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December 2016

 

The price of brides in Zimbabwe: FA encourages global awareness
Cynthia Eaton

 

Zimbabwean orphans create dolls and wire toys such as above that are sold in the U.S. to help fund ZimKids Orphan Trust. Two representatives of ZimKids visited SCCC in late November for awareness- and fundraising as part of the FA's social justice mission. (photo by Cynthia Eaton)

“I hate my culture! I wish I could change it!”

The moment Tinashe Basa, director of ZimKids Orphan Trust, let those words slip, he immediately launched into an explanation to the Eastern Campus honors students what he had meant by that sudden assertion.

Just five minutes before, when his colleague Dennis Gaboury, founder of ZimKids Orphan Trust, made a passing reference to how Shona people in Zimbabwe hate the Ndebele group and vice versa, Tinashe chimed in, almost reflexively, “Not hate! They don’t really hate one another.”

So what prompted such an exclamation from this unfailingly positive young man who professes not to hate? From an individual who has led such a hard life and, by American standards, has been terribly mistreated by his family—his stepmother purposefully burned his hand over an open fire for “stealing” food because he was hungry and an aunt deliberately poisoned him (he nearly died) in an attempt to have one less mouth to feed—but still sends money to that family to this day?

FA collaborates with SCCC Presidential Lecture Series

SCCC President Shaun McKay speaks with a reporter about the Eastern Campus ZimKids Orphan Trust visit as part of the Presidential Lecture Series on November 30, 2016. (photo by Drew Biondo)

Dennis and Tinashe made presentations at all three campuses in late November as part of the SCCC Presidential Lecture Series.

ZimKids Orphan Trust, a 502(c)(3) nonprofit, is a safe haven in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, that serves about 300 orphaned Zimbabwean children. Approximately a quarter of all children in Zimbabwe are orphans, primarily due to the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

ZimKids (www.zimkids.com) helps ensure the children and their caregivers have access to food and medical care as well as creative, vocational, and educational opportunities and training in the tools essential for self-reliance so they can grow into productive, healthy adults who are literate, energized, and ready to take initiative for themselves, their families and their communities.

Dennis and Tinashe come to the U.S. each fall for awareness raising and fundraising. In lieu of something like traditional school fees, the orphans make cloth dolls and wire toys. The cloth comes from scraps at a local clothing factory and the wire toys are fashioned from coat hangers and soda cans cut into ribbons. Dennis and Tinashe sell the toys in the states.

When you purchase a toy, you receive a photo and bio of the child who created it, and you’re encouraged to take a selfie and write back to the child so they can learn about who “sponsored” them (yes, they have a small computer lab and Internet access, albeit intermittent). Pen-pal exchanges are strongly encouraged, and the toy sales account for about 50% of the ZimKids operating budget.

Tinashe Basa, center back, speaks with Eastern Campus honors students about how family relationships in Zimbabwe differ from those in the U.S. during a luncheon Q&A on November 30.
(photo by Cynthia Eaton)

Last year, I had worked to bring Dennis and Tinashe to the Eastern Campus in collaboration with Eastern honors students and a campus Lyceum Grant.

This year, I suggested that perhaps we could expand the program by making it an administration-faculty-student collaboration, and SCCC President Dr. Shaun McKay graciously agreed. He placed the indomitable, tireless Patty Munsch-Eilbeck, college assistant dean for student engagement, in charge of working with me on the program.

Dennis and Tinashe presented for student groups at the Grant Campus on Monday, November 28, at Ammerman on Tuesday, November 29, and at Eastern on Wednesday, November 30. In keeping with our social justice mission, the FA sponsored a special presentation on November 29 at 3:30.

Social justice matters

Tinashe Basa, left, and Dennis Gaboury speak to students at the Ammerman Campus during a ZimKids presentation sponsored by the FA on November 29. (photo by Cynthia Eaton)


Tinashe’s expression of cultural frustration came while meeting with Eastern honors students for a Q&A session following the ZimKids presentation made during common hour. The students enjoyed a wide-ranging conversation with Dennis and Tinashe, but questions kept coming back to the kinds of things that were on the minds of college students and the 28-year-old Tinashe: relationships, marriage, family, plans for the future.

Tinashe had been talking about how the going bride price in Zimbabwe is about 25 to 30 cows. He noted that the female students in the room would be very expensive since they’re educated, fetching perhaps 45 cows for their families.

He also explained to our students how in Zimbabwe, children are often viewed as a commodity. In America, he said, children are valued and are taught, “you matter, you are the future, you can become anything you want!” In Zimbabwe, children come last. They eat last at meals. They sleep on bare concrete floors without so much as a pillow. They are traded among relatives so they can perform household duties.

After acknowledging that many of his friends were already married, one student asked Tinashe if he planned to get married as well. He indicated that he’d like to, but he refuses to have any exchange of cattle involved. He also said that he’s already explained to his father that if he has children, his father cannot take the kids away from him. “I’d rather stay single than have it be that traditional way,” he asserted. He added that a few of his friends had laughed at him: “Oh, you’ve been to America, so now you think you’re an American!”

Thick in the conversation about cultural differences, Tinashe opened up about his frustrations. “Things are so different in Zimbabwe,” he acknowledged. “I wish I could make them see it doesn’t have to be that way.”

The Eastern students shared their thoughts on how Tinashe might try to affect such change while not offending his community.

These types of cultural exchanges are invaluable for our students, and the FA is committed to helping students develop greater awareness of global cultures and engage in social justice activities like this one.

To learn more about ZimKids Orphan Trust, visit www.zimkids.com.