After years of working in the streets, bars, night clubs and shebeens of Mutare, sex worker Betty Chadambuka has finally retired from sex work and set up a children’s home and soup kitchen. Chadambuka is using her house in Sakubva as a children’s home and soup kitchen. She provides care and support to over 48 impoverished, under privileged and orphaned children.
A 43-year old former sex worker, who is also affectionately known as Gogo Sando said that she began her philanthropic work in 2010 with five children whom have grown to start their own families and others are working in other towns and cities. Most often in the dead of the night when Ms Chadambuka knocked off from her work to go home, she would find babies dumped in the vicinity of entertainment centres. Not able to stomach the idea of leaving a child in the cold dirty streets, under cardboard boxes, she would bring the abandoned children home for care.”Ndakatanga ndichingonhonga vana vaisiwa pama door emabhawa akafukidzwa ngema cardboard box, ndotonzwa moyo kurwadza, ndotora ndichiuya nawo kumba.” (I started by picking babies dumped at bar entrances covered with cardboard boxes and I felt my heart hurting and I would take the babies home where I took care of them) she said.
When this writer visited Chadambuka at her house in Devonshire, Sakubva in Mutare, she was preparing a meal for the children aged between 18 months and 13 years. On the menu was maize meal, cabbage and soya mince stew. Ordinarily, this is not a meal to salivate on, but for the children, this was a dearly cherished meal equivalent to a five star dish. A 13-year old Tadiwa revealed that this was the only meal she was having for the day as her grandmother was old and could not provide for her and other siblings. Ms Chadambuka told this writer that she faces many challenges in her work including lack of ingredients to prepare the meals, clothing, bedding and space to accommodate the children.
Due to lack of space at her home, Chadambuka cannot afford to accommodate all the children during the night and sadly releases most of the children back into the streets or poor families within Sakubva. She also narrated that most of the children are not attending school since she cannot afford to pay for the fees. Occasionally, some local schools from Sakubva would take one or two children per year in support of her program. Apart from that, she has not been able to receive any support from anyone she has approached. She also highlighted that most of the kids at her orphanage have no birth certificates and they have no access to medical care.
Beloved Guda, who is 7 years old, has cancer of the eye and there is no money to get him treated at Parirenyatwa Hospital in Harare, where he was referred by eye specialist. Another 15-year minor (name withheld) who could be vividly seen shaking and separated from others, was abused when she was very young. “Uyu musikana uyu waka abuzwa achiri mudiki, saka mukatoona, unoshaker kudai,” (This one was abused when she was little as you can see, she cannot stop trembling) she said. Ms Chadambuka said in providing this care and support to the children, she works with her friend, Karita Kauwe who provides the relish and firewood together with her supportive husband. Chadambuka also revealed that the children’s home and soup kitchen is not yet registered with the relevant authority but she has plans to register it.