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Khazimula Childrens project began in 2007. Jenny Uzzell, who runs a small tearoom close to the Howick Falls, decided something had to be done about the abandoned children who were roaming the streets of Howick. She rounded them up and provided them with regular meals and a place to sleep every night in a small building behind the tearoom. A committee of concerned residents, including Sister Peg O’Shea (a locally-based Catholic nun from Detroit), and now a board member of Khazimula, was formed to support Jenny Uzzell to try to sort out their problems and get them back to school. The organisation was christened GECKO, an acronym for Give Each Child Kindness and Orientation. The facilities were inadequate though, and the children had to sleep on a concrete floor for more than two years until Khazimula re-opened its doors as a children’s shelter in January 2007.
A new home was found in an abandoned school in Lidgetton and with the enthusiastic help of a Management Committee and children from the nearby schools, Michaelhouse, Hilton College and Howick Preparatory, into a home for street children and orphans.
Now 30 boys and girls, ranging in age from 6-18, all happily call Khazimula their home and are thriving under the gentle but firm stewardship of Father Mvuyo, who is assisted by his wife Jabulile, and Zeph Mbheli and a team of support staff of six. The Khazimula children have a dog, two cats, two pigs and several chickens, and the chance to live as children again – confident of the love and interest of their caregivers, their next meal and their own warm, safe beds. They attend the Jabula Combined School, and Asitithuke a little further away in Balgowan, some of the children have displayed an aptitude for learning.
Khazimula staff maintains contact with relatives of their children and try to support the fostering process. Indeed the reunification project is key, and where possible children our returned to family or relatives in the community, this only after due consultation between the Social workers and Khazimula staff. The Department of Social Development has put a moratorium on the opening of new orphanages, because they want orphans and vulnerable children to remain, and be cared for, within their own communities. This idea, while conceived with the best intention, is proving to be unworkable, principally because of the scale of the AIDS crisis.
Father Mvuyo was a former psychiatric nurse and worked as an AIDS counsellor before accepting this position. His wife, Jabulile, chuckles. “Well, he asked God for a ministry, and he certainly got one.”
The children have regular responsibilities: they help with the animals, they do their own washing and they work in the extensive vegetable garden. Students from Michaelhouse continue to be involved and visit once a week.
For an in-depth look into the lives of the Khazimula children click below
Click here to see this video on Vimeo.
Letters from the children
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