Jonah's Lullaby

 Jonah and Justine

Jonah and Justine

Zimbabwean born composer, Justine Cohen, has kindly shared a song she wrote for her son Jonah, to raise funds for Vanavevhu. The song is performed by Rowan Stuart a South African folk singer whose voice has been compared to John Mayer.

JC: "Dolce" was what came to my mind the first time I heard Rowan singing in Durban. Many musicians say it's a term that can best be described as the image of a small child, playing in innocence, completely unaware of the World that surrounds us. His voice has such a comforting sound and no-one could have been a bigger fan than my newborn son. I wrote the lullaby for my son Jonah when visiting Cape Town and Jonah was six months at the time.  It was one of many compositions I wrote for him but was the most emotive because I knew he wouldn't be growing up in the place I love and call home.  I was hugely honoured when Rowan agreed to record it.

Why I choose Vanavevhu?

JC: There is nothing that entitles my child to have what he has more than any other child in the World.  I know that any money I raise for Vanavevhu is going to a cause that is as personal as giving to my own son.  Zimbabwe gave me my childhood and I need to help give the children of Zimbabwe their childhood.  I'm simply giving back what I was given in the first place.

Jonah's Lullaby is available to purchase on iTunes. Click here

We would like to thank Justine and Rowan for this personal and meaningful contribution to our work. They have shown that there are many ways to invest in the power of youth.

We are always looking for exciting and innovative ways to partner with you in support of our work. Contact Us

Call For Board Members



Vanavevhu – Children of the Soil, Inc and V2 Enterprises are looking for thoughtful, intelligent, global-minded individuals to join our board of directors.


We are looking to add board members with skills and experience who can help lead us through the transition we are entering, including but not limited to: experience growing organizations -- current or former CEOs, entrepreneurs or nonprofit executive; expertise in international development, finance, marketing or impact evaluation. Individuals with professional experience in youth development, technical and vocational training (TVET), social enterprise or in a granting foundation. Individuals who work for corporations connected to Zimbabwe or Southern Africa.


We hope you'll consider joining us!


Mission and Background

Operating in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, Vanavevhu (Shona for “children of the soil”) provides support in the way of food, health care and education, as well as targeted training, to promote the financial self-sufficiency of child-headed households affected by the AIDS pandemic and the economic and political crisis.


Vanavevhu is dedicated to the financial self-sufficiency of child-headed families and the development of these at-risk youth through education and vocational training that will ensure a measurable and sustainable socioeconomic improvement in their lives. Vanavevhu gives child heads of families the tools to overcome the obstacles they face.


Vanavevhu was incorporated as a nonprofit organization in Illinois in 2007 and is registered as a community-based trust in Zimbabwe in 2010. .


Expectations of Board Members

  • Visit Zimbabwe during your term on the board to see the work
  • Fundraising is an essential contribution of board members. Candidates must be willing to approach their personal and professional networks for donations.
  • Make an annual financial donation that is personally meaningful  
  • Participate in virtual monthly meetings (90 minutes)
  • Travel to Chicago, IL for an annual general meeting and strategic retreat (2 ½ days)
  • Serve on a board committee or ad hoc working group to lend your specific expertise to the success of the social enterprise and youth development program (min. 3 hours a month)


Other Details

A board term lasts three years.


Board members have a fiduciary responsibility to govern the organization within the law and oversee its structure, operations and management as a 501c3 public charity.


Our board rarely works together in person so it is especially important to us that candidates have the ability to communicate clearly and honestly, the ability to listen well and respectfully consider others’ perspectives.


It is essential that board members can contribute at least 4 hours a month to the mission of Vanavevhu.

Our work in Zimbabwe is supported by 5 employees, who work with the youth and by our Founder and Director who splits her time between the US and Zimbabwe.

For more details visit our website or email our Founder Director



Engendering Skills Development through Cultural Exchange

Rowan Snowden

“Climbing a mountain is a bit unusual,” Rowan says shrugging, “[but] people were really interested in what I was doing.”

Fourteen year old Rowan Winstanley-Burridge has brought new meaning to Vanavevhu’s claim that we nurture youth leadership. Beginning in the Spring of 2014 Rowan raised over $1000 to fund his passage to Zimbabwe for a Skills Share trip. Rowan climbed Mount Snowdon – the highest mountain in Wales, at an elevation of 1,085 meters above sea level. Rowan is the son of Vanavevhu supporter Sally Winstanley of Jam Pots and Purls. Rowan became interested in visiting Vanavevhu after his mother's first successful trip. While this was his first time being involved with a nonprofit organization, Rowan has enjoyed the experience every step of the way – especially his trip to Zimbabwe in February of this year,where he spent 3 weeks working together with the Vanavevhu youth.

Were you nervous when you arrived in Zimbabwe?                                                                

I wasn't nervous as such. I was excited and a bit apprehensive about whether I would be up for the job. I didn't want to be a disappointment.

Did you make any friends? (What did the youth tell you about them/act towards you?)

I got to know some of the young people quite well and connected with them quite quickly. I also joined in the local explorer scout meetings whilst I was there so got to know people outside of Vanavevhu. The youth at Vanavevhu welcomed me warmly. They were really friendly and I was made to feel part of the group. We didn't really share life stories or anything like that but we chatted and laughed, larking together and mucking about together when there was work to be done.

 From L to R: Thabo, Nkosi, Steven, Gays, Rowan, and Innocent

From L to R: Thabo, Nkosi, Steven, Gays, Rowan, and Innocent

How was the experience?

It was a great experience. Really interesting to see the project first hand and to see all that's going on there. I found it quite challenging because of the heat but it was good to be doing something to support Vanavevhu. People are always saying it's good to give back into life and now I understand what they mean.

What skills did you learn there?

I learned about beekeeping, candle making and how to make lip balm. I was interested to study the irrigation systems they have in place and to see their organic permaculture practice in action.

What skills did you share with the youth?

I taught everyone how to use the Singer sewing machine that we took with us and was part of the workshops mum was running in knitting, preserving and patch work.  I also designed a honey extractor so that they will be able to harvest the honey from their bees.

 Sewing lessons

Sewing lessons


What did you hope to gain from visiting Zimbabwe and how did it differ from the actual experience?

I'm not sure that I hoped to gain anything in particular from visiting Zimbabwe. I suppose a big thing for me was to be working with mum in something she's passionate about. Visiting a country so different from the UK was going to be an incredible experience so I wanted to go with an open mind. After the trip I felt inspired by the youth at Vanavevhu. They are an amazing bunch of people, enthusiastic about everything and skilled in lots of things. I can look at my life from a different perspective now.

Would you like to visit Zimbabwe again or any other African country?

At the moment I don't know if I will return to Zimbabwe. I would certainly love to see everyone again but who knows?  It has certainly stretched my horizons.

Rowan lives in Cornwall, UK with his mother, Sally, and his father, Neil.

Celebrating 5 Years

Vanavevhu is excited to announce that our 5th Anniversary Celebration will be held on Thursday, June 18, 2015 at 5:30pm at the Chicago offices of Latham and Watkins.

Join us for an evening of  reflection as we celebrate reaching a milestone in our mission to empower youth who are heads of household. In 5 years we have built a solid foundation and we look forward to the next 5 years as we continue to work with the Vanavevhu youth to build a sustainable future. Come and learn more about our innovative youth development strategies and find out how you can get involved and support our work in Zimbabwe.

Tickets start at $25

Guests can expect to enjoy complimentary hors d'oeuvres, beer and wine. Meet the Vanavevhu Board members as well as new and old supporters. V2 Enterprises (Vee-Squared) products will be on display as well as exciting raffle prizes and giveaways.

At Vanavevhu We Believe in the Power of Youth. Do you? Get Involved!

We would like to thank our Anniversary Sponsors

Vanavevhu Welcomes Sandra Masaka and Laura Miller

Sandra Masaka has signed onto the Bulawayo team as marketing and communications intern, working in tandem with Innocent Mukute. Sandra was born in Gweru and raised in Bulawayo. She graduated in 2012 from Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa, with a B.A. in Law and Politics and in 2013 with an honours degree in International Relations. Sandra has a deep sense of justice and commitment to the empowerment of the marginalized and is interested in issues of sustainable development in developing countries. She has become Vanavevhu's social media wizard.

Laura Miller has joined Vanavevhu as external relations coordinator. Laura was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois. After graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a B.A. in International Relations and Communications, Laura spent time in Southern and Eastern Africa. As part of that experience, she volunteered at a rural Kenyan orphanage and traveled throughout the region. This trip reinforced her desire to work with a socially conscious organization, emphasizing youth empowerment and sustainable living. Laura is a part of our development and fundraising team and focuses on building and enhancing Vanavevhu's presence in the United States. We are delighted to have her on board.

Friends of Vanavevhu

  Back row (l to r): Rapelang Mguni, Sipha Nyoni, Abigail Zulu, Fungai Katinji, Gugu Moyo.   Front row: Moffat Masina

Back row (l to r): Rapelang Mguni, Sipha Nyoni, Abigail Zulu, Fungai Katinji, Gugu Moyo.
Front row: Moffat Masina

As heads of their households, our participants have to deal with issues they never expected and that demand maturity beyond their years. They must not only take care of themselves but also protect their siblings. Fungai Katinji, pictured below with a few of the Vanavevhu youth, is helping us develop partnerships with local social services offices to ease some of the bureaucratic challenges our youth must negotiate in the aftermath of a parent's death--from certifying a death certificate to obtaining national identification documentation. Her efforts ensure the legal protection and security of their families.

In March of this year, Vanavevhu embarked on a journey to build partnerships with the corporate world, particularly those in tourism. This is how we met the gracious Karen Learmonth of Africa Spectacular. Karen visited Vanavevhu recently and brought with her two complete beehives and two truckloads of horse manure to make top-grade compost.

We are very grateful for Karen's and other generous donations that make our work possible and look forward to an ongoing relationship with companies like Africa Spectacular and the Safari Source. 



Our Program in a Nutshell

Vanavevhu's programming is developed around economic and food security for young families orphaned by AIDS. Young heads of household receive support to help stabilize and strengthen their families and participate in three years of educational and work-based programming that focuses on employment readiness through the development of soft skills and entrepreneurial skills.

  1. Year One: Security, Stability, and Practical Training
  2. Year Two: Workforce Development
  3. Year Three: Internship and Graduation

Graduates leave the program with solid skills for employment in the mainstream economy as well as a firm foundation for their ongoing responsibilities as heads of household. Each graduate receives an entrepreneurship kit as an exit package, which might include candles, gardening tools and seeds, beading supplies, or mechanic tools. In addition, graduates receive six months of job guidance, along with a curriculum vitae, reference letters, e-mail address, materials for a resilience gardening plot, and driver's license.

Vanavevhu Board Gathering

On July 12, the Vanavevhu board gathered at the Chicago restaurant Embeya to reconnect with Elizabeth and hear updates and plans for Vanavevhu's next year. We were grateful to have the company of Tom Mallon and Ky Ajayi, along with Ky's wife, Sharla, who coming from a distance had to make an extra effort to join us. Board member Carol Duccomun and her husband, Steve, were on hand, as were Michael Faris (we congratulate Mike on his recent installation as president of Rotary One), and John and Carlisle Rex-Waller. Marketing advisor Jamila Jones, external relations coordinator Laura Miller, and consultant Sandy McNab completed the group. More photographs can be found in our online album of the event, and full biographies of all our trustees can be found on theboard page of the Vanavevhu website.

Vanavevhu Partners with ISU Agriculture Students

Dr. David E. Kopsell and students in the Agriculture Department of Illinois State University are working with Tim Klückow and the Vanavevhu youth to establish best practices for the market garden. ISU students have shared information on shade requirements, life cycles, and watering and harvesting schedules for the crops the youth are currently growing and hope to grow in the future.