Update from Father Nicolas’ trip to Zimbabwe October 2018

posted in: Appeal, Visit report | 0

What’s happening in Zimbabwe at the moment? And how is it affecting the Tariro kids?

I’m just back from visiting them all. I’ve written more below about the wonderful things the children are doing and how they are progressing. I hope you’ll get a chance to read it. I wanted to do a short summary up here though for those who don’t have time to read it.

As you’ll see from the news, the Zimbabwean economy has taken an enormous nose dive. Prices have increased dramatically due to things not being available in the shops and it has put us under great pressure at Tariro. I don’t like to ask this, but if you were wondering how you can help Zimbabwe right now, or you were teetering on the edge of making a donation or perhaps generously increasing your standing order– all of us at Tariro would be enormously grateful if you might be willing to do so now. Now more than ever we need to support the people of Zimbabwe. You can make a donation here: tarirouk.com/donate/

Thank you so much,
Nicolas CR

A traffic jam in Harare. That was our first experience as we came into town from the airport. There has been a sudden explosion in the number of cars in Harare and jams occur which cannot sort themselves out. It is a kind of metaphor of the economy also now jammed as decades of mismanagement come home to roost, again. After we had sat for an hour and a half, not moving in a surprisingly good tempered crowd of motorists a single policewoman arrived and sorted things out.

After that everything went very well. I had brought with me this time Gavin Sampson, a young optician who was brave enough to spend two weeks of holiday time visiting our projects and meeting all our friends. He also examined the eyes of all the rural kids (the town kids are well looked after by our eye surgeon trustee, Dr Tumushine). We now know all the children have perfect vision and no other problems with their eyes. That is good. But it was good for them also to have their eyes examined. It gave them street cred. None of their school mates had had their eyes examined by an English optician (or any other kind for that matter). It’s a small but important way we show the youngsters how important they are.

We had a very happy visit to St Matthias, Tsonzo where we met up with four teenagers: Munashe, Tinotenda and Rejoice in Form Three and Liberty in Form One. Liberty is an interesting boy. I asked him how his soccer was getting on. “Oh, I’ve given that up.” He said. “I prefer reading novels. Can you get me some exciting stories?” This is very unusual for a Shona teenage boy so I got him some good stories and delivered them two weeks later.

St Augustine’s Penhalonga was our next stop. The CZR sisters there are old friends and always spoil us. There are only two Tariro boys in the school now – both doing fine. In fact I was delighted to find that shy, inarticulate Nyasha Chikukwa, whom I didn’t think was terribly clever, is actually doing very well in sciences. All our youngsters have a weakness in English as they don’t speak or hear it enough. They have to study in English but almost always talk Shona. Just before leaving I advertised for books and magazines to give them to read and have already received a lot. So in February I shall start giving those out. In Mutare we met up with Anesu and Valentine, now studying at Polytech. Anesu is doing Art and Design, which he loves and he gave me some amazing drawings he has done. Valentine is doing Business Studies and really enjoying it.

The next stop was St Anne’s Goto, a visit I was delighted to make as I taught there very happily more than 40 years ago! Tatenda Sigauke is now in Sixth Form at St Anne’s, doing sciences and looking very smart in his uniform. We had brought him (and also Anesu and Valentine) a reward for getting that far in education – a laptop. They were thrilled. Of course this raises a question. Do they really need laptops? I struggled with that given the cost. But my other trustees agreed we should. They will do better with a laptop so they can more easily access educational things on the internet. Again it is part of the policy of making them feel special and loved. They are not just ‘kids in need’. They are Tariro children and it is important to help them do as well as they can.

Back in Harare that weekend we celebrated mass at St Philip’s, Tafara with a church full of wonderful people. It is a poor, overcrowded area yet the people (like poor people everywhere) have an amazing resilience and joy. The church is a mixture of every age and condition and is a beacon of hope in a bleak life.

Then we were off again south of Harare, first to Christ the King, Daramombe where two of the Shurugwi girls are studying, and showing that the money we spend sending them there is very well spent! Then on to St Francis Shurugwi itself via Masvingo where lovely Talent Simango is about to finish at University, the first of the rural kids to become a graduate!

At the beginning of this year Tariro started a small farming project at St Francis. It cost a bit to put in water and buy implements but the children started very well. I was delighted to find that the vegetables have thrived during the long months of dry season. All the youngsters have worked on it but young Gift has been particularly good. He has been doing really badly at secondary school so, against the usual policy of keeping kids in school, it was suggested that he actually left straight away and learn about farming. “Yes, please!” he said and his face lit up in the biggest smile I have ever seen from him. It was a good moment.

I had a few days in town during which I celebrated mass for the young people at Tariro House in Harare. It’s lovely to see how those young people are maturing. Tariro (yes, that is her name!) has just finished her degree and has a job with an NGO. She is planning to get married quite soon. John Maruta also has a job in some kind of book keeping field. So does Innocent (also planning to marry!). Divine (yes, that is his name) is now a fully qualified mechanic and working. Young Kelvin has a place to study medicine at Cape Town University which is simply wonderful. Kundai and Wellington are coming into their final year of medical/pharmaceutical studies at the local university. And Thandeka is near to completing her degree in accountancy.

At the other, but equally important end of the academic scale Chengetai and Gift Ushe have done a training in raising pigs. Last year we were given a very generous grant by the Fellowship of St John and a piggery is about to start. As well as providing two (maybe three) boys with a job it should add a significant stream to Tariro’s income in the country.

After this, I went on to visit Chipinge in the South East where our youngest child, Ruvarashe, is very happy in her first year of school. She has the most delightfully cheeky eyes I have seen for a long time. Her brother Shepherd seems to be settling down to the idea of school work and may well do well enough for boarding school. We also got to see Gift and Nicholas Chigayigayi at a trade school. Gift is finishing and Nicholas is starting a course on motor mechanics. They are very pleasant young men, but with problems. They were found as small boys sleeping in a card board box in Mutare having been abandoned by their parents. They grew up in a children’s home. We now have to help them find the self confidence and self esteem that children’s home kids lack. Without that they will never get anywhere in the hard Zimbabwean environment.

I could say much more.  There were a few negative experiences which don’t belong in these pages. By far the greater part is really good. Much of this is due to the resilience and tenacity of our young people, but also to the hard work and commitment of those who work with us in Zimbabwe. Edwin Komayi, Philip Mutasa, Beata Tumushine, Sr Praxedes, Sr Gloria Mary and many others have helped our youngsters to achieve this. In all the corruption and incompetence one sees in the government of Zimbabwe we need to remember that Zimbabweans are a very hard working and able people. Their work with the Tariro projects is just one example of this.

People ask, “How is Zimbabwe?” It’s hard to say. When you are there you just get on with living. Mnangagwa’s government is clearly trying to make a difference. He has appointed a number of good and interesting people to his cabinet, greatly reducing the army control. Unfortunately, one suspects the same old people behind the scenes still call the shots. And Zanu-PF is so inherently corrupt that it cannot reform the economy or political culture it has created. As I left, petrol queues were forming again and shortages becoming apparent in the shops. There is a threat of higher levels of inflation as money becomes more difficult to find and a new government tax on electronic transactions raises prices.

The good thing is the absence of fear. The brooding presence of the all powerful Mugabe has gone. There are a few police road blocks but I was hardly ever stopped and always well spoken to. That is the surface appearance. I can’t speak of what is under the surface nor will I guess at the future.

I hope all of you who have given us money feel we have done well with your donations. We are tremendously grateful for them. It is wonderful to see these young people’s lives transformed. Sometimes, it is an expensive process but the results seem to justify it. We do try very hard to make sure that every dollar is well spent and nothing is wasted. So thank you for your support. Please continue with it, even increase it a little. We do need more as the kids grow up. I end with just two commercials:

  1. Fr John Gribben is doing a sponsored run for us in January. See https://mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/frjohngribben10krun
  2. If you are a parish priest or church councillor can you suggest your church might give Tariro a Christmas present? Many churches did this last year and it really boosted our finances.

With many thanks and every blessing

Nicolas Stebbing CR

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