Patrick Chitumba, Midlands Bureau Chief
Mrs Nungai Gambiza’s dream to uplift marginalised people in rural Mberengwa through the provision of school fees, food, shelter and a training institution is fast crumbling following the demise of the institution’s main benefactor.
Mrs Gambiza’s Bethel Msasa Home and Vocational Training Centre which is at Mbuyanehanda Business Centre in Mberengwa, at its peak catered for 950 underprivileged people through provision of school fees and is now home to 13 children with no donor in sight to alleviate their plight.
The vocational centre used to boast of more than 15 teachers but all have left because she is no longer able to pay their salaries much to the detriment of the underprivileged children who had found a home and a college to acquire some vocational skills.
A Catholic who has earned the name Mother Theresa of Mberengwa due to her philanthropic work, Mrs Gambiza (87), who was a teacher at Masvingo Primary School in Mberengwa since 1963 just watches as her home and vocational centre is slowly turning into a white elephant.
Mrs Gambiza said she heard a voice calling her to look after children.
Then, her husband had already died and all her children were grown up and leading their own lives.
So she wondered which children were being referred to.
She said the voice came a second and third time and that’s when, while on her way to work, she met children who were in dire need and it then occurred to her that these were the children being referred to.
Then, the HIV/Aids pandemic was raging out of control so the situation was bad for children who were orphaned.
As they were helping with contributions from their salaries and well-wishers, that’s when they met the benefactor who helped build the orphanage and vocational training centre (VTC).
“It was in 1999 when I first had a weird dream about children who needed help from Mberengwa. At first I dismissed it but the dream came back to me on four different occasions. One day when I was going to work I met three children who were hungry. I then bought them food and gathered my workmates to say we had a problem in our midst,” narrated Mrs Gambiza, a widow with six children.
She said luckily for her, fellow teachers embraced her idea and they began to contribute as little as 50 cents from their salaries and began to pay fees for the less privileged children.
Mrs Gambiza said it eventually dawned on her that some of these children were being abused where they were staying.
“That’s when I approached Father Herman Stoffel who was a priest at the Masvingo Catholic Church which ran the school where I was teaching to assist me realise my dream of looking after the less privileged people in our society,” she said.
Mrs Gambiza said Father Stoffel, who was from Germany where he sourced his funding became the sole benefactor.
“Our main benefactor was Father Stoffel who assisted with the construction, equipping and funding of the home and VCT.”
In 2015, due to old age and poor health, he was unable to continue sourcing funds before he eventually passed on in 2016.
“Father Stoffel sourced funding for food and shelter for the kids from around 1999. We eventually realised that some would not make it at school and that’s when we expanded the area to make a vocational centre,” said Mrs Gambiza.
Since around 1999, many people have benefitted from training in various skills such as carpentry, food and nutrition among other courses.
“Some have graduated as NFC (National Foundation Certificate) and others as NC (National Certificate) holders with HEXCO as the examining board. Yet many more acquired specific skills through short courses tailor-made to meet market demand. Over 1 000 children passed through this establishment,” said Mrs Gambiza.
“So, since 2015 we have been surviving on our own fund raising projects. However, these projects could not support the staff salary bill and other expenses and we eventually faced closure.”
The death of Father Stoffel in 2016 was indeed a huge blow to her dream as equipment that was used at the vocational centre is now gathering dust in store rooms.
She is now hopeless as teachers have since left.
“Unfortunately he passed on before we got connected to his sources,” said Mrs Gambiza.
She said some of her children are taking care of the project in these difficult times.
“The home has since 1999 assisted thousands of children of school going age with fees, uniforms, accommodation and food. It was realised later on that after these children completed their high school, the majority of them could not proceed to tertiary education and were also unemployable since they had no skills. It was this scenario that prompted the establishment of a training centre. The main objective of the training centre was to assist orphans and vulnerable people with life skills. As such, services were being offered for free to the trainees since 2011 when we opened the college,” she said.
She continued: “We now face funding challenges. The vocational training centre intends to operate on a self-sustaining level and is appealing for funding in cash or kind. We need training materials for each discipline. So we engage in training with production materials for each discipline.
“We are also appealing for volunteers since we cannot afford salaries for teachers. We also need a submersible pump and the borehole which supplies the institution with water broke down and needs replacement.”