STATE-OWNED power utility Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company (ZETDC) has disconnected Harare Children’s Home, one of the longest established places of shelter for children in need of care in the country.
ZETDC is a subsidiary of ZESA. The Home takes care of children of either sex, regardless of religious denomination or nationality.
In a disconnection order seen by HourlyHits.com and delivered to the Children’s home on Saturday, ZETDC demands over Z$320,000 (about US$400) upfront before it can reconnect the power.
Shavaun Rose, who has been leading efforts to keep the Children’s home operating and serving the kids under its care, sent out a plea for help indicating that the power disconnection had severely crippled the institution’s daily operations.
“This is a disconnection order from ZESA to the Harare Childrens Home, currently appealing for them to cancel the existing debt,” Rose said in a public plea.
She said the home currently has 84 children, who are housed in a “normal” family setting where the children help with cooking and housework and the older ones take care of the toddlers and babies.
Each house is run by a mother who cares for up to 20 children of all ages. A member of the house committee, reporting to the general committee that runs the home, is assigned to each house.
Rose said with power disconnected and no help in sight, the children were now cooking off fire, as they even do not even have gas stoves.
“They had to cut down a tree at the home for firewood,” Rose explained further.
According to sources at the home, ZETDC requested a payment plan, but the institution appeared unable to provide any as there are no definite funds coming its way.
Responding to pleas by Rose, some suggested a crowd-funding facility to help set up alternative sources of energy such as solar and biogas at the facility.
The responders said reducing over reliance on mains electricity would go a long way in ensuring that water, power and other necessities remained accessible for the children in times when the institution had cash flow challenges as is currently the case.
Established over 100 years ago in 1918, Harare Children’s Home operates from an address in Eastlea, Harare, a place that has been its premises over the past 53 years.
At its peak, the is home houses to up to 120 children, from infants to pre-puberty boys and girls of schoolgoing age until they find jobs.
As for those of school-going age, they walk to nearby Admiral Tait junior school while older girls go to Roosevelt School which is just across the road from the Home.
“While our children do well at school initially, lack of homework supervision and general encouragement mean that few achieve good O-Level results,” the Home said in a previous statement, highlighting another need for intervention.
The Harare Children’s Home blames the hyperinflation of the mid-2000s as the turning point of its financial circumstances, from which it never recovered.
“The Home was financially sound until the 2004-8 hyperinflation destroyed our capital. Today we survive on donations from the Zimbabwean public and companies and there are months when our children are reduced to eating just maize porridge and vegetables.
“Despite the difficulties, our dedicated staff of 30, most of whom are resident, do everything they can to provide the best possible care for our children,” said the Home.
The Department of Social Welfare, under whose auspices the children’s home operates, selects the children placed in the care.
It is only one of the few homes with a qualified nursing sister, as it has a number of infants in its five working houses.
For a long time, the Children’s home has been desperately seeking funds for the provision of daily necessities like food and water as well as wages, bedding and general maintenance.
The Home’s trustees comprise the Mayor of Harare, the chairman of the Methodist Church and other representatives. They in turn appoint an executive committee that meets monthly to oversee the running of the Home.
Established in 1918, the Harare Children’s Home was inaugurated by the Synod of the Wesleyan Methodist Church in 1921 as a response to a ‘flu’ epidemic that left a number of children orphaned.