Thrills, cheers as children formerly living on streets start projects . . . heart-rending tales of rehabilitation at First Lady’s skills centre Angel of Hope Foundation patron First Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa joined the former street children in harvesting tomatoes they grew at the skills development centre in Mbare.

Tendai Rupapa-Senior Reporter

EVIDENCE of total transformation gives the former street children hope making them punch the air with excitement and look at life in general with a new gaze.

Prostitution, drug abuse and petty crime had become part and parcel of the children’s lives on the streets of Harare where survival was a daily struggle until the First Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa came into their lives and provided them with all the basics including shelter, food, clothes and is equipping them with life skills to fend for themselves.

Yesterday, Amai Mnangagwa, who has a passion for the total empowerment of children, paid them a visit at her Life skills development centre in Mbare, assessing the various projects they are doing as she also interacted with them over a healthy meal and sporting activities.

There was also a chance to kick and pass the ball as the First Lady sought to motivate the children, make them bond and entertained.

Angel of Hope Foundation girls (former street children) Vs Mbare girls played a netball match and AOH won 11-0.

Amai Mnangagwa also took part in the game to motivate the girls.

In soccer Angel of Hope FC played Kuyamurana FC.

AOH lost the game.

There was also a friendly netball match between team madzimai (women from the apostolic sect) and a team made of women from other various churches which was coached by Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Service Chaplin Christine Phiri.

The mother of the nation, whose warm heart has captured the imagination of the world and won her countless accolades, gave the children new clothes and taught them the importance of maintaining good personal hygiene through washing and drying clothes on the washing line she affixed at the centre.

Angel of Hope Foundation patron First Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa listens to former street children as they explain how they can now make various types of detergents following the training they received at her skills development centre in Mbare yesterday.

She provided toiletries, buckets and towels for them to bathe.

Dr Mnangagwa joined the children in harvesting a variety of crops they grew through irrigation at the centre like green mealies, carrots, cabbages, tomatoes, onions, green pepper, rape, covo, pumpkin leaves and spinach.

The vegetables and green mealies from the garden were part of the menu prepared for lunch by Amai Mnangagwa, the children both boys and girls and women from the community.

Apart from gardening, the children are undertaking other various projects at the centre that include poultry production, detergents making, carpentry and waste management.

Children at the centre paid tribute to the First Lady for the life skills she imparted to them.

“We were taught life skills like recycling by the First Lady through the Environmental Management Agency. They taught us about the separation of waste where we take plastic which we mill to make plastic chairs, bin liners and several other plastic things. 

“We are using aluminium cans to make large pots. We also make straps that are used in the packaging of bricks. As a young person living in the street, I had never ventured into business, but with the life skill courses that we are doing courtesy of the First Lady, we are now employers.”

“We can now take other children from the streets whom we spend time with giving them work to do. I can assign one to pick plastic containers, the other cans and the other one plastics. We have been taught carpentry where we make cupboards, headboards and sofas that can be used to adorn people’s homes. 

“We are transforming from street kids to wealthy kids all because of Amai’s love,” said one of the children.

First Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa listens to former street children as they explained how they can now make various types of products and kitchen utensils among other things from recycled waste following the training they received at her skills development centre in Mbare yesterday.

Asked by the First Lady about his vision, the boy said: “As a young person who had no vision I now see myself being an employer in the end doing something as big as opening my furniture shop in the central business district (CBD).”

The First Lady thanked the boy for his zeal to learn.

“I thank you, my son. Since we started, you have always been here learning. You have been here all the time with others. Whenever I come here unannounced, I just find you all here my children. 

“All of you here, including the girls, I now know you. I want you to maintain that spirit as you now no longer venture out there to do useless things. You can now assist others and do not let your peers get lost in your presence because you now know,” Dr Mnangagwa said.

She also had an appreciation of the poultry project where one of the girls said she was the project manager following a training by the Angel of Hope Foundation.

“Mother, if you had not taken me off the streets, I would be a filthy and intoxicated vagrant sleeping on pavements. I was lacking proper care and guidance. We thank you for your love Mother,” she said while wiping away tears.

A trainer at the centre gave Dr Mnangagwa a glimpse into the work they were doing.

“We train the children to repair vehicles, doing the auto wiring and domestic electricity installations. We teach the children to do hairdressing and beauty therapy,” the trainer said.

The First Lady implored the trainers to put the children into groups and train them.

The children themselves showed zeal to face the world with the skills they have attained through the benevolence of the First Lady.

“I want to thank the First Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa for what she has done for us. She took us from the streets and brought us here where we can now work for ourselves doing projects. We no longer survive on stealing from other people and we survive on our own and for this I am grateful,” one of the beneficiaries of the programme said.

Similar words were echoed by yet another inmate who confirmed to have been abusing alcohol before benefiting from the First Lady’s programme.

A girl who is a former street child joyfully explains to First Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa how her life and that of her peers have been transformed by the training they received in poultry.

“Our mother is doing well for us. We were previously abusing alcohol and drugs a lot but we left drugs at her behest and as of now we can grow beans, cabbages and maize that are here. She is giving us food, shelter, clothes. She sank a borehole for us and urged us to grow crops and leave drugs to transform our lives and we thank her for what she did,” he said with a broad smile.

A young woman marvelled at the new lease of life she received from Dr Mnangagwa and said her life had truly changed for the better due to the First Lady’s intervention.

“I want to thank our mother. I am one of those who had nothing to do in life but our mother was gracious and brought me here to do something. I had virtually nothing to hold on to as life was tough. Life can be tough on the streets and I thank our mother for this new life. 

“I urge others who are still on the streets to come and join us here. There is a good life here and we will not return to the streets. If there are others out there, I urge them to cast away fear and come forward. 

“We are doing quite a lot of projects like detergent-making and poultry production and I invite others too. I have changed. We are given food in the morning, afternoon and evening. Come this is free. I thank our mother heartily. Amai has given us a life. We are fresh from bathing unlike when we would eat from the bins. I can now make thick bleach, dishwasher and petroleum jelly. We can now write our notes, refer to them and learn very well our methods and formulas. I thank you mhamha for giving me life,” she said.

One of the children called out to those who are still living and working on the streets to join the new initiative which ensured they lived safely and worked on improving their lives.

“My friends who are still living and working on the streets are losing out. They must come and share in the greatness that we have been ushered into by the First Lady. We no longer abuse drugs, neither do we dabble in the dark world of prostitution. Our lives have changed and I call out to my friends who are still in the cold to come and experience the warmth that has come from the First Lady,” he said as he danced with excitement.

A 16-year-old girl left people fighting back tears when she narrated how she started staying on the streets when she was 11 years old. She said she was sexually abused on the streets and had a child the following year when she was still only 12.

She thanked Amai Mnangagwa for picking her from the dust and empowering her.

First Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa shoots the ball during a netball match she organised at the skills development training centre in Mbare yesterday. Pictures: John Manzongo.

Addressing the gathering, the First Lady called on soccer and netball clubs to visit the centre and scout for talent in the children.

“I call upon others to see the talents in these children. There are gifted children here who need to be nurtured in the field of football and netball,” she said.

“Today, we are gathered here for our children and this is not the first time. I say we have come back to this home which now belongs to all of us. 

“This is a home where we see the transformation of our children. If you see me around, it means there is no play and we will be after fixing our home. I am gratified by the work being done here by these boys and girls. I saw this without being told by anyone where I started with them and where they are today have big differences,” she said.

The First Lady said she would not tire as she meant serious business and transformation at the centre.

Women from the Apostolic sect play netball with their peers in Mbare in a match that was organised by First Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa yesterday.

“Will it not be wonderful to say that when everything started, we thought it was all a joke? Look at our children now, they have testimonies. In the soccer teams, you saw others falling and others running as the ball was going in the other direction and some missed. By the time we meet again, they would have changed. We only meant to see how strong they are physically and that is why we did not take a long time with these children playing. This is because some of them were affected by drugs. 

“The moment you take a sip, a part of the body is affected. I thank you my children for being attentive and changing to be people among others and you are getting there. 

“I spoke to other girls who said they ventured onto the streets because there was no peace at home as their parents fought daily. Are there couples around that can come forward,” she said.

She asked the couples to demonstrate how they were living in a bid to build strong family ties, how they were relating with their children and whether or not they were engaging children regularly to end the drug menace.

Boys lift their trophy after a soccer match which was organised by First Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa at the skills development centre in Mbare yesterday. Looking on are Minister of State and Devolution for Harare Metropolitan Charles Tawengwa and Harare Mayor Clr Jacob Mafume.

The First Lady invited the community to form clubs and work with the children at the centre.

Sports winners were given medals and trophies.

Chaplain Phiri paid tribute to the First Lady for her unconditional love and zeal to see all the country’s children prosper.

“Today we are here because of our mother’s love. She said come here and I will transform your lives for the better. She has refused to let us grow from the streets and is speaking out against drugs. But what is causing children to venture into the streets? Research shows that parents fight or abuse drugs, pushing children out or forcing them to start also abusing drugs.

Mrs Susan Ngani distributes toiletries, towels and buckets to former street children brought by First Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa to enable them to bath at the skills development centre in Mbare yesterday morning.

“Drill your children on the path you want them to walk. My parents divorced while I was young and I grew up a miserable life. We would steal maize with my younger sisters and brother. 

“I also lived on the streets and would also take alcohol but I asked myself where that would take me. It was painful for me to go to school and I failed. 

Former street children receive clothes sourced by First Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa at the skills development centre in Mbare, Harare, yesterday morning.

“I dusted myself, wrote the exams again and passed. Here I am today. If your parents are doing bad things, change that narrative, leave drugs and value your education. Our mother gave you a second chance so grab it with both hands. A nation is built by its citizens, but how can we achieve that when we are always drunk?” she said.

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