Day 45. “You have changed our lives” & Goodbye.

This is it. The time has come.

It almost feels surreal to think that under 2 months ago, we’d never even set foot in Africa, let alone could have imagined how much we’d feel so at home there. It also feels surreal to imagine how much we have come to care about people who were strangers to us those same 2 months ago. Quite how we’ve got here, and how we have travelled on this journey is an absolute privilege; and I know I speak for both of us in that. To feel the warmth and friendship from a group of children who had been given so little, but have so much to give was a tearful, emotional rollercoaster of an experience and one I wouldn’t swap for the world. Making the friends we have along the way is also an absolute privilege.

So, how was our final day in Zimbabwe? Hectic.

We imagined that we might have a few moments in the mid afternoon where we’d be able to chill for a moment, but that proved impossible. We thought we’d be able to get a semi-decent nights sleep before our 40hour journey via 6 flights and 4 different countries, but that, too, proved allusive. But what we did manage to do was to pack our final day with so many memorable moments that I don’t think this blog will ever be able to do it all justice. I know what you are probably thinking: “Yeah yeah, it can’t have been like that really” but it was and its hard to put it all into words even though I’m going to try.

Our final day began relatively late at 9am, and we headed straight into town to pick up a few last minute items for the orphanage and to drop the books off with Great Hood Academy. We’d had them since last week but we fell victim of Zimbabwe’s schools having half days on Fridays and we missed our chance that day so had to wait until after the weekend.

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Headmaster and teachers from Grade 1 & 4 inspecting their new books.

“You don’t know how much you have affected the children’s lives, this is amazing”.

Handing over a massive box of books to the headmaster, Mr. Gift Bere, felt like being Santa Claus for the day. He and the teachers knew that this day was coming, just like children do in the days leading up to Christmas, but nothing quite prepares you for how well received a present can be, even if you know for a fact that they want what you have got them.

Wide beaming smiles, hand shakes and even hugs accompanied the introduction of each and every book from its packaging. I never knew that anyone could be so happy to see books like this, but those that have been reading our reports since day one will know just how desperate they have been for them. We could, and definitely should, have gotten the books much earlier in our journey but the sheer scale of the work facing us at the orphanage took over our thoughts since the day we walked in the front door. I wish we’d not left it until the last day, but its just how it happened unfortunately and we feel a little guilty for that.
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Every time a new teacher came in to check out the new books, they all had the same emotional look of joy on their faces. This truly is a school where the teachers care and want only the best for the children enrolled with them, and seeing their reactions was confirmation that we’d done a great thing. We’ve only been able to do this with YOUR help though. This donation of books was exactly what we thought we were coming here to do in the first place so it felt amazing to finally help affect children’s lives in such an easy and obvious way, but a way that equates to many months worth of a teachers salary in books. This is what your donations have done and if you have donated, you should feel proud. If you haven’t yet, then its never too late as we are committed to returning as soon as we can, and we are also committed to buying some new sports equipment for them (remotely after leaving) in the coming weeks too. So your donations WILL still have an effect.

After saying our tearful goodbyes to the teachers and hearing so many kind words from them about what we have done, it was time to say goodbye to the children too. This is where the first of the truly eye-opening moments of our final day happened and one I’ll try my best to convey here.

“Do you want to say goodbye to the children?” Mr Bere asked.

“Of course” replied Nicole.

Secretly though, I was looking at the clock and wondering if we had time. I was also worried and wondering if they would actually really care that much to want to say goodbye or if we’d done the important farewell’s with the teachers and the children might have just been oblivious to us leaving. I am so so happy to say that I was massively wrong. I was wasn’t expecting what happened, and not just with one class or a certain few children, but with them ALL.

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The children waving goodbye for the last time.

When you receive a hug, its really a quite intimate thing, isn’t it? Well, if its done right it is meant to be anyway. Of course, you can also do the emotionless, looking away as you do it and making it as quick as possible type of hug too, but we’re not talking about those kinds of hugs. These children are too young to know that kind. So when they hug you, it really means something. But when the ALL hug you, all at the same time the feeling is absolutely amazing and one that I knew I’d have difficulty in describing when it came to it here today. They know why we were at their school. They also know that we are doing it by way of no charity, nor church group, just two people wanting to help make the world a better place in whatever small way we can. Reacting to that when you are child doesn’t need words when 100’s of hugs are more than capable of doing all the talking you need.

“Can I give you a hug?” said the first child.

I thought it was just a particularly keen, maybe slightly odd student who liked to give hugs. Honestly, I was like “ok, sure” and didn’t think much of it, but then everyone got up. Many then piled into a group hug, others waited until it was over and then came for an individual hug, some even came back for 2nd and 3rd attempts. I really wasn’t ready for how that’d make me feel. I felt so proud that our small efforts and a bit of our time created such a feeling of warmth and affection in them. It just goes to show that all children want in their lives is your time and best efforts and they reward you with unconditional love. I’ve never before felt how I felt at that moment, and it was a feeling that was repeated as we went from class room to class room.

It was like there was a memo out and that they had all read it that morning or something, but of course this must be more of a local custom than anything else. Saying goodbye and thank you with honest affection .

They all wanted to hug us and to wish us well on our journey home and to tell us that they couldn’t wait for us to return. Nicole spent a whole extra day at the school with the kids whilst I was in Harare shopping for building materials, so I was expecting to see her get even more attention than I was getting, and I wasn’t wrong. My own group hug had only just petered out when I was able to get to my camera and take a photo of her here:933d8a22-4bd0-499f-b1ae-29ca1df82686

Pictures, as the say, speak a thousand words and you can see in their faces (and Nicole’s) how much happiness and emotion was in the room at that very moment.

With that, we left Great Hood Academy for the final time and to collect a few things in town ready for our proposed meal with the orphans at Tariro Orphanage that evening. We’ll be back, of course, and we’ll stay in touch with all the teachers in the coming months too. We can’t wait to hear how they are all getting on with the new text books and will keep on blogging as and when we get more information. I’d love to see exam results up on last year after our small input.

Making our way to the local take away to collect 60 pieces of chicken, 2 portions of fries and 12 litre of soft drink we were a mix of anticipation and trepidation. We so wanted our last day with the children to be special, but also didn’t want it to be a sad day for them with us leaving. We didn’t want them to feel abandoned by us, or that we were just another group of people that were leaving them. That’s been the biggest fear for us this whole time. How do we get involved, without them becoming dependent on us? I don’t mean dependent like they don’t have milk unless we deliver it to them, but dependent emotionally. We were acutely aware that every single one of these children had felt extreme loss of one kind or another and we desperately didn’t want to add to that.

Despite our best efforts though, we couldn’t help but fall in love with them all and have spent more time with them than with anyone else. These last 2 weeks or so, though, we’ve consciously decided to ration out our time with them to cut down any potential of it feeling that we suddenly just don’t show up anymore.

Anyways, we decided we’d try to recreate  market & restaurant our day out with them a little bit and brought them fried chicken. It went down such a storm last time that we were sure that it would be a sure fire hit again. It wasn’t.

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Everyone stuggling to eat the food we’ve brought…

We’d asked for the house mother to not cook for them that night as we had a surprise, but dirty pots in the kitchen and full bellies told a different story. She was adament that they hadn’t eaten yet, but the faces of children don’t lie… and they seemed to be saying: “we’re stuffed from dinner and can’t possibly eat another thing but we’ll try”… What a disaster! Still, we saw the funny side after the first initial few minutes. Same thing happened with the tray of cakes we’d brought them… A look of delight, followed by one of: “Where am I going to fit all that into by belly now!?”

So, dinner wasn’t what we’d hoped it would be and to top it off, the 3 youngest ones all had a chesty cough. Thomas in particular seemed to be on the receiving end of some serious flu like symptoms. We brought medicine for them all, but it still meant that he wasn’t in the mood to play. He simply sat on my lap in silence as I stroked his head and hugged him. He stayed like that for most of the evening. I tried to make him laugh, but he remained virtually expressionless. Its such a shame that this had to be our last day together after all the fun we’ve had these last few weeks. He loved to sit on my shoulders, or play tickle chase round the house and garden for hours, but today he just sat there looking sorry for himself as he coughed and coughed. Poor little fella.

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Thomas, seriously under the weather.

In the end, he fell asleep on me and we had to put him to bed early.

I wasn’t able to actually say goodbye to him properly. I waved and he waved as he was carried to the bedroom, but it didn’t feel like a real goodbye. I wanted a hug or something, but it wasn’t to be. Maybe it’s better this way. It doesn’t feel like it was right at that moment, but maybe its better for him to not fully understand that I’m going away and won’t be back for a long time. I’ve become so used to him coming running to me to be picked up into my arms every day as we arrive, that I hope that he doesn’t miss me too much when I’m gone. I hope that he’s not quite old enough to fully understand what is happening and that one day will blur into the next until I’m back again.

I will miss him though. I’ll miss his laugh and his smile and I wish I could take him with us. I never knew I could feel this way about anyone. I suppose it’s the feeling I’ll have when Nicole and I have our own children. Its an addictive feeling, though, that’s for sure, and one I feel privileged to have felt for all the children of Tariro, but particularly Thomas. Writing these feelings down here right now as I’m sat on the plane back to Madrid, its making me well up. I didn’t think that this would happen to me, even though Nicole worried that she’d feel like this after we left.

With Macdaniel & Thomas all in bed early to try and sleep off their sickness, we presented the house with our final gift. We hoped it would go down better than the food, but we couldn’t imagine exactly how well! It was like all their Christmas’ had come at once.

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An early look at the photo frame as we decided which ones to include.

We reminded them, through Mrs. Magama who’d come to help us translate, that we’d been taking photos ever since first stepped foot in the orphanage. Quite what they thought about us doing this is another matter, but it wasn’t lost on them that we’d been taking photos for nearly 6 weeks now. They don’t really have a clue about the blog, so they didn’t really know what the photos we for. So they were absolutely delighted when we presented to them a picture frame with around 20 different photos of them all that we’d selected. Producing that picture frame was like setting off a bomb in the house. They crowded round the frame and couldn’t get enough of it as they laughed and pointed at themselves. I took a few photos of them as they looked, and as it was quite dark in the room at the time, I put the flash on and as it went off, they all looked in my direction and laughed at me taking yet more photos! I’d have to say that this was the best group reaction of any we’ve had since we arrived.

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Crowding round the photo frame to see.

They told us that they now have a home that they can be proud of, sleep in beds that they can get a good nights sleep in and feel part of a family again, not just a collection of children nobody wants. All of this deserved to be commemorated and through the photos we could see that they were all now happy, perhaps for the first times in their lives and its all down to the donations we’ve received and put into action. In that moment, they could see all the happy moments they’d had and that we’d captured, and live them again. It will also give us the chance to not be forgotten. We are in some of the photos too, so hopefully this will help the younger children to remember something of us so that we are not strangers when we come back.
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We also brought them some new shelves for each and every one of the children. A space to call their own and stack their own clothes, books, toys etc… They are moveable and will follow them to their next home (more to be revealed about that at a later date). The girls also particularly liked it that I was able to bring them a mirror for their bedroom for the first time too. They’d never had a mirror before and now they have one in their room so they can look their best each and every day.

Finally, it came time to say goodbye to the children. We wanted to leave on a high, so chose only a few minutes after the picture frame was revealed to make our exit. They decided to sing us not one, but two songs. One in broken English, and one in Shona. I had a smile from ear to ear, firstly entertained by them, then touched by the whole situation. That smile soon became very difficult to maintain as I realised that this would be the last time we’d see them for a while and realising the love that was behind those songs for us. I looked at Nicole and she looked at me and we exchanged a moment that didn’t require words to explain how we felt. They have said that we’ve come in and changed their lives, that we have given them a life, but in actual fact it’s a two way street. They have changed us and how we see the world. They have changed us and how we see ourselves. They have made us want to become better people and whether they realise it or not, we have only them to thank for it.

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The children stand to sing to us.

Zimbabwe has changed us forever and we’ll never be the same again. We can’t wait to come back and see everyone again. Our friends, the children, the teachers, everyone. All have played an amazing part in our journey and going back to work next week isn’t at all what I’m looking forward to be doing, but that’s life. The summer is on its way and the work that allows us to have half the year off so we can do these kinds of things is about to start again for another season. Zimbabwe will be on our minds, though, and we’ll be back.

Finally, thanks to you for reading, thank you for following, thank you for donating and thank you for your support these 2 months through thick and thin. This isn’t the last post, but it’s the last one written while still away. So watch this space. Until then, please if you would like to donate, here is where you click to do it. ALL money given goes to these children, NOTHING goes to middlemen or management. If you’d like to help, its only click away.

Nicole says:

“While Nathan was getting the last bits for our orphanage wish list to be completed I sat with Hildar, the house mother, and chatted for a while. She said the kids pray for us every day and they will really miss us. I tried to explain how much each and every one of them has changed the way we look at things and how we are, so I think in all fareness we got a lot out of these 7 weeks too.

For me, it was looking outside my bubble. The amount these kids had gone through and the fact they still have love to give is amazing. I also explained that they were our first priority and we will continue to stay in touch. I told her that Monday was to be our last day and the sadness on her face made me see how much we are going to be missed.
I felt like MacDaniel could sense something was happening and he wouldn’t leave my side. Every time I got up he would follow me. He finally fell asleep on me he was taken to bed. Thomas wasn’t himself either. He was ill, coughing a lot and also fell asleep on Nathan. It was a sad way to have to say our final goodbyes.

Mrs Magama came with us and she hugged me to say goodbye and I could feel her getting emotional. With that, tears came streaming down my face as well. I didn’t want to cry in front of the children; I didn’t think it was fair, but then they each have me a hug and I kissed each and every one of them and told them I wouldn’t forget them. One of the older girls hung on to me and was crying into my shoulder. I said to her be good and I promised that we’d be back.

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MacDaniel feeling under the weather too.


I think when first arriving I thought we would get to know these kids and care for them but it’s so much more than that now for me. I love each one of them with their crazy fun happy selves. I went through all my pictures and videos I had taken of them all and we sat for hours going through them. They were all talking and laughing and joking around about them. Of course, I have no idea what they were saying, but all the same it was nice to have a great day with them all and when we presented them with the picture frame they could see some of those same pics and they loved it. They sang us a song and it was overwhelming. They gave us a little gift from them all, but to be honest the gift was us getting to know them . It was time to say goodbye, or as I like to say “See you later”. Goodbye seems so official, and with that MacDaniel came out of his bed room and wanted me to pick him up one last time. That was the hardest thing I have had to do. It was almost like the very first day all over again.

What an amazing experience it has truly been and its something that will stay with us forever.

If you want to donate for the the children’ on going care, please click here to donate.”

Thanks!

 

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Days 34- 40. Progress and setbacks but so little time to report.

It feels like an age since we last reported what has been happening here in Zimbabwe.

We have positive news and not so positive news to report.

We have been hard at work, but as anyone who has visited this amazing country will tell you, its also incredibly social too. When we first arrived we threw ourselves into work each day at 6am and got home sometime in the evening and then I’d invariably sit for 4 hours composing the blog that you are reading now. That, as you can imagine, would mean it was all work and very little play. Not that we are complaining of course, we came here to do something good and help people after all, not go out on the piss and sunbathe.

But since those early days, we have met some amazing, friendly and welcoming people. That means we’ve been invited round for dinners, for drinks, to play bowls, go to see wild lions and zebras and giraffes… So while we’ve been working each and every day, where possible, our reporting has taken a back seat and I’ve been feeling really guilty about it.

Every day I’ve been saying to everyone “I must do a blog today. People are going to think we’ve stopped or something…” Plus, we only have a few days left and these blogs are a great connection to the world and what we are up to and we wanted to keep that up. The response has been phenomenal to it all. Much, much bigger than I could have ever expected when I first said about it to Nicole at Jo’berg airport over a month ago. At first we were made up with having 50 readers in a day after the first week, but then when that passed into the 1000’s of daily readers we were stunned.

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So, here I am trying my hardest to condense the past 6 or so days all into one blog post and I hope I do those days some justice although I’ll try to keep it as short as I can as we are super busy today…

Since the last post (where we delivered a new fridge-freezer and some furniture to the orphanage) we have been back a number of times, but still tried to limit it where possible as we don’t want the children to become over dependent on us being there. When we leave, we don’t want to be yet another gapping hole in their lives where people come and go all the time and there is no consistency. Still, we do have things to do to carry on improve their living conditions before we leave and we do love spending time with the kids  so its hard to stay away too much.
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On Friday last week we went to take Makanaka a new play blanket. Normally she’d only  been left to entertain herself on the carpet, bed, or even on the concrete floor. Our first few visits to the house showed us that there was very little in the way of entertainment for a baby of her age, and although on occasions she’d be picked up by which ever child was interested at that moment, she was invariably left alone most of the time. These moments were also important to note that she showed very little response to calling her name, or any other way of trying to get her attention. Moving on just a month from then, she is bright, bubbly and always smiling. The change in her diet (milk and formula has now replaced a lot of the adult food she’d been eating) has taken effect, so has being able to sleep in her own cot and the change in mood around the house. She is now played with even more than ever and for those moments that she is not, we got her this:
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She loves it. I wondered if she’d just lie there and do nothing different; as if the rattles and play things were not even there. The very first moment that I lay her down, though, her hands went straight for the toys and she has loved every minute of it since!

Our good neighbour Kylie (and her two enthusiastic children) also came along and brought a massive box of clothes for the smallest children. All were high quality, preloved items and fit the youngest 5-6 children perfectly. It was like Christmas had come early. We managed to get some great shots of the kids trying on their new clothes. Thomas, in particular, seems to have his pose down to a T.


I was also able to use this time to finish changing the locks on the back door to the house. It had previously only been able to be locked from the inside, and that meant leaving the house open to anyone to come in if everyone was out. I’d never considered theft or burglary to be something that could happen to an orphanage, but I suddenly realised that with doors unlocked most of the time, and no security lights outside, this house could become an easy target for those that do not care who they are stealing from. After all, no other house in the area probably even has a gas oven like theirs, nor a brand new fridge-freezer. The fear dawned on me that we’d made the house a target and I hoped that that fear is never realised into reality.
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Thats why it came as a HUGE shock to find out that the house had been subject to theft. But not from outside forces, but from within. In a previous blog, I described how a new boy had been brought to the house. His name was Tanaka and he was 14 years old. This is more or less all we knew of him other than he claimed to have been recently orphaned when is father and grandmother had passed away after his mother had abandoned him as a child. He was, of course, taken in and given a bed, food and care.

This is what we are trying to do here, after all. To provide a home for children that would be dead on the streets otherwise.

The police had found him, and passed him on to Tariro Orphanage. He was going through the processes of finding out if he had family who could care for him directly. We were also looking to see if, how and when to get him into a local school so that he could receive an education (our original goal here). It was during these checks that it was discovered that he was in fact 18 years old. The rest of his story may or may not be true, but certainly he was lying about his age and therefore his eligibility to be given a home in an orphanage for children. Provisions were being made to relocate him and help him in other ways, but in the middle of the night one day last week, he took it upon himself to steal many of the items of clothing we’d bought the other children at the market, some money that had been given to one of the boys for his birthday and some food. He has never been seen since.
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He helped me painting on the very first day and I felt his english was good at times, but seemed to be poor when I asked serious questions. I now know why. Nicole also felt that there was something off about him from early on. I just thought he was very confident for a 14 year old child, and with an extra 4 years under his belt its easy to see why he was as he was. We did speak about taking him out, as we had with all the other children, and buying him some new clothes and school uniforms but decided to wait until it was decided one way or the other if he was staying permanently or not. We’re happy that we took that decision now as his deception, while understandable for a desperate homeless person, took advantage of us all, including the children who thought he was their friend.

Now, obviously this is a massive set back both in house moral terms, but also in terms of trust. We remain unaffected by it and our commitment to what we are doing for the orphanage is unwavering, but we do worry that the other children are going to find it hard to trust new people again after this. It took them time to open up to us and we don’t want that process to be permanently closed to other people. They have so much love to give and we’d hate for them to believe that other people cannot be trusted.

We are now in two minds. Do we replace the clothes that were stolen or let them put it down to a (cruel) life lesson? Do we replace the money stolen, or will it be a way to teach them how to keep things safe from thieves… We are really unsure as to the best way to go about it all and comments and thoughts would be appreciated.

If, however, you’d like to personally buy one of the children clothes to replace what was stolen, it will cost €20 per child and you can do that here. I believe 3 children were affected. You’ll be kept in direct contact with us as we go with them and can see what your money has bought them.


All that negative feeling, however, wasn’t going to stop us doing what we came here to do. So Nicole and I have been hard at work getting the curtains ready to be put up later today (hopefully) that will transform every room in the house into something clean and modern. Its only a simple thing really, but its enough to make you walk in each room and think “wow, what a difference”. We’ll only be putting those pics up tomorrow though as Nicole is just putting the finishing touches to them now and then we’ll be out all day fitting them and taking the children some more things for the house. Its taken 3 days of cutting and sewing though, so this has taken up a massive chunk of our time.

We’ve also been back to both Great Hood Academy and Robin Hood Pre-School to carry on our work there. We initially intended on coming to Zimbabwe to help out with schools, buying books, improving education facilities etc. This is what our first week consisted of and what we were focused on. It was only as we came to fully understand the poverty experienced by the children of Tariro, that our focus changed to helping the orphans as much as we could. I think you’ll agree that we’ve done a huge amount for the orphanage, so we took time to go back to the schools and see how we could implement the changes that we’d spoken about at the very start of our trip.


It was at this moment that we pulled the trigger on buying a whole range of new school books for Great Hood. We’d be immensely impressed with the quality of the teaching there and we saw how much the teachers cared about their students. All that was lacking was enough text books to make everything as good as it could be. This week, we took the list of books that had been provided to us by Consultus Publishing Services, and let the teachers choose whatever books they needed to make their lives easier. Text books in English & Shona were chosen ranging from Early Child Development classes all the way up to grade 7. We were also delighted to leave them with some early samples that had been provided to us to start work with right away. Seeing the teachers smile from ear to ear at the thought of being able to provide a better lesson was inspiring and really hit home how much they cared about their classes and the quality of their teaching. Receipt of funds has been given and now books will arrive tomorrow ready for collection. We’ll report on that as soon as we have them in our possession. 🙂

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Nicole with Miss O (in yellow) and one of her staff stood in the garden that double up as a playground for the children.

Robin Hood Pre-School is run by Miss Liz Oglibie (or Miss O to those in the know). She’s a dedicated lady who’s entire life has been dedicated to other peoples children and that hasn’t changed even into her 70’s. We first came across here by way of a recommendation from a previous pupil and we were happy that we did. Her small school is run out of her own home (with classrooms added onto the side and into the garden) and was running the risk of running out of space for the children that she has. She also had the unenviable problem of intermittent running water and having to cope with a school full of children wanting to use the toilet and wash their hands. As I’m sure you can imagine, its not the easiest thing to keep children and the bathrooms they are using clean and hygienic without running water a lot of the time. We here in Eiffel Flats have water so infrequently that our lives revolve around buckets of rain water that can be gathered to wash and brush our teeth with. So the thought of running a school in the same conditions beggars belief.

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Measuring up for the new class room.

So with these two pressing problems in mind, we’ve started the construction of a new classroom and purchased all the materials needed to install a new water pump. The new classroom will be a wooden lean-to construction next to an outhouse in the garden. It should provide a teaching space for a 15 children and a teacher. We were very impressed with the plans and the cost of the construction too. So much so that we’ve commissioned the same carpenter to build us some shelves for the orphanage. The plan is to make 5 shelving units for each bunk bed. So each unit will have 3 shelves on it, and each shelf then belongs to the corresponding bunk. Ideally, these will remain a pair forever and will follow the beds to their new home. Finally the children will have somewhere to store their things other than in a pile on the floor!

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My dodgy drawings were enough for local skilled craftsmen to make the bunk beds, now I just hope that the are enough for the shelves too.

The carpenter says that the extra classroom will be finished by Friday and the shelves for Monday. Cutting it fine seeing as we leave on Tuesday, but that always seems to be the way with everything, no?

As always, if you feel that what we are doing here deserves to be helped, please donate by clicking here. Every penny will go to help those in need. No middle men, no managers wages, no scammers.

In other news, people have been asking how our injuries have healed. I still have a red eyeball that shows little sign of leaving, although its not as bad as at first, and still have two relatively noticeable black eyes, although they’ll be gone by the this time next week I think. Nicole, on the other hand, still isn’t able to fully walk and the cuts to her foot still look nasty and are painful. It may well be a while until she is back to normal. Thanks for all your concern and messages. We’ve also been attacked by sand fleas again… My god are they the worst!

We’ll be having a farewell party here in Kadoma on Saturday at the Campbell Theatre bar on Saturday evening, 4th March from 6pm. There will be food and plenty of drinks. Anyone and everyone who has read this blog this past month is encouraged to come and say hello (and goodbye) as well as all our now future lifelong friends we’ve met since being here. We’ll be sad to leave, but we’ll be back sooner rather than later (we are looking at December ’17). We still have work to do and will carry on what we’ve started here then.

We also hope to see as many of you as possible at our Welcome Home Party on Thursday the 9th March in Ibiza, so that we can tell you all in person about our trip and how much your donations and support has meant to us.
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Day 28 & 29. “It won’t take long.” Famous last words.

“So, what have you guys got planned for the rest of the week?”

“Well, we’re finally installing the bunk beds at the orphanage. Wanna come give us a hand putting them together, it won’t take long and you’ll get to meet the kids too.” I said.

What Kyle, Andrew & Duncan didn’t know, and me either to be fair, was that it would need 9 hours spread over 2 days, an angle grinder, welding kit, skill to use both of them and plenty of sweat to finally get them into place.

 

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We had them designed, we thought, to perfection, but in reality, the intricate nature of the corridor, and the narrowness of the bedroom doors meant that all the work that we had put in to have them made in the first place, was wasted. We had to take them all apart only to put them back together again in the bedrooms.

 

Lots of eventful things happened this weekend, but one of the best ones was meeting these guys. Helpful beyond all belief and exactly the right people that we needed to have with us when it came to all the eventual metal work. I’d have had no idea where to even begin. Faced with the real prospect of the bunkbeds having to be left out in the garden for the rest of their lives, Kyle & Co knew exactly what to do. People we’d only just met less than a week before were destined to help when us we needed it most.

I was hoping to give an update with all the photos to go along with it yesterday, but as the job was only half finished I figured it was best to wait until today and show the world what real joy looks like.

The children of Tariro Orphanage have never had their own beds before and we were worried that getting something that they have never had before might be a bit of an anticlimax. After all, how can you look forward to something that you have no experience of? We weren’t to be disappointed though.

As we knocked on the gate post to announce our arrival, they kids, as always, came running to greet us. Only this time it wasn’t just me and Nicole turning up in John’s pick-up and being left with some paints or other bits and pieces. This time we had a 10 tonne lorry overflowing with 15 separate steel bed frames and 15 waterproof mattresses arriving with us, 2 cars and 3 helpers too. I remember walking around town a few weeks ago with 2year old Thomas in my arms and the look of delight as he saw cars going past was a real treat. Now his eyes were wide with wonderment at what this huge orange truck was doing outside his house and what all these black frames were too. He also look confused as he looked at my face and my blood filled eye. He wanted to touch my face, but couldn’t quite bring himself to. As soon as I started tickling him and playing chase though, it was all back to normal and my fears of scaring the kids with our injuries was, in the end, un-founded.

Each frame had its very own code to make sure that it was paired with its partner so that each and every bed was perfect. As soon as we started chopping off legs to get them through the doors, we had to invent a whole new type of code that was different to the first one, to make sure the right leg went on the right frames. Needless to say this all got very confusing and made everyone’s head hurt as we had to search each piece to try and match them all up and by the time we found what we were looking for, we’d forgotten what it was we were meant to remember about why we were looking for it… 🙂

The first two beds took around 5 hours as we worked until after sunset but the end results were amazing. They knew that we were making them beds, but they hadn’t quite grasped how it would all look and had certainly never seen anything like these before. The big reveal was just as we had hoped it would be, and the excitement was palpable in the air. It had taken much longer than we’d hoped, and we could never have done it without our new friends, but all the stress and work was worth it I think you’ll agree.

Now with your donations (click here to donate if you haven’t already) we have some more things that we’ll be doing for the kids this week coming. A brand new fridge freezer is on the cards, hopefully some new sofas, new curtains, new rugs perhaps… We don’t have much time left to implement all that we want to, but we’ll try our best.

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Finally next week, we’re going to employ a matron for the “House Mother” to learn from. An experienced hand when it comes to showing how to prepare meals that taste different, but using the same ingredients that they already have access to, and to bring in some discipline.  I’m also going to be using some of the left over cash to invest in some professional looking charity coin boxes for businesses in Ibiza to display on their bar tops. If you are reading this, own a business in Ibiza (or anywhere really) and you’d like to help in this way, please do not hesitate to get in touch. I’ll certainly be putting them in all my bars knowing that anything put in them will go to the children who most need our help.

Now we’ve finished work for the day (after our 6am start), Nicole has to get her dressings changed and cleaned up ready for a few relaxing drinks in celebration tonight.

Its taken a few more weeks than we expected, but finally our big surprise for the children happened today and they loved it.
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Thank you for all your donations; and please keep them coming if you like what you read and see that we are making real differences to these children’s lives. It doesn’t cost much to help, but every penny that you donate goes to them. No middle men, no managers, no staffing costs, just real direct help.

Making these beds happen has been a huge team effort and everyone we have met has helped a little bit, but special thanks need to go to John & Jackie (for everything), Helen (for allowing us to be here in the first place), Graham (for free transport of the mattresses from Harare), Mike & Barry (for the use of the 10 tonne truck), Kyle, Andrew & Duncan (for their amazing problem solving abilities and installation skills), Amanda (for introducing us to Tariro in the first place), Nicola (for lending us her car so we can get around easily), Laury (for driving us around and finding us the welder & steel to make the beds), Mrs. Magama (for helping these children when no one else would).

There are more people involved along the way and my memory is terrible at the best of times (as Nicole will tell you… that is her name, right?) but hopefully this was all the main players in this particular bed making mission.

Now, what should we do for the orphans next week? Suggestions are always welcome. Feel free to comment. 🙂
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Day 27. Back to work.

I always try to see the silver linings as much as possible even if the clouds are dark and stormy. These last few days have all been about searching for that silver lining and we’ve found it.

Despite all the knocks, and all the problems, we cannot wait to return to Zimbabwe and carry on what we’ve started here and that’s entirely down to the people we have met and who have become fast friends. Zimbabwe is a flawed, but amazing, country and its people for the most part are compassionate and overwhelmingly friendly.

So, with all the support you could ever imagine after our ordeals, as documented in the previous blog posts, we have got back to work at the Tariro Orphanage. So many things have happened and many haven’t been mentioned yet, so it may be best to show a list rather than bore you with too many details.

1. The entire house has now been fully decorated.


2. Bespoke, waterproof mattresses have been made and delivered to Kadoma.

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John Kinnaird making sure the mattresses don’t fly off in the wind in some sort of mattress Jenga game.

3. As of today, the bunkbeds are finished and await collection tomorrow for installation. This will give beds to 15 children.
4. Full gas oven and spare gas bottle have been installed and is finally giving the house the ability to cook proper meals.

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4 hobs that all work, an even oven for the first time ever! What do you think to the blue colour that they chose for the house? Much brighter than the dirty, dusty concrete of before.

5. A whole host of kitchen utensils that are essential, but they never had before, we delivered. Knives, spoons, plates, cups, jugs, tea pot, cheese grater, washing up bowl, vegetable peeler and more are now being used.
6. Emptying of the septic tank so that the toilets can be used for the first time in 3 weeks.

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Finally its here!!

7. Clearing of a blockage in the sewer system so water can flow out of the house.
8. Buying brand school uniforms for every child so that they can be allowed to attend finally.
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9. Allowing the children to choose their own clothes for the first time ever.
10. Taking them out to eat in a restaurant and allowing them to order whatever they wanted.
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11. Replace door handles and locks on the store room door.
12. Installed the first ever cot for baby Makanaka.


13. Installed a fly trap to limit the infestation in the house.
14. Nicole has hand made 24 pillows for delivery with the bunkbeds tomorrow.


15. Buying an electric iron to replace the metal one they’d been heating up on the gas stove.

We still have many things to do and we just have a few weeks left to make them happen. We still want to replace all of their sofas and curtains, bring in a brand new fridge-freezer, employ a matron for a week to teach the current house mother how to organise the house and children, buy and install storage boxes/shelves/pigeon holes throughout the entire house.

Unfortunately things have been on hold since the weekend and we have only briefly seen the children. Neither of us felt really comfortable being around them whilst looking the way we do. I didn’t want to scare the kids with my face, nor did we want to broach the subject of violence and its repercussions. When we go tomorrow to install the long awaited beds, it will be the first time we’ll have seen them all together properly and just hope the additions of somewhere to sleep is enough to occupy their minds and forget about our injuries.

We are also not forgetting that we are in the process of selecting textbooks, reading books, source materials and teaching guides for 2 local schools so that they can carry on their already amazing work.

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Great Hood Academy School

Despite my injuries, I was still keen to not let anything get in the way of our work here, so on Monday I went straight to Harare for our planned meeting with CPS, a publishing house specialising in school books for the Zimbabwe syllabus. Nicole, unfortunately, was unable to come with me as planned and stayed at home to begin the long road to recovery and full fitness. Mwazvita was warm and welcoming and quickly helped me get to grips with what they offer and how we could use their stock to better the schools ability to teach. She also promised to give us a 25% on all orders as we are buying them for a charitable donation.

If you’d like to help us buy even more books to help the children of Zimbabwe learn, click here to donate.

Tariro Orphanage has really taken over our trip since we first came across it, but we have also spent a lot of time with the children of Great Hood Academy and their teaching staff. We’ve been helping out in classes, helping the children read and spell. Its an amazing feeling to be able to be there at a pivotal moment in their lives like this.


One moment that we didn’t get chance to report in the blog as yet was the day we spent with the children of grade 7. Initially pencilled in for 30 minutes, Nicole and I spent over an hour with them in a question and answer session. First of all we introduced ourselves properly. They had seen us around plenty of times, but this is the first time that we’d got to tell them about why we are actually there.

It was then their turn to ask whatever questions they wanted to know about us, or about anywhere we had been, what we do for a living, what its like where we live etc… There were a few obvious childlike questions about famous people we’d met, or football teams we liked etc. But there was also an incredible amount of serious, thought provoking questions about politics, history, economy, our personal lives, travel and not least of all the orphanage on their very door step here in Kadoma. We didn’t influence their questions, and just let them ask whatever came to mind and yet talking about the orphans of Tariro was by far and away the most asked about topic. They couldn’t believe for a moment that children their age, and younger could live like that. I asked everyone to raise their hand if they had their own bedroom, a few did. I asked everyone who shared their bedroom with 1 sibling to put their hands up, a few more then did. I carried this on until everyone had put their hands up and it seems that in this class, the most in any bedroom at their home was 4 children. Their faces dropped when I told them that there were 16 children sleeping between 2 bedrooms; and all of them on the concrete floor. Their thirst for knowledge  was inspiring and I feel they learnt much about themselves; and how lucky they actually are.

So, there’s our recap of what we’ve been up to so far. There is still more to come and your money can help us to help the children of Kadoma even more. Donate here if you feel this is something worth helping. Thank you.

Day 18. Who are the orphans of Tariro?

Although today’s blog is a day late (we’ve been without internet for a day, so was unable to post anything until now), we’d like to focus on the children more than what we’ve done. Its not like we’ve done nothing, of course, but I’ve had a few messages asking about the backgrounds of the children and I know that Nicole has too.

First we’ll get out of the way what we’ve been able to do do for them on day 17. It was a particularly satisfying day to be honest. We finally rolled and brushed on the very last bit of blue paint on to the final bedroom. With rising damp, bare & dusty concrete walls and 17 children running around whilst trying to paint, we are finally able to say that its done. Its not my finest bit of work, but its good enough and bright enough and most importantly the children love it. When the last room was finished, it just so happened to coincide with some of the kids coming home from school and they walked in with eyes wide open and smiles from ear to ear barely able to believe that this was the same place as they’d inhabited just a week ago. Its a small change and some have questioned why we bothered at all, but its that look that makes it all worth it. After all, would you like to wake up in what looks like a prison cell, or a place with colourful, bright walls? I know which one we’d choose. Plus it was all part of allowing the children the chance to feel like they actually owned something as they chose the colour for us to paint.

We also had a ton of visitors on day 17. Whilst I was painting with the new boy (more of that later) and Nicole was playing with the two youngest children, it seemed as though the whole world descended on the orphanage. It made for a very pleasant change as we’d been the only visitors for just about the whole previous week. We had two ladies come from the local social services department. They didn’t actually really seem to want to know much, more it was just to have a look around. We pressed upon them that the house was still without running water, despite all our best efforts, and that it didn’t seem right to allow that to happen to an orphanage. After all, its not their fault that there is a blockage in the sewer below their house. If it was a bill payment, you could understand perhaps and fingers could be pointed, but a blockage can only be down to the council and hopefully our calls and chats with the local officials will get something done about it. We can only hope.

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Former Tariro resident come back to say hello.

We also had a former resident come back to say hi. He was smartly dressed, ambitious about his future studies and was visiting his brother who was still staying at Tariro. It was good to see that being an orphan in Zimbabwe didn’t mean that your chances of a good life were all taken away from you. He had just finished his studies and wanted to go on to bible school in China. Finally there was Mary, a kind volunteer who does all she can for the children. She popped in to give us all a delicious fruit cake and the children some welcome fruits and vegetables. It was also a great opportunity to put a face to a name as we’d all be chatting in a WhatsApp group specifically set up to keep all the volunteers communicating and setting up new ways to help the children.

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In the day since we were last at the orphanage, there was also a food delivery from some of the other volunteers. Basic essentials but also treats like biscuits and peanut butter. This, unfortunately, means that I have to go back and put a lock on the storeroom door. The children have been raiding the goodies when no-one is looking, but rationing needs to go on when you never know when you next meal is coming.

We are here to help as much as we can, but we’ve decided that our involvement needs to be on a more long term basis rather than short term. This means that money raised from our donors (if you haven’t already, please donate here) will go on items that have a long term effect. This has meant us getting all their much needed kitchen utensils, a new gas stove, steel bunkbeds and water proof mattresses so that every child needn’t sleep on the floor anymore, pillows, curtains, storage space / cupboards/ draws for their rooms, school uniforms, school fee’s, clothes that they have picked for themselves and more. All these have a long lasting effect long after we have gone as we are really keen not to have the children depend on us too much. We know that we are going to be back in Ibiza in 4 weeks time, they perhaps don’t really understand that too well. Certainly if we were bringing them each a pizza or fancy food every afternoon for the next 4 weeks instead of all of the list above, not only would the money be “wasted” but the minute we leave, they’d be back to square one and without the goodies that we’d bring and the depression that may come as a result. We’re really keen to leave a lasting impression on their lives and work around their support network they already have in place. We want to compliment the sterling work that is already being done, voluntarily, by the local community, not replace it for a few weeks and then leave them to pick up the pieces. I hope everyone understands the logic behind this as I’m sure there are a few that would like to see us take them out for dinner and food every day of the week or something else that would be a quick fix rather than a long term one. We are doing everything we can for the futures of these children, not just trying to fix the present.

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That brings me to the present, and the addition of a new boy to the house. His name is Tanaka and he was sat quietly on the sofa as we arrived at 8.30am to start painting for the final day. Sometimes, not often, there is a residents friend visiting the house, so at first I wondered if this was the case with Tanaka. It wasn’t.

He’d been brought to the house the previous night after being found by the police in “a bush” where he’d been sleeping rough. He’s 14 years old and his father had died some time ago. After that had happened, his mother left him with his grandmother and hasn’t been seen since. His grandmother has since died and he was left alone with no way of finding his mother, even if she had wanted him. He had made his way, somehow, 40km away from where his last known school was and where his grandmother had died. Perhaps looking for his mother, perhaps just trying to get away from his old life. Either way, he made it to Kadoma and then to Tariro Orphanage. We’re not quite sure what will happen with him yet, but certainly the Police have no intention of doing very much about the situation, or locating a family member, so until something happens he is a new addition to the already overcrowded house.
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Being new, I think he was keen to fit in and with the lack of anyone else to “fit in” with, he offered his help to me to paint the remaining walls. His eyes lit up when I showed him he’d have his own overalls, like all of a sudden he was a grown up because he got to wear the same overalls as most of the working men in town wear. Each set only costs $19 in the shop and for that reason EVERYONE doing any kind of manual job has the same outfit. So, with his new kit on, and a surprisingly happy face, he started painting. He was, to be fair, the best of the children that I’ve had help me this last week or so. He understood, for the most part, that a roller shouldn’t touch, let alone go over, the light switches and plug sockets. There was also minimal paint splats on the floor to scrape up later, so I was pretty impressed and we made quick time of the rest of the house. When we’d done, we exchanged a high 5 and I asked him a little about himself. His accent was pretty good when he spoke English, but this disguised the fact that he couldn’t say very much. I did, however, get to ask him if he thought he would like to be here at the Orphanage until he was 18. He said yes. I suppose anything must be better than sleeping in a bush without a penny to your name and no way to earn that penny either.

The new boys arrival gave up the opportunity to ask what had happened to the rest of the children.  Up until now, everyone had been vague as to the specifics, but now they opened up. As there were only a small number of them at the house on this morning, it was easy to talk about those present. We’ll try to find out about the rest as soon as its appropriate, but this is what we found out about the very youngest children.

Makanaka (AKA Grace). 9 months old.

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Makanaka, as she is known now, was left at the train station. But she wasn’t left to be found by a kind passerby, she was left on the tracks to die. Her screams were heard before that moment ever came and she was brought to the orphanage at only 3 days old. She has never known anything other than living in Tariro, and likely never will. Her mother, for some reason, left a note with the intended name of the child (Grace), but it was decided that she should be renamed given the circumstances. Makanaka means “very good” in the local language Shona.

Macdaniel. 22months old.

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Readers of this blog, and following our travels thus far will be very familiar with this cheeky faced chap. He was the first to come running to Nicole as soon as we stepped through the doors 2 weeks ago. His smile is incredibly infectious and sweet, but he can be jealous when he is not centre of attention. He’s such a loveable little character though. He does have a father, so is not strictly speaking an “orphan”, but his father is very ill. We didn’t want to ask exactly what this illness was, but it was something that stopped him from taking care of his own son. He visits every 2 weeks if he can, but for how long he’ll be around for this to carry on, we just don’t know but its not thought to be long. His mother died when he was not even 1 year old. We imagine that both his parents have fallen victim of the HIV/AIDS virus given the limited info we have to go on, and its prevalence here in Africa.

Thomas. 2 years old.

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Again, Thomas has featured a lot of late in our blog. He was, at first, overshadowed by Macdaniel’s lively character, despite him being slightly older. He has such a quiet yet fun character. He’s really come out of his shell in recent times and now, finally, has all the excitability of a regular 2 year old. He has been at the orphanage for around a year. Nothing is known of his parents at all. He was found by a policeman named Thomas, and took his name as a result, at the local train station. He’d been abandoned by whoever was meant to be taking care of him. Who can imagine ever wanting to leave a child as amazing as this?

If you’d like to help these children, please donate here and all proceeds will go to making their lives better, easier and more productive. We are trying to make sure that they all attend school, have happy lives and each nourishing meals each day until they are old enough, and wise enough, to move on to the next step of their own lives.

If you can help, then please make today that day.

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.

Day 15. Best feeling in the world. Ever.

The children of Tariro Orphanage have just had the best day they’ve had in a long time and it was a pleasure to be involved in helping make it happen.

When we walked through the door of their “home” just a week and half ago, I never thought that we’d be where we are now. I never thought for a moment that in such a short space of time we’d see such an amazing change in these, now, 17 children. We’ve been having the conversation amongst ourselves these past few days wondering if some of the children were mute, or if something terrible had happened to them in their previous homes, or on the streets where they were found. Was the trauma of being abandoned too much for them to bear? Was the grief they endured when their parents died too much for them to want to get close to anyone ever again? Was the pain of being alone in the world too much for them to even imagine happiness again?

To encounter a child so devoid of happiness and of life itself, was a horrific feeling. But we didn’t meet just one like that, we met 17, and all at the same time.

So there we were, assessing what we’d seen at Tariro on Day 6. Trying to put into words what we thought we’d come across. We thought as many as half a dozen were mute. Thats the one thing that really stands out to me now. You could point, and smile and ask a question, but you’d not get much of a response. They did basically understand what we were saying, and would react to it, but not in a ways we expected. So the fear that something so traumatic had happened to them, that they had withdrawn into themselves so much that they no longer spoke, was a real concern. How could we help? What could we do that would make any difference?

In a word: Love.

This is Thomas. He is my new best friend. He loves being tickled, chips and cake. He doesn’t like pizza. He’s also melted my heart these last few days.

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For the first week of meeting this amazing 2yr old, Thomas never said a word. He’d make a sound a bit like the “Hmmm” noise you make when someone says something to you, and you don’t hear them properly, and you want them to repeat themselves. You could shake his hand, pick him up, give him food, give him a hug and almost anything else you would do with a normal child of his age, but he’d only ever make that one noise. He seemed such a quiet soul, but always a little withdrawn, and always pretty much silent.

Fast forward 9 days from our first meeting with him and now we its like a switch has been turned on and so has his smile. I carried him all day yesterday as we went round the market stalls and shops in Kadoma and I sat next to him as we ate our big family meal together in the only fast food restaurant in town. Now he never likes to be too far away from me, and always wants to be in my arms as we walk. Its backbreaking work and I don’t know how mums do it, but its worth it. As we walked down the street he was amazed at every car that went past, amazed at every tree. He saw a dog and the look of surprise in his face was priceless. He’s probably never left Tariro’s gates since he arrived and the day out we planned for them all was his first time seeing many a thing I’m sure. He’s a “mute” no longer and all it took was some love and attention. The very least that a child deserves is this, no? It’s heartbreaking to think that something we take for granted is something so allusive to Thomas, Macdaniel and the rest of the children.

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Trying, and failing, to avoid the puddles at the market with Thomas in my arms.

This week though, we’ve changed that. With your donations (click here to donate if you haven’t already) we’ve already painted most of their bare concrete walled house for them, the first of the bunk beds, so that they don’t have to sleep huddled together on the concrete floor ever again, will arrive at their home on Tuesday, and yesterday we took them shopping.

Our major reason to come to Africa in the first place was to help underprivileged children get a better education. Now, there is underprivileged, and then there the children of Tariro. They literally have nothing. No bed of their own, no clothes of their own, no choice in anything they eat or do. We, with our friends, families and donor’s help, have given them all of these things. For this, we, and they, thank you.

We’ve spent just about every waking hour with them for the past 4 days. I hope they don’t get bored of us! On Saturday morning, with the help of our neighbour Gemma, her daughter and her friend, we met all 17 of the children in town. We expected them to be a handful, but they were not at all. They were quiet and well behaved. Still a little shy in the outside world.

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Meeting the children in their best clothes ready for a day out.

They knew that something was happening, but they didn’t know what. They were dressed in their very “best” clothes. They were perhaps considered to be their best as they were the least dirty and only had minor wear and tear (along with paint splashes) on them. When we started walking towards the school uniform shop, I dreaded the groans that you’d expect a “normal” western child to make upon learning that, yes, we’d be shopping but for school stuff. We all entered the shop and everyone was relatively silent, perhaps not really understanding what was going on. Getting a school uniform isn’t something to get excited about after all, I thought. But when I made it clear that we were going to  get them everything that they needed so that they could go to school each and every day, they were hive of activity, all excitedly pointing at this shirt, those shorts and even socks! I’ve never seen anyone get so hyped up about getting new socks! There were 3-4 in each changing booth as they were all so desperate to try on their new uniforms!


Initially we said that we’d just use some of the money to buy them what they were missing, or what they most needed, but in the end we bought every single child a new uniform including socks. At first we didn’t know if we’d just wasted money on items that they already had, but quickly came to the realisation that they’d probably never had a new uniform, and could potentially have been bullied for looking scruffy or with the wrong size because it was a hand me down 3 times over. I remember at my school, the kids with the smartest clothes were not necessarily the coolest kids, but the scruffy ones could never be. They were always looked down upon a little bit because of it. Sad to think thats how it was and kids can be cruel, but remembering that made me realise that these kids would, for the first time ever, be able to walk into school with their heads held high and feel like king of the castle. Giving them that feeling was priceless.


Next up we went to the market. This is a weekly market where all your donated items that you send out with your big international “charity” organisations are sold. Its shit that we ended up buying it rather than having it donated direct, but the end result is that the children all got new clothes that they had chosen themselves. Many bits and pieces were as little as $1 each and we did, to be fair, get a lot for the money. The older children, however, didn’t seem impressed with what was on offer. They were, after all, wearing basically the same kind of quality of stuff as was on the stalls and this was about giving them a choice, not just more of the same disguised as a choice. So I took the older boys, and Nicole took the girls to get something that they really wanted.

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Not looking too impressed with what was on offer at this stall. They’d all seen some bling a few stalls back and wanted to return!

Bright reds, striking whites and bold blacks were the order of the day, all mixed with golden zip after golden zip. Nothing they chose was my kind of thing, but this wasn’t a day about anything other than their kind of thing. Our original budget idea went out of the window once it became apparent that you couldn’t get much of the “quality” new items on sale at the market, so each child was given $20 to work with. Each got at least one, now cherished, t-shirt and one pair of bright red or black jeans. Some got 2 t-shirts as they had different tastes, and one boy got a pair of trainers for the first time ever. Big and white like Air Jordans. He tried these whiter than white trainers on as we were surrounded by muddy puddle after muddle puddle. The futility of trying to keep them clean was lost on him as his wide eyes were fixed on them from minute one. I do believe that he’s never had anything to call his own thats quite so satisfying before in his life. This one moment was worth the whole day, but there was more to come. Much more.

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One boy was missed out accidentally and I stayed behind to buy him some boots, a new bag and a new t-shirt (all for $20 total!) and as he followed my footsteps through the muddy sludge and water that constitutes a path over here, we talked a little bit. He seems a bright kid, but uncommonly small for a 14 year old. I’d have thought he was only 9-10. He’s been at the orphanage for 5 years but I couldn’t bring myself to ask his circumstances. I didn’t want to remind him of the bad times, when were were trying to show them the good. We did talk about food though. We’d just told everyone that once we were done with shopping we’d go and eat. I asked him what his favourite food was. He said rice. I asked: “What about fried chicken”? His eyes lit up: “Chicken?? Oh yes!”. “What about burgers?” “Burgers?? Yes I love burgers!” It had been so long since they’d eaten anything else that he’d become conditioned to expect rice, at that time of the day, was what was coming next and therefore that was his favourite. Given the choice, however, it very clearly wasn’t! This day was all about giving them that choice.
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They’d never eaten in a restaurant before and this was the final thing that we wanted to round their day off with. It seems such a simple thing to you and I that part of any trip into town is accompanied by a bite to eat. I like KFC, but others thing the Big Mac is king. Either way, its nothing out of the ordinary, but these children had only ever been given porridge in the morning, rice in the afternoon and maize (sadza) in the evening. They’d never been to a place like this before and it showed. They didn’t know what to do with themselves and felt a little out of place, but when they realised that they could have anything that they wanted, they didn’t know how to react. Some looked confused at all of the pictures of all the different types of food on offer, one knew exactly what he wanted as soon as he walked in. “Steak Pie and Coke” he just repeated over and over as we ordered. He couldn’t contain his excitement!


Some acted like Billy Ray Valentine in the movie Trading Places (if you haven’t watched it, do… its a great movie), when he struggles to come to terms with the fact that all of the things in his new gifted home were in fact now his. He nods and smiles with them as he pretends to understand that he actually owns everything, as he’s putting items in his pocket. Some didn’t know how to just order what they wanted, and they ordered extra to put into their pockets and in their new bags. Cans of drink, cake and even chicken was ordered with the express purpose to take home with them. They didn’t know when or if their access to this experience would ever stop, so they tried to make it last as long as possible. Its easy to imagine why when you have seen what they have come from. The simple pleasures of a cold fizzy drink through a straw in a restaurant, are a long way from water from a water tank in the garden of a concrete walled orphanage.

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The children of Tariro with me, Nicole and our two helpers for the day: Kayla and Steph

Nicole had an emotional day too:

At the restaurant I was sitting with the children and a man came over to me out of the blue. He asked why we were with so many children. He’d seen me with Macdaniel when we arrived and when I sat down with him and everyone else, so I explained that we’re helping these children with donations from all our amazing friends and family and we’ve come to try to make a difference. He said he was very proud that people could come over to help them and that made us both feel happy. Macdaniel and Thomas, the two youngest boys, ate their body weight in food and had massive protruding bellies by the time we left! They where so sweet and kept offering me their chips and cake. It was an amazing feeling to see them all so happy for a change. I gave them my phone for them to take pics of themselves and I said I would print of some of their pics and they can put them up in the newly decorated home. After we’d all eaten, I took some of the little ones to the toilet and while I was waiting a lady that worked there said that she was an orphan too. She said that she used to look forward to the days like these when she was younger and she remembers them so clearly and it’s something that will stay with her for the rest of her life. As soon as we walked in it brought back the memories of her childhood and that the most important feeling was to feel that people cared. I began to feel a little emotional and a warm feeing inside. She also said that she could see how much we cared for these children. Now out of the orphanage, she is in full time employment as well as studying at a college and I was so proud of her. To know that she hadn’t had the best start in life and yet she has dreams and desires that could actually be achieved one day, gave me great hope for all these children of Tariro. Where would they all be in 10-20 years? I hope that we’re making a change in their lives that will last. I think we are.

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As we said our goodbyes for the day one of the boys came over to me and said thank you so much for the day. He said he hoped we’d be back again before he left Tariro. He’s 16 and they have to leave the home at 18. Not only will we be back before he leaves, but we’ll see him Monday, I said. He can’t get rid of us that easily! He gave me a hug and said he’d remember us and our day out for ever and that we are great people who are trying to make there lives a little better. As a small token of thanks he handed us both a sweet and I was instantly overwhelmed and emotional.

Like most of the day, I was with Macdaniel at the very end and he was holding me so tight too. I felt the love from him but it was time to say goodbye to these amazing children. They all had huge smiles on their faces and couldn’t thank us enough. We have definitely become a part of this close nit family. It’s a feeling that I can not put into words and I will hold each one of them extremely close to my heart forever.”

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By the end of the day, where there were once expressionless faces, now there were smiles and laughter. Where there was lack of hope, now there was a belief that things could get better after all. It doesn’t take much to change someone’s life when they have so little. We spent a good chunk of the money we’ve been donated to make this day happen for them, and my god has it been worth it. It may seem like such a passing and unimportant thing to give a child a choice for the first time, but its that feeling of having control over your own life that has been missing from all of theirs. As we waved them off onto the transport to take them home after a full day of shopping and eating, they ALL waved, they ALL smiled, they ALL gave us a lump in our throats.

We have all have come a long way in the few days since we walked into their home. We’ve grown together and we’ve changed together and I just hope that we can make changes that will last a lifetime in these children, not just for one day.

If you want to help bring joy to a child who has nothing, donate here.
If you want to help clothe a child who has no clothes of their own, donate here.
If you want to help give a child choices they’ve never had before, then please donate here.