The Lynde Francis Trust: Promoting Stronger Communities

MBARE is Zimbabwe’s most densely populated suburb and home to an estimated 800,000 people. One of the busiest places in the suburb today is a large building near the corner of Mbare and Ardbennie roads known as the Centre. More than 800 people go through its doors every week to receive assistance from 38 support groups. Besides HIV counselling and medical referrals, there are visits by home-based care-givers, psychosocial support for abused mothers and children, legal and documentation facilities and training in income-generating projects.

Lynde Francis Trust (LFT), registered in 2002, is a founder of the Centre. LFT, its volunteers and the support groups are involved in the lives of more than 300 children between the ages of three and 16 who need support to see them through school. Many attend preschool until the age of six, but have little prospect of education beyond that. Most have lost one or both parents to HIV; many live in households headed by siblings or aged relatives or parents living with disabilities. More than 40% are HIV-positive.

Ondine Francis of Lynde Francis Trust preparing a nutritious meal with beneficiaries of the Centre in Mbare.

LFT’s support philosophy is to provide sustainable livelihoods. It works with beneficiaries of the Centre as well as groups in Chitungwiza, Mabvuku and Tafara to apply and develop their skills in making marketable products. It collaborates with designers, businesses and local organisations in corporate social responsibility projects and solicits their financial and training support and donations of raw or waste materials. LFT combines these activities in a holistic training and development programme with the aim of uniting the groups and their corporate partners. In this way, a strong, durable network is built in which the former become efficient and independent earners with stable markets for their products and the corporations contribute conspicuously to the well-being of their communities.

Manners Makiwara, an artist in Chitungwiza, demonstrating how to make toy animals from aluminium drink cans.

Among the products that LFT markets and sells in Europe are handbags made from discarded vinyl records, bottle caps and rubber tyres, clutch purses crocheted with aluminium ring-pull tabs, computer bags tailored from old PVC advertising banners and lighting and furniture made from recycled soft plastics. LFT is also working on designs for products made from the snares of animal poachers in the Zambezi Valley and illegal nets confiscated from fish poachers.
Ondine Francis, a director of LFT, says, “At international exhibitions where I market my products, well-fed and well-dressed people come up and ask if I pay a fair price for what I design.” What’s a fair price? Do we set the price we pay the artist in a stable currency like the greenback so that he or she won’t lose out when Zimbabwe heads towards another hyperinflationary hell? Yes, we do.

Tariro Chikwanha, runs a support group at the centre, shows a clutch purse she crocheted with aluminum ring-pull tabs

“In France where my husband and I exhibit many of our products, customers ask if I make everything they see. I try not to laugh. In a shop filled with more than 400 items, a small heron sells for 35 euros. Imagine! I smile and talk about the amazing people we work with in Zimbabwe, and if I’m feeling ironic, I tell them, ‘As a European taxpayer, if I made that heron myself, it would cost you 200 euros.’
“The reality we work with in Zimbabwe is on the streets, literally. The children who benefit from our feeding programmes and schooling initiatives are growing up on the streets of Harare with little or no shelter, challenges family situations and almost no food. Do we make them work their way out of poverty? Silly question. All I have ever wanted for my three kids is the same as I want for the hundreds of children we come across – a safe place to grow up in, food in their tummies, clothes on their backs and decent education to whichever level they want to aim for.”

Beneficiaries of an LFT livelihoods training programme painting a schoolroom at the Centre.

To donate to or participate in Lynde Francis Trust projects, email lyndefrancistrust@gmail.com or contact them on +263773283348 

Ndeipi Magazine , Issue 116 http://ndeipi.co.zw

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