highfield.”
She was applauded by social welfare officers for taking good care of the child.
“That experience motivated me to take care of vulnerable children as a foster parent before establishing Wings of Grace Trust,” she said. “Currently, I am taking care of 79 children and I am supported by organisations such as Bakers Inn, Econet, through its Higher Life Foundation, and Nash Paints.
“These organisations provide food, blankets, and clothes, and also pay school fees for our children from primary up to tertiary level.
“Some of the children have enrolled at various universities in the country and Nash Paints employs some of them, who in turn support us with food, clothes, and blankets.”
Whilst taking care of children’s wellbeing Winnet Gwanzura said she encounters a lot of problems.