Zimbabwean woman sells her belongings, feeds thousands, and inspires change

Children queue at Samantha's relief kitchen for food. | Photo courtesy of Kuchengetana Trust
Spread the love

HARARE, Zimbabwe — At the height of the Covid-19 Pandemic, two harsh realities confronted me: adhering to lockdown protocols and ensuring people had sufficient food. The fear of contracting the virus or facing arrest for violating protocols also felt daunting. Recognizing the need for a sustainable solution to empower people, I initiated the Kuchengetana Trust to assist those in need.

As my efforts became known, lines formed outside my home. With just a few pots, pans, and an old stove, a group of volunteers and I fed an increasing number of people. I prepared porridge for children’s breakfast and distributed food packs for families’ dinners.

In less than two weeks, the number of people coming to eat swelled to 867. When times got tough, I sold my belongings to ensure everyone was fed. I soon realized I ignited a flame beyond my control. I began bartering items I was not using like jeans, sneakers, and jackets, in exchange for maize, cooking oil, salt, and labor. This strategy kept us afloat and allowed us to continue serving people to this day.

The legacy of kindness: continuing family traditions of generosity

One day, I gazed into the eyes of 15 hungry and vulnerable people, feeling a profound sense of helplessness and empathy. I shed tears, witnessing their plight first-hand, and allowed those tears to hydrate my purpose. Raised in a financially stable family, I never experienced the pangs of hunger before bedtime. It felt like a moral obligation to continue to fulfill the hope I kindled in these lovely people, especially the children.

I come from a family with deep-rooted traditions, including the principle of lending a helping hand to our neighbors when we have the means to do so. We hold the belief that God, angels, and our ancestors guide and influence our actions and decisions. Therefore, I see myself as merely carrying out a duty assigned to me—to serve others and, in the process, discover my life’s path.

Samantha Shingirai Muruzoki serving food at her Chitungwiza Kitchen.
Samantha Murozoki, 38, is an immigration lawyer by profession who co-founded a relief kitchen that feeds thousands of vulnerable children in Zimbabwe. Growing up in a financially stable family, she always felt she could bring hope to the vulnerable in her community. She started the Kuchengetana Trust relief kitchen in April 2020 during the first national COVID-19 lockdown in Zimbabwe. Despite testing positive for Covid-19 twice in 2020, Samantha had to juggle two realities: the Covid-19 lockdown and feeding people.

Moreover, growing up in a home always open to extended family, I learned the value of helping individuals from various backgrounds from an early age. This practice became second nature to me. The enduring nature of this tradition reflects the belief that if my family could share our space with others for extended periods, then surely, we will.

Kuchengetana Trust’s journey from small beginnings to serving thousands amidst Covid-19 pandemic

Initially, I aimed to help a small group within my community, but as the Covid-19 Pandemic unfolded, I founded the Kuchengetana Trust supporting people confined during the lockdown. Kuchengetana means “looking after one another” in the Shona language. To my surprise, the initiative blossomed into an oasis, offering sustenance to thousands in Chitungwiza’s Seke Unit A.

When I first started cooking, I received support from both ordinary people and companies, which poured in donations, allowing the plan to thrive. Our success also caught the attention of the local council, which temporarily shut down our soup kitchen due to health regulations. This move intensified political tensions and exacerbated existing divisions. While I understood the council’s concerns about Covid-19 protocols, I could not simply close our doors. Instead, I obtained the necessary license to continue operating.

Samantha began the Kuchengetana Trust relief kitchen in April 2020 during the first COVID-19 lockdown to feed people. | Photo courtesy of Kuchengetana Trust
Samantha began the Kuchengetana Trust relief kitchen in April 2020 during the first COVID-19 lockdown to feed people. | Photo courtesy of Kuchengetana Trust

Unfortunately, I contracted Covid-19 twice during this period. The second bout hit me hard, leaving me incapacitated for about three weeks. Thankfully, my mother stepped in to ensure people still had something to eat. The Kuchengetana Trust expanded, and we now operate four relief kitchens that serve vulnerable groups such as children and the elderly.

When I moved to my place in Mount Pleasant Heights, I noticed a significant disconnect from the realities faced by many. As a result, I decided to extend the same program I had in Chitungwiza to this community. In this new location, I serve porridge in the morning and an early supper, ensuring I cater well to all four kitchens.

The Kuchengetana Trust’s vision for Zimbabwe’s youth in economic hardship

Our mission encompasses providing essential resources like clean water and food and ensuring education for children. Currently, we focus on aiding the most vulnerable groups, shifting from our initial broad approach during the Covid-19 Pandemic. Through careful needs analysis, we identify children who require our support, narrowing our beneficiary base as a result.

Children queue at Samantha's relief kitchens for food. | Photo courtesy of Kuchengetana Trust
Children line up at Samantha’s kitchen, holding their pots and plates for food. | Photo courtesy of Kuchengetana Trust

Our vision includes establishing a piggery and fishery project on a piece of land, which would generate funds to build a home for the children under our care. This initiative willd not only provide them with a stable environment but also cultivate a generation of enterprising Zimbabweans. However, the path to self-sustainability is steep, and we lack the necessary resources to ascend.

Regrettably, we have seen a significant decline in volunteer numbers, primarily due to the absence of incentives. Initially, we saw widespread enthusiasm and support for our cause, with generous donations enabling us to nourish thousands. Now, with reduced support, we face greater challenges in meeting our goals. This may be attributed to donor fatigue or shifting public interest. Despite the project losing some donations, the Kuchengetana Project persists.

Furthermore, the requirement to have staff, which many donors insist upon, hampers our efforts to secure funding. Consequently, we depend on sporadic contributions from individuals, small businesses, and occasional corporate support. Even in the face of challenges, I remain committed to this cause. Questions about my continued involvement, especially post-pandemic, often arise. The answer lies in my upbringing, which instilled the values that drive me to longevity of this project.

Source: Orato