Home » Human Rights » Woman With a Heart of Gold

Every community has its hero and heroine. Many times, people do not celebrate community work that such local heroes and heroines do to change the lives of many. In most cases, the good work of such community heroes and heroines is only heard of and celebrated during graveside speeches.

In Harare’s high-density suburb of Mufakose lives a woman whose charity work is celebrated with each sunrise. She is their heroine and the mention of her name rings a bell in the minds of many whose lives she has touched.

Winnet Gwanzura (64) popularly known as Gogo Gwanzura, is a woman with a golden heart. She has been mother to her six children and 69 others in her lifetime.

It all began in 1980 when Mbuya Gwanzura and her late husband Joseph Nyakudengama acquired their first home at 24 Murara Avenue in Mufakose, Harare.

Sadly, Nyakudengama died the same year they acquired their home leaving the unemployed Mbuya Gwanzura with the task of raising their kids alone. Following the death of her husband, life was never easy. Gogo Gwanzura’s three children also died.

But, despite her own hardships she decided to help others in need.

Her first act of philanthropy was in 1987 when she became a foster parent to four children through the Department of Social Welfare.

Gogo Gwanzura says that she also saw some children being kicked out of their homes or being ill-treated and she offered to help.

“I started helping these children because when my husband passed on, I had to bring up my children on my own. Some of the children I took in were troubled and their step-parents would chase them away for coming home late. In such cases I would provide shelter,” she said.

She then started feeding the children who would go home afterwards. With time she began accommodating two girls in her five-roomed house and would source money to pay school fees for all the children.

Fortunately, some of the kids were on the Basic Education Assistance Module (BEAM) making their life easier.

She also received extra cash for school fees from two Zimbabwean women only identified as Gladys and Florence based in the United Kingdom. Mufakose 4 High School, she said, helped them the most especially when they paid school fees late or in some cases had no money at all.

“Mufakose 4 High School is very co-operative when it comes to the children.

“At the beginning of every term we are supposed to pay fees but if we do not have any, we talk to them and they understand,” she added.

Two of the children she takes care of, Billard Jasi and Kudakwashe Shereni, have disabilities.

Jasi has an extremely swollen hand and believes it was a result of a cat bite last year.

“I was bitten by a cat which was trying to protect its kittens and now my hand looks like I have elephantiasis. I’m a tennis player but my racket is worn out, I’m kindly asking for anyone who can provide me with a new racket and also a bicycle for leisure. I would be really grateful,” he said.

Shereni’s left leg was bitten off by a crocodile when he was living in Beatrice.

He requires a prosthetic leg.

For children like Russell Mwedzi who lost his biological mother at a tender age, Gogo Gwanzura is the only mother he has known.

His mother died when he was five years old and his father left soon after.

Now 16 years old, Mwedzi looks back at how Gogo Gwanzura made him the person he is today.

“She has made me realise what it feels to grow around people who love you.

“My dream job is to be a soldier and defend the country,” Russell said.

Thandiwe Muzanenhamo, whose parents passed on when she was young, stayed with her great-great- grandmother until 2012 when she met Gogo Gwanzura.

At 17 years, she is in school for the first time. Moreover, she started off her education journey in Grade Five skipping the first four grades.

“I had never been in a classroom. I started Grade Five this year and I enjoy school. When I grow up I want to be a lawyer,” she said.

Faith Mudziviri (16) loves Gogo Gwanzura who has been her mother figure since her parents died in 2002.

“I returned to school in 2012 when I met Gogo Gwanzura. I had dropped out since I had no money to pay school fees. No one offered to do so until I met Gogo Gwanzura. My dream is to become a nurse,” Mudziviri said.

Mbuya Gwanzura’s daughter, Mrs Noleen Khozomba, said she has been helping her mother to take care of the children. “We came up with a four-member committee that helps my mother with the children. My mother is the founder and I am her personal assistant. Sylvia Nyakuengama is our secretary and Patience Dube is a volunteer from the community,” Mrs Khozomba said.

Mrs Khozomba’s siblings and other volunteers help out with food- stuffs and any other needs.

“Miss Harare Junior helped us with stationery for the children last year and most of our help comes from churches.

“Donations from schools such as Prince Edward also help us. Other donations come from churches such as the Roman Catholic, Methodist, Jesus Generation, Salvation Army and Christ Embassy,” Mrs Khozomba added.

With many teenage girls to take care of, the need for sanitary wear increases. But, Mufakose Youth Development has helped them on many occasions through the provision of sanitary pads and underwear for the girls.

Secretary Nyakuengama said they have also acquired a housing stand along Mutsvubvu Road in the same suburb but have not been able to pay it off.

“We bought our land for 30 billion when the Zimbabwean dollar was still in use. The money was downgraded by inflation and we could not do anything about it.

“However, with dollarisation the money was converted to US$14 000. When we visited the City of Harare’s Rowan Martin offices they said that we had 30 days to pay the money or they would repossess it. We managed to pay only $600 and we still need $13 400. Pastor Manyere of the Kingdom Ministries together with Westridge School helped us build houses at the stand. There are four rooms where boys sleep. Another two-roomed house also houses more boys at the stand,” said Nyakuengama.

She said when they bought the land, their main purpose was to build a home for the children.

Volunteer Patience Dube said they teach the children a number of life skills so that they can become more confident and self-reliant.

“There is a programme titled Life Skills and in this lesson we teach them how they can help themselves in future. We also teach them about the Bible,” Dube said.

However, they are facing challenges at the moment.

“We cannot continue living here. We need space for the children to feel free. We need uniforms. We also need blankets for those at the shelter. We are thankful to the Interact Club at Mufakose 4 High School,” Dube said.

Fund a Child’s Education Zimbabwe founder Miss Lisa Chiriseri said she met Mbuya Gwanzura at a Christmas party in 2012 and has been helping her since then.

“I met Gogo Gwanzura in 2012 at a Christmas party. We decided to help her seeing how many children she was taking care of. At the moment, we are paying school fees for five children and help with different donations. The African Women Association has been our partner in this cause,” Chiriseri said.

All 69 children have dreams to become successful in life and all of them owe it to Gogo Gwanzura who made an impact in their lives.

Yet, for Gogo Gwanzura, taking care of the kids is just God’s calling.

Her wish is that God continues to provide for her so that she can help many more disaantaged children.

Source : The Herald