The Zimbabwe Synod is one of five synods comprising the United Congregational Church of Southern Africa. It is based in Bulawayo with congregations and schools throughout Matabeleland. The church's greatest constraint is the economic and political situation prevailing throughout the country. As a result of this situation, ordinary Zimbabweans suffer greatly. The migration of the youth and other members of the work force is taking its toll on the church and communities where the churches are located.
The Widow Project was started in 2007 in the Bulawayo Region, when a cry was heard from some of the vulnerable widows. The group currently has 35 members of varying ages. The youngest widows are less than 40 years of age and the oldest among them are over 80. When the Widow Project started, they each contributed what they knew of basketry, embroidery, and crocheting. The church gave the group enough land for the garden and gave access to a water supply. Farming training was done by a volunteer widower. Other projects include candle-making and baking.
Once fully established, the project will be a very good source of income. People need food sources in Zimbabwe and the widows will make a profit through selling vegetables. Markets and bakeries are eager to sell the vegetables and bread. Food projects will also improve the nutritional status especially of the elderly, the sick, and the young. Candles are in demand because of the constant electricity shortages.
The project will help individuals to pay for:
- Hospital or medical expenses
- Funeral expenses
- Rent and utilities
- Food and other household needs
- School fees, books, and school uniforms for their children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren
Working together on various projects also serves as a sort of therapy for the widows. The UCCSA in Zimbabwe says that there will be large numbers of widows as long as HIV/AIDS exists.
The budget for the Widow Project includes resources for seeds and baking ingredients, candle-making supplies, and shipping costs. The initial amount needed to cover all these expenses is estimated at $2,000. This should sustain the Widow Program of the UCCSA Zimbabwe for the first several years.
Your gifts can help support the Widow Project in the following ways:
- $2.00 can purchase seeds for a vegetable garden
- $5.00 could buy flour to bake bread
- $15.00 might be used to purchase candle making supplies
- $25.00 may help purchase farming tools
There are more widows than ever before due to the HIV and AIDS pandemic and due to the age difference between some women being married to older men. Because of this, many widows are left with nothing or the extended family will take everything that was left by the husband. Without their own source of income they are frequently the subject of abuse. The Widows Farm project is made up of mostly women, although there are few men working there as well as it is seen as a community project. Each small group has their own projects that they are doing: candle making, gardening, and jersey making.
Candle making is one of the income-generating projects that is helping most of the widows. They have divided themselves by local communities in order to keep transportation costs down. Each community makes their candles and sells them at the end of the month. The communities then meet to re-budget and share their profits. These profits help them pay fees , buy food, uniforms, medical expenses, and other costs they have in their homes.
Jersey (sweater) making is accomplished with wool that was donated to the women. When they first started knitting, they would donate part of the jerseys to the Bongani Day Care Centre where a number of vulnerable children live. The rest were sold in local markets. They continue to knit and sell some of these jerseys to the community.
Gardening is a project in Bulawayo has been crippled by burglars. Thieves broke in and stole the pump that draws water, but the women continued to plant maize as the rains had started. They had a minor harvest due to little or no rains at all this year, but the small harvest will provide some food for their families.
Another gardening project is at the Hope Fountain community. They were given a small piece of land where they have planted all types of vegetables for sale. They also would like to breed chickens for sale as Christmas nears. They have an oven and would like to bake bread and buns for Tennyson Hlabangana High School and the local community. At the moment they raise peas and carrots. They will be planting maize in mid-July to sell as green maize and again later in October for harvesting. Their plot needs fencing as goats and cows belonging to the community come and eat their crops.
Tshimali, Inyathi, and Zinyangeni are doing goat breeding, chickens, and basketry. Those with goats are trying hard to distribute two goats per household, a male and female. This will make them increase in number and have goat milk and manure. Goat milk is good as a supplement especially for the HIV positive mothers who have chosen not to breast feed.
With these projects the Widows Farm Project hopes to empower the widows so that they can live free from stigma and discrimination. They want these women to live with dignity and have a voice in decisions that affect their lives and to be self-reliant and have confidence in themselves.