Day 17. Penny pinching.

Anyone that thinks they know me, thinks that I’m “tight as a ducks arse”, a “penny pincher”, a “scrooge” and the rest. But those that know me properly just know that I like to get value for money in every thing that I do. There is a difference even if on the outside looking in, it seems the same thing. I remember a conversation over a few beers with two very good friends in Thailand not so long ago where they were berating me, gently, about the fact I didn’t like to spend money and I was insistent that I have no problem spending money if I feel I’m not being ripped off. I stick to that feeling still, and just because we have control over all the donations that have been sent to us to help these kids, I’m not about to start saying “F*ck it, its not my money so pay whatever the easiest price is”. That penny pinching attitude just scored big time today and it will mean more things can be bought for the same money and the only winner is the children. Win win.

Today I took a trip to Harare to try and get more for the donations than I was able to at the local stores here in Kadoma. I had a free lift there and back, with some free space in the back of the pick up truck for anything that I bought. John Kinnaird, who owns a local steel engineers firm, has been like a godsend these last few days ferrying me and Nicole around town, and today he took it one step further by helping me navigate the streets of the capital city looking for the raw materials to make the bund beds, mattresses and pillows that we need for the orphanage.


Harare is a funny place. The pot holes are less obvious than everywhere in Zimbabwe, but there are plenty that are big enough to lose your car in. There is also a huge number of people stood outside every ATM waiting to get their money. Money is controlled so badly here, that no-one trusts the banks with it. So every pay day every single person in the country seems to stand by the ATM ready to draw ALL of it out. It’s physically impossible to encounter an ATM without a queue unless its broken. Believe me, I tried. More for the fun of trying to see if it was possible to spot one without at least 20 people waiting to use it that for anything else. Either way, I failed to encounter even one. Another thing that is odd there is the abundance of street sellers, but not street sellers that we are used to in Ibiza, or in any holiday resort, they are more like car boot sales people, without any organisation. Imagine you had a ton of stuff to sell from your house and you figured you’d go to a car boot sale to try and shift it all on. Then imagine that you were given the wrong address, and you just decided to pitch up your spot anyway just in case anyone that was passing by might want to buy your stuff. This is everywhere. I caught a particularly good one on in a photo today to give you an idea. Some awesome shirts for sale there I think you’ll agree.

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This is where Richard Bright (AKA Ibiza’s own DJ Dr. Feelgood) probably buys all his hideous shirts.

We’d heard that foam for the mattresses was readily available at a good price if we found the right place. What we found first of all was NOT the right place. Apparently the biggest foam factory and mattresses makers in Harare had just about gone out of business and we were clearly there for its death throws. Upon walking into the vast open space of a warehouse that could hold a jumbo jet and still have plenty of room to swing a cat, it was obvious that this business, like many many others in Zimbabwe, had fallen on hard times. Still, the remaining staff seemed to think that they still had a small quantity of suitable foam and we sat down and went through the size, type of foam, quantity (12) and date expected. After crunching the numbers, the quote was for $98.

“For all of them?” Asked John.

“No, each.”

“No wonder you are going out of business”. Thats a ridiculous amount of money for a piece of foam!

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Going out of business, just like many other places in Zimbabwe.

We stood up and walked out as he began to tell us he could give us a discount. I kindly let him know that there was likely no discount possible that would make it worthwhile if that was their starting point! After another few places, I began to think that we may have been on a wild goose chase, but eventually we were recommended a distributor of mattresses that specialised in hospital, wipe clean ones. After a bit of haggling, we ended up with 12 bespoke and perfectly sized mattresses for $35 each! While there we also picked up a 8kg of half price (as I told the manager who it was for) foam chips to make pillows with. Nicole is, as many may not know, a seamstress, so will be making curtains for the house already. She will now make pillows as well.

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Foam chips for pillows.

Next up was the steel distributor and so as to not bore you with the finer details, EVERY item that I was able to buy was cheaper than I’d bought from Kadoma. Add to that a further discount for using the crisp, clean $100 bills I’d had with me since changing up the donation money in Madrid the day before coming out, and we were laughing. We’ll take delivery of all the metal to make the beds on tuesday next week, and each bed takes a day to make now that we’ve perfected the design. We simply cannot wait to get them into the house and show the kids! I hope they go nuts about them, but I have a feeling that they will just smile and say thank you. Thats enough for us though, as we’ve come to understand that the household control their emotions very well. I suppose it may be through never having anything to get excited about up until now.

On the way back into town from Harare we popped into a factory shop for the a local textiles firm to price up material for pillows and curtains. The staff in there were about as useful as a chocolate tea pot, but the stock that they did have in was well priced when we could finally get a price out of them for it all. It was here that I managed, with the last $10 in my pocket, to pick up 20 pillow cases! Absolute bargain!

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Blanket mattresses and blanket pillows on a concrete floor… Not where I’d like to sleep each night, let alone ask my child to do it.

All in all, the day’s expenses came to about $850 and for that, minus a certain size of steel I wasn’t able to get today, we’ve pretty much got our beds all bought and paid for. Now we just need to get them made and our gift to the orphanage will be theirs forever. I took a photo yesterday of the current sleeping arrangements and you can see that the “mattress” is just a folded blanket. The “pillow” is just another folded blanket. This is for children as young as 1 1/2 and up to as old as 18, yet no child of any age should have to sleep in these kinds of conditions. Please donate here, if you agree and would like to help us make sure that this, and many other things, are put right at Tariro Orphanage.

In other news, I tried KFC in Harare. Its similar to the UK and Ibiza, but more expensive. $9 for a box meal and I was still hungry afterwards too! I took some pics for you fast food lovers out there to see what you think to the place. Its by far the cleanest and nicest KFC I’ve ever seen. It was empty though, so perhaps they need to change their prices to attract some customers!


Whilst I was in Harare today, Nicole spent the day with at Great Hood Academy from assembly all the way through until home time. This is the school that we spent our first few days with and are still planning on helping with some new books and sports equipment. Upon finding Tariro Orphanage, though, our priorities changed as the need to help the orphans was urgent.

Nicole: “While Nathan was in Harare I went back to Great Hood Academy to see everyone again. Gift the Headmaster picked me up bright and early at 7.15am and we went straight into assembly and all the children said “good morning Mrs Seal” I felt honoured that they had remembered my name even though its been nearly 2 weeks since we were last there! I started to help with grade 1 after assembly had finished, handing out their work and getting them to read one by one. I was very impressed with their reading and their progression since we were last there. At break time all the children were sitting out side for play time and my hair was a particular talking point for them. They asked to touch it play with it. They hadn’t touched straight hair before and thought it was very exotic.
With play time over was invited to take a class.I gave them sentences from an exercise book and wrote it on the white  board. They were all so interested the lesson and it seemed very different to the school environment I grew up with. We also spoke about foods and how to  store them, and what’s good and bad for your body. This turned into a mini question & answer session like a quiz. They came with questions one by one and I gave them a tick for every question asked that was correct. I then began telling them the about the orphanage and how much we are trying to help these children as they have had a hard start in life. I gave them my phone to look at the pictures we have taken from the last two weeks and then even more questions came: Why are they there? Why do they sleep on the floor? How do they cook? How old are they?
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It was hard trying to put that all into words as it really shouldn’t have to be that way but I explained that we are here to make their life a bit easier, and so they can go to school and get an education. They were very excited to know that we have managed to help them so much in such a short space of time. The school kids seemed so interested in finding out more about helping these children that I was overwhelmed.
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One thing I noticed about all these children is that they are so keen to learn, they are so inquisitive  and I was so proud to be a part of their school day. I can’t wait for us to help them out with getting them new books so they can continue to learn more and more. We’ll both be back in the coming days for a further question and answer session with the Grade 7 class next time. We hope to help them learn about charity, the orphanage and the world outside Zimbabwe as we know it.”

As ever, thanks for reading our blog. I hope you can see where your donation money is going and I hope that we can make it go even further and do even more. If you haven’t already, please donate here. ALL the money goes to those that need it. NO middle man. NO back handers. Just you helping out those that most need it, directly and instantly.

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Author: OurManInZimbabwe

Travelling to Zimbabwe with money raised over the last 16months and hoping to make a difference.

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