CHILDREN living on the streets are poised to have a new lease of life as First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa’s Angel of Hope Foundation bathes, clothes and commits them to rehabilitation centres, as it presses ahead with efforts to allow every citizen a decent life.
Working in conjunction with the Department of Social Welfare, the foundation yesterday picked children in the streets of Harare aged between nine and 16 years and temporarily sheltered them at St Joseph House for boys ahead of their transfer to Chambuta Children’s Home in Chiredzi on Saturday.
This is not the first time that the First Lady through her foundation has rounded up the children with a view to offering them a better life in addition to access to education.
Children living on the streets were exposed to drugs and prostitution, among many other challenges that affect healthy living.
The First Lady is the country’s health ambassador with a passion for the elevation of the poor and marginalised communities.
Most of the children that were yesterday rescued from the streets spoke glowingly of the First Lady for providing shelter above their heads.
One of the beneficiaries of the latest move, a 14-year-old boy gave a heart-rending account of how he ended up living on the street since 2017.
“I left home where I was staying with my paternal grandmother who abused me. My mother left me with my father when I was young and left for Mozambique and that was that. My father later left me in the hands of his mother and disappeared. To date, I do not know his whereabouts. I only passed through Grade One then dropped out of school,” said the child while battling tears.
He said he was thankful to the First Lady for providing care for people like him given the cold weather and the tough life on the streets.
“It’s not easy to get a meal everyday. What the First Lady has done for us is splendid and I do not know how best to thank her,” he said.
Another nine-year-old beneficiary of the First Lady’s initiative echoed similar sentiments and said he ran away from an abusive stepmother.
“My mother died, my father remarried and my stepmother ill-treated me. I would starve while her children were well catered for. Whenever I told my father about the ill-treatment, he would beat me so I decided to run away from home. I have been on the streets since 2018,” said the boy.
He thanked the First Lady for giving him the things he yearned for like warm clothes, a roof above his head and regular meals.
An older boy, who is 15 said his challenges came after they were deserted by their mother, who reportedly left for South Africa long ago.
“My brother and I were staying in Kadoma with our aunt. I don’t know my mother because she left for South Africa when I was young. I do not know whether or not she is still alive.
“She completely forgot about us. When my father remarried, he took us to his sister who was not kind to me and my brother. We later ran away from home and came to Harare in 2016. A lot happened on the streets. I don’t know where my brother is. I am not sure if he is still on the streets or he went back to Kadoma.
“I was exposed to a tough life at a tender age, but with the advent of the First Lady, things are looking up and the future looks brighter. I now no longer think about where I get the next meal and things are looking okay,” he said while dressed in clean warm clothes.
What the First Lady is doing is in fulfilment of a pledge she made last year when she promised to transform the lives of hundreds of children living on the streets and afford them basic needs such as shelter, food and skills training, among others.
This was after the homeless children pleaded with her to help them access basic needs, especially shelter.
The First Lady pledged to assist them saying the vulnerable group could be helped through equipping them with necessary skills, provision of food and decent housing.
She identified Chambuta Children’s Home in Chiredzi as one of the places to move the children into.
The orphanage has the capacity to take care of 200 children.
When Amai Mnangagwa identified the home, the infrastructure was dilapidated, however, with her intervention and assistance, renovations were made.
There is also a vocational skill training centre near the home much to the benefit of the children.
St Joseph House for Boys’ Superintendent Ms Evas Pedzisai praised the First Lady for leading by example through the initiative, which shows motherly care for the welfare of vulnerable children.
“We have seen these children being given clothes, blankets and food. With this cold spell during this period of Covid-19, these children have benefited and we support the mother of the nation for doing this. She has shown good vision in this Covid-19 era,” she said.