It is the first day going out in the field for the Progressio ICS volunteers in Mutare. Our partner organisation is Simukai, which means ‘stand-up’ in Shona, it is an organisation that supports orphans and vulnerable children living around the Mutare area. Mutare is a small city in the eastern border of Zimbabwe, with a population of about 300,000 people.  It is Zimbabwe’s third largest city and is located amidst a long range of picturesque mountains which divides Zimbabwe and Mozambique.

It is a bright shiny day and we, the volunteers, are conducting a street visit with the purpose of identifying new street children, who might want to use the help that Simukai offers and build relationships with them.  We’re also interacting with already known street children, seeing how they are living and working on the streets and how best we can encourage them to leave the life they are living on the street. The longterm goal we hope to achieve through working with children living on the street, is to encourage them to go back home.

As we walked towards one street child who was begging for money from an older man, we observed that the man instead of handing over the money to the child threw the five rand or 33 pence on the ground.  The child quickly picked the money and thanked the man. 

As we conversed with the child, we asked him how he felt about the way he was given the money. He shrugged his shoulders and stated that he was used to being treated inhumanely, but being given money afterwards always made him feel better. The young boy concluded that maybe people treated him and other street children like animals because they looked dirty and unkempt, but it would be really nice if people would treat them like any other human being because behind their torn clothes they’re just like everyone else in the fullest sense.

People who look closely will notice that despite their ragged appearance, the boys are clean. The young boy said he was clean because Simukai gives him and the other boys soap and water to make them look presentable and feel proud. As one of the Simukai staff told us “just because the boys live on the streets, does not mean they have to be unclean, this was the mentality the street children had before they came to Simukai”. It is interesting to observe daily that when the kids come to the Simukai centre, the first thing that they want to do is their laundry and bathing.

As we walked back to our offices we really felt that everyone in society should join hands with Simukai and treat street children with humanity and respect. At the end of the day it is not the clothes, money or social status that qualifies a person to be a human being but it is the gift of life itself that qualifies a person to be a human being, so let us unite and treat the less fortunate humanely.

Written by Zimbabwean Progressio ICS volunteer Kuda Pswatai

Photo: Outskirts of Mutare