Lutheran church empowers returnee migrants
(LWI)- Nomathemba Sibanda dreamed of a better life for herself and her daughter when she left Zimbabwe for South Africa without proper papers. She paid a smuggler 1,500 rands (EUR 75) in 2009 to cross the border with a group of other undocumented migrants. But she soon realized that the opportunities she hoped for were not there. She worked as a low-paid laborer on a horse-riding field in Johannesburg, barely making enough to survive. She decided to return to her home country in 2019.
Today, she is among 13,000 mostly young women and men supported by the Symbols of Hope (SoH) program, run by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Zimbabwe (ELCZ) and its development arm, Lutheran Development Services (LDS). The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) supports SoH activities in Zimbabwe, Ethiopia and Nigeria, with the objective of stopping irregular migration and human trafficking and finding alternative ways of improving the lives of potential and returnee migrants.
In Zimbabwe, SoH concentrates its work in the southern districts of Insiza and Chiredzi, near the borders with Mozambique, Botswana and South Africa, which are key destinations for Zimbabweans seeking work opportunities and a better life. With a focus on potential and returning migrants, its activities include awareness raising in communities, training in vocational and entrepreneurial skills, providing start-up kits for small businesses, and equipping designated public facilities with recreational equipment for outdoor sports such as football and netball.
Sibanda enrolled for a course in her “childhood dream” career – masonry – and she is currently working at the local government construction site in Filabusi town, where she had previously worked as a trainee. She recently shared her story with a visiting SoH global team comprising LWF and country program staff from the three countries, and from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America AMMPARO initiative for accompanying children migrants. “I am convinced that what inspired public works to call me back was the devotion that I demonstrated during my work-related learning with them, as you can see in the structure,” she said, demonstrating her wall casting skills.