The Sunday Mail
WHEN Chiedza Chinotimba’s extended family decided to marry her off to an elderly member of an apostolic sect following the death of her parents, the then 14-year-old ran away from home and sought refuge at the nearest police station.
Now 24, she says running away from the planned forced child marriage is “the best decision that I have so far made in my life”.
She is currently chasing her dream of becoming a top fashion designer one day.
To realise her vision, Chiedza enrolled at Chinhoyi University of Technology, where she is studying towards a degree in clothing fashion design.
Born in a family of nine, her father passed away in 2005, while her mother died three years later.
After the tragic turn of events, she was put in the care of an extended family, which decided to marry her off to an elderly member of an apostolic sect.
As fate would have it, Chiedza was subsequently placed under the care of the Chivhu-based Vana Childcare Orphanage.
This is a place she has called home for the past 11 years.
The orphanage, which was founded in 2006 by Pastor Makoni Goredema, paid for her education from primary to university level. She attended Chivhu Primary School and Liebenberg High School.
Two other orphans that grew up at the shelter are now studying medicine at the University of Zimbabwe (UZ).
With such impressive accomplishments, Vana Childcare Orphanage has proved to be successful in nurturing disadvantaged children into professionals.
“I wouldn’t be at university if I had grown up in a normal family set-up. At the orphanage, we were always pushed to work hard. We were constantly reminded that we had to work hard since we were coming from disadvantaged backgrounds,” Chiedza said.
Apart from going to university, she is also running a thriving sewing project in Chivhu.
“During our time at the orphanage, we were encouraged to work towards becoming entrepreneurs. I want to grow my business so that I can help disadvantaged children,” she added.
Nicholas Phillip Muganhu, another orphan who grew up at the home, is now studying towards a pre-medical degree in radiological medicine (diagnostics and therapeutic) at the University of Zimbabwe.
Apparently his upbringing motivated his decision to work in the health sector.
“The orphanage has a nourishing environment for a child to grow up in and achieve anything in life. We were always challenged and inspired to work towards achieving our dreams,” Nicholas, who together with three of his siblings grew up at the orphanage, said.
As was the case with Chiedza, Nicholas attended both Chivhu Primary School and Liebenberg High School. He presently lives with the Goredema family.
Their colleague, Beatrice Makanha (20), was taken in by the orphanage following the death of her mother, who was taking care of her as a single parent.
Naturally, she had lost all hope.
“My mother died when I was eight-years-old and I was left in the care of her elder sister. I was then taken in by the orphanage since my mother’s sister was struggling financially and could not send me to school,” Beatrice said.
Now a University of Zimbabwe student who is studying towards a biomedical engineering degree, she has the home to thank for the strides she has made thus
“It was a lovely place to grow up in. We felt at home and the institution put more emphasis on education. We were encouraged to study hard and were provided with everything that we needed at school,” she said.
After excelling in her Ordinary Level examinations, she was awarded a scholarship by the Higherlife Foundation and enrolled at St Francis of Assisi for Advanced Level. She attained 14 points.
Her wish is to see the orphanage grow into a big institution and help thousands of people achieve their dreams.
“Although l am no longer staying at the orphanage, when l visit, I always feel at home. I grew up at this place and l know it will always be home.
“I always pray and ask the Creator to bless me so that one day l will come back and help to keep the institution growing.”
There are several other graduates and students that have come through the home. And most, if not all, of them describe Pastor Goredema as a kind, responsible and generous man who taught them to fear God.
The pastor, who ministers with the United Assemblies Church, talked about the orphanage’s mission.
“Our mission is to provide a nurturing family for parentless children and to take care of their physical, emotional and spiritual needs. This is a practical way of showing God’s love for humankind,” he said.
A visit to Uganda, where he toured orphanages that were under the Watoto Project that provided shelter to over 20 000 children, inspired him to register the home.
The first group of needy children was welcomed at the orphanage in 2010. Many disadvantaged children, some of whom were picked from the streets, have benefited from the orphanage.
Apart from educating the children, they also offer life skills in sewing, bee keeping and horticulture, among other things.