Blessing Chiwata’s Story: Surviving as Orphans in Zimbabwe

Photography and photostory production by Blessing Chiwata

My name is Blessing Chiwata. I am 20 years and I head a household of four. I stay with my siblings, Peter, Likane and Maskida. Our father passed away in 2001 when I was 11 years old and our mother passed away three years later when I was 15 years old. Everyone in my community knew that my parents died of a HIV related illness.

While they were alive, my parents participated in the formation of the Rujeko Community Trust’s first People Living with HIV (PLWHIV) support group in the late 90s. My parent’s relationship with Rujeko was vital to our welfare after my parent’s death. The Rujeko Community Trust is funded by Irish Aid.

Effects of issues on you, your family and your community

The illness and death of my parents was devastating. My parents left us staying in a rundown mud walled, thatch roofed hut. When my parents died, our relatives took away the little of what was left of our movable property. Many people in my community stay in mud huts. No one was willing to take in five young children. As the eldest member of the surviving family, I had to look after my siblings. My younger brother and I dropped out of school as we had no money for our school fees. The community supported us randomly, but not enough to help us to survive.

How you identified the response

I failed to secure formal employment because I was a school dropout. The unemployment rate in my country has been over 90% for years. I found work in illegal diamond mining at Chiadzwa, a newly found diamond deposit not too far from my home. I endured sleepless nights and had to go for days without food. My efforts paid up after months of untold anguish. I got a 14 carat diamond piece. After selling the piece, I was able to build a six-roomed asbestos roofed house. I used some of the money for my family’s upkeep. I also invested some of the money in a goat rearing project. I stared the project with 2 goats in 2007. The project is very productive and I now have 18 goats. I get advice on project management from Youth Programme run by Rujeko.

Rujeko, a community based organisation which is funded by Irish Aid, allowed me to continue to use a piece of land at Devure Gravity Fed Irrigation Scheme. The land, which is about half an acre, belonged to my parents. We grow a variety of vegetables including beans, maize, sweet potatoes, wheat and tomatoes. Whilst others sell their produce, our crops are for our own consumption.

Describe what that response is

My family now have decent accommodation though the house is incomplete. I now manage to send my younger siblings to school from the profit I get from the goats project. We no longer run out of food as we rely on our garden produce and milk from our goats.