Stephen Kurauwone Haatendi Chirenda

Location Accountant, SOS Children's Villages Zimbabwe


Conviction. The fruits we are going to get - overcoming the family insecurity gap

It all started in 2004 when I passed an interview and joined SOS Children’s Villages as a field officer with the Family Strengthening Programme Bindura. I was just a teacher with an education and accounting background, who had qualified to be a field officer specifically in charge of income-generating activities in a community outreach family strengthening programme that had been introduced in Bindura. 

Community needs assessment 
Driven by the wish to inspire hope for the cause of the weak and vulnerable, I opened my heart with passion to assist in closing the gap in wealth and financial needs of families with children who had lost parental care. A needs assessment had clearly shown that the majority of the families were just having one meal a day and that this affected their health and even the academic performance of the children under our care. They had no food reserves and it was a hand to mouth situation. There were siblings living in just one room and their parents were victims of the HIV and AIDS pandemic. Most households were headed by a single parent or grandparent. 

The conviction 
One day the Deputy National Director called me. He wanted to know more about my approach to community outreach and family strengthening programmes. He simply asked, “What is your conviction?” I responded confidently in a nutshell, having all the income-generating ideas in mind, “Oh it’s all about sustainability and the fruits we are going to get.” At the end of the call the Deputy National Director was really optimistic that my financial innovation strategy would help to improve the livelihoods of the parents and children under our care. Having a passion in financial innovation and growth, I was ready to show my potential and ability in the development of a financial programme that could give a trickle-down effect of resources to the beneficiaries.  

Programme design and moment of flow 
The situation of the families in the community touched my heart and prompted me to design a self-reliant activities programme for immediate intervention with the families. I crafted and introduced programmes for income generating activities using an approach drawn from the International Labour Organisation (ILO): approaches such as Generate Your Business idea (GYB), Start Your Business idea (SYB) and Improve Your Business idea (IYB). 

I started by identifying families’ areas of need and projects for livelihood support and training. We arranged workshops for the Income Generating Project trainings and management. Interesting business ideas were put forward by the parents. Three projects came up and were found to have potential and viability from the short to long term. The poultry project was adopted by each family to enable them to realise quick returns. Within six weeks the chickens would be ready for sale and be available for their meals with chicken as well. The sewing project was implemented as a group project composed of family members identified as having sewing skills but who had no material resources for uniform production. Each family was to be engaged in a small plot (an acre in size) farming project. Seed, fertilisers and training in farming techniques were provided for them to achieve a better yield. The programme was successful and was popularly known as “Fill up your Granary” for food self-sufficiency. The Deputy National Director was pleased and we got approval for the project support and funding. 

Poultry, uniform production and food reserve programme 
The families and children welcomed the projects with great enthusiasm. The project launch and funding began in August 2004. Poultry projects provided immediate cash needs as well as payment of school fees for the children and that reduced school dropouts. The sewing group had skills in making school uniforms and was involved in school uniform production for 100 primary school children. During the presentation of the school uniforms, the headmaster of the school concluded enthusiastically, “This was so wonderful!” and thanked SOS Children’s Villages for treating children “with care and passion”. The “Fill up your granary programme” went well and a field trip to the maize plots of the families indicated the promise of a good harvest of a tonne of maize grain for each family. The mayor of the town acknowledged this and was grateful to the SOS Family Strengthening Programme in closing the food insecurity gap and providing access to essential health and educational needs. 

The fruits we are going to get
On the same occasion the Deputy National Director of SOS Children’s Villages acknowledged the implementation and innovation and said, “I have seen the fruits, and you helped in creating a better world for the love of children.” The support that the SOS Family Strengthening Programme gives to family projects will always help them to realise their full potential in income generation and sustainability. Although I had mobilisation, training and monitoring challenges when developing the new programme, we had good success with the techniques used and the technical advice that was given by other stakeholders. I always look back with a smile that we have won the World Cup in child family care and security. We need to continue securing resources in support of income generating activities for sustainability and the children will be assured of a decent meal every day. 

The key lesson
This story has taught us a lot about the importance of creating a stable and secure environment in which children can grow up safely, develop and receive good education and contribute to family stability through individual and group income-generating projects. We provided start–up capital to individual families, groups and even schools and introduced a variety of savings clubs and (group) lending schemes. We also established a sustainable way of collaboration with the community and the families in need with various stakeholders.  

Stephen Kurauwone Haatendi Chirenda

Stephen joined SOS Children's Villages Zimbabwe in 2014 and - with his passion for financial innovation and growth ΜΆ is now responsible for the finances and management of the SOS Children’s Village programmes: the SOS Children’s Village, the youth programme, three schools and the SOS farm in Bindura. He supports the SOS Children’s Village's family projects, beneficiaries and youth projects to realise their potential for income generation and sustainability. 

Spending most of his time analysing and managing numbers, he loves morning sprints or cycling and tennis for relaxation and  once a teacher, always a teacher  teaching the children a whole range of sports and wellness activities. 

Stephen lives in the mining town of Bindura, a stone's throw away from the first SOS Children's Village in Zimbabwe, which was founded in 1983. He is very proud of his two successful sons, an engineer in Melbourne and a medical doctor in Tanzania and - as he wants his rice and hens to stay afloat - he runs a poultry farm with his wife as their long-term income project.