The Homefields Centre, a home for the mentally challenged, has been struggling so much financially that most of their 50-year old buildings are barely habitable.
Established in 1960, the Centre has not been renovated in more than 20 years and is poorly maintained due to lack of funds. Paint is peeling off the hostel walls, the ceilings are broken and the plumbing system hardly works. The furniture has aged too, much is broken and mattresses need to be replaced. Neglect has spread to the playgrounds and, with the paddocks unfenced as the original fence has deteriorated, the Centre’s livestock is free to wander off.
Homefields Centre deputy superintendent Getty Nyatondo explains, “I have been working at this centre for the past 19 years. We used to get financial support from Zimcare Trust but since 2000 the Trust has not been financially stable. Now all their centres are being run by independent management committees.”
This means that there have not been any major renovations, although the old age home has just been completely revamped courtesy of a well wisher. The old age home takes both males and females over the age of 40. It has been retiled and re-plumbed with new toilets and bathrooms. The ceiling has been replaced and new bedding purchased.
Nyatondo said, “We have 90 residents. 30 of them do not pay the $250 monthly fees.” She said the money that is being paid by residents is used to pay the 33-strong team of staff that includes specially trained personnel in various disciplines. It is also used to buy food and pay for other necessities for the running of the centre. Homefields also gets donations from Christian Community Partnership Trust and mealie meal is generously donated by National Foods.
It is both by necessity then, but also for the benefit of its residents who need to be stimulated, that the Centre runs its own projects. “We have a poultry project which produces eggs, a garden where we get vegetables, a pottery and weaving workshop, a carpentry workshop to build coffins that we sell to the community and dairy cows that have recently been donated to us by Mimosa Mine,” said Nyatondo.
Some of their produce is used in the Centre, with the surplus sold to generate income to keep the projects running. “In all the projects our residents will be working so that they don’t just sleep the day off. They are under strict supervision of our staffers,” she said. Those that are not well enough to carry out duties in different projects spend their day in stimulation classes where they play different games and enjoy some exercise.
The centre has recently been selling produce at the Wednesday market on Maasdorp Road in Belgravia. Income generated from the market supplements the Centre. “We are going to open a secondhand shop soon, so we appeal for any household goods you are no longer using, clothes or even furniture. We live in a farming community so there is always a demand,” said Nyatondo.
In June, Homefields will also be attempting to break the Guinness World Record for the three legged race, a record currently held by the Isle of Man, to fundraise for a new bus. The Centre’s head of the fundraising committee Eric De Jong says, “Homefields will enter as many pairs as possible and we are already training for the 200 metre event.” He appeals for sponsorship and aid for advertising and logistics of the event.
Homefields Centre takes care of the mentally challenged above the age of 18, coming in from across the country. Their oldest resident is 73 year-old Heather Cook while the youngest is Neil Kuvatengera who recently turned 18. The Centre however ends up turning away many who are both physically and mentally challenged because their facility is not friendly for wheelchairs.
Homefields is located on the outskirts of Harare in Mount Hampden. Travel 19km along Lomagundi Road and turn left into Homefields Road, after Mount Hampden shops. The Centre is approximately 2km from the main road. For more info visit: www.hfzw.org.