Supporting young people in Zimbabwe
As well as checking on the projects and young people we support in Zimbabwe, I also supervised the finalising of new structures that will keep Tariro safe and well in Zimbabwe. The following is an account of my visit and at the end I summarise what has come out of it practically for us.
I arrived on a Saturday evening. On Sunday morning I left my hosts’ house at 6 a.m. to go to Tafara, a township of poor people. I had forgotten what hard work it was driving on these roads where the tar roads are worse than the dirt roads, since the pot holes are frequent and sharp edged. It was worth it though as the people were already gathering for mass at seven. Mass took two and a quarter hours with much singing. Then I was off again to a smaller church, only partly built and dedicated to St Matthias. As with St Philip’s we started with a nearly empty church but by the offertory it was full. Africans share with the Orthodox a certain flexibility over the time they arrive in Church.
Later that afternoon I was over at Tariro House on the other side of town. Here I met seven of our delightful young people. Tandeka, Chipo and Tariro among the girls and John, Jawett, Tinashe and Tatenda among the boys. The last two are identical twins so I can never tell the difference between them!
On Wednesday morning we set off to the East. It was a wonderful drive. Skies were blue, and it got steadily hotter. As we came near Rusape we began to see hundreds of Masasa trees still in their red and rust brown colours. Anyone who has lived in Zimbabwe will remember September for the masasas and the jacarandas. Then as we turned east from Rusape, the jumbled hills of Mutasa and Makoni appeared on one side and the grass on the other side (nice dry yellow and white grass!) stretched away to the mountains of Nyanga. It got more and more beautiful the further we went. About midday we reached St David’s Bonda where I had my first teaching job in 1969! OHP sisters ran the school then and it has remained a fine school for girls.
St Augustine’s Penhalonga was our final stop. As soon as I arrived some of the Tariro boys started turning up: Christopher, who gave us so much trouble for months on end, then suddenly settled down and got 11 O levels. It was lovely not to be scolding him, but telling him how pleased I am with him. Then I saw Maphosa who has no brains at all, but has done really well with his chicken project and is now growing vegetables as well to sell. We are going to increase his chickens so that he can really make a living out of them. Finally our three form four boys: Tatenda, Charles and Anesu came and we had an entertaining hour of talk before I sent them off to bed.
After a quiet day spent mostly around the mission we set off to Chipinge to see our charges down there. It is a beautiful drive south of Mutare with the Chimanimani mountains on the left and great ranges of mighty hills on the right stretching into the hot, dry country of Marange. Whenever I do this journey I think of the CR Fathers who worked there, often walking miles and miles each day between small churches and little schools, slowly establishing the Gospel in this hard, dry land. Fr Reginald did it for twenty six years, followed by Derek Williams and Noel Williams.
Two and a half hours of driving brought us back up into the hills to the town of Chipinge which is beautifully set, but scruffy and over crowded. Here we found Rejoice, Munyaradizi, Shepherd, Brenda and Liberty waiting for us along with the new Rector. The only problem with their studies is their maths, and to a lesser degree their English. We really could do with a maths teacher of our own to coach our children. The nicest surprise was Liberty. He is a delightful, slightly cheeky boy with a lovely smile and a lot of charm. Last year I got the impression he was somewhat playful and going nowhere with his schooling. I could not have been more wrong! He got the highest possible marks in all his subjects last term and if he repeats that at the end of the year will definitely be going to one of our excellent boarding schools. He is thrilled at the prospect. Then we had the long drive home, which I loved, driving through that rugged African countryside. The last few miles up to St Augustine’s is along a dreadful road which is far worse than it used to be when Fr Baynham and Fr Prosser were in charge here. I wondered how many thousands of times CR fathers have driven up that road in the past 100 years!
On Saturday I rose at 4.00 to get on the road at 5.00 so I in Harare just after 8.30. Time to have breakfast and then I was off to TYP house for their memorial mass. Singing was great as usual, with excellent harmonies. At the end there was quite a moving presentation of the House’s spiritual aims by John and Kelvin. Then an excellent lunch after which I had to talk with Phillip and Tafadzwa about financial processes, and Beata and the two medical students about how they getting on. All that was good!
After a few days in Harare Edwin and I drove south, turning off at Chivhu for the 50km journey to Daramombe. It got steadily hotter but good to see the bush not quite as dry as it usually is in September. Daramombe School is lovely – beautifully cared for and smart well spoken young people. We saw Memory Marambadoro there and she seems to be doing very well indeed in Form Two. I also had a very interesting chat with the Headmaster, Kennedy Manzonza, about sustainable rural development.
From Daramombe we went on to Rufaro School to see three of our former orphans from St Augustines and finally got to Masvingo at 5.30. I was very grateful then for the be
er I had bought on the way.
Thursday was Holy Cross Day and the Bishop had all his clergy here for conference. Time was he had only a handful of clergy. Now there are 45! I talked to them about the Mass as I was was asked to do, underlying their catholic inheritance. Then in the afternoon afternoon we drove to Mashava to see Talent Simango who is just starting her final year of development studies. Such a nice girl and she has grown so much in confidence and fluency during these years at University. It won’t be easy for her to find a job so we are beginning to think about Tariro creating a job for her – taking on more kids and giving her the job of supervising them. It will cost more of course, but may be the way forward that we need to take.
On Friday, after saying mass again for the priests, we set off for St Francis, Nema. It is a long two and a half hours as the greater part of it is on rather bad dirt road. The sisters were very welcoming as always and we saw most of the young people in the afternoon. Girls doing well generally, though not quite well enough to go to boarding school, which is what they want. Lucky and Gift are doing very badly and I think we may tak
e them out of school at the end of the year. They are nice lads and there is no real evil in them. They have just had a tough deal from life and can’t really do education without support from home. I was very touched to hear from Edwin that Munyaradzi in Chipinge, off his own bat, found holiday work so that he could pay his own bus fare and stationery. He is a remarkable lad. Our two St Francis boys need to be helped to make a living farming. It is their only chance. We have to make that work for them.
We left them on Saturday morning and drove an hour and a half along a rather bad dirt road to Gweru and then on from there to St Patrick’s mission which is another 20 unwelcome kms of dirt road. St Patrick’s is an old mission and has a good secondary school on it. They are in process of turning the clinic into a hospital which will be impressive when complete. Here I met the Community of the Holy Spirit sisters and brothers.
From there it was four and a half ho
urs drive back to Harare. The worst part was the last half hour through Harare with no street lights or proper road markings but lots of cars! It’s surprising how hard it is to drive through a busy town you think you know well when there are no lights.
One purpose of these few days w
as to meet with Phillip Mutasa, the Chairman of the TYP Trustees to talk about the project. I am so impressed with Phillip and the other trustees who do such an amazing job with our young people despite the difficulties of living in Zimbabwe. We are now working on ways of moving our older young people onwards to do further projects with needy youngsters so as to extend the work of Tariro.
We would also like to bring all the Tariro boys and girls together in Harare for a few days for fun and education. It is a bit costly but would be well worth it in building up a sense of identity in the family and increasing their self confidence.
On the Saturday Edwin and I went ba
ck to Penhalonga. I saw quite a bit of the boys. Charles seems suddenly to have relaxed and matured. Anesu and Tatenda turned up together and kept on talking; they didn’t seem to want to go. That is good as I force them to talk English and do all I can to improve their general knowledge. Anesu came back the next day with some examples of his art work. He certainly does have talent. We need to think about how to turn that into an income. Then Nyasha came and wrote his letter to his sponsor, but also was happy to stay and chat about all sorts of things, including his French. I’m really sure they boys are all doing the best they can. Time will tell whether it is good enough for A levels or something else.
I spent the next few days at Penhalonga trying to finish off various kinds of business, meeting Tariro East’sTrustees. This is boring but necessary work as we are in the process of setting up structures in the rural part of the country to make the work run smoothly and ensure its long term future. Then on Wednesday we drove the beautiful road up to Nyanga. On the way we stopped off at St Matthias Tsonzo to see Christopher, Rejoice, Tinotenda and Munasha. They are some of the nicest kids we have and I always come away from them laughing with the sheer pleasure of seeing them. Then we drove up to the beautiful mountain country of Nyanga to visit Br Peter of the Community of the Divine Compassion and talk with him about a possible chicken project.
What has come out of all that?
1. I had the particular job of checking the financial operations to assure trustee s and the Charity Commission here that our money all goes where it is intended. I found that all the finances there are very well looked after with many levels of accountability. I don’t think it could be more tightly controlled than it is. The suspicion that people in Africa cannot be trusted with money certainly does NOT pertain with Tariro.
2. We have come some way to establish structures that will keep Tariro safe and well in Zimbabwe. In Harare these structures are complete. In the East we need a bit more work still. Everyone here and in Zimbabwe tells us that Tariro is so good that we must make sure it keeps doing this work. We are doing that by finding committed Zimbabweans to oversee the work itself.
3. We always need more money! Most of you give generously already and we are very grateful for that. If you would like to add an extra donation that would be super. If you would like to make a standing order you can download a form from our website and send it to me, or set it up with your bank yourself. If you would like to increase your standing order, just contact your bank. And please tell other people about us. That is our our network of friends grows.
I still find it amazing that I can do this work and that it helping so many delightful young people. Thank you for making this possible with your giving!