Small Friends and other stories and poems, a compendium of 35 short stories and poems written by students at King George VI School and Centre for Physically Disabled Children, has been launched to an audience of students at KGVI.
The collection gave the students the opportunity to have their voices heard and to tell the stories that they wanted told. Some of the stories and poems tell the stories of their lives, some come straight from their imagination, and some simply speak of their dreams of a better future. As Mokhumi Valela, a graduate of KGVI, said in his welcome to the launch, “the book can be taken as a major step towards empowerment, and a way of regaining lost courage. Uniquely, it makes society conscious of cultural malpractices that should be adapted or abandoned. Small Friends is a life changer, and so are all those who contributed in every way to its ultimate launch today. As a centre catering for scholars with disability, we genuinely applaud the gesture of the American embassy in supporting this noble initiative.”
A non-fiction piece by Abigail Ncube, a form one student at KGVI, who contributed two pieces to the book, expresses pride in some of the accomplishments of former KGVI students. She writes: “King George VI has helped children with disability achieve way beyond the expectations of many people. We take pride in exceptional success stories, such as the King George VI scholars who formed the musical band Liyana.”
The title of the book is drawn from a story by Marvelous Mbulo, who describes a magical day in the fields when he was an infant. An encounter with ants and a chameleon is described, where the narrator is able to communicate and to make friends with the chameleon, which lifts his spirits. Marvelous ends his piece with, "What a day, well lived, plus a unique encounter. I knew it was all for me, me alone and not to be shared by anybody since no one would understand me. Tired from concentrating and assuming this was a story to nurse, I slept soundly on my mother's back."
The book was published with funding from the United States Embassy through the President’s Emergency Plan For Aids Relief (PEPFAR) and coordinated jointly by the King George VI School and Centre for Children with Physical Disabilities (KGVI) and Bulawayo based publishers ’amaBooks. United States Ambassador Bruce Wharton wrote the book’s introduction and said the collection of stories and poems “is an example of a platform that we have created for young people with disabilities to voice their concerns and dreams… (and)… it is also a useful tool to advocate for an environment that will allow them to participate in national developmental programs.” Previously the United States Embassy has worked with ’amaBooks to spearhead creative reading projects for the young people of Bulawayo, through provision of library facilities and creative writing workshops which benefit close to 1 500 young people in Bulawayo living with HIV and AIDS.
Guest of Honour at the launch, Jillian Bonnardeaux of the U.S. Embassy said “This collection of stories complements our previous work which, in the long term, will ensure inclusion of people with disabilities in HIV and AIDS prevention interventions.”
The masters of ceremony at the launch were two of the writers, Marvelous Mbulo and Ocean Maidza, and there were powerful readings of poetry by Michelle Mabaleka, Preferment Rupondo and Vimbai Mucheriwa. The KGVI marimba band entertained the audience before and after the launch.
Other contributors to the book are Arthur Dzowa, Elisha Gumbo, Tanatswa Gwetsai, Thandazani Khoza, Tsitsi Marenga, Sarah Mareni, Natasha Masumba, Chipo Mazodze, Mduduzi Mlotshwa, Calvin Mwinde, Precious Sibanda, Primrose Ndlovu, Sakhile Ndlovu, Lloyd Nhapata, Alex Nyathi, Oleander Payarira, Gaudencia Rutize, Alice Senda, Miyethani Sithole, Paidashe Tekede, Gary Vundhla and Anesu Zhira.
Small Friends is available online on Kindle and as an e-book in Zimbabwe through shop.mazwi.co, and as a physical book in various outlets in Harare and Bulawayo.