Zambuko looks after everyone’s child

Kudakwashe Matambo

Zambuko House provides rehabilitative services and skills training to homeless young people.It is located in the suburb of Hatfield, twelve kilometres south east of the Harare city centre. Since its inception, Zambuko House has been operating under the auspices of the Roman Catholic Church.

In 1995, a Jesuit Brother, the late Canisius Chishiri SJ’s attention was captured by some boys living on the streets as he was walking past them.

In the Jesuit tradition of promoting a faith that does justice, he thought of assisting them.

With the support of the Jesuit Province of Zimbabwe, he set up a rehabilitation centre for street children.

It was named Zambuko House. Zambuko is a Shona word for bridge.

Zambuko House is now registered with the Department of Social Services as a home to offer a family environment to boys between the ages of thirteen and eighteen.

The initiative has developed into a home striving to offer a holistic development to the homeless and marginalised youths.

Zambuko House director, Ms Emilia James, a Seventh Day Adventist and a professional social worker, said the project is accommodating and training some children from the streets.

Ms James
Ms James

Registered to accommodate 22 people, the place is home to children who have also endured abuse.

It currently has sixteen full-time residents and supports an average of sixty boys every year. The selected children are provided with skills that seeks to restore their dignity.

“Initially, Brother Chishiri wanted to give companionship to the boys on the streets, but he soon realised that we need to get them off the streets. We need to equip them with a skill so that they are self-reliant,” she said.

Ms James indicated that some of the children would have been abandoned while others come from poverty stricken families.

“We want to be a bridge for these boys so that they become rehabilitated and changed people. That is why we have a holistic approach in offering skills training, spiritual development and counselling,” said Ms James.

She added that the institution re-integrates about 50 percent of the children who pass through it with their families and trains them to be self-reliant.

Basic literacy training and bridging education is offered to the full time residents.

Since the establishment of Zambuko House, over 1 500 children have passed through the institution with more than 195 of them having successfully completed primary, secondary or tertiary education.

“About 90 percent of our boys are abandoned so we need the church and the local community to come here and make friends with them.

“These boys need to belong to families and they also need mentoring. The community can do much in taking care of them. Every child is everyone’s child. Children belong to the community and we must assist each other in taking care of them,” appealed Ms James.

Assistant social worker, Mr Lovingtone Changa, said several boys have started individual projects in the informal sector.

“Some have parents and relatives who have weak support systems or are very abusive, so these children run away for survival. We then make efforts to build bridges and assist them to be accepted back into family life,” he said.

Zambuko House also conducts sexual health workshops as well as sporting and recreational activities.

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