“Our program directs concern and professional assistance for boys and girls, orphaned by parents who had AIDS. The numbers are staggering! We focus on these kids, motivate them, take time with them and become their substitute parents. They must begin to learn- get an education, grow some vegetables, raise some rabbits, care for their grannies who care for them. They must have a spiritual focus for themselves and learn to care for others. And, especially in child-headed families, they must be accountable and responsible! They become teens quickly and we stay with them as they advance and become trained in the very rough terrain of Zimbabwe.”
The program is directed primarily to youth between the ages of seven to twenty-two who are mainly child-headed families,i.e., the eldest child has replaced both deceased parents as the head of the family. Other beneficiaries include orphans living with one or both grandparents who, after thorough interviewing, are unable to afford sending the children to school; children living with one parent that is ill and has no sizable, fixed income and orphans living with one of the deceased parents’ relatives like aunts or uncles.
Sister Mary Frances Kobets has worked in Zimbabwe for over 20 years and in Tanzania for 10 years previous to that. Sr. Fran has a Masters degree in Agriculture from Kansas State University and has taught at Agricultural schools and Colleges in Africa since 1969. She is very resourceful and has been committed throughout her educational career to using resources to which the students will also have access in transforming their lives. A practical and joyful spirit has made Sister Fran a wonderful missioner working with very poor students in Africa to engage in sustainable agriculture and develop self reliance.
Presently Sister Fran works in Hohzeri primary school in a rural area near Gweru. The school occupies a broken down farmhouse and outbuildings and her ministry is Orphans’ Education and Agricultural Support for children and youth living with AIDS. A new building is being constructed which will house a community clinic – the walls and part of the roof are in place; nothing else at this time; floor is dirt so far. “As an agriculturalist, I never thought that in Zimbabwe there would come a time when so many needs, all basic, would be problematic and necessary to attend to as well. It is the reality of Zimbabwe right now.”