So, day 2 has involved moving around from our initial place to rest our heads to where we are currently. This is on the outskirts of a place called Kadoma, around 2 hours drive south-west of Harare. No, I’d never heard of it either, but then again I’m not from mighty town of Stevenage with which its twinned with, so why would I!?
What people in Stevenage probably don’t know is that a fraction of the items that get handed into their 115 (according to yell.com) charity shops end up here. How large or small that fraction is, is impossible to tell of course.”Fantastic!” you might at first be saying. “It’s great that they’ve made their way to where they’re needed” is what you might also be thinking. Local understanding of the situation, however, tells us something very very different. Your charitable items handed into to your many high street charity shops, or handed over to a clothes bank does in fact find its way to countries in desperate need. But the reality is that these items are then intercepted and sold. Yes, you read correctly. Sold.
Not sold and all the proceeds going to good causes, but sold like any other item on a market stall and all the proceeds going to the seller.
That Manchester Utd shirt that your belly had grown you out of that you handed over to a clothes bank? Well, its here, and its for sale.
Thats not to say that ALL donations end up this way, but certainly the market stalls we saw today on the high street of Kadoma were filled to the brim with what was obviously 2nd hand charitable goods. This isn’t a cry to stop giving to charity of course, far from it, but its more an indication of how far this country has gone down and how corrupt things have become that charity doesn’t find its way to those for which its intended anymore. If that Beckham ’02 shirt is now too small for you, by all means, give it to charity, as that is still to correct thing to do, but the reality is that it may very well get intercepted by someone along the way and won’t be gracing the back of a child in need, rather a market stall of an eager entrepreneur.
In a country with 85% unemployment, however, can you really blame them? Its a tough conversation to have with yourself. “I’ll do anything to put bread on the table, and to feed my family” is what most are thinking, but its a shame to see that real “charity” that you and I know of is failing so disastrously here. Seeing things like this is really hitting home that we’ve done the right thing in coming here with the money we’ve raised to use it where its most needed, cutting out any potential middle men and scammers.
We were also lucky enough to be taken out into the local townships of Chegutu, one town along from us here in Kadoma. Roads are puddles and pot holes, mud and open rivers. We saw “houses” totally unequipped for the torrential rains we’ve been having these last few days, weeks and months. Sandbags barricaded some homes, whilst others were just allowed to flood in the knowledge that a flood in the family home isn’t actually the worst thing that has happened to them in the last year. We saw children wading waist deep in what appeared to be a torrent of water simply to get to the other side of was passing for a street in these rains and to get home. But one thing struck me as we dryly drove around looking at those less fortunate than us walking in the rain: I’d never seen such pride in how they carried themselves. Never seen so much pride in their appearance, despite wading through flood waters. Yes, there are scruffy men and women of all ages walking around just as there are in any country, but here you’d think that they’d all be like that. You’d think that they’d all have given up, but I saw pride like I’ve never seen it before in the people I saw today. Shoes whiter than I’ve ever managed to keep my own, on mud streets surrounded by floodwater and puddles. Quite how they (and I say “they” as there were many) managed it I’ll never know, but I saw it with my own eyes and I will never forget it.
In the evening we had a Brai (Zimbabwe word for BBQ) and talk turned to the economy. Its a very common conversation as it appears as not long before our arrival, Zimbabwe introduced a “Bond Note” which is basically a piece of paper that promises the bearer of the note that it has the value of the same amount in the American Dollar. Since 2009 Zimbabwe as a country has ceased to operate with is own currency and now it’s even stopped being able to use someone else’s.
Think about that for a moment. This is a fully independent country without its own legal tender. Its entire economy relies on the U.S. Dollar. Hyperinflation before the introduction of parity with the dollar (and eventual usage of it entirely) was so bad that our host Helen told us that her last paycheque paid in the Zimbabwe Dollar was in the trillion’s of dollars, but had the buying power of around $10 so she never bothered to cash it. Its now framed as a piece of history instead. If you know anything about history, then you will know that this type of hyperinflation is what happened to Germany in the 1920’s as a result of Allied reparations and the resultant unrest lead to the rise of Hitler. Zimbabwe, unfortunately, already have their own version in their current, and seemingly permanent, President Mugabe and only time will tell where it all leads.
It may all sound like doom and gloom and I suppose from a raising money for charity point of view, thats what sounds best, but this is just how it is and has been for a long time and maybe there is nothing we can do about it. We’ll be trying though, each and every day of the remaining 45days or so that we are here.
Tomorrow at 7am we are meeting “Gift” (who I now learn is a guy… not girl as I previously stated in yesterday’s blog!) and we will be visiting our first school and looking at what we’ll be able to do. The time for action is here and we’ll be doing all we can to make a difference.
Thank you for your donations so far, thank you for reading and please keep checking in on us each day as we try to make a difference. Only by sharing, tagging, donating and joining the conversation can we, together, make that difference, so please feel free do all of those and help us spread the word.