WHEN Mavis Kahondo’s life went off the rails following the separation of her parents when she was only a toddler, she never imagined that inauspicious circumstances would inspire her — several years later — to make a difference in other children’s lives.
BY KUDZAI MUCHENJEKWA
Today, the 33-year-old has become a symbol of hope to many children, who have been condemned by circumstances beyond their control to live under the shadow of poverty.
Kahondo’s charity initiatives have added a little colour into the lives of the disadvantaged children — those that have also lost their parents and those living from hand to mouth.
The inspirational young woman told NewsDay that she was able to quickly grasp the struggles that disadvantaged children faced because she has walked that road before.
“I truly understand children who come from broken backgrounds because I was also like them when I was growing up,” she said.
Born on July 7, 1985, Kahondo said she only lived a stable life with the shared love of both parents until she was four, during which time her parents divorced, creating a rift in her life, which subsequently led to a chain of events that have spawned the establishment of Ravens of Hope Foundation Trust.
Kahondo narrated an array of abuses that became a part of her life and the struggles she faced at a tender age. She said apart from having to walk 10km to school every morning and having to sleep on a plastic mat with no blankets, she also suffered sexual abuse at the hands of relatives.
“I was a victim of neglect and I was made to go to school without adequate stationery and uniforms,” she said while reflecting on her horrifying experiences.
It was at that time that a seed was sown in her heart and has since blossomed into a passion to care for children at the risk of having similar patterns recur in their lives.
“One thing I can say is that the reason why I am able to do this is because I was able to forgive everyone who caused pain in my life and this has given me closure,” Kahondo said.
The project, which started with only 10 children, has grown in leaps and bounds over the last few years and now caters for 50 children.
It was then that the Good Samaritan decided to take a step further and open the child-welfare and community empowerment organisation to improve the lives of the children living in difficult circumstances, particularly orphans.
The organisation’s mission is to empower communities to improve the lives of children living under difficult circumstances by promoting education and child welfare, inculcating good moral values, restoring broken families and mobilising communities to become safe, healthy, innovative and sustainable havens for children.
Kahondo said plans were in the pipeline to grow her foundation, so that it can accommodate more children given the ballooning numbers of children living in poverty.
In light of her life experiences, she is determined to make sure that no child would go through the same she went through. As a Christian, Kahondo said she believed God had impressed it upon her heart to help children in need.
“As such, Ravens of Hope Foundation was formed from very humble beginnings, making it a special assignment from the heavens with the vision to secure future for every child against all odds,” she said.
Kahondo said she started off by paying school fees for a few children, but later discovered that it was not enough because they also needed school uniforms and stationery, food, psycho-social and moral support.
She then decided to collect old clothes, toys and bags that her children were no longer using so she could give them to her “new children”.
Kahondo said she informally adopted one of the children, Tafadzwa, after the parents died. Tafadzwa is now doing Form 1 at a local college.
“I am at peace with myself, knowing that I have taken Tafadzwa to live with me. I know I can’t change everything by myself but this is a starting point and if every person plays their part, then definitely, we will have less children living in poverty,” Kahondo said.
Kahondo said she decided to share her story so that people could realise that disadvantaged children just needed a chance to make it in life and no one was destined for the scrap heap. She said people should join hands in alleviating the challenges faced by children living in difficult circumstances.