April visit report from Father Nicolas
Posted in Updates
12 May 2023
Tina Minett Stevens and I set off on this adventure on Easter Tuesday. Ethiopian Airways looked after us well and we arrived in Harare at midday on Wednesday, and were met enthusiastically by Edwin Komayi, Tariro’s excellent administrator.
On the next day, we picked up my niece Debs and her son Rowan from South Africa and drove together to Shearly Cripps Children’s Home in Chikwaka. Our main reason for this visit was to see the work being done on the dormitories to turn them into something like family units. Wooden partitions have been put in and the boys’ and girls’ dormitories will end up as four family units, each with its own housemother. As usual, in Zimbabwe the work is taking longer than usual as essential materials suddenly become unavailable, or costs rise. However, the first stage, doing the boys dormitories, is nearly complete. This has been paid for by generous friends in Hilton Head, USA. We must then find the money to do the same for the girls. In due course, we need more furniture, cupboards and shelves to give the children a better sense of home life.
It was good to see the home looking bright and clean and the good rainy season has produced quite a reasonable crop of maize and vegetables. Tina had also brought pen and pencil sets from UK and these were joyfully received.
On Friday, we set off on our next venture, which was the Maths Workshop at the Holy Spirit monastery near Gweru. This remarkable community of two brothers and seven sisters have built up their monastery in just a few years. The latest building, a guesthouse, was being completed as we arrived, but all was ready. We brought in 13 teenagers and five of us adults. The main focus of the week was maths, which most of the kids struggle with. Tina was once a maths teacher and she tackled the problems of algebra and geometry with great enthusiasm. The young people were marvellous. How many English youngsters would spend their holidays doing maths? The Tariro kids loved it and engaged with the teaching really well. Some were excellent, some less so, but all learned a great deal in five days. We must work out how to do more of this.
Of course, there was much more than maths. Debbie and Rowan talked a lot with the young people, helping them practice their English and explore possibilities about their futures. Most of Tariro’s young people in Zimbabwe have unrealistic ideas about the sort of jobs they can get. There are very few jobs and getting them is really difficult. We shall have to help them create their own.
Many of the youngsters had not met each other before. They were thrilled to make new friends. There was the usual teenage chatting and some singing. We also gave quite a lot of Christian teaching. We had mass and evening prayer each day. On the second day, to our delight, three of the teenagers decided of their own accord to be baptised. We had a very happy baptism service for them and later planted three trees in their honour.
The sisters did us proud for food. Huge quantities of sadza, rice, potatoes, vegetables, chicken or beef kept appearing, all cooked on an open fire so tasting pleasantly smoked. I don’t think the youngsters had ever eaten so well and they kept going back for more. It was the longest time I had spent with them and it was good to see a bit more of the differing personalities emerging.
When the workshop ended some headed back to Harare and the East; Edwin and I loaded the six Shurugwi youngsters with all their luggage into our truck and set off to St Francis Nhema. On the way we stopped to see two of the stars at Gweru University – Memory who is doing industrial chemistry and Munyaradzi who is doing social work. They seem to be happy and coping with this level of study. At St Francis, we were greeted by the sisters, for whom I said mass. We only stayed a night and the headed off on the long bad road to Masvingo. Here we met the new bishop who himself comes from St Francis so he is keen to support our work. We also met remarkable young Lamech Mhondi. Lamech did well enough to go to university but preferred to go to an excellent farming college where he came top in everything. He now wants to get into proper farming in an informed and scientific way. He will probably start at our little project in the Honde and see what he can do to upgrade it. He is a great role model for the others, intelligent, hardworking, quiet and not afraid of getting his hands dirty.
Back in Harare for the weekend, Tina and I did some serious relaxing for a day and on the Sunday went to St Andrew’s, Glenview for mass attended by 450 people. The rector apologised as there should have been more!
On Monday Edwin, Tina and I went back to Shearly Cripps again to pick up the five CBLM sisters and take them to St Augustine’s Penhalonga for retreat. It was a long drive but wonderful to see Zimbabwean countryside again, looking at its best. Apart from the retreat for the two communities of sisters we were also there to start the new project for girls in Tsvingwe. This is an exciting adventure as we already have three girls there and they will be the foundation of this group. We intend to start with pigs and hope within a few months to be making enough money to pay school fees and give other kinds of support to a group of girls, to make sure they stay in school. The leader of this project will be a local priest friend, Fr Abel Waziwei, who has done pigs successfully before.
After the retreat, we came back to Harare and I said mass at the Tariro Youth Project House. We also had a good meeting with Fr Mutasa, our chairman, about establishing new structures to give Tariro more security and to plan for the future. Already they are bringing on some of the first Tariro youngsters to begin to take over the running of the Tariro organisation. It is an exciting time!
Thank you as always for your support.