Press Release – July 9, 2009
FORT WAYNE, IN – Nine-year-old Emma St. Peters raised $1,180 to help feed Zimbabwean orphans. She spoke with community leaders, who agreed to host silent auctions for beaded wire geckos.
Emma learned from Susan Janetti, director of Zimbabwe Gecko Society, that Zimbabwe’s economic collapse has devastated the usually resourceful orphans. The street kids crafted the geckos from wire and beads and sold them to tourists. Since tourism has dried up, the orphans have no means of earning money to feed themselves.
Emma first met the society’s director in Lithuania. Emma’s parents and Mrs. Janetti taught classes at LCC International University. Near the end of the trip, Mrs. Janetti found a gecko in her suitcase and gave it to her young friend.
“She immediately connected to the story I told about the orphans,” Mrs. Janetti recalled. “She refused the ‘free’ gift and insisted I take $10 to help feed the children.” Ten U.S. dollars can feed one Zimbabwean child for three months. She sent six geckos home with Emma to sell.
By this point, “gecko” had evolved into an umbrella term for all the beaded animals, ornaments, and vehicles made by the children. “I just thought it was so interesting that the kids could make those geckos,” Emma said. “I wanted to help them so they could eat.”
Emma and her parents decided to hold a silent auction. She gave a presentation at Trinity Evangelical Church in Fort Wayne, explaining the orphans’ plight and their creative solution. Zimbabwe Gecko Society used the $300 Emma raised from the auction to start a feeding program in Norton, Zimbabwe.
The Norton orphanage is home to 200 children. “Lives have been saved as each $200 starts a new feeding program,” said Mrs. Janetti. “Enrollment in a feeding program entitles HIV kids to receive medicine.” ZGS has renamed the Norton program the Emma St. Peters Vana Vanokosha (Children are Precious) Program.
Recently Mrs. Janetti returned to Zimbabwe with funds and supplies. She brought several hundred geckos back home and sent some to Emma.
Emma spoke with the owner of Old Crowne Coffee Roasters. He allowed her to put up an informational display in the coffee shop. She also gave a follow-up presentation at Trinity Evangelical Church, and she met with a small group Bible study from First Missionary Church.
Donors have given between $5 and $350 for the geckos. Direct contact with donors has proven most successful. One woman donated a plane ticket valued around $300 for an alligator.
“They think it’s really interesting that a nine-year-old girl can help save lives,” said Emma. “They think it’s amazing that there’s a little kid who can majorly help another country.”
Currently, Emma has geckos for sale at Old Crowne Coffee Roasters. For smaller geckos, sheep, and insects, she is asking for $5 each. For the larger animals, such as giraffes and elephants, she is asking for $15 each.
About Zimbabwe Gecko Society
Zimbabwe Gecko Society provides relief to orphans, widows and other people groups affected by the socioeconomic crisis in Zimbabwe. The organization raises funds by selling wire geckos and ornaments made by Zimbabwean children and by hosting an annual African dinner. The funds are used to support programs already running in Zimbabwe and to finance medical missions going into the country. Zimbabwe Gecko Society is based in White Rock, BC, Canada. For more information, visit www.zimbabwegecko.com.