Munhu, the name of our organization, means a person—a human being—in the local Shona language that is spoken by most people in Zimbabwe (over 75%). In Ndebele, the other major local language spoken in Zimbabwe, Munhu translates to umuntu. Munhu/umuntu points to the Bantu people’s spirit of Ubuntu that Nelson Mandela not only embodied, but taught to millions across the world through the example of how he lived his life. Ubuntu is a concept that speaks to the essence of what it is to be a human being and to live one’s life in recognition and acknowledgement of the oneness of all humanity. Ubuntu calls us to live our lives practicing generosity, hospitality, respect, friendliness, kindness, and compassion. Most African languages have one or more sayings that capture this spirit. In Shona we say munhu munhu nekuda kwevanhu and in Zulu it is umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu––the English translation is “a person is a person through other people.” Our core value at Munhu is caring for people in need, especially for children; and we have been doing this for over ten years. We are touched and are very grateful to our donors, volunteers, and supporters for their support in the form of donations, items, time, and energy; for in doing so, they join us in promoting the spirit of Ubuntu.
Munhu is a 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to helping children orphaned by AIDS in rural Zimbabwe. We provide direct support for the children’s education, and we also provide economic empowerment to villagers in the communities where the children live.
We believe in a world where every child should have an adequate education and live a healthy and dignified life. We believe that this allows children to fully express their gifts and talents and to contribute to the world.
Our vision is to ensure that the children we support complete primary school so that they gain basic skills in reading and writing. Beyond that, we provide the children with an opportunity to pursue further education, to give them a better chance to improve their lives. Our ambition is to increase the number of children we support; and we aim to achieve this by adding at least 100 children per year to the education program. There are over a million AIDS orphans in Zimbabwe. More than half will not complete primary school due to lack of financial support. We began in 2004 by funding 15 AIDS orphans and, with the help of donors, supporters, and volunteers, we have provided direct assistance for the education of over 3000 children to date. We pledge to increase the number of lives we positively impact, one child at a time.
- Supporting children’s education by paying tuition, and buying school uniforms and supplies
- Providing financial support to children who are heads of households
- Providing community grants used as seed money for villagers to start income generating projects
- Shipping US donated items to the villagers including books for the libraries
- Repairing and furnishing school classrooms
Our primary goal at Munhu is providing educational opportunities to children orphaned by the AIDS epidemic in Zimbabwe. We realize that a good education is the foundation for a bright future for these children. As such, we pay school fees, and buy school uniforms and supplies to enable the children to attend school. However, we also realize that most of these orphans are left in the care of poor relatives or neighbors; as is the common custom in Zimbabwe. Most of these relatives or neighbors don’t have the means to support themselves or their families, let alone support the orphans left in their care. Therefore we also support the education of children from poor families who are taking care of the orphans.
Some of our children may not have relatives or neighbors who are able to care for them. In these cases, the older siblings find themselves with the task of raising their younger siblings; the older children become heads of households. We provide direct financial support for the child headed households.
Our community grant program provides seed money for families taking care of the orphans to start small income generating projects. Profits are used to support families, including the orphans. The repaid seed money is used to fund new income generating projects. In each community, there is an understanding that those who receive seed money will pay back on time, so that the funds can be used to fund their neighbors’ projects. This encourages a collective spirit of ownership, and therefore, accountability to use the funds responsibly.
Our activities at Munhu are driven by our passion to serve others. Our focus is in helping others to help themselves and in providing others with the tools and resources that they need in order to support themselves in their environments. We encourage beneficiaries to view the assistance we offer as a step in the process of self-empowerment, as a step in the journey to achieving self-sufficiency and freedom from poverty–utilizing their own energies and inherent gifts.
Some of our children maybe budding poets or brilliant scholars; we believe that they, as any other child, deserve an opportunity to develop their gifts in school. Some of the villagers are astute business people who turn a few dollars they receive into sustainable businesses that create employment, provide markets for local produce, and supply goods and services in the communities.
Our activities are informed by the diversity of our board members and our volunteers. Each one of us brings unique knowledge, expertise, and cross cultural experience to our organization. Together, this helps shape and direct how we operate at Munhu as we seek to help others.
We recognize the importance of knowledge and understanding of the prevailing conditions in the areas where our beneficiaries live. Most of this comes from the personal experiences of some of our board members and volunteers who were born and raised in Zimbabwe or have lived in Zimbabwe and have firsthand knowledge of the culture, the political and economic situation, the challenges, and also the practicality of proposed strategies or solutions. As such, we take a holistic approach in the way we assist those we seek to help; we help at the individual as well as at the community level.
Our focus is to improve the overall living conditions for the children and villagers. We also listen to and learn from the children and the villagers we serve. Sometimes it is those we serve who may have the best ideas of how best they could be served.