Zara's Center at Bulawayo provides relief to AIDS orphaned children

Rachael Plutzik seems like an ordinary teenager and student growing up in New York City. She likes hanging out with her friends and family, singing in her a cappella group, playing the guitar, and reading Harry Potter books.

With a grandmother in Zimbabwe, Rachael has close family ties to an African nation which in recent times has been faced with severe social disruption and economic instability. Recalling her experiences of visiting the country and being touched by the sense of spirit of those in the community of Bulawayo, Rachael was inclined to make what some could consider an unusual wish for a 13-year-old on her Bat Mitzvah - she wished to assist AIDS orphans in Zimbabwe. With this simple act of giving the pieces fell into place and her wish soon sparked a remarkable 3 year evolution of philanthropy and giving.

Sharing her eyewitness accounts of the conditions in Zimbabwe, and bringing awareness to friends and family attending her Bat Mitzvah, Rachael read portions of letters collected from children confronting the challenge of losing one of both parents from AIDS. With this, she was able to raise over $30,000 from donations to put towards supplies to nourish Zimbabwean children. The empathetic support however did not end there and Rachael soon co-founded the Zara's Center in Bulawayo - named after Rachael and her brother Zachary. The center was established as a relief program to provide hope and care for AIDS orphaned children. In the fall of 2007, Rachael made a choice to attend school in Bulawayo for a semester, where she would dedicate her time as a crutch for many of the children in the community. Simply sharing a hug, reading a book, or helping sew, Rachael shined a light to many of the AIDS orphans of Bulawayo. While she enjoyed working at the center where kids would often bring their brothers and sisters, she also particularly looked forward to the home visits to children that were too far away from the center to attend every day, where she would deliver packages of food. While the older kids were in school, Rachael realized that the younger kids did not attend pre-school. She also decided to start a reading program for these kids, and would read to them every afternoon. "I realized that having someone read to you was a luxury that most of these kids had never had a chance to experience as their families had been torn apart. It was amazing to see that such a small thing like reading could make so many kids so happy."

Zara's Center would continue to evolve over the next three years. The center not only provides basic necessities, such as food and water, but is also now a haven where life skills could be cultivated, emotional needs fostered, and basic medical services provided. However, with conditions of Zimbabwe deteriorating the sustainability of Zara's Center requires additional support. The All for Africa campaign "Palm Out Poverty" will assist Zara's Center through providing a model for sustainability providing the financial support needed to continue its good work.

The All for Africa Project is a visionary initiative that sustains non-profits while restoring the world's eco-structure. This initiative involves farmers tending and growing palm trees in West Africa in order to harvest and sell the palm oil creating a symbiotic relationship that then provides solutions for Zara's Center. It is anticipated that once fully gestated, Zara's Palm Oil Trust will yield as much as $30,000 per year for 30 annual harvests of Palm Oil. Inspired by Rachel's giving, a family friend, Eileen Patrick, with the official blessings of the New York City ING Marathon, is adding an exciting new effort in order to support her commitment to Zara's Center. Patrick, has emerged as one of our Nation's great athletic talents and is now slated to compete in the Olympic trials in 2011. Along with five other runners in the New York City ING Marathon they are seeking outside sponsorship for their 2009 run in order to purchase a place for Zara's Center in The Palm Out Poverty Project. For more information please visit To sponsor Eileen and Zara's Running Team at the marathon, make checks payable to PG Family Foundation, with Marathon Sponsorhip Zara's Center on the memo line. Checks may be mailed to: PG Family Foundation 1841 Broadway, Suite 800, New York City, NY, 10023. Please call 212-957-4979 for information regarding making a donation.

Rachael's self-less wish is an example of how one simple gesture sparks a movement and continues to gain momentum becoming an inspiration to people of all ages. Rachael Plutzik's actions resonates around the world and create hope for AIDS orphans in Zimbabwe, West African farmers - all from one wish at a New York City Bat Mitzvah.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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