IT TAKES A VILLAGE TO SAVE ORPHANS

By LORETTA FULTON

The numbers are startling-1.2 million orphans in Zimbabwe, accouting for 10 percent of the population.

It sounds hopeless, but the people who operate Harvest Family Village near Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, don’t see it that way. They see those numbers an opportunity. So do volunteers who travel great distances to help them.

Among those volunteers is Robin Cunningham, a 1993 Cooper High School graduate and 1997 Hardin-Simmons University graduate. Cunningham lives in Keller with her family and maintains close ties to Abilene through her parents, Rob and Linda Carleton.

Cunningham is a frequent traveler to Harvest Family Village. In March, she made her seventh trip there since 2011 to attend an annual pastors’ conference. But last week, Cunningham brought a piece of the village to Abilene. On May 9, Cunningham introduced Henry Mpofu, director of Harvest Family Village, to a group of friends at the home of her parents. Mpofu, an irrepressibly cheerful man, told about previously working for a United States government program involving 50,000 people. It was a great program, he said, and he learned a lot from it, but he didn’t really know any of the people who were served. Now, he directs a village that cares for 21 children in two homes.

Interested in helping? Contact Robin Cunningham at robinlynn1474@gmail.com

http://www.mindthegapafrica.org

“You can see the results,” he said.

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Henry Mpofu and Robin Cunningham. Photo by Loretta Fulton

Prior to a Mpofu’s talk, a video was shown about Harvest Family Village, its founding organization, Mind the Gap Africa, and its support church, Bulawayo Baptist Church. The dire figures were presented but, like Mpofu, the message was cheery. Jenny Hensman, founder of Mind the Gap Africa, spoke in a delightful British accent about her vision for the village.

“I just thought there was something I could do here,” Hensman says on the video. “I thought I could make a difference.”

The same could be said for Cunningham, who grew in Abilene’s First Baptist Church. On her most recent trip to Zimbabwe, Cunningham taught 100 women from the book of Galatians. She also got to she how the children at Harvest Family Village are thriving.

“The mission of this place is to love these kids,” a woman on the video says, and that is obvious.

They learn social skills and lifeskills such as tending the goats and chickens on the farm and working in the gardens. The children, many victims of neglect, abandonment, and sexual abuse, are placed at the village through Zimbabwe’s Department of Social Services.

The government is supposed to pay the village for their care, but Mpofu, the director, said the money doesn’t always come through and that is why external support is needed.

The dream of the Harvest Family Village is to construct a total of 12 houses, each with six bedrooms that can house eight to 10 children, a house mother and an “auntie.” Cost of each house is estimated at $130,000.

Another urgent need is a minibus. The village has only one vehicle and it is designed for eight passengers. The village can get reconditioned vans in Japan for a reasonable cost., Mpofu said. They will be used, but in good condition.

“For us,” Mpofu said, “they will be new–brand new.”

Jenny Hensman at Harvest Family Village in left photo and top right photo. One of the homes in the village is featured in the photo at bottom right. Photos by Robin Cunningham.

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