Education for disabled young people, Fatima Mission, Zimbabwe

Fatima Mission is a large mission based in rural Zimbabwe. The majority of those living within its boundaries are poor subsistence farmers reliant on Maize, Chomolia (a green vegetable) and a few cows, goats or chickens as their only source of food. The mission is run by a Roman Catholic order of Franciscans priests known as The Order of Friars Minor Capuchin or Capuchins for short. The priest in overall charge is Fr Jeya who has been at the mission since 2002. It has a church, a pastoral centre, a number of primary and secondary schools, a clinic and a project for disabled children within its boundaries.

A particularly vulnerable group living within Fatima Mission are those who are disabled (blind, deaf or mute) and Fr Jeya was particularly anxious that they should be given the opportunity of an education. 23 disabled young people live at the pastoral centre during term time and attend a nearby school. The school is the only school in the province offering a specific education for special needs children. Above is a photo of some of young people.

In addition to their academic education they also learn skills to help them live and prosper with their disabilities. In 2021 we raised funds to set aside an area of land for the young people to grow vegetables – more information about this project can be found under the link ‘Projects supported’. The purpose of doing so was threefold, one, so that they had a healthy nutritious diet, two, that the project would be self-sustaining and three, so that the young people would learn practical skills appropriate for the rural area in which they live.

We would like to consolidate these threefold aims further by providing animals (pigs & chickens) for the young people to look after. In order to do this we have raised funds to build a chicken coop and a piggery. Work began on the chicken coop in February 2024 (see photo on right) and the piggery in May.

The number of young people benefitting from the project has grown from six in 2011 to 21 this year. Of these 21 young people; 10 are deaf and mute,  2 are completely blind, 3 suffer from Myopia (short-sightedness), 3 have Down Syndrome and 2 are physically handicapped (one of whom has also difficulty in speaking) and 1 is visually impaired. All come from poor households.

Although we have enough funds to cover the school fees and living costs for all the young person throughout 2024, we need to start raising funds to cover the school fees and living costs for 2025. It costs £600 per year to cover the costs of one young person’s school fees and living costs; £12,600 to cover all 21 young people.

This project is life changing for these young people in that it widens their horizons, giving them access to an education and a community that otherwise would be denied to them.