Emerald Hill Children’s Home
Since 2009 we have partnered with the Emerald Hill Children’s Home which cares for vulnerable and orphaned children. It was founded in 1914 and is located in Emerald Hill, a suburb of Harare, and is currently home to over 100 children, and cares for boys aged 3 to 12 and girls aged 3 to “independence” (usually 18 years).
Emerald Hill’s mission is to ensure that each child in its care fully develops intellectually and emotionally. To achieve this, Emerald Hill works closely with the Department of Social Welfare, other non-governmental organizations including ZOF Africa and foreign embassies.
Education for the Emerald Hill children
Despite the economy and the funding troubles faced by many public institutions in Zimbabwe, Emerald Hill has a long record of stability. The younger children attend a local state-run primary school, and due to the low education standards at local secondary schools, the Home trie
s to sponsor the education of almost all of the senior girls at a private local Catholic school. After primary school, the boys from the orphanage are sent to live at St Joseph’s, an all-boys home.
After their secondary education, the girls have the option of staying at Emerald Hill while they attend university-level classes. Thanks to the stability of Emerald Hill, a growing number of the young people who have left the orphanage have succeeded in obtaining university degrees and stable jobs.
St. Joseph’s House for Boys
St Joseph’s House for Boys was founded in 1929. St Joseph House for Boys looks after boys who are orphaned, abandoned, abused, neglected, marginalized and disadvantaged.
It is located in Harare, Zimbabwe, in the suburb of Belvedere.
The home looks after 55 boys, all below the ages of 18. Many of these boys attended Emerald Hill Children’s Home until the age of 13, and all the boys are referred to by the Department of Social Welfare.
Management and Governance
The home is managed by a team comprised of a Superintendent, an Administrator, a Matron, the kitchen staff and the ground staff.
The superintendent reports to the Chairman of the Board of Governors who is the overall overseers of the home. The Board of the Governors reports to the Board of Trustees.
Meet the Children
[In order to respect the privacy of the children we help support, ZOF has removed the real names from the following case studies]
Joy came to Emerald Hill in 1995 when she was ten years old. Until then she had been living with her mother and two sisters. She never knew her father, and throughout her youth her mother had difficulty finding a stable job. In 1992, Joy’s mother got sick, was constantly in and out of the hospital. which meant she could no longer support her daughters, and social welfare services placed them in a children’s home.
At 24 years old, Joy still resides at Emerald Hill while she pursues her studies at Midlands State University in Harare. She will graduate this year with a degree in Local Governance, after which she hopes to open a counseling center for orphans in Zimbabwe. Her goal is to address orphans’ psychological issues which, from her experience, undermine their efforts at leading fulfilling and self-sustaining lives.
“My vision is to see every orphan prosper,” says Joy.
Barbara came to Emerald Hill when she was two years old. She has never met her father, who moved to South Africa before she was born. Although her mother still lives in Zimbabwe, she and Barbara rarely see each other.
Barbara is interested in food and nutrition, and hopes to stay at Emerald Hill while she attends university.
How a donation will help Barbara
In Zimbabwe, social welfare requires orphanages to care only for children who are eighteen or younger. However, Emerald Hill understands that without financial aid and social stability, young women in Zimbabwe have little or no chance to pursue their studies and find stable jobs. This is why they encourage women to stay at the orphanage while they attend university-level classes. Without the help of private donations, Emerald Hill would not be able to provide room, board, and other forms of support to Barbara after she turns eighteen.
Editors’s note: ZOF has decided to leave Josephine’s testimonial as she wrote it. We have edited her words for purposes of length and clarity. Edits are noted in [brackets].
Life before Emerald Hill
I am originally from Mozambique. My mother moved to Zimbabwe when I was six months old and at that time she was also pregnant with another child. Her relationship with my father never worked out and so she decided to follow her mother (my granny).
My mother and granny had their differences and were always at each other’s throats. My mother remarried a Mozambican man and gave birth to three boys. My stepfather left for Mozambique [leaving] my mother with six children to take care of.
We lacked all the basic needs, i.e. accommodation, education, food, clothing and even access to health care. My mother would move from one house to the other as she could not afford rent, and at times we would sleep at the marketplace. At times we would sell cigarettes in beer halls in order to raise a bit of income. At times my young sister and I would go to our granny’s house. She had a shabeen [local bar] and so we were vulnerable to abuse by her customers but that is how she earned her living.
These living conditions worsened my mother’s health and she was be hospitalized time and time again. The Sister in charge of the hospital visited us at home and referred us to social welfare through which the six of us were later institutionalised. Two of my siblings were taken to SOS Children’s village and four of us were taken to Emerald Hill Children’s Home.
Life at Emerald Hill
It was heaven to me. Everything looked different. It felt like a dream. I was twelve then, ready to start secondary education. But I had one challenge: I could not speak English.
The Home was a haven [and] everything that I [had] lacked in my life back then was provided for. I was thrilled that I did not only have a stable roof over my head but also a bed of my own. During the night, on my bed I thought of [where] I came from and how we had to sleep on the table because the house was leaking and there was water all over the floor (the floor was not cemented) so it was really muddy in the house.
The Home provided us with food and clothing. In terms of education, all we had to do was to go to school. There was nothing to worry about: books, uniforms were provided. We had access to health care. It felt like ‘home’. Never in my life had I dreamt I could live such a different life. Other children in my situation back home, particularly girls, were really disadvantaged. They married as early as fourteen, or were so vulnerable that they helped poor parents by becoming prostitutes. Though I never got to such extremes, my elder sister did. She left Emerald Hill soon after completing Ordinary level, died three years later due to HIV-related illnesses. This was a lesson for me.
I enjoyed my life at EH. When I left the home I had acquired a diploma in Executive Secretarial [Studies]. I managed to get a job as a field worker with the Dominican Sisters in Hatcliffe [area slightly north of the capital, Harare]. I was working with orphaned and vulnerable children and later trained to become a child counselor. [However,] I could not advance in my counseling career because I was under age according to the Ministry of Health. It was really disappointing and discouraging.
Life after the home
It was survival of the fittest out there. I went straight to [the] George Fleming house from Emerald Hill but met many challenges.
I was impregnated one and half years later. The boyfriend was not supportive. I was forced to move out and go back to Mbare where l lived before the Home. There was no room (a three-roomed house in which seven of us shared the dining room, both males and females mixed). I thought of where I had come from and where I was. I was beginning to despair. How was I going to pay for accommodation and all the maternal expenses that would come with the new baby?
On second thought, I decided that after all the assistance I had received in my life, surely it would be a disgrace if I ended up like my mother. I decided to pick myself up and focus on what I really wanted my life to be, what I wanted for the child I was carrying. I decided to work hard.
Since I could not advance my counseling, I decided to earn a diploma in accounting with an international board. My boss paid for my courses. That was another blessing I received. Later on [I] earned a diploma in Desktop publishing. I am currently in my final year of an Honours degree in Sociology and Gender Studies (BSc). I chose gender studies because I felt there were a lot of things which affected me and that I failed to understand in our culture. I think I [am] seeking answers not only to my life problems but also the lives of my sisters (also raised in institutions) who are finding it difficult to cope in their marriages. I thank [Sister] Gabriel who has been a mother figure in our lives for trying to follow up on us even after we have left Home. For my dissertation, I have decided to look at institutionalised children. I wish to make a difference, a change in the lives of many other poor people. I am a mother of one boy who is five years old. I am still struggling to make a difference in my life, and it is a tough road considering my background. I am the only person who has worked formally in my family and I am proud that I will be the first person to graduate.
Right now, I am a field officer [and] social worker. My boss is financing my current studies but I have to finance my research project. I find it really demanding to work, have a family and study. I have no choice because I need to survive, [and I] can’t afford fees. I am likely to go on to my Masters, working and studying [in the same conditions].
Emerald Hill has motivated me in a big way. What really touches me is that I lived a different life unexpectedly. Someone dedicated thier time to ensure a child they don’t know has a normal life. [This is] something which my own biological father failed to do. Even if he was poor, his efforts, his presence and love could have made a [difference] in my life.
[At EH], there was a good library and all the textbooks we needed were available even in the study room. Now I always collect books for my child, I have a little bookshelf and a small desk that I bought for my child. He [will] need the desk when he starts first grade. I have learnt that from the ‘Home’, it is a need I feel but it’s something that I would have never thought of if I hadn’t gone to the Home.
I have high hopes for my future. [I want] to use my past experiences to correct or change my future life. My past experiences helped me to be the person I am today. Whenever I think of my friends who are not doing as well, I ask myself how those still in Homes can be helped towards realising their goals in life. Maybe that is why I am doing my research on [institutionalised children]. I am still [trying] to figure out what really helps and how to implement it.