Tichakunda Day-Care Centre for Vulnerable & Orphaned Children is a ray of light within a dark and what would seem forsaken place – the slums of Hatcliffe, right at the edge of Borrowdale. The drive to the centre is one with conflicting scenery: the towering Zimbabwe Technology Centre (SIRDC) and the manicured Wild Geese Lodge set against Hatcliffe Township, mangled metal and dust which for many is home.
Mai Maraure, the founder of Tichakunda, has been in the business of caring for the neglected for 20 years. In that time she has been moved against her will three times, through the infamous Murambatsvina, selling her own personal estate to get the day care centre up, running and registered as a home.
Passion does not begin to describe the relentlessness of this woman. She has provided a home for neglected as well as abandoned children (five–12 years of age), most of whom have brutally abusive backgrounds and health concerns, many are HIV positive. And she has built a school, adjacent to the day care centre, for the older children in the community.
There, over 300 children from the age of seven to 16, attend Primary and Secondary level in classrooms made out of sheet metal collected from the nearest dump site. An average of 58 children cram into one small room, sitting attentively, many on the dirt floor with neither desks nor chair. The teachers are all volunteers who share Mai Maraure’s compassion.
Come midday, all the children, from both the Day-Care Centre and School, make a bee-line for the kitchen to receive their first and only meal for the day. Growing maize for sale on eight hectares of land (four of which have been given to her to use by the University of Zimbabwe), is how Mai Maraure and her team of volunteers stock up on groceries to feed the children once a day. Unfortunately, there isn’t enough to provide more. Mai Maraure remarks sadly that for some of the older children around the community, the centre is the only place they can get a full meal.
Driven by its founder, a handful of volunteers and the support of organisations such as the US Embassy, Sisters of Nazareth and the Rotarians of Harare West, Tichakunda has come a long way. It is growing as an establishment for children in need, a school for those who cannot afford education and a solace for those whose right to live full and healthy lives has been threatened. In addition it provides assistance for those in need of continuous medical care so that their rights to life may be respected. It is, however, still kilometres away from where it ought to be. It needs all the support it can get.
Tichakunda Pre-School Day Centre for Orphans & Vulnerable Children can be contacted on 0733 766 388.