Mutare is a small city nestled in the eastern mountains of Zimbabwe. Just outside Mutare, on the road to Nyanga, is Old Mutare Mission. The mission is home to a hospital, a church, schools, a dental clinic and an orphanage. For over a century, this mission has reached out to members of the local community. The land was dedicated by the United Methodist Church after receiving it as a gift from the local chieftain and Cecil Rhodes.
The Fairfield Orphanage (Babyfold), now called Fairfield Children’s Homes, is a cornerstone of the community. However, it has not always been that way. Until recently, the orphanage was simply a brick building with dormitories and a cement courtyard where the children would play. The staff at the orphanage cared very deeply for the children and provided them the best home they could with the available resources.
Due to capacity restraints of the Babyfold building, when children reached school age, they were moved to another orphanage, which had the resources to care for older children. The inherent challenge in this arrangement was that children, who otherwise lacked a family structure, were taken from their “home” at a crucial developmental age and placed in a new environment. There was a desire among many people to keep the children at the Babyfold to maintain the family bonds they had formed.
In 1996, several students from Nebraska Wesleyan traveled to Zimbabwe to attend Africa University, a private Methodist affiliated university located in Mutare, Zimbabwe. While there, they began visiting the Fairfield Orphanage, located at Old Mutare Mission, across the road and fields from the university. During their visits with the children, the students were deeply touched and realized they wanted to do something to impact the lives of the children they met.
With a passionate determination, the students returned to the United States and founded Fairfield Orphan Student Association (FOSA). The purpose of this group was to bring awareness to the living conditions of the children at the Babyfold. Through the efforts of many volunteers, local community members and sponsorships, FOSA began visioning to build new homes for the children to create families. The children would no longer be sent to other care facilities.
Homes of Hope
In 2002, the founders of FOSA and a missionary volunteer began planning and fundraising to build what would become Fairfield Children’s Homes. The missionary traveled to Old Mutare to begin the long process of organizing the building of the Homes. She was welcomed by the local community at Old Mutare, endeared herself to the children and staff and worked tirelessly to see that the Homes of Hope were built.
Fairfield Children’s Homes operates on a group home model. As the first foundation was dug, there were seven other homes scheduled to follow. However, as word spread about the project, and the number of children at the orphanage increased, there was need for more homes. In all, twelve homes were built with eight of them occupied by families. In 2004, after years of eager anticipation, the children and staff finally moved into their new homes.
FOSA evolved into Fairfield Outreach & Sponsors Association with the purpose of providing sponsorships for each of the children at Fairfield. Fairfield Children’s Homes is currently serving 78 children and reaching out into the
community to assist other families in need. With a staff consisting of three administrators and mothers and aunties for each home, the homes are nearly at full capacity with the plan of opening a 9th home in the near future.
For a personal account of the development of FOSA and the building of the Homes, “A Dream Realized” click here.