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VOL. 35 | NO. 5 | Friday, February 4, 2011

Mother-daughter real estate team honored for helping Zimbabwe children

By Bill Lewis

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Pam Kidd and Keri Cannon are surrounded by some of the children they have helped in Zimbabwe.

Pam Kidd and Keri Cannon make their living as successful affiliate brokers at Fridrich & Clark Realty. What they live for is feeding and caring for orphaned children and providing assistance to families in the impoverished South African country Zimbabwe.

“We sell real estate to support our Zimbabwe habit,” says Kidd, half-jokingly.

The mother and daughter real estate team have been selected by the National Association of Realtors as the winners of the 2010 Good Neighbor Award for co-founding the Children of Zimbabwe Fund.

The pair have received industry recognition in the past, but this award is special, says Whit Clark, Fridrich & Clark’s managing broker.

“The Good Neighbor Award spotlights two rare, unselfish individuals whose contributions to the needy are extraordinary. Their story is truly an amazing one,” he says.

As part of the Good Neighbor Award, the Children of Zimbabwe Fund received a $10,000 grant from Lowe’s and House Logic, which sponsored the annual recognition.

Kidd first traveled to Zimbabwe in 1999 to document the plight of street children. In Harare, the capital city, she met a woman giving tea and bread to orphans.

“I asked the lady if there was any way we could help. It was obvious that she was desperate herself, barely scraping together enough money to buy the tea and bread. So when we returned to Nashville, we began raising money to send to her,” Kidd says.

That was just the beginning. In 2002, Kidd and Cannon help found the Home of Hope in downtown Harare, where that same tea and bread lady provides food, clothing, money for school and medical care to street orphans. Three years later, a donor made it possible to buy a rural farm for Village Hope, where a Zimbabwe couple could live and bring children orphaned by AIDS together as a family.

More recently, Kidd and Cannon have worked to help rural villagers become more self-sustaining. A community feeding program was initially funded with a $1,000 donation from Nashville’s Spruce Street Baptist Church. The Seeds to Sadza project, named for a dish similar to grits that makes up much of the diet, starts families toward self-sufficiency by providing seeds and efficient planting guides along with enough basic food to see them through their first harvest.

Pass It On, patterned after Heifer International, provides goats or cows to families, and the Poultry Project trains residents to raise poultry. It also provides chicks and feed to allow them to become self-sustainable. And this year, Cannon’s husband, Dr. Ben Cannon, who has a dental practice in Dickson, began a clinic to provide basic dental care for children with AIDS, which is rampant in the country.

Kidd travels to Zimbabwe at least once a year, as do Cannon, her husband Ben and their two young children, Abby, 7, and Charlie, 1. They pay all their own expenses. Every dime given to their nonprofit fund, which as managed by the Community Foundation in Nashville, is used to benefit the people of Zimbabwe, they stress.

“One of the things that appeals to people here is that 100 percent of the money given goes to aid in Zimbabwe,” Cannon says.

Most donors give $10 to $20 at a time, she says, a small amount that they put to good use. Once a month they write to every donor telling them about the difference their money is making.

“The time I am most at peace in my life is when I’m over there,” Cannon says.

Kidd and Cannon take no credit for the lives their work touches. They give all the credit to their donors.

“We’ve gone from helping a few orphans literally get their daily bread to using our real estate money to provide lunch each day to between 900 to 1,000 children in two rural schools,” Kidd says.

“We’ve grown from a single donor to nearly 500, all of whom can be assured that 100 percent of their contribution goes to the cause because our families pay all auxiliary expenses ourselves. We hear about needs, we miraculously receive donations, and we help meet those needs. That’s why we prefer to call ourselves facilitators, because it’s really the donors who make all this possible,” Kidd adds.

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