Jean, Derek and Stella in 2015.
In the early 1990’s HIV/AIDS was endemic in Zimbabwe with up to 50% adults infected with HIV. At this time, there was minimal access to anti-retroviral treatment and mortality rates soared. Inflation in Zimbabwe was out of control causing financial hardship for families. Many babies and children were orphaned and some were abandoned by desperate families.
Graves from the earlier deaths at MOPC.

In response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic a small group of people in Zimbabwe were inspired through their Catholic faith to create a community to care for AIDS orphans.

In March 1994, the founder members, Lise and Derek van der Syde, Norman and Sybil Mac Donald and Jean Corneck set out on the journey to Mutoko. The previous years had been spent searching for an appropriate location and gaining permissions from the Government to use the land and from Catholic and Health authorities to establish the community. The early days for these first members and orphans were spent living in caravans without basic facilities, a scene that is hard to imagine when you visit Mother of Peace Community today. In 1996, Stella Corneck, a trained nurse, joined her elder sister Jean at the community.

If you would like to read more about this inspiring journey please read Derek van der Syde’s Spiritual History (4MB) of the beginnings of Mother of Peace Community 1990-2000.

The MOPC Chapel.

In the early years, little was known about HIV/AIDS and anyone suffering from AIDS was regarded with fear and suspicion. This particularly impacted children who had lost their parents. MOPC was and remains a place of refuge for children who had no-one else to care for them. As babies and children started to arrive at MOPC, many were ill with malnutrition, chest and skin infections, diarrhoea and other symptoms of HIV infection. Some did not survive and are buried in the small cemetery at MOPC. But during the last decade or more anti-retroviral treatment has become available and HIV positive children at MOPC were able to thrive and continue to do so.

MOPC grew rapidly over the next few years. With the support of local and international donors, houses were built for the children to live in groups of 10-12 with a housemother. A crèche for under-fives was built and a clinic which opened in 2001. The farm was developed, livestock herds established and the fields prepared for crops.

A central part of life in the community is the Catholic Church and there is a chapel on site where services are held daily. However, people from any religion or philosophy are welcomed to MOPC.

Mother of Peace Community UK

Irons donated by a UK member.

By 1999, 80 children were already living at the orphanage. Work continued to clear the land for agricultural projects with the aim of developing a degree of self-sufficiency. However, MOPC was entirely reliant on a relatively small number of donors, mainly from within Zimbabwe. With the HIV/AIDS epidemic devastating the population and an increasing number of the community’s donors leaving the economically crippled country, new sources of support were needed. And this is when Mother of Peace Community UK was formed.

Christine Pratt, a retired midwife, came across MOPC whilst visiting Zimbabwe in 1999 and after spending some time at the community she was inspired to start gathering support in the UK. She began to raise awareness and support in her local community in Somerset and visits by Jean Corneck to the UK in 2002 and 2003 inspired others to get involved. In December 2004, a board of trustees for Mother of Peace Community UK was formed and on 15th April 2005 MOPC UK became registered with the Charity Commission of England and Wales as UK charity number 1109058.

UK supporters loading a container of items for MOPC.

Many people across the UK have become involved with the MOPC UK charity in support of the children and wider community at MOPC Zimbabwe. Father David, a priest at St Joseph’s church in Leicester, needs special mention for all his hard work in support of MOPC Zimbabwe. Sadly, he died some years ago, but his parish continues his work in raising awareness of the children’s needs and fundraising for MOPC UK. If you would like to know how you could help go to the Ways to Help page or contact us.

With unprecedented levels of demand, the number of resident children at MOPC grew very rapidly to the point where in the early 2000’s almost 150 children were being cared for at Mother of Peace Community. Since then the numbers have steadily decreased as more emphasis has been placed on reintegration of children with their extended families and with children leaving MOPC when they become 18 years of age. You can read more about the reintegration of children here.

Now there are nearly 60 children living at MOPC and most of them are teenagers. Although the numbers are fewer, the needs are just as pressing. Teenage appetites need more food and they need bigger clothes. Their secondary school fees are much higher than at primary school and fees at vocational college for 16 year olds are even more expensive. A great deal of attention must be paid to preparing them for life after they leave MOPC which requires the time and expertise of a full time social worker employed by MOPC.

The economic situation in Zimbabwe is deteriorating again. Families are struggling to make ends meet and those who previously donated money, food and clothes to MOPC can no longer do so.

MOPC Zimbabwe needs financial help to maintain their care for these orphans and vulnerable children. Please donate what you can to support them.


MOPC UK needs to raise at least £15,000 every year to maintain its current level of financial support for Mother of Peace Community Zimbabwe.

Copyright © Mother of Peace Community UK 2017