International Day of Charity commemorations, remembering Jairos Jiri

International Day of Charity commemorations, remembering Jairos Jiri
September 07 21:57 2021

By Staff Reporter

Each year the world celebrates the International Day of Charity on 5 September, a day designated by the United Nations in recognition of the role played by charity in alleviating humanitarian crises and human suffering.

The day was established to sensitise and mobilise people, NGOs and stakeholders all around the world to help others through volunteer and philanthropic activities. It also commemorates the passing away of Mother Teresa who devoted her life to helping destitutes and the poor.

As the world commemorates the International Day of Charity, Diplomat Weekly celebrates the life of Jairos Jiri, the founder of the Jairos Jiri Association, a registered Non-Governmental Organisation for people with Disabilities.

Established in 1950, Jairos Jiri Association is the largest service provider to people with disabilities in Zimbabwe and probably one the largest of its kind in Africa. Over 6500 clients are saved every year through outreach and follow up integration programmes. In addition the Association operates 16 centres were 1 200 children and adults get treatment, care and education. The work of the Association is diversified and continues to be tailored to meet the needs of People with Disabilities (men, women, boys and girls). Among its many activities are Inclusive schools, special schools for the deaf and blind, hostels and homes, vocational training centre, agriculture skills training centre, clinics, orthopaedic workshops and satellite units, Community-based Rehabilitation Programme, Craft shops and Gender empowerment programmes.

Jiri was born on 26 June 1921 in Bikita. When he was twelve years old Jiri longed to join some of his friends who were attending school at Silveira House Mission in the locality of his home but because of lack of funds he could not. From the sale of chickens and vegetables, Jiri Carefully hoarded his money until early in 1937, he had saved enough money to pay for two terms.  He set off to the Gokomere Mission School where he enrolled in Sub A. (grade 1) and was always proud of the fact that only after a week or two he was promoted to  Sub B (grade 2) but suddenly he became ill and returned home, bringing to an end the formal education he ever received.

Early in 1939, he set off on foot with his brother to seek his fortune in Bulawayo. He found a job as a gardener. During his initial period in Bulawayo he came across destitute, half naked, blind and disabled people begging in the streets. Jiri’s immediate compassion for the unfortunate beggars began.

At the outbreak of World War II in 1940, he joined the Rhodesia Africa Rifles in Bulawayo as a dishwasher where he learnt about rehabilitation from a group of American Airforce Officers who were visiting the camp.  His excitement and enthusiasm mounted and great things soon followed.

At one stage he carried a disabled young man on his bicycle to Old Memorial Hospital and persuaded authorities there to perform a corrective surgery on him and when asked if he could be responsible for payment he agreed. Greatly encouraged by the help he had received at the hospital he started to take ex-blind beggars to his house and putting into practice all he knew about rehabilitation at that stage. In October 1950 through the courtesy of Bulawayo City Council he established his first skills training workshop for the disabled, marking the beginning of his great rehabilitation work. At the time of his death in 1982, his association had grown from one centre in 1950 to 16.

In 1959 Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II awarded Jiri an MBE (Member of the British Empire) for outstanding contribution he had made to his fellow countrymen. In 1963 he was granted Freedom of the City of Bulawayo. Later that year he was invited to address an International Symposium on Rehabilitation attended by several African Countries in Kampala, Uganda.

In July 1975 Mr. Jiri had an audience with Pope Paul VI, where he received a blessing for his great work and was presented with a medal marking a Holy year. On May 16 1977 the then University of Rhodesia awarded him an honorary degree in Master of Arts. Later the same year he received the Lions International Service Award and a Humanitarian Award from the then Salisbury Union of Jewish Women. In June 1981 he was granted Freedom of the City of Los Angeles.

Earlier on that month Jiri became the first recipient of the newly inaugurated Goodwill Industries International Award for Humanitarian and Rehabilitation Work. Later the same year, Rotary International presented him with their International Year of Disabled Person Award for Africa which carries citation. Additional information from


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