Grandmother Elube Phiri has breast cancer. At 68 years old she has already undergone a mastectomy and the cancer treatment she received has damaged her heart. Despite her pain, health problems are not Elube’s main worry. Childcare is.
Elube is a single mother to her seven grandchildren - the youngest of whom is only six years old. As the children’s parents died or abandoned them one by one, Elube stepped into the breach to provide them with the care they needed.
“I’m too old to care for these children alone,” Elube says. “They were left very young, some five years old, others two years old. They do not even remember their parents.”
Raising her large family in the low-income neighbourhood of Chitungwiza on the outskirts of the Zimbabwean capital city, Harare, has been difficult for Elube. She has struggled to find enough money to feed the children and at times has had to exchange her clothes for grain.
As she could not afford school-fees, the children missed years of their education. Her oldest grandson, now an adult, cannot find work because he didn’t complete high school. He helps his grandmother grow food for the family instead.
Thankfully, since Elube began receiving support from our family strengthening team in Chitungwiza things have improved for her family.
With our help to pay school fees and buy learning materials the younger children have been able to return to school and complete their educations. We are also helping the older children obtain the skills they need to find work with vocational training and courses.
The high rates of crime and drug use in the densely populated Chitungwiza neighbourhood make regular school attendance even more crucial for children’s safety and development, as schools keep children away from gang violence.
SOS Children’s Villages has helped Elube set up a small business selling firewood, second-hand clothes and kitchen utensils by the roadside outside her house – offering her business training and access to a savings and loan scheme.
Although the demands of childcare weigh heavily on Elube, she says the family’s standard of living has greatly improved since SOS Children’s Villages offered their support.
Her income has grown and she is now able to feed the children and send them to school regularly. She has earned enough to replace her cooking pots, fix her fridge and buy a television set for her grandchildren to enjoy.
“I borrowed $250 from the savings and loan association to increase my stock and buy uniforms for my children,” Elube tells us.
“Now I want to save money so I can invest in their futures. I know the SOS support will not be there forever. I teach the children not to be lazy, for if they are, the consequences will be theirs to bear.”