In late October, 85 people traveled with Dr. Jim Salley to Zimbabwe, Africa, for the 30th anniversary celebration of Africa University and the installation of Dr. Peter Mageto as the AU vice chancellor.
While in Zimbabwe, many of the people who had gathered for the AU celebration attended a ceremony of hope held at the Old Mutare Mission site, which is located on the same tract of land that Africa University occupies. The Old Mutare Mission comprises a small hospital, a United Methodist church, three schools and Fairfield Children’s Home.
During the ceremony at Old Mutare, Bishop L. Jonathan Holston and the Rev. John Holler, recently retired president and CEO of Epworth Children’s Home, announced that the Fairfield Fund had been established to support the work of Fairfield Children’s Home and other elements of the Old Mutare Mission and to aid in strengthening the ties between the institutions at Old Mutare and Africa University.
It was revealed by Holler, to the surprise and delight of the audience, that the fund was established in honor of Bishop and Mrs. Holston for the work they have done in helping children in the South Carolina Conference have brighter futures. Holler revealed the fund was established with an $800,000 tithe from the Every Child Is A Miracle financial campaign conducted by the South Carolina Annual Conference. The campaign was for the benefit of Epworth Children’s Home’s expansion as Epworth establishes new community-based programs in locations across the South Carolina Conference.
The genesis for the Fairfield Fund began several years ago where, during a conversation between Holler and Holston, Holston suggested that the benefits of the campaign could go beyond South Carolina borders.
Discussion then centered around a time during 2001 when Rev. Holler co-led a United Methodist Volunteers in Mission team from Trenholm Road UMC, Columbia, to help build a faculty house at Africa University and to also work at the then-Fairfield Orphanage. The conversation also included talk about how much that mission trip impacted the lives of the team members and how appropriate it would be to return to Old Mutare and fulfill in such a significant way a promise that was made 21 years ago to not forget the children of Zimbabwe.
The income from this fund will enable Fairfield Children’s Home to first tend to some issues of deferred maintenance such as roof repairs and essential supply issues. Next, energy and funds will be expended to perfect and implement a long-term care and sustainability plan that will ensure the present and future residents of Fairfield get the best care and educational opportunities available.
Additional children who now have no safe and stable place to live will now have a place to call home. This fund provides a gift of opportunity for many who feel opportunity is beyond their reach.
The Fairfield Fund will be managed by the Board of Trustees of Epworth Children’s Home, and grants for expenditures of proceeds from the fund will be designated through a collaborative effort between the leadership at Fairfield Children’s Home and the Fairfield Outreach and Sponsors Association Board of Trustees.
The Fairfield Fund will mean new life and expanded ministry opportunities for the Old Mutare Mission. The economy in Zimbabwe is struggling mightily, and resources for child and family welfare are extremely scarce. FOSA and the Zimbabwe UMC have worked diligently to aid in that work, but high unemployment and crushing inflation makes it difficult to make headway.
This gift is a fresh wind in the sails of those who work to surround children and young adults with care and resources. It is a gift of hope from the United Methodists of South Carolina that, in the years to come, will bring new energy and life to a new generation of children and youth and the people who surround them with care.