We’ve reading the terrible news regarding violence and a number of deaths resulting from the elections this last week. All our Zimbabwean friends are in our thoughts and we only hope that the situation doesn’t get any worse for all concerned. Zimbabwe needs free and fair elections and a government voted for by the population so that they can move forward and progress. We love Zimbabwe and its people. We’ve had our ups and downs with the place, but its like a 2nd home for us there and we have our 2nd family there too. We only want the country to prosper and hope thats some resolution is forthcoming so that that can happen.
So, with Zimbabwe in the news of late, and having caught up on some emails and facebook messages from people concerned that we’d just given up on our plans, I’ve been inspired to sit down tonight and write what I should have done months ago! I never thought for a moment that I’d be sat here in August finally sitting down to write the last chapter of our Zimbabwe trip that finished way back in January!
So first of all, apologies to everyone that we’ve left with the impression that our story had just ended there. Sorry to everyone who thought that we’d given up after our most recently written about disappointments.
The good news, however, is that we did in fact have a really positive last week or so and we accomplished many of the original goals we’d listed upon entering into the Jairos Jiri Blind School. I’ll take time to cover some of them here so that you can see where your donation money went as well. We still have more money in the kitty and we still have our yearly sponsored walk to come in October as well, so we’ll be raising even more to return with in Feb 2019 and carry on our work with the children.
So, in my last post we were disappointed that our hard work was being undone by some of the children themselves and the actions of the school made us second guess if we could continue working with them while ever some basic do’s and don’t were being completely ignored. But as mentioned in the last post (click here to read) we put down some ultimatums, got the responses that we needed and hoped for the best.
So, Jairos Jiri School houses 150 (approximately) children of varying degrees of blindness and also albinos. They had appalling living conditions as can be read here and we were able to do to following by the time we left:
We fixed ALL of the toilets so that they had running water. The urinals in the boys toilets worked for the first time in decades. The showers worked for the first time in decades. The cubicles had just been used until then for pouring buckets of water over themselves rather than taking advantage of the actual plumbing that was in place. There were many blockages and leaks, but we got there in the end. There is, for 100% sure, simply not enough water pressure in the entire building to ensure that any of the showers and toilets will work properly without knocking the whole place down and starting again as its so badly designed. There were leaks just about everywhere once we finally got water running throughout the building. One morning, we arrived to find the guttering overflowing as piping that had been connected (many many years before) to hot water heaters on the roof had never been closed up properly. Our plumber twins worked diligently and with purpose and managed to plug the leaks with branches cut to fit the holes and then twisted into place. A very unique solution that fits perfectly with what Zimbabwe is all about, do your best with what you have at your disposal.
So, as far as plumbing goes, we’ve done what we can and hope to report that there is still running water there when we return in February 2019 to carry on our work there.
When we first arrived, the mattresses stood out first of all as being so old and broken that they were almost beyond useless, but being all they had, they were still being used. With your donations we replaced them all. Every bed that we’d fixed now had a brand new mattress on them to boot.
These were the first new mattresses they’d had in a generation and we were so happy to put your money towards making it happen. The children could finally have a great nights sleep. There was a massive shortage in the materials needed to make them all water proof and we cleared out the factory in Harare that makes them. So armed with nearly 30 water proof mattresses for the children most prone to wetting the bed, the rest had regular ones. Spot the difference.
Our final day at the school was an amazing one. We’d been promised an assembly to say thanks to us but we’d not really been sure what to expect. As it turns out, they were all hyped about celebrating our achievements in changing their school and there was an electric buzz around the place when we arrived. Children were scurrying around giggling and laughing. We could here the sounds of musical instruments being set up and made ready. But first of all, we were invited into the library so that we could sit and have a traditional Zimbabwean meal with them. We didn’t have the heart to tell them that we’d literally just eaten before we came (we’d let them know in advance not to cook for us as we never like to take food destined for the children away from them by eating it instead). But there was absolutely no taking no for an answer and the traditional spread was laid out… I’m not entirely sure what many of these dishes were, but I can assure you, we tried them all! Including the plate of dried Mopane Worms, which is actually an edible caterpillar local to the region. Ok… perhaps I didn’t personally try those, but Nicole did and as we come as a pair, that means I can claim it too, right? 🙂
Once we’d finished what we could of our lunch, we made our way to the main assembly hall where speeches were made in English and Shona saying thanks and talking about school spirit and goals. When it came to our turn to speak, I did my best to thank them for giving us the chance to know them all and to help them. It was also at this time that we finally got to give out our big final surprise. We’d been collecting sunglasses from all over Ibiza in the lead up to our trip and this was the day we go to hand them out to the children that needed them most. So, after saying our thanks, I did my big reveal. I pointed to the suitcase that we’d brought with us and said that inside we had sunglasses for everyone. I did my best to make it into a big deal but despite my best efforts it kinda landed a bit flat… Perhaps they were not as bothered about sunglasses as we’d at first thought??
Our friend Mr Motombo took it upon himself to translate into the local language and the moment he pointed to the suitcase and said exactly what I had said, but in a way the children could understand, the room erupted. It wasn’t only the reaction I’d been hoping for, it was more. It was like all their christmases had come at once! We then proceeded to hand out all the sunglasses we could. Every child got one. They’d never had any before and they were ecstatic.
Sunglasses are not only a fashion item for a blind child, they protect their eyes from further sun damage and are vital. Until this day, they had none. With your donations, we were able to make that happen. The children then played the Marimba and danced like there was no tomorrow. The party carried on well after we’d left (we’d promised the plumbers that beers were on us once the work was finished and had to take them out).
With that, our time with the children of Jairos Jiri was done. For now. We’ll visit them again in a few months time and carry on our work with them then. We’ll aim to fix the leaking roof and guttering next time so that the children can stay dry in times of bad weather. I’m sure there will also be a large number of other small things that will arise that we’ll be able to turn our attentions to at the same time. If you’d like to help, it can be done by following this link.
That now brings us to the final days of the orphanage. This place is simply unrecognisable from when we first visited. We were both in tears about how bad the conditions they were having to live in. Now, with your help, its been like night and day. They didn’t even have a bed to sleep in or running water when we first arrived, but now they had beds and water. They even had posters for the walls (Barcelona F.C. of course) and they finally had a home! To top all of this off, we were able to spend some of your donations on providing them an in house tutor to give very child the best chance in life. Emmah was already starting to get some good results and despite a bit of resistance from some of the older children, recent reports suggest great progress and we are looking forward to being able to speak to them in English and talk about how their grades have gone up as a result. We are able to provide this tutor for 7 hours a day, 5 days a week for a mere $200 a month. If you feel that this is something that you would like to help towards then please donate here. We are committed to paying this for the rest of our lives to ensure there will be a real imprint and change to these children’s lives. Any donations towards this will always be welcome.
We were also finally able to provide them with the one further triple bunkbed that the newly increased numbers demanded. They are now the proud owners of a total of 6 triple bunk beds and 18 brand new mattresses. We are so proud to have been able to make this happen on all your behalves. We thank you for your help and donations.
That concludes our time with the orphans for now but we check in regularly with their teacher and we look forward to seeing them all again when we return. We’ll keep you up to date with how they are all getting on when we are back in Rimuka.
The last of our charity projects was to finish the extra school classroom that we’d been started at Robin Hood Nursery. We’d left the previous year with a promise that it would be finalised in our absence, but money was tight and they hadn’t quite gotten around to it. In that time, the woodwork had lacked maintenance meaning that we had quite a bit of work on our hands to get it ready for use this time around. We bit the bullet and got a carpenter back in to fix the holes and prep the wood and finally to paint inside and out so that it could be ready for use. Here are the before’s, after’s and the opening day.
These children now have a new classroom to learn in because of all of the donations that we’ve received. The school will now be able to attract a few more students to be able to cover the increasing costs of running a school too. We hope the school gets many years of usage out of it.
And with that, we drew our 2018 Zimbabwe trip to an end. We hope that by our return, we will be able to carry on all our good work.
Thank you for your support and watch this space for info on our next yearly sponsored walk to raise funds.