It started with a telephone call …….
In early 1995, co-founder Nikki Dewar (formerly Nikki Mansell) responded to a plea for help that she read in a magazine during a coffee break whilst at work. and that call changed her life and husband, Colin’s, too. The Matthew Rusike Children’s orphanage in Harare, Zimbabwe, wanted warm clothes for its children because it gets cold in Zimbabwe at night during the winter. The home looked after nearly 100 children from 4 – 18 years of age and was desperate for clothing.
Nikki and Colin responded by putting up posters around the village, Wilton, near Marlborough, Wiltshire, where they lived and very soon were swamped by offers of all manner of clothes. Sorting through the donated items took a few days and very soon nearly-new clothes that would not have been appropriate for young children were being sold and the funds raised used to buy suitable alternative items for young children. Within a few weeks the couple had assembled 12 boxes of new and second-hand children’s clothes and educational toys and books ready for shipment to Harare courtesy of NCH Action for Children, the sponsoring organisation for the clothing appeal in the UK.
Later, in September 1995 the couple took a trip to Zimbabwe when they spent the best part of two weeks helping out at the Matthew Rusike Orphanage and the Chinyaradzo Home (for children from birth – 4 years). At the Matthew Rusike Orphanage they were welcomed by the Methodist Bishop of Harare who formally opened the 12 boxes that had been delivered and thanked them for their presence.
Upon their return to the UK they continued to raise funds and in August 1996 registered with the Charity Commissioners and CHILDREN FIRST INTERNATIONAL became a reality.
Twenty years on the charity continues to provide help for children in Zimbabwe but in the meantime children in Mozambique, Sierra Leone and South Africa have also benefited, as have children and organisations in the UK.