Bath students adopt cause of Zimbabwe orphans

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BATH — They may be thousands of miles away, but the plight of a group of orphans in Zimbabwe has touched a class at Morse High School.

So much so, that the Jobs for Maine’s Graduates students have so far raised more than $3,000 to ensure the African children won’t be turned out into the streets.

JMG specialist Maria Morris said her students are known for their community service to organizations such as the Bath Area Food Bank, Habitat for Humanity, Art Van, Bath Housing and Washington House.

But much of the more than 600 hours the students put in this year went toward a cause as critical as it is far away – the Midlands Children’s Hope Centre, Zimbabwe’s only orphanage to take in children living on the street, Morris said.

Thirty boys currently share 13 beds in the three-bedroom house. The government called for the orphanage to serve more children, including girls, Morris said.

The orphanage planned to construct a series of new buildings, including one to house girls, but an inspection of the existing facility in May deemed it unfit for children, and the orphanage was to be closed, she said.

“That meant that the boys would have gone out on the street,” Morris said.

The orphanage has been allowed to remain open through August, giving it time to begin construction. Six buildings are to be constructed, to hold 30 boys and 30 girls.

With each unit costing $40,000, the need for funds has been significant. JMG chooses an organization annually to which to make a donation, and the orphanage is this year’s recipient, the result of a pen-pal relationship between JMG students and the 30 orphans.

“Through the letters and classroom discussions students learned that although we live on opposite sides of the world, there are many similarities,” Morris said. “The boys living at the orphanage enjoy sports, especially (soccer), playing games, and listening to music. More importantly, however, they learned about the vast differences between the two countries, the inaccessibility of education to the impoverished being the most notable.”

A bake sale, yard sale and raffle raised $500, but the students wanted to do more.

The Midlands Children Hope Project, based in Norway, has been raising money for the cause, and has needed $13,000 to fund a well and electrical work, and buy equipment and furniture for the first unit.

Through a Go Fund Me web page, sales of “Give Hope” bracelets they designed, and cash donations, JMG has raised more than $3,100.

The students “don’t want to stop, because we want to get the other buildings,” Morris said.

“I can’t begin to describe how proud I am of my students for opening their hearts to help people they’ve never met in person,” Morris said. “The energy around this project has been incredible.”

Duke Reddoch, a sophomore in the JMG program, said he helps “because I don’t want to be a waste of space, you actually make a difference, and it’s a really great feeling. I just want to make an impact in people’s lives positively. We have reached our goal, but I hope to go on.”

Jonathan Berry, another sophomore, echoed those sentiments.

“I am overjoyed I happened to take part in this project, and furthermore I am incredibly happy to have met Munashe, my new pen pal from the orphanage,” he said. “I would give just about anything to make sure these kids live a happy, safe, inspiring life.”

Those wishing to aid the effort can log onto its Go Fund Me page:

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

Sidebar Elements

Nathaniel Rose, left, and sophomore Jonathan Berry show off bracelets designed to help Morse High School’s Jobs for Maine’s Graduates program raise money for an orphanage in Zimbabwe.

A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.