Tearfund partner Zimbabwe Orphans Through Extended Hands, also known as ZOE, encourages churches to take responsibility for vulnerable children like Violet. Because of their place at the centre of a community, they are able to identify the children and households most at risk, but often they just don’t know how to help. ZOE trains and mentors the church members for up to three years so they will know how to react in even the darkest situations.
Light in the darkness
One day the local United Methodist church was conducting door to door evangelism and they came across Patience and her children. The church had gone through training with ZOE on how to look after vulnerable families, so they knew what to do.
First the Pastor and the church leadership visited the family, then the ZOE co-coordinator assigned a volunteer to be responsible for visiting them. Through these visits they could figure out what the family most needed. The church organised a collection of food items for them and a report was made to the ZOE office. ZOE staff helped them with more food and also new clothes.
This extended hand brought hope and life to Patience, Promise, Ruth, and Mercy. Volunteers visit them twice a month. Patience became part of ZOE’s goat-breeding project. She was given three goats, which she has already bred successfully once. Now they were eating better the children have been able to go back to school.
I am happy and my family is happy because of what god did for us through the church. When I see the goats running around our home and the children running after them, sometimes tears of joy start running down my face. I don’t know how I can thank the Lord enough.’
Led by the community
Churches are trained in providing Psychosocial Support (PSS) to children and their families. They organise kids clubs, and run livelihoods training for families. The projects include rearing domestic animals like the goats given to Patience. Animals can be a crucial lifeline to those previously unable to earn an income.
These activities are supported and managed by volunteers who are passionate about working with children. Core training includes counselling, advocacy, recognising and preventing child abuse, and passing these skills onto the community. The church starts out aiming to help the most vulnerable, but the training they receive blesses everyone.