In a bid to alleviate poverty among the senior citizens, church-led Freedom for the Elderly People has come up with a project to assist the residents of Bulawayo.

Under the programme managed by this Mount of Olives church-supported organisation, the elderly in the second largest city of Zimbabwe are put into groups of 25 with a chairperson overseeing the relief programmes.

Help comes in form of basic commodities and funeral policies. Basic commodities come from well-wishers whilst funeral policies are through a partnership between the organisation and Nyaradzo Funeral Services which helps by subsidizing funeral policies which will cost the elderly USD 4 per month.

One of the founding members of the foundation Mr. Gordon Dube said the organisation does not have any donors, hence they rely on well-wishers for help. “We have taken it upon ourselves to help the elderly since we have noticed that they have been abandoned by family and friends. Some of them are taking care of their orphaned grandchildren who have no support whatsoever. In obedience to the word of God, which encourages us to help the needy, we have decided to embark on this project, even though we don’t have much to offer,” said Dube.

In a survey, it was established that most orphans in Zimbabwe are left without parents as a result of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Most children living under the care of the elderly do not have birth certificates. So Freedom for the Elderly is lobbying for the grandparents to get legal guardianship of the children, which will enable them to get these important documents.

Mr.Whoolo Ncube, a member, appealed to the government, business people and the corporate world to help them take care of this vulnerable group of people. “It is unheard of in our culture to take the elderly to old people’s homes when we are there. Thus the elderly must be respected. The government should help supporting the elderly. Most of them are retired, but their pensions can hardly sustain them for a month,” Ncube said.

Gordon Dube cited a case where an elderly person was evicted from a house he had stayed for many years at. “I am touched by the way old people are treated in the society; its hurts so much to raise children who cannot take care of you. The case at hand is not new as many old people have been left on the streets where no one cares about them. So I urge the society to help and respect the elders,”Dube said.

Last Saturday marked the organisation’s inaugural annual celebrations at the White City Arena in Bulawayo where the elderly received assistance including food, clothing and blankets.

Freedom for the Elderly People is a non-governmental organisation counting 20,344 members of all races.