Thursday, 2 February 2012

Zimbabwe January 2012

I resolved never to write a blog but my niece Debbie has persuaded me! It might be good for Tariro. The past 3 weeks in Zimbabwe have been really busy, punctuated things that were fun (dinner at Rosie and Sarah's for instance) and lots of swims. Zimbabwe is a bit better than it was a year ago. Business has picked up, buildings have been painted, there are more cars, some quite posh. Some Zimbabweans are coming through with substantial help for Tariro. It is all very fragile; an election could easily destabilise it, but in Zimbabwe you learn to live in the present.

Our first real Tariro event was a meeting of Trustees. That was good as we had to talk about admitting a couple more boys to the house. More of that later. We're also trying to start some projects that will generate income and introduce the House to the world of making a living. That is not easy in Zim, but people do manage it. This involved one big decision - our senior boy (youngman really) Edwin Komayi has shown himself to be reliable, hard working and resourceful so we have appointed him Project Manager with a small salary. His first project will be one of making floor polish which he has done before and it is apparently quite easy. We discussed others including a rather ambitious one of raising chickens, but we need to start small. We haven't money to waste.

Two days after that I set off to the Eastern highlands, with Edwin to keep me company. We drove Phillip Mutasa's Pajero as my Zafira wouldn't have coped with some of the roads. First we drove up to Bonda where we needed to talk to young Dumisani who has just finished his Alevels and needs to move out of the children's home. We arranged to pick him up and take him to Harare at the end of the week. Then we drove down through that glorious countryside to Penhalonga. I didn't try to get in to St Augustine's. I knew I wouldn't be allowed. We picked up three sisters and brought them back to Luke Chigwanda's place in Penhalonga to talk business. Next day we had a massive shop (i.e Edwin and the sisters shopped while I chilled out at the diocesan office until they had done. The shopping was mostly for the children's school things. We also went to Tsvingwe high school where several of our teenagers study. I was expecting a rather grotty rural school but was pleasantly impressed with the commitment of the two deputy heads I met. I hope to make a link between them and an English school. I hope that if we can get involved in the school as "parents" that will help our children and also the school.

One the Wednesday Edwin and I with Srs Elizabeth and Annamore set off to Chipinge. That involved a long drive through the hard dry country south of Mutare and then up into the Chimanimani mountains and on to Chipinge. The new priest Fr Simba met us there and as the rain began to fall we drove round the depressing slum of Gaza visiting some of the children whose fees we have been paying. That really showed up the need,as the rooms they lived in were aweful. It's easy to judge - everyone is struggling to try and get some money. Buildings are half completed, without electricity or water. Mud was everywhere. The roads were dreadful; even the Pajero struggled with them. We asked the four youngsters we met to come and see us next day.

In fact the next day we drove down to the Tongogara Refugee Camp about an hour and a half away. That is quite a heart breaking place as they people have fled from traumatic situations from all over Africa, as far away as Somalia. The Anglicans there are mostly from DRC and Rwanda.  Only a few kids speak English or Shona; a few adults speak French and the pastor speaks English. We promised to get two of their teenage girls into high school. Also met the pastor's 10 year old daughter who is an amazingly clever child - speaks impeccable English and wants to be a doctor. I would really like to find someone to sponsor her to go to a good school. That would cost 1,000 pounds a year, but I am totally confident she would be worth it. She also has serious eye trouble which the heat of Tongogara exacerbates.  I hope to get her to Harare soon to see Dr Tumushine who is an eye specialist and on our Tariro Trust.

Then we went back to Chipinge to see our children. That was a moving experience. The sisters, Edwin and I talked with them separately. The two teen age girls found it hard to talk to me so it was good to have the sisters and Edwin who could really get them to open out. The young boy, Munyaradzi, who lived in the worst accommodation and admitted to not getting food every day was a really bedraggled looking boy - thin with poor clothing. But his report for last year was excellent. He clearly works hard and well at school despite having so much against him. That really made it feel worthwhile supporting him. Then Roderick, turned out to be a really nice boy. He is in 6th form and admitted to having failed his form 5 (so did I long ago so I was sympathetic.) He also didn't blame anyone but himself so I think he is worth backing for this next year. But he and the others need supervision and it will be up to Fr Simba and his church council to keep their promise to keep and eye on these youngsters and keep encouraging them.  We hope to set up a small resource centre, text books etc at the parish house to help these kids, and to provide them with a better study centre than their homes.

It was about this time I realised we need better oversight of these Tariro projects to iimprove communication with me and to chivy people along when needed. Edwin has proved himself well able to do this so I have added to his responsibilities the task of visiting each group once a month. We'll have to see how that goes.

So on Friday we set off back to Penhalonga, picking up the two Tongogara girls en route. We had decided overnight to take them back to stay with the sisters and go to the school at Tsvingwe. This is an experiment but seemed a better option than sending them to a boarding school we know nothing about.

The next day, Saturday, was fun. The sisters, with about 20 Tariro kids from round St Augustine's met us on the road and I ferried them to Fr Luke Chigwanda's house. Here we photographed them, said mass with them and gave them a huge meal before taking them back to Penhalonga. Amogst them was a new boy called Knowledge who is a nephew of Sr Anna Marie. He is 17 and was thrown out of Form 3 last year for not paying fees. He desperately longs to get back into school so we took him back to Harare, along with Dumisani, to join our House. The first thing I had to do was find him a change of clothes, he had so little. Over the week I had with him both he and Dumisani seemed to settle in to the house. Dumisani got his A level results - 2 D's and an E in Chemistry Maths and Biology. It's not as good as he hoped for but we are looking for a way to start him off on a scientific degree. We hope to get Knowledge into the local high school. It'sa quite a shock for him to come from a poor rural background to the big city and he was looking a bit shell shocked when I left, but he should do allright. The fact he resally wants to be back in school will help a lot.