Mining Hope: How Feeding Hungry Children in a Garbage Dump can Change the World

Ngozi Mine is a garbage dump near Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. Truckload by truckload, refuse from surrounding towns is delivered to the massive plot. At the entrance, a cluster of young men wait with anticipation for the next shipment of trash to arrive. The load of trash will tumble from the belly of the dirty vehicle onto the reddened soil and they will converge on it. They’ll pick through the refuse, vying for tossed-away gems: palatable food remains; precious drops of water; replacement clothing for their torn garments; and valuables to trade.

As the miners dig for sustenance, children and young mothers gather at Mustard Seed Communities’ Ngozi Mine basecamp for a different kind of daily bread. As part of Mustard Seed Communites’ (MSC) ministry to serve the most vulnerable around the world, the international nonprofit organization established a nutrition program there in 2002. We provide a hot meal to over 340 children and new moms …every single day.

Mustard Seed Communities’ staff members survey the piles of trash only a few feet away from our nutrition station. A young boy enjoys a banana and a sweet snack provided by Mustard Seed Communities’ program for feeding hungry children and the elderly in Zimbabwe, Africa.

At Mustard Seed Zimbabwe’s Ngozi Mine camp, a wave of flavorful steam dances out from a giant cast iron pot to a crowd of children assembling nearby. Over an open flame, sadza (a thick cornmeal mash) and stew (a rich blend of tomatoes, spices, and antelope donated from a nearby gaming reserve) cook to perfection. The smell is so savory that one may forget a moment about the rotting mountains of garbage just a few feet away.

In the distance, wind slowly blows fine particles of decomposed garbage through the piles of crushed plastic. But at Mustard Seed’s serving table, quiet children — eyes wide with hope — slowly line up. Volunteers and Mustard Seed staff smile warmly as they dole generous portions of life-giving comfort food into empty containers. Overcome with hunger, the children dig one hand into the food; the other swats the flies away.

A young boy eats sadza and antelope stew served to him by Mustard Seed Communities’ nutrition program in Zimbabwe, Africa.

Off to the side, a handful of new mothers chat with one another as they feed their infants. Mustard Seed feeds these babies too … their moms eat the dense meals at the nutrition program every day.

One mom smiles radiantly as she feeds her baby boy. It’s likely he was born in Ngozi Mine, delivered by other women living there. Though one day, MSC may help his mother secure official documentation of his birth, no official birth certificate ushered his arrival in. To this world he does not exist; but to this mom, he is everything. She will nourish him with milk fortified by the hot meal Mustard Seed gives her daily. He will likely grow into a boy here — sadza and antelope stew warming his noontime belly.

New mothers gather at the Mustard Seed Communities’ food program at Ngozi Mine garbage dump. A mom smiles as she feeds her baby at Ngozi Mine in Zimbabwe, Africa.

From the pride she exudes as she feeds him, it’s clear this mom desires a golden future for her boy. She hopes for a tomorrow where he doesn’t have to “mine” Ngozi trash along with the other men to survive, but instead, is empowered to forge his own secure and creative path. Because of Mustard Seed Communities’ nutrition program, she can believe in this future.

The joy of feeding hungry children in Africa: Taka Promise, Executive Director of Mustard Seed Communities in Zimbabwe and Malawi shares a moment of joy with a group of Ngozi Mine nutrition program beneficiaries.

Strangers showed love to these hungry children — to a smiling woman feeding her child amid the piles of rotting trash — and their love changed lives. You donate to an organization that is changing lives from your heart: that money turns into actual food in faraway lands. That life-giving food turns into vitality; vitality turns into hope; and hope turns into victory. A light at the end of the poverty-tunnel is transformative — able to change the future for children, their families, communities, and ultimately the world we all live in. 

Mustard Seed Communities, the nongovernmental organization dedicated to helping children in developing countries like Zimbabwe, Africa by giving them food and fresh water, is making a difference in the world.