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4 Jun

June 2, 2017
Journal 10

Greetings from Denver,

The last week in Zimbabwe was very hectic and I could not find the time to write the final journal. Now I am home and this is the first opportunity I have had to bring this trip to a close. Many things happened the last week and many things I had to leave unfinished. Hopefully, the staff is able to move forward and see that projects are completed. Life in Zimbabwe is very difficult. Godfrey, our accountant, spends countless hours standing in line at the bank to get money. Purchases are done through bank transfers. This requires an individual to wait before they can pick up supplies. The money must clear the business bank account before supplies can be picked up. Sometimes people wait in line at the bank only to be told that the bank has no money.

The gentleman pictured here is Stewart our new religious leader on staff. He lives in the local community and has volunteered at the offices frequently. He is not an ordained pastor but has had considerable religious training. He also has a certificate in Social Work. He will be a big help to Beauty, our nurse, in helping in the care of the Orphans. His focus will be the children who need someone to talk to. He will check on them in their homes to observe their needs. Stewart will conduct early morning worship and also after school classes for any child who wants to attend not just orphans. His beginning salary is $200.00 per month if anyone would like to help out.

He is able to ride the motor bike and so will be able to get around the rough terrain. That has been a problem always. Our vehicles are showing evidence of a lot of wear and tear.

May 19 was the day of celebration. It marked the 20 years since Ralph and I made our first trip to Zimbabwe. Our goal in the beginning was to help rebuild a school. However, our focus changed when we became aware of the needs of so many children who had been left to fend for themselves after the parents had passed away, many from AIDS. Schools still need help in improving the building structures but the care of the children takes priority. HCOC provides not only meals but school fees, uniforms, school supplies and medical care. We are presently caring for more than 700 children.

A choir from one of the schools presented several musical numbers during the program. A large number of the children in the choir are orphans. I never cease to be amazed at the harmony that the children present.

One of our orphans, who is in Secondary School, presented a tribute to me for all the help we had given to the orphans like himself. Before he gave his speech, he asked for a moment of silence in Ralph’s memory. I was very touched.

It was the very last week before I had the opportunity to meet with the sewing ladies. I was pleased to see that they had expanded their group. I saw a number of younger women and was not only surprised but pleased. Women that I trained originally have dropped out for health reasons or have passed away. With younger women being involved, they have to bring young children with them. I experienced that in the beginning as well.

While these women have a few electric machines, they can’t use them because they have no meter for the electricity that Ralph had installed. Meters can cost several hundred dollars. I told them if they could save $50.00 I would come up with the rest. I just hope they can be motivated to save some of their money.

I visited the knitting co-op the same day that I visited the sewing group. I had made appointments with both groups on three different occasions and something always took priority.

These women have also expanded their group. However, they only have one of the three machines working. I have instructed them to find someone who knows how to repair the machines to come to the school and repair them. Hauling the machines over the roads will only increase the damage. I know they will have to pay transportation costs but it is the best alternative. One of the machines has missing parts. It was a new machine that I shipped several years ago. I am hoping the parts will be obtainable.

One of the most significant events of the trip is seeing the positive impact that the USADF grant has made on the organization. It is looking very positive that the grant will be renewed. However, the amount of the grant will depend on what happens on funding here to USADF. Probably the most significant thing that came from this grant is the organizational meetings that were funded. USADF has an excellent follow-up program to make certain procedures are carried out. I have been very favorably impressed. The mission is not yet financially independent but things are progressing in that direction.

Opening the butchery in Murewa has helped HCOC increase the profit on the poultry significantly. Selling live chickens to processors in Harare eliminates the need to dress the chickens but it reduces the profit considerably. Godfrey indicated, before I left, that their profit now was running well over $1.00 per bird. The profit had been sometimes less than $.60 per bird. With the Blast Freezer, they are able to dress large numbers of chickens at one time and freeze them immediately. They need a large freezer to transfer the frozen chicken to after sharp freezing. It is too expensive to store in the blast freezer.

Please pray for this mission. Pray that God’s Will be carried out. Pray for the children who depend on us for survival. In His Service, Roberta

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May 12, 2017

23 May

Journal 9
Greetings from Zimbabwe,

My departure date is fast approaching and there are still many things to be accomplished. I feel like I am in panic mode. Mr. Bondeponde asked me to meet with the sewing women this morning. It is now 10:30 and no one is here. I decided to begin the Journal while I waited. I just don’t have time to mark in place.

This is a picture of the view from the house this morning. It is so quiet and peaceful. The sky is so blue and no clouds in sight this morning.

Workers are building a cage outside the house to contain the bottles of gas for the stove. This was begun before I arrived but is just now getting completed.

Beauty is working on finding a couple of orphan boys who have left school and have nothing to do. She is going to see if they would like to train as painters. Hopefully she will be successful in finding a couple of boys. They will begin training next week with the fellow from Harare that I mentioned in my last journal..

This is a new staff house that was started at the end of 2015. It is incomplete because of insufficient funding. The work remaining is plumbing, electrical wiring and the installation of the doors. There are a couple of windows that need the glass installed. Then closets need to be installed in three bedrooms.  A counter and a few cabinets in the kitchen need to be built and a sink installed. It is estimated that this work will cost between $10,000.00 to $12,000.00. I don’t think it is healthy for two families to have to share one house. I am hoping that by the end of this year, funding will allow for this work to be completed.

Clive, who had presented a workshop on composting about a month ago paid a follow-up visit last Thursday to see how things were progressing. He was pleased with what had been done but encouraged the workers to speed up their efforts. He encouraged them to take advantage of all the green matter available at the moment to incorporate into the compost. Maize is being harvested at the moment and so the stalks should also be added to the compost. Clive will graduate the end of this month from the University. Hopefully he will continue to pay periodic visits and continue to encourage the workers.

Today was a very busy day. It began with assembling all of the cooks this morning. I demonstrated making porridge using locally grown grains that had been ground and mixed together. At the end of the cooking, I added a teaspoon of powdered Moringa per serving. Then I gave each cook a small serving of the porridge. They admitted that they were unable to taste the Moringa. They felt the children would like it.

After that, we showed the cooks and Moringa workers the power point presentation on the importance of Moringa in everyone’s diet. Most of them were very surprised at the nutritional value of the Moringa. At the end each person was given two pots of Moringa starts to take home and plant at their homes. We encouraged them to use Moringa in their cooking.

Recently, I purchased a portable electric sewing machine for the Secondary School Fashion Dept. The school has installed electricity in the fashion building. Now they can use electric machines.   All they have had in the past were old hand crank machines. Of course they don’t do zigzag stitches. The purpose is for making sanitary pads for orphan girls. Beauty, the nurse, has begged for a solution to the problem of girls missing days of school. So the pads will be given to Beauty to distribute. These pads are washable and reusable. The teacher and I spent some time together on Sat. getting used to the new machine. I taught her how to make the pads. I had researched on line some time ago to see how the problem was dealt with in other third world countries. This is how I came up with the pattern.

I am out of space and out of time and so I will bring this to a close and send my news on its way. Lots of things are happening at HCOC. Friday, we will be celebrating 20 years since Ralph and I began the work in this area of Zimbabwe. Plans are shaping up for a big celebration. I hope the day is not too cool. The weather is changing.

As I close this journal, I ask that you pray for the children who have no parents. It is so sad to look at their faces. I visited the preschool yesterday and took some pictures. In many cases I could not get some of the children to smile. It breaks my heart.

In His Service,

Roberta

 

 

May 7, 2017

8 May

Journal 8
Greetings from Zimbabwe,

Today, is a lovely summer day. There is a gentle breeze blowing. Since this is Sunday, I have spent a couple hours reading from Second Kings. I was made aware that we cannot discharge our responsibility to obey God by blaming our leaders. We are responsible to know God’s Word and obey it.

There is no internet today because there is no electricity. The new system here is pay in advance. When paid limit is reached the power is cut off. I am uncertain when we will have power again. At least the refrigerator here at the house where I stay is solar power and we have plenty of sunshine.

The carpenters have completed the closet in one bedroom and are now working on the second bedroom. The doors on the closet have already been hung and all that is left to be done is to have them painted. I am working on a plan for that job. I don’t like the way the local painters, paint and they won’t take instruction.     So I have another plan. I would like to bring someone I know from town out to do the painting. He is an excellent painter. If he will agree to come, I want to bring a Secondary boy who is an orphan and who would like to learn how to paint to work with this individual. I will keep you informed as to how that works out.

Most of the kitchen cabinets are installed. At least the sink is connected and is working. I am grateful for that at least. We still don’t have the stove installed but I do have the portable burners that I have used for many years.

The stove has been purchased but not picked up yet. We are also waiting for builders to come and build the structure to house the gas bottles outside. A hole will have to be drilled through the wall to pipe in the bottle gas. Presently the bottle gas is in the kitchen and that isn’t terribly safe.

Hopefully, when I leave here, the house will be ready to have needy children move in.

The bathrooms are another story. The tiling is done, the shower works wonderfully and it also drains well. However, when the water was turned on neither toilet will shut off after flushing. The plumber said the mechanisms are of poor quality which I already knew. Both need to be replaced. This is an unexpected expense. I should know by now that things will pop up. When we are in town Tues, I hope there will be time to purchase what we need.

The Orphan Care Givers came to see me on Friday. I had been told to expect them and had forgotten. The house is such a mess because of all of the work going on inside that I met with the women outside in the shade. About twelve to fifteen ladies showed up. They said that they just wanted to see me and to visit. However, they got around to bringing up that they used to be given T-shirts with HCOC logo and name on them. They haven’t been given such in a while. As a thank you, they used to get a packet of food staples each school term but indicated recently that had not been the case. The women were asking that it be reinstated. I promised that I would see what I could do. This is a case that funding justdoesn’t stretch far enough.

Our list of requirements continues to go up but our income is not keeping pace. Many families are struggling just to feed themselves. Many children who have both parents appear to not be well nourished. I wish we could afford to feed all of the children. It just isn’t possible as things stand at the moment. Many of our costs continue to rise but our donations are not keeping pace.

As I close for this week, I have two prayer requests. Pray for the children who have lost one or both parents. In spite of the fact that we are providing physical needs, they have so many emotional needs.   Pray that we can find a person, who has the ability to talk with these children and get to know them very well; someone who they can confide in. We are looking for someone who has a religious background, not necessarily a pastor.

Pray for me as well as I struggle with some issues here that must be handled delicately. Pray that God will give me insight and wisdom.

In His Service,
Roberta

May 1, 2017

4 May

Greetings from Zimbabwe,

I should have not been so hasty to decide that the rainy season had ended. We have had a number of significant rains with lots of thunder. It has also been rather cool. So the peas in the garden are producing quite well. As you can imagine the weeds are doing especially well. A recent picking of peas was shelled and sold at the butchery in Murewa. They sold out almost before they had them on display.

Saturday, a large number of orphans came to help in the Moringa field and some worked harvesting maize. They were a hungry bunch by lunch time. You would be amazed at the amount of food these small children can eat. The cooks reminded me that the children had probably had nothing to eat all day. In spite of that fact, some of those bodies are not very big. They deserved all they could eat for the work that they did. Some of their faces are so sad. It breaks my heart to see their long faces.

Sunday morning things began to happen here. The builder appeared and began to install the kitchen cabinets for the Orphan Home. The refrigerator repair service appeared next. Before he was finished, the tilers appeared and began tiling the one bathroom. Next to arrive was the carpenter. Just imagine the chaos that ensued! Today, Monday, I have escaped much of the day. Things in the house are dusty and there is grit everywhere. I don’t know if we will ever get this place clean. Anyway, this work is long overdue but I had put it off until I could be here to supervise.

This morning we had an Executive Committee meeting. It was to begin at 8:00 but didn’t get underway until after 10:00. Next Beauty had to prepare breakfast for everyone.

Punctuality is not a long suit in this culture. In addition to that the meeting lasted until 2:00 pm. I began to wonder if it would ever end.

Much of the meeting was concerning the registration of the Orphan Home. Many of the committee are opposed to that because it opens the possibility of orphans from

other parts of Zimbabwe being placed here. I am insisting that children from this area that need to be placed here take first priority. Apparently there has been a decline in the need for . of orphans in this area. We have dropped from 48 households to only 5 households needing housing. I believe that speaks well for our organization here and what has been accomplished.

Gaylord, one of our orphans that is at University was called in by Albert for emergency service. He is studying accounting and will spend a year here on attachment beginning in June. Albert needed some financial information for a document that was required for a grant application. Gaylord had a long weekend and so spent it working. He is such a wonderful young man. He is a perfect example of why I do what I do. He told me recently that if it had not been for HCOC and his funding for education he would probably be on the streets of Harare begging. Thank you to those who make education possible for these talented young people.

Please pray for these young people who have so much potential. They deserve our support. Gaylord is a breath of fresh air whenever I see him. He is so positive and always has a smile on his face. I am so proud of him and others like him.

In His Service,
Roberta

 

April 14, 2017

18 Apr

Greetings from Zimbabwe,

There has been only one five minute shower since Susan returned to the U.S. It is the end of the rainy season, although we could get a brief shower now and again. However, the way it looks, I doubt that will happen.

As you can see, maize harvest is in full swing. The field beside the house where I stay was harvested yesterday. It amazes me how quickly they go through a field. There were six or seven workers and they cut and shucked all of the maize in this one field. Early this morning, at day break, I heard them picking up the shucked maize by donkey cart loads. I am uncertain where they put it until it is dry enough to shell. After it is shelled it will be treated to keep out weevils and stored until ready for grinding into mealy-meal for the feeding center.

Last Saturday, seven church members of a church some distance from here, came to see the project. Albert explained that the members are very poor and need advice on things they can do to improve their condition. They spent five or six hours here touring the projects and learning how they can work together and build their own projects. The last thing they did was to come to the house where I stay. I talked to them about Moringa and its nutritional value. I also showed them pictures of how to grow Moringa. I am anxious to see how they move forward

Blessing, another one of our Boarding School students came to see me one day this past week. He is home between terms for a short break. He brought his report card to show me how he was doing. All of his grades were quite good. However, his lowest marks were in English and Shona. I encouraged him to find someone who could give him some extra help. He promised me that he would do that. It is exciting to me to see these students and how proud they are of their accomplishments.

Friends and supporters, we are making a difference in the lives of these young people. I know that when you are so far away, you must wonder if your contributions make a difference. I assure you that they do change the lives of these young people. In fact, beginning June 1, one of our University Students will be on attachment here for an entire year. He will be working in our accounting department and will return to the University for his final year of study the following year.

I have been concerned that Secondary Students were not being catered for at the Feeding Center. In the beginning they came in large numbers but not so now. We had trouble finding out the reason. They were reluctant to talk to us. I suggested that maybe it would help for us to build a kitchen at the Secondary School. That brought a response. They were adamant that they did not want that to happen. Susan tried her best to get them to understand that we wanted to work with them to resolved the issue. Two Secondary Teachers are going to work with us and try to find a solution to the problem. I know these children are hungry. They admitted as much. Teen-agers are breed of their own.

Here you can see the sharp freezer that has been installed at the poultry project. This is a fairly recent development. The USADF Grant funded this project as well as the rain catchment system that I wrote about last week. The picture on the right is the system that operates the sharp freezer.  It is housed just outside the building where the freezer is housed. Chickens are put in this sharp freezer as soon as they have been dressed. Once sharp frozen, the chickens are immediately transported to Murewa to the outlet there. This has been a big step forward in the poultry department. Now they are working toward having vegetables to deliver to the market at the same time the chickens are delivered.

In closing, I ask for your prayers for the future projects here. This is the end of the two year grant from USADF. HCOC has turned in their final report. All looks good. They are hopeful of receiving a renewal of five years. The amount of the grant is uncertain. There is a great deal of concern that the funding may be cut significantly or stopped altogether. Please consider writing your congressmen and explaining what a tragedy it would be to cut funding for the project at this time. HCOC is well on its way of becoming self-sustaining. I would hate to lose that momentum.

In His Service,
Roberta

April 9, 2017

11 Apr

Greetings from Zimbabwe,

Today, Palm Sunday, could not be more glorious.   The sky is a beautiful shade of blue with fluffy white clouds leisurely floating along. A soft breeze is blowing and I am looking at an African landscape, with green hills in the distance. It is so quiet and peaceful. This is not so throughout the world. I feel very blessed to have this experience. So many people have come by to ask, “Do you remember me?” Unfortunately, I don’t always remember. They change as they grow up. I think back and wonder how many lives have been changed by the work of HCOC. Young adults tell me their stories. Many stories have happy endings but not all.

At 5:00 am on Tuesday morning we left for Harare. Tafadzwa’s baby was scheduled to be at the hospital by 7:30 a.m. It was still dark at 5:00 a.m. and driving on these roads is a challenge at any time and especially in the dark. It took us one hour to drive 35 km (22+ miles) to the hard surface road. We were all exhausted by the time we reached a decent road. The story doesn’t end there. Beauty spent hours going from one department to the next trying to find where the baby was to be. The end of the story is nothing got done and she has to repeat the trip in another week. I can’t tell you how good the baby was from all of the moving around. It was the rest of us that were exhausted.

Clive and his assistant from Harare Institute of Technology put on a two day workshop this week here at HCOC. The workshop was focused on Organic Farming. The first day was primarily lecture and some power-point presentations. In the end, those in attendance had to draw a picture showing how they plan to begin putting the things they learned into practice at their own homes.

The second day focused on various types of composting and ways of building compost bins. The last part dealt with worm composting. Clive had brought 5 kg. of worms to begin a compost bin. I am anxious to see where this goes. It is very difficult to start something new that is unfamiliar to the average person. I am glad I will be here for a while to observe what happens.

There were about 25 people or so who attended the workshop. Many of the staff were present as well as members of the community at large. Albert is using this as a way to begin introducing the community to the raising of Moringa. He wants them to know about organic farming for the future of this project.

One of the farmers in attendance was 88 years old. That age is not common in rural areas. He had walked some distance to be able to attend the class.

There are many Moringa starts in the greenhouse ready to go into the field. I am curious to see how they plant them after the workshop that has just taken place. Chris has to replace many trees that flooded out during the terrible rain storms the last several months. Clive recommended some things they could do to provide better drainage. The possibility of having such a rainy season again soon is highly unlikely. It has been nearly 70 years since they have had such rains.

These two pictures are from the poultry project. Through the USADF grant, HCOC was encouraged to begin water harvesting. As a result they have put eave troughs along the bottom edge of the roof of the poultry runs. The down spout drains into a trough that runs along the side of the building and eventually dumps into a tank.   The tank is 12 to 16 feet deep and this tank is full of water as a result of the heavy rains this year. Water from this tank can be used for irrigating gardens nearby. Another possibility is that they can stock this with fish. The fish can be sold to the local community and also be used in the feeding program for the orphans.

I have recommended that they use the water for irrigating crops at the moment. I don’t think it wise to begin too many new things at one time.   Fish can be added as they become better at composting and cropping. I am very pleased with the progress they have made in the past year.

I have had a number of boarding school students come to see me. School term has just completed and they are on Easter break. It is fun to meet some of the students that Renewed Hope is paying Boarding School Fees for. I am happy to report that the students that I have spoken to are doing well in their studies. I find any low marks are usually in Shona and English.

I am out of space and so will bring this letter to a close. Please pray for these children who have no one to care for them. With your support we can continue to send them to Boarding Schools for their higher education. It is preparing them to face the future.

In His Service, Roberta

April 1, 2017

4 Apr

Greetings from Zimbabwe,

We’ve had no rain since last Saturday, March 25th. This morning dawned bright and sunny with not a cloud in the sky. Normally, the rains taper off this time of year.

Monday morning before we left to take Susan to the airport, we made a short visit to the Secondary School to see the student assembly before class. We had an opportunity to meet all of the staff and paid a short visit to some of the classrooms. The picture on the right is of the school garden. The teacher explained that the students are studying the most efficient way of watering the garden. They have different small plots set up. In each plot they use a different method of watering and then compare yield and appearance of the plants. I assume the produce will go to the kitchens for feeding the orphans.

Maud came to see me yesterday. She wanted to thank me again for the quilt that I gave her recently. She is so happy.  One would never know how seriously ill she was nine months ago.

We discussed the possibility of her returning to school. She indicated that she would like to do that. We discussed her not having a birth certificate, which is necessary for her to have in order for the ZMP to pay her school fees. I will look into how we might go about getting that document. Both her parents are deceased and she is living with her grandparents who are both elderly. That seems to concern her a lot.

Trosky came to see me yesterday, also. You may remember my writing about him a couple of years ago. He had come here from Botswana, where his father had brutally beat him and nearly killed him. A donor provided for his school fees and a uniform and we registered him in the Secondary School.

He wanted to proudly show me that his uniform now represents a top student at the school. Outstanding students wear white shirts or blouses to identify them from the rest of the student body. He was all smiles yesterday and very talkative. He wants to become an Advocacy Lawyer. A couple of years ago he would hardly look at anyone and was extremely thin. Your donations are making a big difference in the lives of these children.

Friday, Don Hativagone, past president of the Rotary Club that Albert is a member of came to HCOC. He brought with him Clive Nyapokoto a professor at Harare Institute of Technology. Clive’s specialty is Organic Technology and he has his PHD. Clive is extremely knowledgeable about organic farming and processing. He says he began experimenting with organic farming in his dorm room at Boarding School. Now he travels all over the world lecturing on Organic Farming. He will return to HCOC next Thursday and Friday for the first of several workshops. He wants to train the workers on the process of building compost and use of worms. He will teach the workers how to catch the liquid from the compost and use it as fertilizer after it is diluted. I am looking forward to this. Finally, I feel we are moving forward.

Saturday, Godfrey came to the house to get me. He wanted me to come and see all of the orphans that had come to help begin the maize harvest. A little over 100 children had come to work. About one third of the children were Secondary School Students. The rest were Primary School Students. Twelve Orphan Care Givers had come as well to help supervise the children. The children began their work at about 9:00 am. It was nearly time for lunch and they were taking a break. I thanked them for all their hard work. I told them how much I appreciated their help. All of them were hot and tired. After lunch it would be time for them to go home.

As I close this letter, I ask that all of you pray for these children. Life here is very difficult, especially for the children who have no family. God does answer prayers. I have seen examples of this since I have been here.

In His Service,

Roberta