First Lady Amai Grace Mugabe and her Chinese counterpart, Madame Peng Liyuan, are certainly powerful women.
Gracious, elegant and compassionate cannot begin to describe the two belle dames.
“Though there is a great distance between our countries, our hearts are always together,” Madame Peng said when she visited Amai Grace Mugabe Children’s Home in Mazowe on Tuesday.
“The children of Zimbabwe are the children of China, who all have a beautiful dream. Mama Grace, all the kind people in the world and I will do what we can to help them realise their dream,” she pledged, before donating goods worth a million yuan (about US$160 000) to the home.
As Presidents Mugabe and Xi attended to their business, the First Ladies took time off their tight schedules to mingle with the children.
Right in the midst of Mazowe, serenity engulfs this home that has 30 spacious, well-furnished houses.
Ninety adorable children, with the eldest just six-years-old, call this home.
Here, they have Amai Mugabe to care for their needs.
Tuesday was more delightful as a Chinese mother also showered them with love.
Who can forget the image of a boy about five years old leading a girl slightly his junior by the hand, attentively looking out for her?
With the way the boy lovingly hovered over the girl, it was only natural to conclude the two were brother and sister.
But as the writer was later to find out, that was not the case at all.
“These children develop real family bonds and look after each other as brothers and sisters do,” said Ms Anna Jaure, one of the children’s carers – mothers – who has been at the home since it opened in 2011.
Amai Mugabe has created a real family, with the mothers caring for four or five children. Ms Jaure cares for three girls and two boys.
But while trying to digest the stark reality that these 90 innocents would probably be on the streets had fate not taken them to Amai Mugabe’s doorstep, the children’s eyes sparkled with excitement, clearly unperturbed.
They were at home.
When Amai Mugabe arrived they all ran to her for a warm hug. Each and every one of them had something to say to her, and she in turn listened attentively and chatted with them.
There can never be too much of a mother’s love.
And Madame Peng came to shower them with more.
Soon after she disembarked from her black limousine, the children started singing a Chinese song. Pleasantly taken aback and touched by this gesture, Madame Peng joined in and clapped her hands to the rhythm.
Music lives within her.
It has been her passion since childhood and she was one of China’s most famous singers before she became First Lady.
Before touring the facility, Madame Peng said: “I am encouraged to see boys and girls growing so healthily in the care of Mama Grace Mugabe.”
Amai Mugabe said, “There were 91 of them, but we lost one about a week ago. He developed pneumonia and passed on. But we accept such is life.”
The pain in her voice was palpable. She was still grieving.
“Sometimes we get these children when they are only a day old,” she said, explaining that the children start going to an in-house nursery school as soon as they start walking.
“We are catching them young. At that age they can easily capture everything.”
Seven of the children are already attending a primary school that was donated by the Chinese government some time back, while 20 others will start next year.
With relations between Harare and Beijing continuing to flourish, and the Asian giant now the world’s second-largest economy, the children are being taught Mandarin by two Chinese teachers, moulding them into global Zimbabweans.
“We were able to put up this place because of the support we continue to get from our brothers and sisters from China. l would not have managed to do it alone. Thank you for the wonderful gesture. We will always cherish it,” Amai Mugabe said.
“Dear sister, you have made it to this place which is a very important place in Zimbabwe. A place where we take care of these children. We no longer refer to them as ‘underprivileged’ because they have a home where they have many mothers to take care of them, a home where they have love, a home where they are safe. Thank you Mama so very much for coming to give my children some love.”
Madam Peng has been heavily involved in charity work since 2006. She runs programmes that promote the support and care of children orphaned by HIV/Aids in China. She is also involved in tuberculosis and tobacco control advocacy. She and President Xi left Zimbabwe on Wednesday, leaving an indelible mark on the hearts of many.
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