When deciding upon coming to Zimbabwe I was told by everyone I was in contact with that I’d be able to see and feel the “real” Africa here. I’ll be honest and say that although I heard what they were saying, I didn’t really understand it. After all, I thought I “knew” that Zimbabwe used to be the breadbasket of Africa, the most advanced country on the continent within living memory and was part of the British Commonwealth. How much worse could it have gotten from those glory days? The answer was surprising.
Its almost a bit like visiting a place like Ankor Wat in Cambodia. For those that don’t know, Ankor Wat is/was a massive city in Cambodia that was lost to the jungles after it was abandoned by its inhabitants. Explorers found it again relatively recently and excavated it and now its a massive tourist attraction where people come from all over the world to see the glory and beauty of this once great city. So how exactly is that like Zimbabwe? Well, with a bit of imagination, you can see that this was once a great place. You can see that investment and even tourism came here. You can see that this was once a vibrant economy and the rich farmland provided all that was needed and then some. But thats all in the past, and far from being abandoned, Zimbabwe is still heavily populated. So where the amazing city of Ankor Wat was preserved by having its population leave and have it consumed by the jungle, Zimbabwe has just deteriorated under the constant pressure of the humans that still call it home, but their government don’t have the investment to maintain it. Roads are just a collection of pot holes strung together, I even joked about a section of street where the speed bumps were actually the best part of the road. We were also told that if someone ever drives in a straight line, it must be because they are drunk as weaving in and around pot holes is an absolute must!
Buildings are crumbling, unemployment is at epidemic levels, electric is intermittent and and yet there are people EVERYWHERE. Driving down what you assume to be a country road to nowhere at night you will encounter people walking somewhere or other. In the towns and on the main roads, people go about their daily business in the rain with very little regard for getting wet. Road side “market stalls” where people sell anything and everything they can get their hands on that to you and I may seem worthless, sit in massive puddles and open street rivers as the rain falls all around them as potential customers wade shoeless through the mud. There is a hustle and bustle everywhere, and I can say now that I understand what I was told. This is the real Africa I was promised although I wish for their sake that it wasn’t. I wish it was going to be easier to help, but everything we aim to do here may appear to be a drop in the ocean of what is needed, but despite that, we will try all the same. Making a difference in even one child’s life will have made the journey worth it and we aim to help 100’s.
With all this in mind, we’ve been exploring and settling in for the last few days. Its the weekend so aside from visiting the host school (a private school that is helping us reach out to others less fortunate and without a fraction of their funds) and getting a feel for the place, we haven’t been able to do anything as of yet. Local hospitality, however, has been wonderful and people have opened up their homes and their hearts to us. They have loved hearing about our plans to help their country and have echoed what we have heard since day one of planning: “use the money you’ve raised to make something happen yourself and never hand over cash as it will get redirected via corruption”.
So, monday morning we’ll be making our first school visit here in Kadoma. Our contact’s name is Gift and she’ll be showing us around so that we can get a feel for what they need most and then we’ll be making a plan of how to implement it. We also plan to visit an elderly lady by the name of “Mrs O” who comes highly recommended as she has been single handedly running a nursery for local children with little or no help from anyone for decades. Perhaps there will be something that we can do to help there too. Next up this week will be a visit to the local HIV orphanage. Simple things like items of clothing, let along an education, could be life changing for them as they really do live a meagre existence. Once we’ve seen all of this, the time for action will come and we’ll keep you updated with how we get on.
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