Street kid experience inspires Bulawayo philanthropist

The Chronicle

Lumbidzani Dima, Chronicle Reporter
THE experience of staying in the bush for a good eight months with a four-year-old brother at the age of five, has inspired a Bulawayo man to share the little he has with children living on the streets.

The kindness he received from strangers at a tender age turned a harrowing experience into a life lesson that created a soft spot in his heart for homeless and less privileged children.

Mr Washington Chibhebhe (48) from Cement Siding says he knows and appreciates better the struggles experienced by children living on the streets, hence he has made a resolution to feed them.

Mr Washington Chibhebhe

While society judges them harshly and some view them with disdain, he said he knows that the affected children have valid reasons why they cannot go back home.

After hearing people complaining about the cold weather while they have shelter to cover their heads, Mr Chibhebhe says he went down memory lane and remembered how the winter brutally affects the homeless.

Such empathy has driven the man who inherited his helper’s surname (Chibhebhe) to donate blankets to homeless children who have found a base under a bridge opposite the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF).

A Chronicle news crew witnessed him approaching the street children to deliver his usual help and they reacted with excitement from a distance, calling him by name, as he has become a brother to them.

Talking from experience, Mr Chibhebhe said well-wishers used to feed him when he was living in a bush in Chivhu, Mashonaland East Province, and it was now his turn to return the favour.

“I was born in a family of 13, being the 11th to my 72-year-old father and the first to my 16-year-old mother. My father was killed in 1978 during the liberation war after being called a traitor. They killed him while I looked on,” he recalled.

“They killed him and poured some cold water on him. I don’t clearly remember what happened because I was only four. “But this I remember: After seeing that my father was not moving, I looked for my mother. What I saw still pains me. They raped my mother and after that incident and burial, my mother went away as some people said she was involved in the killing of my father.”

Mr Washington Chibhebhe

When his mother left, Mr Chibhebhe said all the children were “distributed” among relatives and he was given to his uncle who worked in the city, but left him with his wife.

“She did not really like me for reasons known by her. So, one day she locked the doors and went away. I thought she was just going to the shops or visiting friends or going to town and coming back, but that was not the case. She had left. Where to, I do not know,” he said.

“I waited and waited until it was dark and cold. Because it was in June, I did not have a blanket or a warm jersey. I went to a nearby homestead that belonged to an aunt of mine who was taking care of my younger siblings.

“They were also struggling. So, she told me that she could not afford to take care of me as well.”

Despite being five years old at the time, his aunt’s family would eat three times a day without giving him any food, for three consecutive days.

“After that I could not take it anymore, I stole some food and after eating I decided to run away with another sibling and we couldn’t go back,” said Mr Chibhebhe.

Mr Washington Dhuvhai Chibhebhe (left) hands over the blankets to one of the people living on the streets in Bulawayo. Assisting him on the right is Mr Sande Maseko

It was then that they stayed in the bush for eight months and one well-wisher would take care of them by providing food.

“The kind man said he could not keep us at his home because he was afraid of what would happen if we died in his custody.

Another good Samaritan called Wilson Chibhebhe who is currently a pastor in the UK saw us and took us to his home in Kadoma.

“He took us to school and became our parent. After high school I did a mechanics course and now I run a business of selling vehicle parts,” he said.

Mr Chibhebhe said 10 years ago he saw some street kids in town while parked at TM Hyper, which took him down memory lane.

“I understand that each one of them has got a reason why they are living on the streets. I have made it a norm to feed them. They now know me,” he said.

“They come to my shop and I give them food. I share with them the little that I have because I know their struggles from a personal level. I just give them bread and mahewu. When people were talking about this cold weather, I thought of them and gave them the few blankets that I could as I try to source more.”

Mr Chibhebhe said he started with just a few homeless children, but their numbers grew. He advised people not to judge children living on the streets saying if there was love in their homes, they would not be homeless.

Mr Chibhebhe has two sons and his wife passed away about five years ago.

Article Source: The Chronicle

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