Social Work in Times of Lockdown
The people of Zimbabwe are 85% Christians. Since there are few Bibles in the country, people often do not know how to put their faith into practice in everyday life. Scripture Union, an international Bible society, has developed concepts for schools that teach students about faith and impart Bible knowledge.
Scripture Union works with the street children in Masvingo. Many children have lost their parents to AIDS and have no one to care for them. Scripture Union runs a house where the children have regular contact to the personnel and can shower and get something to eat. The work relies exclusively on donations.
In the city centre of the small town of Masvingo there is a small bookshop. Here you can buy Bibles and Christian literature. At a time when money is very scarce in Zimbabwe and everything is becoming more and more expensive, it is a challenge to spend money on Christian literature. Clara, the saleswoman and employee of Scripture Union, told me that they are happy if they sell one or two books a day. She also has time to talk to people about God and faith. But that’s not all that Scripture Union does in Masvingo. If you walk through the small corridor to the back, you come to the office of Ndina Sithole, the manager. With her I went to visit primary and secondary schools. In many schools in Zimbabwe there are Bible circles organized by Scripture Union (SU). For this purpose, two teachers are selected who are responsible for leading the groups. The people of Zimbabwe like to make music, sing and dance exuberantly. Many SU groups also include a choir. Ndina knows the teachers and keeps in touch with them. Whenever she is financially able to do so, she visits the schools to guide, sing, and encourage the children in the SU groups in their Bible work. Highlights of the joint work are the SU camps, where the school students meet regionally for a weekend to celebrate Jesus together and to get to know the Bible better. Former students often visit these camps again, as they are encouraging highlights for everyone.
In addition, SU has a kitchen, a small classroom and a garden with a fireplace and watering point at its headquarters in Masvingo. Children and young people who live on the streets come here every day. There is a back entrance to the headquarters, which can be reached via a remote sand road. Some children stay overnight with their few belongings right outside the door. They can then wash themselves and their clothes at SU, receive a hot meal and spend time with the employees, who teach them to cook and play football or help them to be reconciled in the case of disputes. The SU employees work very closely with the children and they notices when one of them stays away for a while. Then they walk through the streets looking for them. The state authorities are also aware of SU’s commitment and phone Ndina if for example, a child is in prison or being held by the police. SU then takes care of them in prison. In times of lockdown, this is a massive challenge. Only grocery stores are open. SU is also closed. But contact with the children who are currently housed in a training centre remains. Ndina visits them regularly.
SU also has a shared flat where children and young people who decide to go back to school are allowed to live, They are resocialized there and prepared to go back to their family, if they have one. There are currently five children living there. Goodness, an employee, is “mother” to the group. She is at the headquarters in Masvingo during the day and works with the street children. She takes care of everything, including health care when the children are sick. A Don Bosco school gives street children a new chance and admits them without them having to pay the school fees. They are aware of the problems and work in cooperation with SU. It is often very difficult for children and adolescents to get used to normal everyday life.
I am very happy that some of the children I met there in 2017 have made it. They have persevered and have now been going to school for two years. It was hard work to motivate them to do it. March 2020 Beate Nagel