The Ecumenical Church Leaders Forum (ECLF) has been praised for the work that it is doing in Reigate District in Bulawayo fostering peace-building initiatives and assisting youth with livelihoods projects. Various youth beneficiaries and stakeholders have taken turns to extol the virtues of the organization and the work that it has done in the neglected peri-urban district.
These sentiments were made at a monitoring and evaluation site visit organized by the ECLF for its partners the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) who had come to view projects that they are supporting in Bulawayo last Thursday.
Reigate District is on the northern peri-urban border of Bulawayo and includes areas like Sauerstown, Richmond, Trenance, Cabatsha, Hide-out and Ngozi-Mine informal settlements. It is an area in which many young people are orphans, unemployed, idle, have no access to education and are involved in crime and other delinquent behaviour.
ECLF has been working in this area since 2012 and has trained many youths in the area in conflict management and transformation and has supported them in their own livelihood initiatives like candle-making, baking, agriculture, poultry and sporting activities like soccer and netball.
Speaking at the event Ian Matinyenya, an orphaned youth from Thuthuka orphanage who was trained by ECLF told the gathering that the ECLF training changed his whole outlook on life and restored his dignity and self-esteem.
“In Trenance there was a lot of conflict among the youth. We were looked down upon especially us orphans who live in facilities like Thuthuka. We were discriminated against even at school in Northlea, I was isolated but this training has raised my confidence and dignity as my personal circumstance do not define who I am and they are temporary,” said Matinyenya.
An official of the Ministry of Youth Development, Indigenization and Economic Empowerment Christian Mabasa, chronicled the sorry state of youth in the district and went further to say the ECLF training had equipped the youth to play a meaningful role in the community such as lobbying for recreational facilities.
“We had faced problems in organizing youth for our own programming and we were pleased to find highly organized youths with whom to work. Youths in the Reigate area are largely orphans and some live in informal settlements around Ngozi Mine (a dumbing site), Cabatsha is largely a farming area and youth survive on providing cheap labour and selling cheap implements. These youths came together to lobby for a sports ground and we facilitated the process of giving them a piece of land which is being prepared. There were previously no recreational facilities. They also championed a clean-up campaign in areas like Hideout. Before ECLF, it was each man for himself and God for us all. May ECLF continue the good work they are doing. As the youth ministry we will continue to support and collaborate with them,” said Mabasa.
An executive member of the Bulawayo United Residents Association (BURA), only identified as Maswaure, said that Richmond (where he resides) is an area in which there is a lot of crime and that there has been a noticeable change in youth behaviour after the ECLF programmes began.
“The ECLF group is more visible than any other in our area (Richmond). There was a lot of theft, violence and beer brawls at the local shopping centre. We have seen a noticeable change and we believe this is attributable to ECLF as a number of these youths were trained or interact with those who were trained. As Bulawayo United Residents Association, we have not received domestic violence cases to preside over sine the trainings,” said Maswaure.
One of the youth called for ECLF to do even more to assist them especially on livelihood projects, as it can go a long way in fostering peace if the youth are occupied, gainfully employed or economically active.
“We still want ECLF to assist us with life skills so that we are not idle and hungry. We need help with marketing our piggery and poultry projects, sewing machines etc, sponsorship of our sports teams. We want to be supported to make a living from our arts and crafts, those youths that were not enabled to finish schools need to be enabled to finish, we need more CPRMT workshops because there are some in our communities that have not yet attended,” said the youth.
ECLF Director Bishop Emeritus Ambrose Moyo expressed delight with the reception that ECLF programming received in the area and pledged to intensify the work that ECLF is doing in the district.
“We are more than convinced now that we need to continue the work that we are doing here. I have heard it myself from the horses’ mouths now how our work is appreciated. I have never been here before but what I have heard is encouraging. I encourage you to also utilize some of the resources and expertise you have in the community,”said Bishop Moyo.
AFSC Country Director Laurence Oduma also said they were happy with the testimonies of the youth regarding ECLF’s work and informed them that they are supporting livelihood projects in other areas and they would be happy to extend similar support to ECLF trained youth.
“We understand that supporting peace-building while neglecting livelihood issues is not sustainable. We are also supporting people who are into livelihood projects in eNyandeni, who are engaged in projects like peanut-butter making and welding. We want youth to earn some income. We don’t want the youth to go and work in the mines in South Africa. We want them to stay here and embark on projects like market gardening,” said Oduma.
The AFSC delegation later toured some exhibitions of wares like beadwork artefacts, candles, stationery, art and confectionary products created by the ECLF-trained youth before departing.