In a post earlier this year, I described the difficulty facing Mai Chipira and her daughters, making one of the most vulnerable families Tariro works with, and one of the hardest cases to ensure a positive intervention. Today, I’m writing with the happy news that Mai Chipira’s oldest daughter, Ashleen, has been attending school regularly thanks to support from Tariro.
In May, Tariro bought a new school uniform for Ashleen, and paid the school fees required for her to enroll in kindergarten at the Chinamano Primary School in Epworth. Since then, however, we’ve had difficulty contacting Mai Chipira to obtain an update on whether Ashleen has been attending school regularly. This difficulty has been conpounded by the family’s tenuous situation, as they moved to another rented room in their Epworth neighborhood. Since Epworth has no named streets, only winding dirt roads, this made it impossible for our program coordinator, Fadzi, to conduct a follow-up home visit. Compounding our concern, we’ve occasionally seen Ashleen begging on the street with her mother during the afternoon, and we therefore wanted to make absolutely sure that she is attending school regularly before continuing to sponsor her school fees.
To determine this information, Fadzi recently visited Ashleen’s school and spoke with her teacher and school administrators. She learned that Ashleen has indeed been attending school regularly despite the family’s unstable home situation, and that Ashleen had only joined her mother in town after school let out for the day. We had initially asked Mai Chipira to agree to keep Ashleen off of the streets entirely as a condition of paying for her school fees. However, we consider the fact that Ashleen is attending school regularly as a major success for this family, and we’ve decided to continue sponsoring her school fees during the third term of 2010. Thank you so much to those sponsors who have helped us to make this possible!
In my first post on Mai Chipira’s family, I mentioned how Mai Chipira was one of the first people I ran into on the very first day of my most recent trip to Zimbabwe, begging on the same street corner where I had first met her a year earlier. Today, I’m going to close with a photo of Ashleen in her school uniform which I took on my very last day of the same trip. Late in the afternoon on the way home from a weekend camping trip at the Chimanimani Arts Festival right before I left for the United States, I drove by the street corner where Mai Chipira regularly begs. Stopping at the red light, I saw Mai Chipira sitting on the side of the road in the shade, and called her over to the car. Is Ashleen going to school, I asked. She replied that Ashleen was indeed attending school, and called her over to see me. Still dressed in her school uniform, with a few gaps in her smile where she had recently lost her baby teeth, and clutching a lollipop, Ashleen came over to flash a huge smile at me. From inside the car, I quickly pulled my camera out and snapped one last photo before the traffic light turned green, and I was on my way home to pack for the plane.
It’s not every day that Tariro takes on a challenge as demanding as the situation we’re trying to help this family work through, and I’m glad that we can report back to you with this success. Since our ultimate goal is to have Ashleen off the streets entirely, I consider it a partial success. Considering the very desperate situation facing Ashleen, however, the ability to continue going to school in the face of so many obstacles is truly a life-changing opportunity.