Every trip I make to Zimbabwe has its own particular flavour. Much of that flavour this time was provided by two delightful companions: Joe Allen, an 18 year old from Guernsey and Fr Myles Owen, a priest from Chester diocese.
Tariro Youth Project – Harare
This house of 17 young people, and a few extras who visit but don’t live there, continues to be a joy to visit, and in many ways typifies all that Tariro hopes to be. With good counselling, a stable environment and, frankly, the money people in England provide to support it the young people are happy, motivated and secure. We had a very moving eucharist, as we do each year at this time, to remember those parents who are dead or missing. This is not comfortable to listen to – one young man’s letter to his father, which he read out, expressed the anger he felt at being abandoned. Yet this boy is now studying medicine at University! Other tears were tears of sorrow. Some youngsters wanted to share their joy at the good turn their lives have taken.
Last year Fidelis got the best O levels in the region. As a reward we were able to give him a laptop which was donated. He was thrilled. Little Eunice, who never did much in school, has shown a wonderful skill in making non precious but very attractive jewelery. I brought some back here to see if it can be sold. If so, she is onto a winner. The big excitement now is that their senior boy, Byrone, is to be married next month. Bishop Chad will perform the ceremony. Byrone has a good job, a car and soon a wife so he is an excellent role model for the rest.
St Augustine’s, Penhalonga
This once excellent school has suffered a lot in recent years through the political troubles and poor leadership. It now has a good new head who is pulling things together and the place is looking much better. However, there is much need for renovation. We have four boys in the school so Tariro is a parent and we are now trying to mobilise former pupils of St Augustine’s, some who are now very wealthy, to step in and help.
For me the biggest joy was chatting with the four boys. Two are orphans who never knew their parents. Another has lost both parents and lives with grand parents. A fourth is from a poor home. It has been tough for them to adapt to life in this highly competitive school, but they are getting there. We have found an excellent child psychotherapist to help them deal with their own problems as they go into adolescence. Having seen it work at TYP in Harare I want to give our other kids the opportunity for this help.
Later we visited two boys from the St Augustine’s Children’s Home who are now at school in Chatsworth.
This little group of youngsters are still largely problem free! Alliance, from the nearby Refugee Camp is doing extremely well at St David’s Bonda – a school for very clever girls. Brenda is now excelling in Form 2. Munyaradzi and Rejoice both seem about to get good results for end of Primary exams so they will move on to Secondary School. We hope Munyaradzi may do well enough to send him to a church boarding school, which he deserves as he has worked incredibly well despite a dreadful home background. And Liberty remains the delightfully cheeky little chap I enjoyed so much in April!
Shurugwi, St Francis, Nema
This is actually Shurugwi Rural district. My happiest memory from here is of a little round faced girl called Nokutenda (means ‘with thanks’) who is about ten and is at the top of her class. I asked her to read a book aloud to me which she did beautifully. I passed her on to Joe and he listened as she read page after page. I think she could easily have done the whole book. Our kids do not get enough practise of English and so anything we can do to get them reading and speaking English is good.
I also met her two older brothers whose education has come to a halt through lack of fees. We have told them we will help them if they will help us: one will be the lead person in a chicken project we want to start there; the other will help us get a small group of nice but lazy boys doing some serious work at school.
St Francis has a very good priest, Fr Oliver, who is doing good work with the youth group amongst whom many of our kids are to be found. Several have been baptised and confirmed in the past year.
Most of the visit was really good and it was lovely seeing the kids grow. There are problems though and we have to try and meet them:
- There is clearly an urgent need for more training of our few carers. Our children deserve the best and those who look after them need to understand both the needs of adolescents and the particular needs of deprived, orphaned, traumatised kids such as ours. I am always astonished at how well our children cope with their difficulties; perhaps, there are so many others with the same difficulties that it is part of the culture. But if they are really to flourish in this difficult society they need help. There are some excellent social workers and counsellors in Zimbabwe who can give us this help. It just needs paying for!
- The economy continues to unravel as people wait for change. Jobs get more and more difficult. We need to try and create our own jobs to help fund the older boys and girls. Chickens seem the best way of doing this as we have a lot of experience now of small scale chicken projects. So we intend to start more, and increase the size of the one in Harare. This requires start up money but with careful management a steady profit emerges, and it helps feed the country.
- We need to raise more money in UK to try and fund this sort of work which trains the youngsters to make their own living and helps to generate income within the country so that, in the long term, they will be less reliant on those outside. We need to plan more for a longer future rather than just make ‘First Aid’ responses to immediate needs.
I hope this shows you how important and valued your support for us is. Thank you so much for it all.
Nicolas Stebbing CR