Jairos Jiri (1921 – 1982)

Jairos Jiri (1921 – 1982) – a ‘father of social services in Zimbabwe’ and a pioneer of disability work

Born in 1921, Baba Jairosi Jiri was not a trained social worker but is one of the early (do-gooders), people who provided social services at a national scale using the values of unhu that forms the bedrock of Zimbabwean traditional social functioning (Mugumbate, 2020). The legend learned about traditional forms of social assistance from his parents and community. He perfected these values with work that he did as a general hand at a rehabilitation facility in Bulawayo. The facility catered for world war veterans, most of them whites. He founded the Jairos Jiri Association for Disabled People in 1940 initially using his own labor and resources. In 1982 when he died, he was honored with National Hero of Zimbabwe status but his family opted to be buried in his rural home village of Bikita instead of at the National Heroes Acre in Harare. Later, the government of Zimbabwe honored him by awarding him the Jairosi Jiri Humanitarian Award given to people who contribute significantly to helping others, for example, those who helped cyclone Idai Victims in Chimanimani in 2019. Further to this recognition, he received numerous other awards nationally, regionally and nationally.