April 25, 2023 | Taka Promise and Miriam Nkambule
In developing countries, one out of six children is underweight and under-nourished, contributing to 2.6 million deaths of children under five each year. The children of Zimbabwe and Malawi, two of the countries where MSC serves, are no exception to this reality.
Since its inception in 2002, Mustard Seed Communities Zimbabwe has evolved in collaboration with local needs to provide access to food, shelter, and education where otherwise many would go without. Inspired by the care of Jesus Christ, MSC has developed programs to serve children who are in need – including five nutrition programs that provide a daily meal to children from the community’s most vulnerable families.
MSC Zimbabwe’s nutrition program is vital to the 1,200 people it feeds each day; two of its leaders, Taka Promise, Administrator of MSC Africa, and Miriam Nkambule, Administrative Clerk, see its impact firsthand. Both Miriam and Taka are passionate advocates for the loving care that inspires MSC’s mission amidst political and economic turmoil in Zimbabwe, and are “Mustard Seed Champions!”
We asked Taka and Miriam to answer some questions on exactly how they witness miracles every day at the MSC nutrition program sites…
From your experience, who in the surrounding communities benefits from the nutrition program?
Many lives have been positively changed by encounters with Mustard Seed Communities Zimbabwe. Typically at our nutrition programs, we see younger children brought to the center by an older sibling, each receiving what may be their only meal of the day. Oftentimes this child is compelled to drop out of school due to his or her family’s financial constraints. We also find older people who are caregivers for their grandchildren benefit from the nutrition we provide. Our volunteers — from the unemployed individual to groups of people across the community — serve joyfully with Mustard Seed's mission in their hearts.
How have you seen the Mustard Seed nutrition programs impact equity in the community?
Stereotypes have always existed in different communities and one of them was always on the concept and perspective of volunteerism. In the past, volunteers were seen as people from wealthy families who take time to offer their services for a good cause. However, our nutrition programs have proven this otherwise because there is no segregation in terms of status, race, and gender, among others.
What is it like to be a part of the nutrition program and to encounter so many individuals each day? What makes volunteers come back?
Our nutrition programs see the establishment of family bonds beyond blood. They continue facilitating a platform where a teamwork spirit is cultivated and the understanding of what a vision is – in this case the MSC vision. It’s a vision that promotes love and hope over despair. Mustard Seed’s mission is to foster loving service and mutual respect that places equal dignity on us all! Those who work at the programs not only think about themselves but they develop a selfless trait where kindness and compassion cut across all beneficiaries.
What makes the Mustard Seed “family bond” in the program so strong?
Every child has become “everyone’s child” at the nutrition programs. The children have become their brother’s keepers, again beyond blood relations. It has reached a point where other children worry when another child does not collect food on a given day, and always reach out to check on them. When they suspect that this child will go hungry if they aren't there that day, the friend will reach out to make sure the child is accounted for. The nutrition programs have become a family for our beneficiaries. It is not only about the food but about the wellbeing of a child as well at large.
Does the nutrition program encapsulate any other services that address the needs of the child’s wellbeing at large?
Yes – birth registration is a requirement in Zimbabwe and some of our beneficiaries had no birth certificates. Through the work of our nutrition programs, we have encouraged and assisted them to secure birth certificates; others have received scholarships funded by our local donors covering tuition, uniforms, and stationery in order to progress with their education.
In addition, open communication has been promoted, such that beneficiaries are able to share some of their struggles that they may be encountering, meaning they trust us to assist them.
How do you see the mission and vision of MSC fitting into the local landscape of Zimbabwe?
With the prevailing economic meltdown in Zimbabwe, some children around the country sleep on empty stomachs, with others suffering from malnourishment. However, we are grateful that the children we serve are healthy and receive a meal each day. We have become their hope and we love how free spirited everyone is at all our centers. The nutrition programs have enhanced synergies between MSC Zimbabwe, beneficiaries, our government, and other organizations. The network of caring for the most vulnerable continues to grow.
Thank you to both Taka and Miriam for so thoughtfully describing their hard work to us, and to the entire MSC Zimbabwe team for creating this caring family in the nutrition program!