Zimbabwean Family battling to stay in Australia receives $6000 boost

PLEAS for help from a Zimbabwean family fighting to stay in Bendigo were answered at the weekend when more than $6000 was pledged by the community.

Father-of-three Thomas Chitongo came to Bendigo on a student visa three years ago and is one year away from completing a PhD in special education at La Trobe University.

But Mr Chitongo will be sent back to Zimbabwe unless he can raise almost $20,000 to pay for his final year.

News of Mr Chitongo’s struggle broke in the Bendigo Advertiser last Thursday.

Neale Street Uniting Church co-ordinator Glenyce Lourie said that since then the support from the community had been amazing.

“We received almost $3000 before the fundraising even started,” Mrs Lourie said.

A plant sale organised by the church, and hosted by Bendigo artist Lee Adams, attracted dozens of residents who opened their hearts and wallets in support.

Mrs Lourie said the family had received more than $6000 in donations.

“We still have some way to go, and I would encourage others to show their support for the Chitongo family by making a donation,” she said.

Mr Chitongo, who had hoped to secure a scholarship from the university but was unsuccessful, said if the family was sent back to Zimbabwe it would mean starting life from scratch.

“I am very pleased and grateful to the people of Bendigo for their support,” he said.

Because of his circumstances, the university waived his fees during this year’s second semester, but require full payment for both semesters in 2011. In November 2008 his wife Jane and two daughters, Victorious and Faith, joined him in Australia.

However, his eldest daughter Nesta had to stay in Zimbabwe because she was over 18 and studying at university.

Since then, Mr Chitongo said, his family had been strongly supported by the Neale Street Uniting Church, which has helped pay for his education. But the church cannot continue to support him and is calling on the community to help.

Mrs Lourie said further fundraising events would be organised 

by the church to ensure the family’s future was safe in Bendigo.

To make a donation or for more information on fundraising events contact Glenyse Lourie on 0428 171 135.