The Journey of a Thousand Miles
The Journey of a Thousand Miles
by Foundation of Life Trust
One has to notice the small things in life because it is the detail that reveals the great moments. It never rains but pours to the marginalized and financial deprived communities and societies across Zimbabwe. The current Covid-19 pandemic, the unstable economic situation saw many families succumbing to joblessness adverse poverty, homelessness to mention a few.
Monday morning in 2005 saw Nancy Manonga, the founder of Foundation of Life, waking up to a changed atmosphere. A cool breeze from the east heralded the day. She woke up to the smell of coffee from her kitchen and knew she was getting late. She stretched herself after bundling away the sheets, yawned for the umpteenth time as she cleared the cobwebs of sleep from her foggy mind. She knew what lay ahead of her and she realized she had to act quickly so as to have the shop open and running by eight.
As soon as she settled behind the counter ready to be of service to her clients that is when she saw her and her grandchildren. As she looked at her, compassion filled her heart. Tears stung at the corner of her eyes and she wondered why there was so much pain and misery in the world. She stood there, speechless, stung to the core by the spectacle before her. She knew she had to do something, if not for the old woman, then for the four children who looked ashen and unkempt. All were of school going age and Nancy knew they could not be there, not in that state anyway even if they were allowed to attend without paying school fees.
The family stood in her shop and the grandchildren hung there at their grandmother’s sides like yesteryear’s scarecrows in their assortment of clothing threadbare and washed out. Each held a sorry container with lemons and avocado pears for sale
“Makadii zvenyu gogo? Ava vazukuru venyu ka ava?” Nancy managed to say after some time of awkward silence. (How are you granny? Are these your grandchildren?). The old woman tried to smile and mumbled an answer of how well they were nodding her heard so weakly at the same time.
“Why are they not in school then, gogo? Nancy started to crack the shell of the matter.
“The headmaster wants these children’s school fees. Where can I get it, as old as I am? She asked of her in a pitiful voice. My child, Richard, left me all this misery,” she continued and her voice quivered like a choirmaster giving his choir the tune. “With life so difficult these days, where can an old woman like me get the money to buy them uniforms, books and pens, let alone the school fees?” she continued.
As she spoke, her grandchildren stood there transfixed to the same spots, not moving, with their gaze directed at their grandmother’s interrogator. She could sense their despair from her position behind the counter and her maternal feelings were moved to pity. She had to do something.
“Iwe ndiwe ani?” (What is your name?) She asked the eldest one.
“T-T-T-T-T-To-nga-nga-I” he stammered, almost inaudibly, as he fidgeted with his big toe drawing invisible circles on the tiled floor to where his gaze was now riveted.
“In which grade are you and why are you not in school?”
“Grade 6,” he quipped and remained quiet not answering the second question but simply looking at her grandmother’s face as if that is where the answer was written.
Nancy felt that there was need to help because as a mother she felt her womb shaking and she could not hold back her love of children. She had to extent her generosity. After inquiring about the school fees and uniforms, she bought each of them a pair of shorts and shirt for the boys and a dress for the girls. She didn’t end there. Nancy drove these children together with their grandmother back to their village about 8 kilometres from town and took the four kids to their school and an arrangement of tuition payment was made with the school. To Foundation of Life, these four are our brand pioneers for they won the first grand when she paid for their tuition for the whole of 2005. If Nancy thought this was the last she was to extend her generous hand, she was lying to herself.
Before long that same year a man came looking for casual labour at her residence. He wanted to try to raise tuition fee for his grade four grandchild. Out of the spirit of giving and open handedness the founder paid tuition fee, bought uniforms and stationery for the pupil from 2005 up to 2007, opening a door for a bright and academically talented student.
In 2006 Nancy attended a funeral. Upon paying her condolences to the aggrieved family, she discovered that the surviving child was in grade five but there was no one to cater for her upkeep, financially. The founder once again extended her generosity and kindness and took the young girl to her place of residence from 2006 up to date. The girl had a great all-expenses-paid voyage up to tertiary level. She stands as the sixth pioneering beneficiary of the trust.
2007 brought more unfortunate people at her doorstep who wanted her helping hand. A mother made a follow up on her young married daughter, a victim of a child marriage. Her daughter passed away after giving birth and left an infant who needed milk supplements, diapers and clothes to put on. She learnt about her misfortune through her contacts. The founder made another huge charitable gesture to the grieved woman who lost her young daughter and was left with a little, motherless and financially deprived infant. Amid an unbearable economic situation in Zimbabwe as from 2007 to date the founder bought supplements milks and diapers and other necessities for the infant. She also helped the grieved family by catering for the funeral expenses. She became the godmother to the child and is paying tuition for the child up to date and she became the seventh beneficiary of the trust.
Amidst a deepening political and economic crisis in Zimbabwe old women continued to flock to the founder’s bookshop, street vending in order to carter for their financial need. The founder conversed with eight female headed families, most of them being old women with an average of six siblings to look after. The founder assisted with food handouts, basic toiletries, clothes and paid tuition fees for the eight households from 2008 and some are beneficiaries to date.
From 2008-2009, Nancy partnered with Mr. Gordon Dutton to assist an orphaned girl who needed financial assistance in respect of transport to and from school. The girl was assisted with transport to and from school, stationery, uniforms and other basic necessities in her academic quest. More so the girl’s plight of having foster parents to cushion her upkeep came true when she completed her primary school studies at Mvurachena Primary School in Chipinge, she moved in with the founder at her place of stay which is her current home.
Still partnering with Mr. Dutton in stretching a helping hand to the vulnerable societies, a girl employed as a maid by the founder in 2009 saw a journey of a so much needed academic quest sailing through. The founder reminisces how taken aback the maid was when she saw kids passing by going to school. Upon this discovery she asked her why it was as such. The maid then confessed her zeal to pursue academic studies. Another stumbling block facing this girl was lack of a birth certificate. In this regard the founder drove to Chinyamukwakwa, Ward 28 in Chipinge, to collect the maid’s sibling and assist them in taking birth certificates and subsequently their ID cards with the help of District Registrar. They put up at the founders place for three days whilst processing the documents after which the maid and her sibling were assisted with fees, uniforms and stationery.
In 2010, the founder’s husband, Gideon Manonga and the founder were approached by Gideon International to participate in the bible distribution exercise. The founder started distributing bibles in clinics and schools. Nancy not only distributed but also graced such occasions with ministerial work. On these outings, she encountered barefooted children in tattered uniforms most of whom could not afford to pay fees and buy stationery.
“We need to do something about those children,” she said to her husband after a day’s work. “We can’t let them live like that.” She added immediately.
“What kids?” her husband asked but showing that he was absent minded.
“Please, baba, (father) you know which children I am talking about. The ones whom we have been seeing during this bible distribution mission. Surely you have seen them barefooted and the nature of their uniforms. Don’t you see God send us on this mission for a purpose, a reason. To make us see the suffering in our midst and to do something about it. Surely we can afford to.”
It was not long before thirty eight children from different schools in Manicaland smiled their way to school in new school uniforms, stationery in their backpacks, and fees fully paid.
In spite of 2011 being a great financial and economic burden for the founder who was facing some financial constraints in terms of paying fees for most of the vulnerable children and old women attached to the trust, the founder continued to fight to provide for everyone. It was difficulty and she was always deep in though and resorted to prayer for God to open a way for her charity work. The answer came through the District Schools Inspector (DSI) who intervened by advising Nancy to seek external funding. Out of the founder’s passion and zeal to transform the lives of vulnerable children and the elderly in numerous societies in Zimbabwe, the founder bought the idea brought by the DSI to register a trust.
On the 2nd of January 2017, upon the assistance of the Ministry of Health and Child Care (MoHCC) and the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education (MoPSE) , a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was crafted. A trust deed was also incorporated together with the MOU in conjunction with the two above mentioned ministries. Dr. Makumbe helped to get the MOU with the ministry of health. On the 2nd of January 2017 having put all the legal frame work in place the trust deed was granted which saw the birth of the Foundation of Life trust.
Foundation of Life Trust was born on the 2rnd day of January 2017 under the scope of helping vulnerable children of the society to have access to education health care and nutrition by mobilizing resources and channelling them. The trust stands as a leading provider of humanitarian assistance to vulnerable members of society in Zimbabwe.
Regardless of haphazard financial flow in the trust, the year 2017 saw the trust reaching out as stated in the MOU with the MoHCC to help pregnant women in the maternity wards, lactating and breast feeding women. It was noted that some beneficiaries of the trust would have passed adolescence to womanhood or motherhood hence most of them still remain vulnerable in terms of hospital bill payment, diapers and other necessary toiletries. In addition, it is also notable that most of the women are first timers and will be required to deliver at hospital which requires a lot of financial assistance.
In this regard the foundation of life trust in collaboration with the MoHCC vouched to help those women in maternity wards. Maternity fees, diapers, clothes, toiletries and recreational activities are some of the humorous and charitable donations done by the trust to such vulnerable women.
In 2019 the country was hit by a severe flood, Cyclone IDAI and Chipinge and Chimanimani districts were mainly affected and this happened to be an opportunity for Nancy and her trust to present their generosity. Numerous villagers lost their lives, and belongings such as livestock, shelter, food and even clothes amongst others and those who were injured and traumatized could not access transport to get medical and psychosocial support due to damaged road networks and Foundation of Life among others showed up with food handouts, clothes and psychosocial support to the affected communities mainly in Chimanimani.
As if that was not enough, the year 2020 saw yet another ravaging pandemic, Covid-19 which saw many families being rendered jobless and moneyless. This impacted negatively on families as it reduced family income causing problems such as malnutrition, early child marriages and death. The national lockdown declared to curb this pandemic saw many societies becoming more vulnerable and needed assistance. To this end the Foundation of Life Trust was charitable enough to offer assistance through food handouts and second hand clothes.
Regardless of all its challenges, the grassroots organization did not give up but instead the push went on and the small trust managed to establish an office in Chipinge urban. Also, the trust, using funds from the founder, started a project which has a total of 314 women in 9 wards of Chipinge District. 2021 saw the establishment of its first big project which is supporting pregnant and lactating mothers with nutrition education, food handouts, hygiene kits, WASH education and income generating projects such as nutrition gardens and poultry.
In a nutshell the scope behind the operational frame work of Foundation of Life Trust is to alleviate and curb financial constraints faced by numerous families in deprived communities. It is the vision of the organization to reduce if not curb early child marriages through empowering young girls with access to education and to cushion challenges like malnutrition especially to women, children and people living with disabilities.