By Jeffrey Moyo
At times, destitute children sleep at her shack, packed inside her thatched kitchen hut.
But more often homeless children just want to feed from the poor good Samaritan before returning to the streets of the Zimbabwean capital.
Sarudzai Chinowaita, 54, one of the slum dwellers in Mount Hampden outside Harare regularly feeds and accommodate the children but has had no worries about her initiative despite being not formally employed because she receives help from well-wishers.
Instead, Chinowaita said her concern has been to ensure homeless children she has welcomed in her shack always find something to eat. And if possible, even a place to sleep in her dwelling which she shares with her 5-year-old grandson.
Her only daughter, and mother to her grandson, lives and works in neighboring South Africa.
Helping despite lack of resources
But, even under the circumstances, Chinowaita, who is a street vendor at times in the Harare Central Business District or by the highway to Chinhoyi, a farming town northwest of Harare, has not given up on helping poor homeless children.
Yet, last month, another good Samaritan, Onai Nhiwatiwa, who ran an unregistered Ruoko RwaMwari Children’s Trust in the slums of Mount Hampden, was censured by authorities before the children were taken by social welfare agents.
But, Chinowaita had a narrow escape and has since kept helping homeless children at her shack.
“I get donations in cash and kind from well-wishers to help me assist the homeless children I meet here,” Chinowaita told Anadolu Agency.
For the children’s food, she often prepares mealie rice and tomato soup, which the children are fond about, she said.
Poor well-wishers treated with suspicion
Yet, amidst poverty, many good Samaritans like Chinowaita do not find it easy to help the nation’s homeless children.
“Each time you want to help street kids, people think you want to use them for your own gain,” said Chinowaita.
The rules meant to fight the spread of the coronavirus have also made it hard for many who are poor, like Chinowaita, to freely have homeless children lining up for food at their homes.
“You make the kids line up for food or stay at your place at your own peril because there are always people who tip authorities that someone is breaking COVID-19 rules and they can come for you and arrest you,” she said.
“But,” Chinowaita insisted, “I just do my part and become fulfilled that at least I am helping the poor children.”
According to child rights defenders like Mateline Ngirazi, “the number of homeless children in Zimbabwe is tough to determine with exactness.”
“Having children living on the streets is not a new phenomenon in this country. In fact, during the late 1980s, homeless children became common facets of the urban landscape of this country, especially here in Harare,” she told Anadolu Agency.
The poor sharing with homeless children
So, now as the crisis of homeless children deepends in Zimbabwe’s towns and cities, good Samaritans like Chinowaita have had no option as they strive to help children whom they have sheltered in inhabitable slums where basic sanitation facilities are entirely non-existent.
For Zimbabwe’s poverty-stricken good Samaritans like Linet Chizuzu, 43, who lives in Epworth, a poor settlement east of Harare, “What matters is to feed the unfortunate homeless children with whatever little I can get no matter how poor or good the food may seem to be,” she said.
Apparently unperturbed about what she gets in return for sacrificing her time and few belongings to help homeless children, Chizuzu, who is also a slum dweller, said “what I enjoy most is seeing the poor children well-fed and sheltered where possible.’
Meanwhile, despite grappling with inflation hovering above 800% in March, Zimbabwe set up the Hampden Vocational Center as a prospective home for homeless families and children living on the streets.
Homeless children switching back to street life
But, even then, homeless children have not found the center adequate, choosing rather to return to the streets or switch to poor good Samaritans like Chinowaita and Chizuzu.
“At the Hampden Vocational Center, government workers there give us very small portions of food and they harass us. I enjoy being on the streets getting help often from kind well-wishers,” Mendisi Ngwabi, 12, told Anadolu Agency.
Yet, even as Zimbabwe’s good Samaritans stretch their hands helping the country’s homeless children, few well-to-do celebrities like Mai Titi have been on record donating toward to the cause of homeless children who apparently have found sanctuaries with big-hearted Samaritans.
With her trade name, Mai Titi, Felistas Murata Edwards is a Zimbabwean comedian, gospel artiste, entrepreneur and popular Master of Ceremonies (MC).