In Memory: Ambuya Kundai

Ambuya Kundai's passing means greater hardship for her four orphaned grandchildren

Ambuya Kundai

It is with great sadness that I write to report the passing of one of Tariro’s grandmothers, Ambuya Kundai. Truly dedicated to her grandchildren, Ambuya Kundai was raising four orphaned and vulnerable children at the time of her death late last month, all of whom have been sponsored by Tariro for many years. Three of her grandchildren, Kundai, Rudo, and Vanessa, are siblings who lost first their father, then their mother, and next their paternal grandmother, who initially cared for them following the death of their parents. A fourth grandchild, Dennis, is a cousin to the other three siblings.

Given the desperate circumstances in which this family found themselves, Tariro made an exceptional decision to sponsor Kundai and Dennis, Ambuya Kundai’s two male grandchildren, in addition to the two girls, Rudo and Vanessa. While our primary focus is on educating girls, on very infrequent occasions during our early years as an organization, we perceived a compelling reason to extend our sponsorship to the male siblings of an already-enrolled female student. With her very limited income, advanced age, and exceptional responsibilities, Ambuya Kundai struck us as one of these extraordinary cases.

Ambuya Kundai's four orphaned grandchildren Kundai, Vanesaa, Rudo, and Dennis, pictured here with their cousins Jessie and Tinashe.

Ambuya Kundai’s four orphaned grandchildren, pictured here with two of their cousins. From left to right: Kundai, Vanessa, Rudo, Jessie, Tinashe, and Dennis. Photo taken in 2008.

The loss of their maternal grandmother is a terrible final blow for Kundai, Rudo, Vanessa, and Dennis, who are all currently between 10 and 17 years old. As she passed away so recently, we are still unsure as to whether these four children will be able to remain in the same home with surviving relatives, or whether they will have to move yet again. It is possible that they will experience substantial instability in the coming months, as the various families involved- their fathers’ families, the family of Ambuya Kundai, and their maternal grandfather’s family- discuss who can best care for them. As we learn more about the family’s plans, I will continue to post updates on whether these four children are able to remain in their neighborhood, and in Tariro’s programs.

As Americans mourn the loss of so many children to the violence plaguing our society, Zimbabwean children like Kundai, Rudo, Vanessa, and Dennis are also mourning, as they grieve the loss of multiple, successive family members. What can we do in the face of so much loss? For me, the answer has always been to take small, yet tangible steps toward social change. Write to a senator, demanding better gun control. Choose not to own or use a gun. Study peace. Enable a single girl to return to school. Buy her a uniform, and give her access to books. In this way, Tariro began, and in this spirit, we continue to work, doing our best to honor to the memory of Ambuya Kundai, and all of the many relatives our students have lost.

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