Introducing Faith
Masiye Camp Explained
The Splashgirls
The Swiss Connection
Faith talks about AIDS
Faith and Volunteering
Ezekiel Mafusire, Masiye Camp Director
Faith and School
Faith Visits Her Rural Home
Faith at Home
Copyright 2005
Zina Saunders
All rights reserved

The Splashgirls, when business was thriving.
Click image for larger version 

Since 2000, the Masiye Camp had been trying to come up with ways to provide employment for girls and boys who were orphans and responsible for the support of their families.

A group of camp counselors, volunteers and orphans hatched the idea of the Splashgirls, a bicycle delivery service in Bulawayo. A business had already been started to provide employment for orphaned boys, and they were looking for something for the girls.

Becoming a Splashgirl meant learning a lot of new things for Faith — the first being how to ride a bicycle. "I had to learn to ride a bike when I was 19. When I was young I never thought that one day I would ride a bike. Why? Because children who usually ride bikes this side are regarded as children from rich families."

The Masiye Camp hired a man to come and teach the girls. Faith remembers those early days, "It was scary riding for the first time, especially in town where there is a lot of traffic. In the beginning, I used to push the bike when I got into town.

"It took me about 3 weeks to be able to ride in town confidently," she says, "Though of course men never accepted it. They used to say all sorts of things when we were passing by and it was a bit discouraging. I mean, it's rare to see a lady on a bike this side." But not all the men felt the same way, "At the same time, others thought it was unique! We have walkie talkies, helmets, and racer bikes, so I think when they see that, they go, 'Wooah!'"

Being unique is important to Faith. "We came up with the name Splashgirls because we thought it would be nice and modern and unique. You know how when there is a splash of water, and the water goes up high? We thought that what we were doing is just like the water."

Faith works from 8 AM till 4 PM, and she's very proud to be a Splashgirl. "Many girls in the city envy us. I mean, it's a girls-only cycling project and it's unique. It's a business of it's own kind in town.The first-ever before in Zimbabwe. It's a great thing!"

But the Splashgirls have hit on hard times in the past year, and their original staff of 10 has dwindled.

Faith describes the current situation, "Yes, it's true that 3 Splashgirls (currently) are the ones that are on bikes full time. The rest were put on standby recently... because the project was not generating sufficient income to sustain the girls' monthly allowances. All the girls are still Splashgirls but on a volunteer basis now, which is sad and a set-back."

The Splashgirls who are on standby come to visit, "But," Faith says, "they don't come often. They come when they feel like, because they are still part of us. But now that we don't have money, they just come when they want to. And it's hard for them, they are not doing anything, and most of them, they are the breadwinners for their families."

But they aren't giving up. "So what we have been working on, is trying to find more business. But the hindrance has been finding resources to advertise and market ourselves. Looking for business is the most hard — I have to go there face-to-face or sometimes phone them. It's hard, sometimes I get so tired that I can't even concentrate when I am reading. Sometimes I get so discouraged and I feel like quitting. But if I quit, there's nothing to do."

Stefan Germann explains more about the problems the Splashgirls face, "They are running at a loss, [so] they have no marketing, [and] they didn't have enough business. Quite a number of the girls were just sitting in the office, not driving out in the street. They couldn't do any marketing, like getting on billboards and newspaper adverts, [and therefore] they just didn't have enough work."

Germann believes that the absence of a professional business manager is at the root of the problem, "That's where the lack of management comes in. Last year, in the church I was going to, there was the regional manager of one of the biggest retail companies in Zimbabwe, and he was willing to get them a job for one branch, which was about 3000 deliveries of their club magazines, and because they didn't manage it well, they had to stop it. There were late know, the girls who were riding and managing the business, were coming out of disadvantaged population groups, all of them have been orphaned due to HIV and AIDS, and in the absence of a sound business manager, they just couldn't cope with that large a job."

Germann goes on, "But it's a pity because the Splashgirls could easily create the jobs for 40 young girls orphaned. And it's a critical age, because that's the age they are very vulnerable to HIV infection."