First up, my thanks to everybody who attended last week’s Tariro UK supporters’ event, the first of two for 2016, which we hosted here at Mirfield. Bishop Jack Nicholls joined us and gave a short, relevant talk on the importance of self respect for children and young people which chimed greatly with my recent trip to Zimbabwe (more on that below). Big thanks to Lydia Grammer for providing some snacks for everybody and to one of our trustees, who donated wine.
London supporters’ event – 27 October
Our second (and arguably more glamorous!) of these events is to be held later in the month, in London. We’ve been provided at no cost with a lovely river-front conference room near London Bridge. It would be great to see many more of you there for whom Mirfield is not convenient. Please get in touch if you would like to come along so that we can cater sufficiently; it’s on the evening of 27 October from 6pm, at the offices of Winckworth Sherwood (located here).
Our work in Zimbabwe
I spent September in Zimbabwe, working with our young people and with those who help to keep Tariro and those we’re supporting on track. The trip was very busy but productive; we clocked up close to 3000km on the road, by my reckoning.
My standout moment was looking at one delightful young man’s school report. Tatenda is a bright boy who was in day school and doing badly, mostly due to trouble at home. So we moved him last year to a boarding school where, to be frank, he struggled for the first six months, in part as he was not used to the standards. But this year Tatenda has got it! He is working hard, doing exceptionally well and feels really good about himself.
The same story could be told of Anesu, whose work has dramatically improved. In fact, to step back for a moment, all our young people are doing better now than they were six months ago. I think this is partly because we have become more sensitive to their needs. We this year began providing them with group counselling and introduced other kinds of support too and these appear to be working well, which is heartening.
As a reward we took a group of our young people from the Penhalonga region one evening to a small, posh hotel, which was a stately home of sorts and is now operated by the Zimbabwe National Trust. They had Cokes and chips in a lovely environment. They got to have a good look around the grounds and were fascinated.
Zimbabwe itself is in a dreadful state, with the economy tanking and people desparate. There were demonstrations and constant rumblings while I was there. Everything waits on the departure of a seemingly entrenched Mugabe.
Drought has brought further misery to the country. Separate to the Tariro programme, the Community of the Ressurection has this year found £10,000 in a bank account which we are spending on providing a meal once a day for about 2,000 kids in the badly affected Shurugwi area. That not only averts hunger, but enables the kids to continue with their schooling instead of dropping out through exhaustion.
While in Zimbabwe I visited Shurugwi and saw the feeding scheme in operation. As with Penhalonga, most of the young people supported by Tariro in this area have improved their work, partly because they have improved their diet. Four girls – Ruvarashe, Rumbidzai, Nokutenda and Priscilla – are doing particularly well. Boys are slower to take life serio
usly (I was once thus!), but two young men named Lucky and Gift are definitely now on the up in Form One.
The nation’s economic problems make it even more impressive that schools are managing to keep going, some with quite a high standard of teaching. Our little trio at St Matthias, Tsonzo, have all settled in well and are producing good results as well as seeming to be very happy.
Here are Rejoice, Tinotenda and Munashe. While keeping a careful eye our financial constraints we have been able to take on another girl. Below is Tinotenda’s sister, Nyasha, now in Sixth Form and doing well in the circumstances.
Our immediate challenge is to establish some of the boys who have left school without good results; they need projects that can support them in life. So, Maphosa and Alban are about to take responsibility for rearing 500 chickens! Gift Chigayigayi had a short placement with a motor mechanic and will start a mechanics course in January. Gift Ushe wants to get into farming projects, so we are looking for ways to make that possible.
All of this is important not only for their ability to support themselves in the future, but also for the country as a whole. It is a travesty but reality that Zimbabwe now has to import food because of the government’s wholesale destruction of commercial agriculture since the early 2000s. Every small farming project helps to feed Zimbabwe’s people, while fickle rains and a rapacious government continue to make even the most basic subsistence a struggle.
On a brighter note, I was delighted on this visit to be joined by my niece Jen Stebbing, at least for part of my visit. Jen is now a Tariro trustee and I hope many of you get to meet her in London on the 27th of this month. Here she is with Shepherd, who lives and studies in the south eastern town of Chipinge.
An important request
Britain’s decision to leave the EU has imposed huge financial strain on Tariro. We need help to get our finances up to a level where we can keep supporting our children. Please can you make available to us any expertise, resources, connections or plain old fashioned donations which we can use to continue our work in Zimbabwe in 2017 and beyond. I’d be delighted to see you at our get-together in London on 27th October to discuss this; otherwise please drop me an e-mail by reply or give me a call.
Thank you for all your support. It means life and hope for all our young people out in Zimbabwe.