JF Kapnek Trust | Zimbabwe


The JF Kapnek Trust works to improve family health, reduce child mortality and create educational opportunity for the children of Zimbabwe through the implementation of scalable, sustainable programs.


About - How

The J.F. Kapnek Trust, in its modern incarnation, has dedicated its efforts to addressing the most urgent threats to the health, well-being and educational development of Zimbabwe’s most valuable resource—its children.

The philosophy behind all of these efforts is sustainability. In partnership with Zimbabwe’s Ministries of Health, Education and Social Services, as well as other international and local organizations, the Trust positions itself as a facilitator, training Ministry staff and community members to implement programs, ensuring that the ownership of the programs remain with Zimbabwe’s local communities. If a nurse needs to learn the methods for counseling and administering the most current HIV medication, or a teacher needs training to work with children in a preschool, or a physical therapist needs training to become a care provider for children with disabilities, our staff are there, ready to train and make certain they have the supplies they need to do their job.

This approach provides the foundation for long-term, sustainable success with measurable results. With your help, we can continue to focus on the health and minds of future generations and ensure a bright tomorrow for the children of Zimbabwe, today.

The Trust has developed and implemented initiatives that continue to prevent over 15,000 cases of HIV/AIDS in newborns every year. It has created pre-school programs now serving over 18,000 children at over 200 preschool sites. And it has brought services to families with disabled children, helping those children reach their potential.

With this overwhelming success, the organization is directing its energy toward further expansion and building on these platforms to create a more comprehensive national program to improve maternal-child health and early childhood education.


About - Manifesto

Born from a legacy of promise, the J.F. Kapnek Trust invests in the Zimbabwean people who—when given the opportunity—are able to secure the health and education of their children and the future of their nation. By developing capacity to provide widespread access to healthcare and education through our focused effort and collaboration with Zimbabwe’s local communities, we’re providing children a chance to succeed, to thrive, and to make a lasting impact on the world.

We do this by creating sustainability. We know the only way to guarantee lasting change is to implement a model that both motivates and supports the people of Zimbabwe to become their own resource for improved health and educational opportunities. By inspiring Zimbabwe’s children to realize their own potential, we provide critical tools for them to become tomorrow’s health care providers, teachers and community leaders. We know that the future of Zimbabwe starts here, and now.

A donation to the J.F. Kapnek Trust isn’t simply a donation, but an investment in hope and the belief that we can build a more inclusive Zimbabwe, wherein all children are born with an equal chance to attain greatness in their country, and beyond. By donating time or money to the J.F. Kapnek Trust you are engaging with a tradition of social consciousness and sustainability, and propelling the movement toward a renewable future for Zimbabwe, Africa and the world as a whole.


About - History

Our Trust is born from a legacy of promise. James Kapnek escaped ethnic oppression in Eastern Europe in the late 19th century with his family, and grew up an as immigrant in the United States. There he experienced firsthand how health and education provided the foundation for future success.

As a young man he left the United States to search out new opportunities—and, as an entrepreneur, he achieved great financial success in Southern Africa, soon realizing that with his wealth came the opportunity and obligation to give back to society at large, to contribute to the ‘greater good’ both back in the United States and in then Rhodesia. He vowed to enrich the country that became his home, creating his Trust in a spirit of altruistic gratitude, hope and triumph over adversity. It is in this spirit that the J.F. Kapnek Trust operates its international initiatives.

James Kapnek found fortune in the development of early mining efforts and the introduction of export crops. Grateful for the opportunities provided him, he sought to give back a community that had welcomed him and, in 1946, Kapnek gave the original endowment for the University of Zimbabwe, the first institution of higher education opened in the country. In 1966, Kapnek left his fortune to a trust dedicated to the causes that concerned him most, thus furthering his dream to build a better Zimbabwe through education and his commitment to essential medical research.

Through the years, his sister and niece took on leadership roles on The J.F. Kapnek trust’s board which perpetuated the Trust’s mission, granting funds in an annual grant making cycle. However by the late-1990s with much of its resources expended, and few close family board members remaining, the board considered dissolution and distribution of remaining funds.

Around that time Kapnek’s California-based great nephew, Dan Robbins—a young pediatrician who had travelled to Zimbabwe at the Trusts’ invitation to spend 6 weeks working in local hospitals during his pediatric training ten years earlier—took on a board leadership position. Struck by the devastating inequity of health care access for children in Zimbabwe, particularly in light of the growing impact of the HIV pandemic on children, Dr. Robbins was eager to explore ways he might leverage the legacy of the Trust to improve the health of the children and families of Zimbabwe. With the majority of the endowment expended, Dr. Robbins pivoted the organization into a grant seeking implementer of programs to benefit Zimbabwe’s most vulnerable children.

Working from his base in the U.S., Dr. Robbins founded the Pediatric AIDS Fund-Zimbabwe, securing a grant to pilot the Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT) program with co-funding from The Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation in Epworth, a high density suburb of Harare.

By 2001, Dr. Robbins recognized the need to rapidly scale up this life-saving intervention, and developed the original national PMTCT Training materials in partnership with the Ministry of Health. With the expansion, the need for local leadership became evident and he brought Dr. Gregory Powell aboard as In-Country Director. Forming one of the more successful non-profit leadership teams of our times, Dr. Robbins and Dr. Powell have led the Trust to its current impact, where a staff of 60 facilitates and supports programs saving thousands of children each year from HIV infection, providing early childhood education, critical daily sustenance, and regular health care for thousands more, and improving the lives of hundreds of disabled children through treatment and reduction of stigma once associated with disability.

The Trust now enters a new era, with Dr. Powell’s transition from Country Director to Technical Advisor and the hiring of Karl Riber as Country Director. With mother-to-child HIV transmission nearly eliminated, the Trust looks to broaden and integrate to address other risks to the health and well-being of Zimbabwe’s children.

Organizational Structure

About - Org Structure

The J.F. Kapnek Trust has functioned over the past four decades in the United States as a 501(c)3 public charity; and in Zimbabwe as a registered Private Voluntary Organization since 1997. In order to allow the Trust to function on both local and international levels, it is divided into two related but legally separate organizations. The Zimbabwe and United States boards function symbiotically to maximize our impact on childhood health and education in Zimbabwe.