Zimbabwe has been one of the hardest hit countries in the world by the HIV/AIDS pandemic. With an estimated 1.1 million orphans left in the wake of HIV/AIDS, Zimbabwe struggles to provide support to these children who are the future of the country. Zimbabwe has the highest inflation rate in the word, estimated to be over 10,000 percent. Unemployment is over 85 percent. The average life span is approaching 40, one of the lowest in the world. Food and other resources are becoming very limited, with many store shelves empty, leaving the children with a lack of nutrition and often hungry.

Currently FCH is home to 80 children and 28 staff members. The staff consists of an administrator, assistant administrator, clerk/typist, eight housemothers, eight aunties, two relief aunties, three general hands, one preschool teacher and one full-time volunteer with HOPE. Every member of FCH will be involved in caring for some of the animals or helping in the garden. Each of the projects either provides nutrition for the children and/or a means of additional income for FCH.

As the project progresses, the children will be the primary caretakers: learning how to feed, clean and care for the animals and as well as water, weed, plant, and harvest the crops. The responsibilities learned by the children will greatly enhance their opportunities for work after finishing their education, as well as giving them the knowledge needed to one day become the future the country so desperately needs.

The Man Behind the Gardens-of-Hope

Eric is from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and is now a student at Africa University majoring in Agriculture and Divinity. Eric stands out as one of those rare and exceptionally gifted individuals. He speaks five languages, English is his fifth language, and he has an exceptional command of it.

We met Eric during a trip sponsored by UMVIM. Eric proudly gave us a tour of his garden and livestock program he implemented on his own time to help make the orphanage more self-sustaining. Most of the 80+ children know Eric personally and clamor around to insist on his affection. Our entire 2007 UMVIM team agreed that Eric has a very bright light shining within him—a light that is clearly visible to all. The evening after Eric gave us a tour of the garden and animal projects he had started at the orphanage, the team was asked to describe something from the day that seemed hard or difficult, something positive or good, and something hopeful. One team member spontaneously volunteered this statement, "I can sum in all up in one word. Eric - Eric has overcome so many challenges, done so many wonderful things — he truly amazes me — Eric gives me hope."

“Eric is an extraordinary human being and is among the most gifted young adults I have ever met. In my opinion, his strongest gifts are his faith, compassion, vision, implementation, hospitality and ability to tolerate ambiguity. What I found quite striking, however, was his vision of a sustainable farm for the orphanage and its actual implementation. As a campus pastor and prior corporate and business attorney, I have been involved in many circles and involved in many types of organizations. I sincerely believe Eric is a human asset well worth investing in.”

- TarahTrueblood: campus minister at University of California at Berkeley.


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