Zimbabwe is a landlocked country in Southern Africa, whose boundaries are defined by the great Zambezi and Limpopo rivers.
In 2009 more than a million Zimbabweans were living with HIV/AIDS. Scores of children have been left by dying parents to be cared for by aging grandparents. Hands at Work began operating in eastern Zimbabwe near the Mozambique border during the height of the 2008 crisis, providing relief for those children left most vulnerable and suffering without even basic access to food.
Hands at Work’s focus has been on developing local churches to take responsibility for building their communities by living out the love of Christ on behalf of the poorest.
41-year-old John is a volunteer care worker in Pimai, Zimbabwe committed to transforming the hopeless situations of vulnerable children in his community. Pimai is a poor rural village surrounded by tea and coffee farms approximately 130 km from Mutare, Zimbabwe. Many of Pimai’s population are families who fled Mutare after falling ill from HIV/AIDS and becoming too sick to work. Desperately seeking a place to feed and house their families, they moved out to the rural village. With the inevitably high death rate among many of those patients, scores of children have been orphaned and left in extreme vulnerability.
In a culture where men, even church leaders, do not spend time with children and never lower their status to serve a weak child, the burden of care falls heavily on the community’s elderly grandmothers. It’s a situation that John, along with the team of 25 other care workers serving in Pimai, is trying to change. After participating in a year-long Hands at Work mentorship program called Walking With Wounded Children, John realized that the greatest needs of Pimai’s vulnerable children were for time, love, and parental support. He knew it would require the community’s leaders, especially including men, to share the burden of care.
So John determined to set a counter-cultural example. He identified a group of orphaned children who he treated like his own. He makes a point of being seen playing with them, listening to their concerns and challenges, and advocating on their behalf among the rest of the community. He even joined other female care workers as a volunteer cook preparing meals for the community’s vulnerable children. While some in the community struggle to understand, others have become convicted to do something themselves. In Christ-like fashion, John offered his own life as a sacrifice to transform and benefit the lives of others.