Round 2, Days 11, 12, 13 & 14. Sabotage, vandalism & disappointment.

We’ve had a really frustrating few days and its made it really hard to even want to sit down and write anything at all. So for that I apologise. I know in my heart that we like to remain as positive as possible at all times, but its been particularly hard this week. Our last blog told of how we’d fixed every leak, every shower and every toilet at Jairos Jiri School for Blind Children. It told of how we’d given the children constant running water for the first time in their memories. We were understandably pretty chuffed with ourselves and proud that we’d put your donations to such good use and I wasn’t shy about saying all about it in the blog either.

Then, when we thought we were not long away from turning around and declaring job well done, we went for the first of MANY final walk arounds to check on everything only to be greeted with problems at every turn. A shower is working at night, but then next day its not. A toilet flushes one morning, but by the afternoon it doesn’t. A water tank fills up with ease one minute, and the next its dry as a bone; and all without a reasonable reason. Not one that we could immediately see anyway. It was a very frustrating time I can tell you!
WhatsApp Image 2018-01-13 at 21.13.16(1)

We only have 4 weeks here and every day counts, so imagine feeling like you are chasing around after yourself for days on end and wasting those days. Every day we lose, is a day day we haven’t been able to do something to help someone else. We haven’t been able to head back to see Miss O yet and make a start on the classroom we promised to repair for her, for example. We will 100% make that happen, but the fact that its taken this long and we still haven’t gotten around to it yet, is disappointing to say the least.

So, 4 days of chasing our tails and here I am writing about sabotage, vandalism & disappointment… What do I mean by this?
It’s going to be really hard to for me to explain quite how antiquated the plumbing system is at Jairos Jiri, but the original plumbing has been added to and altered an incalculable number of times, and not to its benefit. This is, of course, on top of the fact that this building hasn’t actually been upgraded at all since its original build in 1981. So, it’s a hodge podge of decrepit pipes running in random directions, from well (borehole) water to intermittently supplied government water to irrigation systems for the fields and water tanks competing for limited resources. So, use your imagination to think how frustrating it could be when someone starts sabotaging your best laid plans and you have no idea why or how.
WhatsApp Image 2018-01-13 at 21.13.14
For example, to get water from the borehole to the girls toilets it has to be dragged up from 50m below ground via an electric pump. This pipe then runs to a T junction where half of it is meant to be pushed into a water tank that is used for irrigation of the allotment that feeds the children on a day to day basis, and the rest is pushed towards another water tank that is then used to service the girls bathrooms. Along this pipework that covers around 200m of ground there are various stop cocks, taps, diverters and valves. When we finally thought we’d finished all the plumbing, and had water running to the bathrooms, imagine coming back the very next day to find no water and all the girls complaining about it to us. We were hoping for a different reaction entirely.

Now we were on a mission to try and find out what had gone wrong. In one day, half of the stop cocks and valves had been closed, the water tank servicing the bathrooms was now empty and we had no idea how, or more to the point, why, this had happened at all. We’d been working with the plumbers for a fair few days solidly moving towards an end product and now we felt like we were being asked to almost start all over again.

So why would the water have been switched off at all?

First thoughts running through our mind was that the staff had been switching it off to conserve water. Short term thoughts going against long term goals perhaps? We are always wary of people we don’t know and who’s interests can not always be clearly defined as running parallel to our own. So before speaking to anyone at the school we ran a series of tests, opening the valves that needed to be opened, and then coming back in a hour or two’s time to see if the had been closed again. Invariably they had.
WhatsApp Image 2018-01-19 at 18.59.32(1)

After a few days of discussions, accusations, traps and still no consistent water to the girls bathrooms we finally got the bottom of it all… It turns out that the water tank that is being used to irrigate the fields, has been the number one, and ONLY, priority. The minute our backs were turned, the farmer/allotment keeper would switch off as many valves as he could to give him the best water pressure, regardless of if that left the 49 blind children without running water. Needless to say, we were fuming.

It takes 3 hours to fill the 5000 litre tank with the pump switched on, but each day its only on for 1 hour and during that hour the water was constantly being redirected to the fields and the girls were being ignored. Today we put a stop to this. We had to threaten to walk away from everything and stop helping the school out (it was of course a bluff, but one they seemed to believe) if the water wasn’t allowed to flow. We really just hope that we don’t have to go in tomorrow and check and find an empty tank all over again, but it does feel like we’ve turned a corner, finally.
WhatsApp Image 2018-01-19 at 18.59.33(1)

So, if that was the sabotage, what was the vandalism, then? This time, it was the boys turn; except they were not the victims, but the perpetrators.

If you’ve been following the blog, you will know how bad of a state the boys toilets were in when we first came across them. We’d replaced every toilet cistern, fixed the large steel urinal so that it now finally flushed, put shower heads in every cubicle and made every tap work as well. So doing our “final” walk around we were absolutely gutted to turn into the entrance and find one of the boys was stood there fiddling with the pipe work on the urinal. When we got up and near, it became quickly apparently either he, or someone before him, had completely taken the system apart and now it was merely flooding the floor instead. We were not at all happy and took him to the headmistress for him to explain what had happened. He claims he hadn’t done anything and it was already like that, but who really knows anything other than the fact that someone had broken the system, and to what end?

WhatsApp Image 2018-01-19 at 18.59.33
Lewis (in the white shirt) is getting reprimanded by the head teacher (in orange) and another teacher (in green). Victor (one of our plumbers – left) gives his opinion on the matter as well.

We headed back to the bathroom to check for more damage and found a toilet cistern had also been taken apart and the plastic flushing mechanism was in pieces. Luckily it was all inside the cistern ready to be put back together again, but quite why this was done in the first place was beyond us.

Next up was the showers. These were the main focus of all the photos we took on our first visit as they were so disgusting and most of all, didn’t work. So we were happy that even though we hadn’t (yet) made them look any nicer, they did finally work. So, final checks were being done and one by one each shower is put through its paces and works fine. Then all of a sudden, one of them refused to work. The taps had been changed, the water was on and there were no leaks, so why did this one not work? It must be a blockage. After a short demolition job on the shower unit, it turned out that the pipe leading to the new shower head had somehow become blocked. At this stage, we still believed it was an innocent blockage, though. After all, water hadn’t run through the system in months, if not years, so there was bound to be some sort of build up or sediment. I’d already seen on many occassions the filthy water that would find its way out of a newly opened outlet. It would run a muddy red colour and then eventually clear. So, imagine our surprise and dismay that after a full 5 mins of jamming around in it with various wires and a even a screwdriver we finally get to what the blockage is. Its a piece of sponge. Small, but still large enough to have been compacted into the pipe. The shower head had been removed, packed with sponge and replaced as if nothing had ever occurred! Again, why on earth would this have happened in the first place? We were at a loss for words and together with the broken urinal and broken toilet cistern this was 3 of the 8 pieces in the one room out of action in 24 hours and this was meant to be our confirmation walk through that all was in full working order.
WhatsApp Image 2018-01-13 at 19.50.57

So, why did the boys decide to vandalise their own toilets? It was something we found really hard to reconcile with at first, but when put into context, it was less about vandalism, and more to do with the lack of education of what they shouldn’t be doing. It was even more to do with the fact that these children are blind and do everything with their hands and not their eyes. Perhaps the toilet wasn’t filling up fast enough, or flushing fast enough, so they took it apart to try and feel their way to making it work. This, of course, actually broke it, but they perhaps didn’t know that at the time. The urinal hadn’t worked in over a decade, so perhaps the boys were being curious as to how it was now suddenly working and fiddled with it to try and find out. Again, using their hands as their eyes and breaking it in the process. None of this, however, explains why one of the boys decided to shove a piece of foam to stop the water running out of the shower completely.

WhatsApp Image 2018-01-19 at 18.59.32
Nicole with Victor and Vincent, our smiling plumbers.

I know this sounds like a long moan about everything, but I do feel its really important to showcase the rough with the smooth. Its vital that you can see everything isn’t plain sailing but we don’t give up in the face of adversity. Your donations have allowed us the ability to do what we can, even if (at times) the children don’t really understand what it is that we are doing. We won’t stop helping them, we won’t walk away from them despite our threats to do exactly that. Everything we are doing is to benefit the children and its your donations that are helping to make that happen. If you’d like to help out and donate, then the link is here. I hope you see the benefit in helping others and any donation is gratefully accepted. 🙂

So after days of work, fixing everything left right and centre, running into massive overtime as a result of all the sabotage and vandalism, we are just about, finally there.

I hope.

Watch this space, but we hope that there is no more disappointment to come…

Friday morning we head to Harare to the mattress factory to finally get the mattresses final price and quantity ordered for the children. Fingers crossed that they can be tamper free and remain in one piece. Thank you for reading and thank you for your support.

Advertisements

Round 2, Day 8, 9 & 10. Lets get to work…

Catching up on some really eventful days… We’ve been up at 7.30am each day and not back until after 6pm but we’ve been putting your donations to work.

At the start of the week, Jaros Jiri School for Blind Children had no running water, only 7 working lights out of around 60 across the whole of the living accommodation, there were leaks running left right and centre across the whole compound and the barriers to stop the children accidentally falling into the gutters were all rusted, rotten and missing.

In the last few days we have successfully restored ALL the running water to both the boys and girls bathrooms and the canteen kitchen. There are now shower heads in at least the boys bathrooms and we are working on the rest (there is an extreme shortage of shower heads in Zimbabwe apparently…). Some are still just an open pipe that pours a torrent of water over their head, but for now, this is like a dream come true compared to the buckets that they replace. We’ve also replaced all of the broken taps and fixed every leak and sorted an issue with water pressure in the girls bathrooms.

We replaced every broken light bulb in every room. We’d only ever visited during the days, so we’d not really taken much notice of the lighting before, but as we were walking out one day, I noticed one of the long strip bulbs that you usually get in office blocks and kitchens. It was so dusty and old, with the blackened edges that mean that it had blown, perhaps years ago. So we decided to check out all of them and found only a fraction of them actually worked anymore. I know what some of you may be thinking, ‘why would a school for the blind need lights anyway?’ and I suppose it is a fair question. Blindness isn’t a cut and dry condition. Many people can be “blind” but actually this is just a blanket term for a range of severe sight loss issues. One child’s level of blindness could mean having about 10% vision, but for another it could be that they have double that. Neither can fully function in the outside world, but more than anything we totally appreciate that their 10% would 100% need the lights to work at night, or their 10% will be 0%. Upon fully realising this, we made it a priority to fix them before the day was out, and before the darkness would set in. We are proud to say that your donations helped pay for so that the partially sighted no longer felt bed bound the moment the sun would set.
WhatsApp Image 2018-01-13 at 20.46.57

The plumbers that we’ve been using have been a constant source of smiles and jokes. They try their hardest to speak in Shona with us, and we do our hardest to pretend we know what they are saying, but their smiles are infectious all the same. The fact that they are so constantly happy is in spite of the really sad news that one had only recently had a tragedy befall him. He has a 6week old daughter, but no wife. “God came for her after she was cut in the hospital so that I could have a daughter”. We didn’t want to ask any more, but I think we all know what had happened. He says that he has cried every day since it happened and when he talks about it, his perma-smile is nowhere to be seen. Now all that gets him through the day is work from dawn until dusk and the reward of a few beers after work with his twin brother. Its just another sad reminder that we are in a 3rd world country and that life is a lot harder here than in our relative comfort at home. I can’t possibly imagine going through what he has and still getting up each day to provide for his newborn child, but in a country where life expectancy is in the low 40’s, its just another story amongst millions.

Twin Plumbers
The infections smiles!

The steel workers we’ve been using have been a pretty mixed bag so far. A couple of days of really hard work, followed by some time wasting and trying to drag the job out. We’ve tried our hardest to keep them working but the moment our back is turned the go off and do what they want to do… So when the final day was coming to an end and they started packing up their equipment with the last job still unfinished, Nicole kicked into overdrive and gave them the kick up the arse that they needed. It was pretty impressive seeing her get stuck in like that and there was no confusion afterwards that unless they finished everything, they were not going to get paid for anything! So, an extra hour later and we finally had the barriers up around the dorms.


To put this into context, the barriers are the only thing that separates the corridor areas and 45cm drop into the gutter that the rain water should fall into. It’s impossible to say how many times children had fallen into the gutter and hurt themselves, but its now a thing of the past thats for sure. It seemed pretty straight forward to us that these should have never been left to rot and break, and should have been maintained and replaced as soon as they did break, but lots of things at Jaros Jiri defy logic. We can only identify ways that we can help, but it is a bit of a shock when its obvious that some things get ignored, when others don’t. The staff areas, for example, are nowhere near as bad as the areas that the children are asked to inhabit. This is a perfect example of why it is important to cut out the middle man and do charity work the yourself, get stuck in, or at the very least if you do want to donate, donate where you know for fact where the money is going to. If we see something wrong, we go and fix it. No point throwing money at those in charge and hope that the results are the ones that you want, you can never know what your funds will go towards. Its a sad reality that we have to think this way, but its one we came into with our eyes open and why we’ve always remained committed to helping the children directly and do whatever it is that we KNOW to be what is best for them. If you want to help us to help them, please donate here.

After our amazing friends even more amazing donation, we’ve established that we’ll finally be able to afford to replace every single one of the broken mattresses. We’ve still been looking around for a better price than the one that we’ve been given though of course. $45 each is 50% more than we’d paid only 10months before, but despite an extensive search and the promise of buying 150 of them all in one go this is actually as cheap as we can find and the final price will be $6,750… Its an eye-watering amount of money, but what price can you put to a good nights sleep? 150 good nights sleep over 300 days of term time, meaning 45,000 good nights sleep a year. When put in those terms, perhaps its really not a bad price at all… We’ll be looking to pull the trigger on these at some point next week and can’t wait to install them all while the kids are in class for a nice surprise at the end of the day. 🙂 This will mean the kids will no longer have to sleep on the floor under any circumstances.
WhatsApp Image 2018-01-13 at 21.13.11

Aside from our work at Jaros Jiri, we finally confirmed with Mrs. Magama that we were going to start with a new, in-house tutor at Tariro Orphanage. Emmah Chizinga will be starting work on Monday morning at 8am and we’ll be working closely with her to make sure that her lesson plans work for each and every child in the house and that she is on hand to help with every aspect of the children’s education. English language will be a main focus, but home economics and all other subjects as well. These orphans may be without a family, but it shouldn’t mean that they shouldn’t have the best education possible. It will initially be a month trial, but we’ll leave the money for a years wages so that she can be paid in our absence should it prove a successful partnership. Her wages are being covered in their entirety by your donations, so if you think this is something that you’d like to help with please donate here.

After my last description of driving through Rimuka garnered so much attention (I received a ton of messages from people asking about it) we decided to try and take a few photos as we we drove through. We were very keen to not appear to be just taking photos because we were looking down on them or something, so we had to be a bit sneaky to get  what we could. Like anything in life, no photo can really do the reality justice but we hope that you get a good feel for the place.

And with that, we’ll leave you until the next instalment when we hope to have some more news of how your donations have been helping people who cannot help themselves. Last picture of the day, however, will be one that really took our breath away. We were driving through downtown Kadoma as the sun was beginning to set. In a country where dusk can be a beautiful, unaltered beauty the smoke from an open fire rose against the backdrop of the bustle of the local bus station, and the foreground of the potholed dirt road that ran through the centre of town. In one photo, I feel that we captured the essence of Zimbabwe and I hope you like it as much as we do. Thank you for reading and thank you for the support you have shown so far. 🙂
WhatsApp Image 2018-01-13 at 22.18.17

Round 2, Day 7. Bad news then amazing news!

Writing a daily blog has become rather difficult as we have been filling our days with work so I apologise that its not as often as perhaps we’d both like and that this is a few days late. I’m actually putting this blog together and finishing it up at at 10.30pm and as that is a bit late to start putting it out there and for people to actually read it, I will be setting this up to be published tomorrow lunch time instead.

That said, we’ve had plenty of progress to reveal in today’s update from what happened on Tuesday. We’ve been very busy with Jaros Jiri, Great Hood School AND Tariro Orphanage.

Our Tuesday started super early and we were in the local steel dealership as their doors opened at 8am buying 20 6metre steel rods with which to re-enforce the broken beds. With these safely in the back of the truck, it was time to pick up the welders from Rimuka light industrial estate. Stop thinking that you think you know that a light industrial estate is though, this is just a collection of semi derelict lock ups that must be over 40 years old have have never been updated and with a central road that doubles up as a gutter.

0f589985-0e81-43aa-9d88-0fbe0bd14f23We’d negotiated a day rate for a couple of their finest workers and they were ready and waiting for us when we arrived. They jumped in the back of the pick up and we set off through Rimuka township to get to the blind school on the other side of town. This is a fascinating place.

Rimuka is a huge interlinked, series of small houses with a central bar/shop/business area. There is a huge variety of different types of homes, ranging from pitiful shacks to the relatively luxurious. We were, at times, amazed to see how much care many of the owners had taken over their houses. All would face onto a dirt track, and many onto an open sewer, but still many owners had added to their house with a beautiful garden, or it would be beautifully painted or adorned in some way. It was very different to what we’d been expecting. Also, when thinking of “townships” you may have in your head those like Soweto, South Africa or similar. These are know as a boiling pot of violence and social unrest and its not advised for white people to venture through them for the fear of attack or robbery. Whether this is the case, of course, I don’t know, but certainly thats the image I have in my mind when I think of a township. Rimuka, however, is like a wall to wall toothpaste commercial! Smiles everywhere, particularly in our direction… Children in particular wouldn’t be able to help themselves at smiling at us and waving. Some even cheering and chasing the car trying to keep us in eye view as long as possible as they waved at us and we waved back. We had some spare food in the car from left-over lunch and we’d decided that the next child to wave at us would get it. It wasn’t long before a small group of children saw us and waved at us with smiles from ear to ear. I slowed down and handed over a sausage roll to the oldest child (only around 5years old) and it was like their birthdays had all come at once! He put down the toddler he was carrying on his back and they quickly shared the food out amongst them all. They all looked back at us, not quite sure that it wasn’t all a dream or something. We just smiled and started up the car again and they enthusiastically waved goodbye and tucked into the sausage roll.

Over all, we felt really welcome, safe and impressed with Rimuka. Don’t get me wrong though, the place is in serious need of a make over. Pot holes are rife, building decay is widespread and water and electric is intermittent at best, but everyone just seems to get on with their day to day struggles with a smile on their faces and their happy outlook is infectious.
WhatsApp Image 2018-01-10 at 19.43.54

We arrived at Jaros Jiri to survey the work that lay ahead of us and we got stuck in right away. Broken bed after broken bed was lined up and one by one we assessed their problems and fixed them on a case by case basis. Before we knew it they were stacking up and ready to go back into the dorms. We have a few days where the number of children at school is limited and they will not be at full capacity until next week. This gives us a decent window in which to work and the plan was to get all 56 done by the end of the week. The rate we were going, though, we’d have time to spare.

With this in mind, Nicole and I went off to our prearranged meeting with Great Hood School. We spent a lot of time with the teachers there last year, got to know them all individually and many of the children too. During our last trip we donated a whole series of new text books to replace the ones they had that dated back decades, but this time around we wanted to do something different for them and the children. Your donations allowed us to virtually clean out 3 Sports Direct stores whilst we were in London. We’d bought rugby balls, tennis balls, footballs, various different coloured bibs, coloured cones, skipping ropes, 4 cricket bats, wickets, bails and trainer balls, a ball pump and what went down the best of all; a baseball set complete with pitchers glove! As we revealed the contents of our suitcase, the children all cheered and sang a song for us too. We were overwhelmed with the response that we got and it is all down to donations that we were able to receive from our friends, family and strangers. Many of you will be reading this right now and for your donations, we thank you. The children thank you too.

After a catch up with the teachers, and handing over some new reading books for good measure, we headed back the Jaros Jiri to check in on the beds. In our absence they’d managed to finish and paint, 11 beds. It was at this moment that I messaged John, who was in Harare buying everything we needed so that the plumbers could start on the showers, and estimated that we’d hit 25 by the end of the day. Nearly half of all the beds done in one day would be a great result. I clicked send and cursed the day as within minutes, the heavens opened and the torrential rain, that was known to pour through the broken roof, hit us in earnest. Work would have to stop for the day as rain = no electric, no electric = no welding. This was very disappointing to say the least.

It did give us the opportunity to check out how the buildings faired under such extreme weather conditions though. As we expected, water poured in through the holes in the roof but it was the driving sideways wind and rain that really flooded the bedrooms. The missing gutters in the courtyard had water pouring straight onto the corridors and then flowing into the dorms. It even hailed as well! It was extreme to say the least, but it was also vital so that we could see everything else that we needed to fix before this place could be a dry and comfortable place to live.

As the rain lashed down on to the roof and windows and the gutters loudly overflowed only the floor, we imagined what it would have been like as a blind child. As we entered the first dorm, we were hit by how many of them were sat the floor, alone and scared. Their only world had been via their hearing, and now the sound of the hailstones was so strong, even this was taken away from them. Nicole tried to comfort a young boy of only 6 years old as he sat on the floor in his own world. He rocked back and forth as he waited for the noise to stop, all the while the roof around him was leaking. It was heartbreaking.
WhatsApp Image 2018-01-10 at 19.43.55

We worked our way around the whole building and waded through the puddles until we’d seen all that we could. In one room, we found a collection of old mattresses, piled up waiting for the newly repaired beds to go with them. At first we wanted to just take a photo for blog to show how old and ready for the bin they were and at first glance, this is what we had done, but it wasn’t until after the photo that we spotted one of the children asleep in the middle of them all. Clearly he, at least, wasn’t bothered by his surroundings and the rain pouring in from every angle!
WhatsApp Image 2018-01-10 at 19.43.56(1)

When the weather finally let up, we were still left without power and so our day of repairs had come to an end. We packed the guys and their equipment and took them back to their lock up with a promise to get them some more work the next day when the power would be back on. Given an afternoon of no activity, we didnt want to sit on our hands, so we started to go through some CV’s that we’d picked up earlier from Great Hood School. We had wanted to start looking for an all round teacher and English tutor for the children of Tariro and it seemed that today would now be the first day of our interview’s to find the perfect candidate. We called up a local girl who’s resume that we really liked, and invited her to come and speak with us. Upon entering the room, she was happy, confident and her english language skills were perfect. We spoke at length about the job that we needed to fill and after a few minutes, she said that she’d love to take it but upon hearing what it entailed, she said that actually this would be the perfect job for her mother. Both were currently unemployed, but her mother had much more experience as an English teacher of many years. She had also done some volunteer work at Tariro a few years before. It would seem that we have indeed found the perfect candidate! We look forward to putting this into action as early as next week and we’ll try our hardest to take part in some of the classes as well so that we can report back to all those who have donated towards paying for this. One thing that we have always said is that communication with the children has always been difficult. With the youngest ones, its easy enough to play games and tickle them to keep them entertained, but the older ones need more than this, and we want more than this too. So arming them with the power to speak english will not only allow them to communicate with us, but also give them the very best start in life with more future employment opportunities too. Watch this space as we try to implement this as soon as possible. We’ll also need to buy a whole new set of text books for her to use to tutor the children with. If you’d like to donate towards these text books, you can do that here.
WhatsApp Image 2018-01-10 at 22.20.26

With that meeting over with, it was time to return home to the news (the bad news of the title) that John had been to the same place that we’d got the mattresses from last year. We had known that prices had risen in the 10months since our last visit as the economy had started to collapse. What we didnt expect was that the price would have almost doubled… In the previous blog I explained that the beds we had bought before were only $30… They were actually $27, but I anticipated an increase, so rounded it up to $30. In actual fact, the price was now $45… We were shocked and devastated in equal measure. We’d assumed that with some wiggling around of the budgets, cutting back on some things and pushing more towards the  mattresses, that we’d be able to afford them all. ALL 150 of them… now with the increase in price, it was clear that this couldn’t happen. How could we only do half a job? How could we decide who did and who didnt get a new mattress to sleep on? All the ones they had were ready for the bin and we couldn’t face not being able to afford it. Gutted, we started to shop around again… nothing was coming up cheaper than this quote, but we live in hope that we can make something happen. Disappointed, we decided that this would have to be left until the very last to give us the best chance of getting a price that we could best afford. We couldn’t buy them all without  not doing something else that we’d planned. The on site tutor for the orphanage, for example, would be $2400 a year and this would have to be first to go. $6750 was going to be a lot to spend on mattresses, but the effect they would have would be priceless.

With this dark cloud hanging over us we met up with some friends for a few drinks and a braai. It had been such a busy day that I hadn’t had time to really use my phone. And during the evening, my phone died on me so I never got chance to see a life changing text telling me of the amazing news that was to follow the bad. It wasn’t until the next morning that I was fully able to appreciate what had happened. Even now I find it hard to comprehend that it has happened at all. We received the single biggest donation ever in the history of us raising money and all in one go from some very very very good friends of ours. They didn’t do it for any accolades, nor do they care about the recognition they could receive either. We have spoken to them about it (we thought that perhaps it had been a typo with one or two too many 0’s on the amount they typed in) and they just want to see “the showers got us mate and the beds – everyone should have a decent bed and washing facilities….but where do you start. If the money helps to finish the beds and make a start on getting the showers in order then that would be good…”
WhatsApp Image 2018-01-10 at 21.42.32

Only a few hours after a feeling of despair had washed over us we were now experiencing a full 180º turn and now we were elated. If, for whatever reason, you can’t see the attached photo here, I can tell you that we received €5000!!! This is literally life changing and now we can 100% buy every single child a new mattress. We will of course still want to get the most for the money that we have, but this will make everything so much easier! The children of Tariro will get their education, the children of Jaros Jiri will get their beds and the world will be a better place all for it. So, thanks to you both (who have asked to remain anonymous) and thanks to everyone else who has already donated too. Keep them coming as the more we have, the more we get to spend of good causes. Every penny donated is spent here in Zimbabwe on helping others so you know that your money will go to where it is needed most.

With that, I cannot think of a better note with which to finish today’s blog. Thank you and the children thank you.

X

Round 2, Day 5&6. Getting to grips with everything…

We are no longer feeling overwhelmed by the amount of work ahead of us, but inspired with what changes we can make with what we have at our disposal. We’ve managed to raise a great amount of money over the last few days after the blog from day 4 and hope to put that to great use over the coming week or so. With the weekend getting in the way, progress was slowed somewhat, but we have still managed to set quite a few wheels in motion.

We returned to Jaros Jiri at the end of last week and met up with a pair of plumbers. We made a full list of every single item that needed fixing, every pipe that needed replacing and every leak that needed stopping. It was actually a lot more than we initially thought. There were entire sections of plumbing that had been removed and never replaced. No wonder the toilets didn’t work! We found even more leaks than we thought there were before and when the water was finally switched on so that we could test it, we found that the first shower in the boys bathroom would come on, but then never be able to be switched off… Hence, no water at all for the entire bathroom. It really is a shame to see and it never had to get to this point. Just some simple ongoing maintenance would have had these bathrooms in full serviceable order today, and forever. I suppose its easy to point this out, but if you barely have enough money to feed the children, then corners will be cut wherever and whenever they crop up. Its a shame all the same.

WhatsApp Image 2018-01-06 at 20.24.27(1)
A very good reason why  there was no water heading towards the bathrooms!

Upon further inspection of the broken roof at Jaros Jiri, we have established that it is in fact an asbestos roof. Yes, you heard correct; Asbestos. Thats the stuff you have probably heard about on the TV every now and again with some builder, or contractor or roofer suing their former employer for damages as they have fatal health problems directly related to working with asbestos. So replacement has to be the ultimate goal, but a quote of $20,000 for the entire job is entirely impossible at this stage… So unless anyone knows a millionaire who would like to put their hands in their pockets for this, I can only see that patching up the holes as the option we have to go for. We have a few numbers to call about getting a quote on fixing the roof and this we’ll actively try to make happen this week. Its summer here at the moment, so no rain, but its best to not hope on permanent good weather and get this fixed while we can. So watch this space.

 

We also mentioned fixing up the kitchen so that cooking could finally be done indoors. We are pleased to announce that today we won a bidding war on a local auction website to buy a large industrial sized gas hob set. JK, our host for this month and the reason we found out about the school in the first place, has also been raising money for Jaros Jiri and waiting for us to join forces to really get the school back on its feet. Its via JK that the gas cooker was found, bid on and purchased. It will be winging its way to the school by the end of the week. We’ve also procured a large industrial gas bottle that we’ll fill up and they will be cooking inside for the first time in years in no time. Along with the sinks all being fixed, and water being on, this will be an amazing change for the school kitchen staff and they will surely think that their christmases have all come at once!

So, tomorrow, Tuesday, we start in earnest. We will be collecting a batch of steel rods to go along with the cutting disc and welding rods that we already have from today and heading to Rimuka, the township next to Kadoma, to pick up 2 welders to come with us to Jaros Jiri. We’ve sorted and counted out 56 broken bed frames and we will get to work on them all day long until, hopefully, they are all done.

WhatsApp Image 2018-01-08 at 18.14.11
56 broken bed frames will all be fixed in the coming days. Lets do this!

Tomorrow will also be the day that we’ll get our final price for the 150 mattresses that we need to buy. We are also buying an extra triple bunk bed for the orphanage so will factor these in when negotiating a total price. Fingers crossed we’ll be able to afford it all. With your help, hopefully we can. These children need them! Donate here if you’d like to help.

Finally for today, we visited the orphanage for an activities day. We were able to bring some donated colouring books and crayons. They went down a treat! We were also able to chat with Shelly and Wendy. They have been helping out at Tariro on, at the very least, a weekly basis since its inception. Wendy brings toys and games to help them have a little fun in their life, and Shelly is more hands on when it comes to their facilities. It was during a conversation with Shelly that we came to the conclusion that to get the education that the children deserve, we could potentially look at a full-time tutor. With wages being what they are, it is supposed that for a mere $200 a month, we could find a fully qualified, but currently unemployed, teacher who could take the youngest children in the morning and help the older children in the afternoons. Helping with homework, giving them much needed 1 on 1 tuition and, perhaps most importantly, teaching all the children English too. Can you help the children get an education so that despite being orphans, they could get the best start in life possible? If you think that you can help, please donate here.

 


All in all, its been a pretty hectic few days setting up everything for this week… Hopefully we can do you all proud, and by the end of the week we’ll have some amazing pics to show for it too. Until then, thank you for reading, thank you for continuing to donate and keep coming back to check in on us.

If you would like to donate, its never too late to get involved, so do it here.

Round 2, Day 3. Day 3 and reaction to Day 4.

Before I get to what we got up to on day 3, I’d like to address the response we had to yesterday’s blog.

I would really like to thank everyone from the bottom of my heart and Nicole would too. Since this time yesterday we’ve managed to receive over €800 (around $900) in donations and the promise of more to come. If you are one of the many waiting to donate, thank you for contacting us to say that you are going to and we look forward to using it when it arrives! We also received an amazing offer from a couple of awesome jewellers (one of which I went to school with many many moons ago!) in Scotland who are going to hold a sale on our behalf with all proceeds going to the Jaros Jiri School for the Blind.

So, if you would like to donate funds (and we need all the help we can get) this is the link to do that: Donate.

But if you’d like to help up in another way, you can follow the links below to buy an item of jewellery knowing that the money will be going to the same place. Once they sell out (and their stuff is amazing, so I know it will) please don’t be too disappointed and decide not to donate at all, but until then, this is a great way to buy a gift for someone, or even for yourself, but be donating to charity at the same time!

Hannah Louise Lamb Jewellery

Sally De Lasteyrie

Please check out their pages, like them and show them some support too. They haven’t asked me to say this and are not doing it for promo at all, so all the more reason why they deserve to be acknowledged for donating their time, expertise and beautiful handmade jewellery for a good cause.

So, once again, thank you from the bottom of our hearts and we hope to do you proud with what we are able to achieve with your donations.

I’ll touch on what we have been able to achieve today (day 5) on the next blog, but until then I have to keep you up to date with what we got up to on day 3, before we’d even set foot in Jaros Jiri.

Last year we spent a lot of time with “Miss O” and her nursery school. For those that didn’t read last years blog, she is a local legend having taught just about everyone we had met on our first visit, over a period of many decades. Recent times had not been easy on her or her school and we were happy to help them both back on track and provide the care and education her children craved.

d1dc8574-de93-4fb2-98eb-27ac16671eae
Nicole with Mrs. O (in yellow) and one of her staff stood in the garden that double up as a playground for the children.

It was there that your donations were able to fit running water to her house and school. We were also able to build a new classroom in our last days and hoped to return to see it in full action. Unfortunately the class room hadn’t been built to the standards we’d been promised, nor had the wood been treated in the way that it should have been and it had begin to twist, break and holes were clearly evident on all 3 of the walls that we’d paid to construct. It was a bit disheartening to say the least.

A cursory look around, however, made it clear that although the problem was a noticeable one, it was one that could be fixed relatively easy. I’m gonna have to get out my hammer and nails, and use some of the left over wood from last time to personally fix what had been done badly when it was made. Then after that we’ll get our famous blue overalls on again to undercoat, paint and varnish the wood so that it is protected and can be used as a classroom for many years to come.


We were also able to return to the orphanage to meet once again with Mrs. Magama and, of course, play with the children. We also took the opportunity to decorate the bedrooms with some Barcelona FC posters for the boys, and luminous nighttime stars for the girls. Something simple to change their surroundings as this was now to be their forever home. A couple of skipping ropes also went down a treat with the girls.
WhatsApp Image 2018-01-05 at 17.37.16

Meeting with Mrs. Magama (the saint who is responsible for these children even being here in the first place and not on the street) was amazing. Her smile lights a room and her kind heart is obvious to everyone from the moment you meet her. In the months since we last met, she has had the personal tragedy of losing someone very close to her, but she is still here working and doing what she can for others and for that we applaud her.

Speaking with her, we were finally able to confirm that we’ll start getting bids for a hot water geyser so that the children can have hot showers for the first time ever. We also decided to add something else on to our list of things we’ll be doing at the orphanage in the form of another triple bunk bed like the ones we made last time. There have been a few further additions to the roster of children and now they number 18 and need the extra space. We’ve already been to the same steel worker that we used last time, using local skilled labour, with locally sourced materials too. We feel its important to support the local community with all our endeavours, and this is vital to support the local economy and is another way that your charity money will go further and support the families of the workers making the bunks.

We also picked up the kitchen sink so that we could take it and have a stand custom fitted so that it can be installed as soon as we get a chance… Final thing we managed to put in place, was a plan to get the electric connected on Monday. The local electric company received over $3500 as a connection fee back in September, and promised to connect within 1 month. That never happened and the house is currently without power. We are now promised that Monday it will finally happen. Watch this space!

Until then, we have Jaros Jiri and its 150 blind children in our minds and I’ll bring you all up to speed on what we’ve managed to put in the pipeline so that we can hit the ground running on Monday. We are happy that we’ve been able to make a start already and we WILL do all of our donors proud. Watch this space and its been a truly amazing 24hours with all the responses to yesterdays blog page. Thank you.

If you’d like to donate, please follow this link.

Round 2, Day 4. Overwhelmed.

Sorry that we were not able to get a message out yesterday but by the time we’d finished for the day it was so late, and this blog takes so long to put together each day, that I decided to put days 3 and 4 together, but day 3 and what happened will have to wait until tomorrow because what happened today needs to be told, and it needs to be heard.

Now, we are not new to this game. We’ve seen more than our share of inhabitable spaces here in Zimbabwe, and we’ve not been shy of showing them to you either. Many of you reading this will have been following our story since last year and many of you will have been generous enough to donate have whatever you could to help towards what it is that we are doing here too. We have been proud to have raised many 1000’s of dollars and done more than we ever could have hoped to have done with that money. But today (day 4) I felt utterly desperate for the first time.

When we first entered into Tariro Orphanage this time last year we were shocked and we knew that we had to act. We wrote the linked blog piece and it went viral online. First amongst our immediate friends, and then to their friends and then beyond. What resulted was an outpouring of help, donations and love. Every time we were able to get internet access, the amounts donated went up and up and up. We were amazed and we were shocked that our simple blog had had that effect.


I’m not so presumptuous to assume that today’s blog will have anything like the same impact, although I really hope that it does, but honestly I don’t see how we can ever begin to help the children of Jaros Jiri School for Blind Children without your help.

What we have seen today has hit me, and hit me hard. When we walked into the orphanage last year it was a massive shock, but it was small (only 16 children) and it was all confined to a single house. It was doable, it was achievable, there was light at the end of a very dark tunnel. Walking into Jaros Jiri we were just overwhelmed by the sheer scale of what was in front of us and what was needed. Degradation everywhere we looked. Building after building after building and every one of them in a state of disrepair. Not even one single toilet worked in a school where 150 children board every night. Every shower is rendered completely useless owing to broken taps, no shower head and most importantly… no water pressure because of leaks everywhere you turn. Children washing themselves is basically a ritual of pouring cold water from a bucket over their own head as they stand in a shower cubicle akin to one in a derelict house. This place was once a beacon of care in the community and a top of the line, government paid, boarding school for those born without sight. Now its like an abandoned house where children are kept in appalling conditions.

We were shown around the entire school, starting with the bathrooms. It was the first place we came to and looking around this one single bathroom alone, I could already see that it almost made no sense to even start trying to do something here, it was that bad. Looking around I saw so many things that needed to be fixed, replaced or removed entirely. Looking around, my heart literally sank and I suddenly felt incredibly depressed. Selfishly I felt depressed for myself as I was subconsciously hoping to be like a saviour riding in on a white horse to rescue them from their poverty with a few simple fixes here and there. Instead I was just hit by the feeling of helplessness of it all and for that I was instantly ashamed; this shouldn’t have been about me at all. We are here to help and we MUST do whatever it is that we can to help. I tried to forget these thoughts as we carried on our tour, tried to be more positive, tried to think of the things that we could do rather than the many that we simply can’t.

Next up was the boarding rooms. Up to 20 children in each room. Every bed worse than the next. I had seen photos from a previous post on facebook regarding what was needed at Jaros Jiri, but I imagined that the photos were taken for effect and that there is no possible way that every dorm room could be as bad as I’d been led to believe. I was was right. They were not as bad as the photos had shown me. They were much worse.

Every single mattress on every single bed needed throwing away. The cheap foam that had been used too many years ago to count was so thin now that they felt as though they were sleeping directly on the broken frames below. The previously waterproof mattresses were all cracked, torn and useless. No level of hygiene could be achieved with these mattresses, let alone comfort. What on earth were we going to be able to do with this place?


It was at this point I looked up to see various holes in the ceiling. I walked over to them and looked inside… Yep, there it was. Exactly what I didn’t want to see.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the sunshine. We live in Ibiza for most of the year and we have to love it! But I don’t want to look up into the ceiling and see the sun shining through the holes in the roof. Of all the times you want to see the sun shine, this is not it. Nearly 40 years after it was opened, the roof had never been replaced or even properly maintained. In the wet season, the rain would clearly pour into this entire building, onto the beds and soaking the children. The same feeling that hit me for six in the bathroom, hit me again… 150 children, 150 beds, 150 mattresses, broken leaking roof, not enough money. My previous attempts to brush away the dark thoughts were thwarted yet again and I stood there speechless.

Next up, we were shown to the kitchen. The facilities showed their age… ancient and never been renovated or maintained. The cold storage facility looked like it hadn’t been used in decades and when we opened the door to look inside the vilest of stenches fell out like a thick fog. The electric cooking pots that would take hours to heat up and use more electric in a day than a family home would in a week, had been abandoned in place of an extra large iron cauldron outside. This is where they would prepare every meal. Another look around at the many sinks in the canteen kitchen again showed how old everything was. Not even one of the taps worked with many not even there anymore. So there was no running water to top off that there was no usable cooking equipment and no fridges… This kitchen had become just a room where the food from outside was plated up for the children. The sheer scale of what was needed to help fix this situation was again evermore apparent. What on earth could we do??

WhatsApp Image 2018-01-05 at 18.48.38
The sole cooking facilities for 150 children and staff.

Eventually I was able to say to Nicole: “It’d be like putting a bandaid on a broken arm. We’d be crazy to even attempt such a huge undertaking, right?”

It was of course a rhetorical question. We will attempt. We cannot ignore. We will do our best. But at that very moment I didn’t even know where to start…

Imagine, just for a moment, that you are blind. I know that if you are reading this the conventional way, this concept will be alien to you, but once you have finished this paragraph just close your eyes for a moment and let your imagination run with you. You are blind, you have never known anything other than darkness and your family cannot take care of you. The care you desperately need is more than they could ever provide. You know it, they know it. You are sent away from all that you know, to board with 149 other blind children. Your bed is so broken that you sleep on the floor. You cannot use the toilets as they do not work. You cannot have a shower and have to pour a bucket of cold water over yourself instead. The roof leaks in the room that you share with 19 others and every time you hear the rain outside you know that everything you own is now wet and your bed is too. You begin to dread the sound of rain hitting the roof.

Now, those of you about to close your eyes and imagine this, all of this has happened in the pitch black. You can’t switch the lights on to help you. You can’t switch on a torch to find a better way or move to a dryer patch. You are in the darkness and that darkness will never end. The only plus that you can imagine is not having to actually see how bad your surroundings are. You’d know they were bad, sure, but you’d never see just how bad.

Open your eyes. Nothing that you see in front of you can be as bad as is in front of these children every day of their existence here.

WhatsApp Image 2018-01-05 at 18.48.39
Broken beds are stacked up useless in a side room

Now, hours later, writing this blog, we’ve come up with the beginning of a list that we hope to plough through in the coming weeks. Some things, like the leaking roof, are simply too large for us to take on and although we would love to make it happen, we simply do not have the funds to try. Perhaps we can look to fill some holes as a temporary fix, but the blocks are old and they need replacing entirely.

So with your help (you can donate here), we aim to:

1) Replace ALL of the mattresses. Yes, all 150 of them. This can ONLY happen with your help. Going on the price that we got last year for each mattress for the orphanage, we are looking at around $30 each. This means $4500 in mattresses alone. Can it be done? Well the simple answer at this moment is no, not really, but I’m hoping for those reading this to dig deep and help. Lets please see if we can make it happen. Can you donate to help us with this? Every penny counts and we have a lot of children to help…

2) Repair each and every bed. We have already arranged for a welder to come with us one day next week (after we have made a full list of beds that need fixing and the amount of steel and welding rods that will require) and spend an entire day making the bed bases usable again. This shouldn’t cost more than $150, for all materials, time and transport. Can you donate towards this amount or is someone reading this feeling extra generous today and thinks that they would like to personally take care of this amount to help the children?

3) Fix the toilets, the showers and the water leaks so that they can use the bathrooms with some dignity. Now, cosmetically I don’t see how we can begin to make them look nice with the money available to us, but we can damn sure try to make the toilets at least flush and sinks turn on with taps that work! We are meeting a team of plumbers tomorrow to price up this work. It could be prohibitively expensive, but we can only try and will do the most we can for the money we have. Can you donate to help us with this? Every penny counts and we have a lot of children to help…

4) Arrange for some sort of indoor gas cooking facilities, with sinks with running water. We’ll also do our best to fix the cold room… But perhaps even that is a money pit and the money would be better spent elsewhere. Maybe you fancy yourself as a bit of a chef and therefore can’t imagine cooking for 150 children in a cauldron, outside and over an open fire every day and would like to donate to help us with this specifically?

Its a short list, but its a big one all the same…

I was about to say that I don’t want to beg, but then I felt the need to correct myself and say f*#k it… I’m begging for your help. We can’t do this alone and although we have donation money with us already, it WILL NOT be enough to do what we need to do here and at the orphanage at the same time. We desperately need your help and every penny donated will go towards helping those less fortunate than yourselves.

With that I leave you humbled and hoping that this blog has reached an audience enough to make a difference. Please, even if you can’t donate today please share, please tag others, please like it on facebook, please do anything you can do spread the word. We need your help, more than we’ve ever needed it before.

Thank you for reading, thank you for following and I hope that you keep reading after this too. We will write all about what we are able to do with your donations and we hope you think that what we are doing is worth it. Dignity is priceless, we hope you agree and these children deserve that at the very least.

Round 2, Day 2. Return to the orphanage.

We woke up bright and early with a list of things we needed to do today. First up was to organise transport so that we could move freely during our time here. Now, many who read last years blog (and yesterdays in fact) will remember the shocking situation that Zimbabwe found itself with roadblocks stopping innocent motorists and demanding money for the tiniest of infractions (if indeed any had occurred at all!). Anything that was remotely on the edge when it came to roadworthiness would result in fines, just for driving around. So, it was a welcome bit of news that these roadblocks no longer existed. Since the change in President late last year, they were removed over night. This meant that we now had access to a new supercar. Picture is included below.

The new whip

So now we were equiped with an absolute beast of a new car, it was time to head out and to see the children for the first time since March. A lot had changed for them since then. Obviously we’d been able to change their day to day living conditions in their previous house and bring a bit of joy into their lives with everything that your donations were able to pay for last time around, but behind the scenes much more had happened and they were finally in a new home! Its not finished yet, and there is very little in the way of funds left to complete it, but it is a home. A forever home.


We’d love to be able to take the credit for some of this, but in truth Andy (who walked with us in our Ibiza north to south sponsored walk) has been toiling away for years raising money in and around his home town of Stevenage (twinned with Kadoma) and via his architecture firm there and this newly built home is down to him. We are proud to be a part of it and lend our hand. We are proud that the furniture we bought, the beds we built, the cooking facilities we installed into the last house all made a straight transfer over to the new home. This is all with your donations, and if you want to continue to help us help them, please follow this link.

For those that remember what the old house looked like, you will all agree that this new one is a vast improvement. This is where the children will grow up and become adults. This will be their home until they go on to their own lives with their own families and thinking back to that first visit to see them last year we never could imagine that they would be in a place like this.

All said, they still need some vital elements to turn this house into a home, most obviously; electricity. We’ll aim to get this connected and fully functioning by the time we leave. The fridge/freezer we bought them last year sits useless until we can connect the house. The children do their homework by candle light and their days mainly have to revolve around the rise and setting of the sun. Can you donate to help us get the electricity connected?

One thing that really hit home to us this time around was the lack of hot water. They have a nice new bathroom, but can’t really take advantage of it while having to live with cold water. We will look into installing a solar powered water geyser to give them a constant, and free, supply of hot water so that they can shower, bathe and wash as we would all take for granted. Can you donate to help us get hot water installed?

Another improvement we’ll try to implement is to install a kitchen sink. There is a tap, but that simply pours into a bucket and is distributed from there. Can you imagine your kitchen without its sink? Nor can we. Can you donate to help us get a kitchen sink installed?
image2.jpeg

After all the work in assessing what lay in store for us for the next month, it was time to play with the kids and bring them a present. Having brought 237 pairs of sunglasses with us, there were still quite a few spare to go around and the kids loved them! We’d been donated a few that would be perfect for the youngest children, along with the rest that were best of adults. We brought two options, a bright orange pair and a black mirrored pair. To my surprise, it was the black pair that proved almost universally popular! If you donated glasses at all, these are the smiling faces that you have helped create. Thank you!

Nicole also had a great day back with the children:

“Everyone would ask me how I was feeling about going back to Tariro and my response was always ‘I will go in the same way I did last time and not even think about how the kids will react to us, whether they are surprised or even remotely excited’. I didn’t want to get my hopes up.

I was wrong. We pulled up and Hilda tried to open the gate for us to drive though and into the new grounds. I felt hot and nervous and almost felt like I wanted to just get out the car. I couldn’t wait and just wanted to hold them all and see how much they had grown in the 11 months. The smiles on their faces was amazing. MacDaniel came running over with his usual cheeky grin from ear to ear with Thomas not far behind. Then suddenly all of them were there and they all gave me hugs and I felt very at ease.

It was so nice playing with them and letting them take pics of themselves with my phone again.

IMG_1336

We gave them some donated sunglasses (thanks everyone!) and that went down a treat. Even Macanaca was strutting around like a 1 year old supermodel in her new eyewear. How very different to the little malnutritioned baby we remember seeing sitting on the floor unable to move.

 

We were able to have a walk around the new house and its certainly a step up with grounds where they are able to eventually grow their own fruit, veg and even have herb garden. Seeing the change that has happened in their lives over the past year has be such a rewarding experience and I’m so proud that we were able to be a part of it.”

All in all, it was a very rewarding afternoon. We have our new list of things to do and we’ll be starting with the list as soon as we can. Thank you for following the blog, check back tomorrow as we’ll be visiting the Jaros Jiri School for the Blind. We expect to see a lot of work needed and that’s where your donations will come in and help. If you haven’t yet, click on the link and see if you can spare something, anything at all. 🙂