Tag Archives: Renewed Hope

Deanna’s Journal

6 Jul

When I returned home to the United States on July 3th, it was with mixed emotions. There is so much work to be done, I could have easily stayed in Zimbabwe much longer. At the same time, it was a blessing to be home with my family for the July 4th holiday. Especially in this country, it is important that we not take for granite the freedoms we enjoy, the sacrifices made for those freedoms, and the blessings we receive daily (like hot showers, indoor toilets, and a Starbucks on every corner!)
While Roberta made the sacrifice to travel to South Africa to bring back a much needed vehicle, Bill, Phil and I continued on with the work, and had some great experiences along the way. Now that I am back home, I would like to share a few of those experiences as a supplement to Roberta’s normal journal reports.

I began my trip by spending some time with members of the Presbytery of Zimbabwe. In particular, on my second day, I made a visit to Lekkerwater Primary School, a school that the Presbytery of Zimbabwe is going to be running, and hopes to make significant improvements to over time. For instance, currently water for the school is accessed by a bucket that is lowered down with a rope into an existing borehole; this is not a very good situation. The Presbytery also hopes to build a Boarding School on the site to provide better educational opportunities to the children.

That night I was hosted by Fred and Julieth Chigwida and enjoyed a traditional Zimbabwe meal. It consisted of sadza and relish with chicken (which was hand-chosen at the chicken project at Lekkerwater and brought home with us in the back of the car… I must say, I have never eaten a chicken that I shared a ride with first!).

As Roberta has already talked about, one of our major challenges has been transportation. But, with a challenge always comes opportunity! Bill, Phil and I have learned the public transportation system pretty well during our stay. We had the “opportunity” to ride in numerous different combies (vans that likely would not be allowed on roads in the US). We coined a phrase that went like this … “we can always fit 5 more people,” and they do in Zimbabwe! We often had more than 20 people crammed into 12 – 15 passenger size vehicles.

If we needed to go into Harare from HCOC, it typically took two combie rides, one to Murewa and a second from there to Harare. That meant hanging out at the local “bus station” in Murewa while Albert found a suitable vehicle. You can see Roberta waiting with a few other Zimbabwe women.

At HCOC (Heather Chimogha Orphan Care) the children loved interacting with Phil and we spent quite a bit of time with some of the teacher’s children that were always around. They were a delight!

We attended church with Godfrey Nyarugwe, who is the treasure for HCOC. The music was beautiful and the service, all spoken in shona, was very moving.

We visited many of the projects that have been started to help HCOC become self-sufficient, such as the gardens to support the feeding center, and the moringa grove, which hopes to be income producing in the future. While there is still a long way to go, a strong foundation is being built for that ultimate goal. Another good example is the poultry project where they currently had about 500 chickens ready for market, and had another 500 new chicks delivered. The baby chicks had to be picked up in Harare and transported back to HCOC using public transportation; can you imagine!?!

In getting into the rhythm of day to day life, we were reminded, that even just having water available can be a challenge. We discovered one day that the water tanks (where water is pumped to from the bore hole) were found empty. When we suspected there was the problem, Phil was the first to volunteer to climb up and confirm. The water level indicator, which showed the tanks were full, was not working, and indeed the tanks were empty!

On one of my favorite days, we met with many of the volunteer orphan caregivers that live in the community and provide care and support to the orphans. A meeting was held to discuss many issues, such as payment of school fees for the orphans, and encouraging the caregivers to bring the children into the clinic to be tested for HIV. Near the end of the meeting, a few of the caregivers raised their hands and wanted to provide testimony to how HCOC has made a difference in the lives of so many orphans, including one caregiver who told the story of Elvis. At 7 years old, Elvis was on his death bed. Through actions taken by Beauty (the nurse at HCOC) to coordinate care and transportation to numerous hospitals, the boy’s life was saved. He is doing well today!

In closing, I would like to take you on the journey that had the most impact of all during my stay; a day that we visited child-headed households. A child-headed household is one where there is no adult caregiver in the home, just the orphan, many times siblings, and sometimes and elderly grandparent who is actually being cared for by the orphans.

The first orphans we visited were Steven (17 years old) and William (15 years old). Both parents are deceased, one in 2005 and the other in 2009. The boys have lived alone since that time. Steven had dropped out of school in 2010 in order to care for his brother and to stay at home to guard food stored in their bedroom. The food didn’t even belong to the boys, it belonged to in-laws. Unfortunately, there are no locks on the door and theft is not uncommon. Additionally, as you will see by the picture, the roof on their rondoval (a typical structure in Zimbabwe, which serves as the kitchen and gathering area) is non-existent. On the day we visited, someone from the community had agreed to come and repair the roof. (You can see William standing at the doorway.)

The next orphan we visited was named Loveness (12 years old) and she takes care of her elderly grandmother who is blind and not well. They have only a small rondoval, no bedroom or other structure. It broke my heart when the grandmother was asked what her hopes and needs were, and she responded that she needed soap. Clearly they had nothing, and her request was so simple … “soap.” As Albert asked the grandmother and Loveness further questions about their circumstances and immediate needs, the grandmother added, “a place to sleep and some blankets,” she also asked for help with school fees for Loveness. Loveness was very quiet, and cried much of the time we were there. It was clear that she had no self-esteem and was on the edge of hopelessness. It was a very emotional visit for all. Albert, and the secondary school headmaster that was with us, took inventory of what they needed, provided instruction to Loveness of what she needed to do, and committed to getting them help. You can’t imagine how hard it is to just say goodbye and leave someone in that kind of situation. Loveness has been on my mind and in my prayers every day since that visit. While I know Albert will do his best, and HCOC can and will help, it’s just impossible to fully comprehend the desperate poverty that exists. As I write this, I am fighting back tears, again.

The last visit we made was to three siblings that lived together, Ishmael (18 years old), Brightone (14 years old), and Scholastic (7 years old). Both parents were deceased. In this situation, however, they had extended family living close by, including grandparents we met. Some support was being provided in the form of food and schools fees by the extended family. Albert tells me this is rare. When asked what they needed, the same types of requests were echoed: blankets, help with food and school fees, and medical assistance for the grandmother who said she was ill. The grandmother also asked for clothing to supplement the little they had been able to share with the children. She went on to thank Albert and HCOC for the help they had been receiving so far. As the secondary school headmaster talked to the children about the importance of going to school, the kids shared their hopes: Ishmael and Scholastic both want to be teachers and Brightone (I love her name, pronounced “bright-one”) wants to be a nurse. We had to hike to the place they lived, and as we started our hike back out to the vehicle that was waiting a little ways away, I noticed the family graveyard where both parents were buried; it was only yards from the orphan’s rondoval.

The needs here in Zimbabwe are real and pervasive. It’s hard to image without seeing it with your own eyes. I hope this supplement to Roberta’s normal journals provide yet another look at life at HCOC. While there are many survival and success stories, and good work is being done every day, there are even more needs and more children that are literally hanging on to the very edge of survival. I don’t think I’ve ever “seen” hopelessness before, but I did that day when I looked into the eyes of Loveness.

“Hope for the Orphans” is printed on our Elephant Rock Team Zimbabwe jersey; because of Loveness, that saying now holds a deeply personal meaning to me, and I hope to each person reading this journal.
Blessings, Deanna Heyn


Greetings from Zimbabwe: Roberta’s Journal 1

18 Jun

Greetings from Zimbabwe,

We are here Deanna, Bill, Phillip and myself!  It was a very long flight and we were all pretty tired when we finally arrived.  Flights were all on time and the flights were not full so we had extra space.  This was good.  Paul Neshangwa and his family were on the same flight with us from Johannesburg to Harare.  Albert was at the airport to greet us.  He brought two vehicles with him to haul all of us and our luggage.  We went straight to the Bed and Breakfast from the airport.

Wednesday was spent looking for a truck.  We looked at a Toyota, Nissan and an Isuzu.  Since we are an NGO we inquired about a Duty Free Price.  It appeared to make a difference of $8,000 to $10,000.  That seemed to be worth waiting to make our purchase.  It is involving some work on Albert’s part.  He has learned that it will be necessary for him to go to SA and make the purchase.  To get the Duty Free Clearance, we cannot buy a truck that is already in Zimbabwe.  Albert will have to drive it up from S.A. to Zimbabwe.  However, it is necessary for him to get all the clearances before he goes to S.A.  This is going to take some time.  We need reliable transportation now.

Sunday, Albert arranged transportation to take us to Nyahuni.  Two girls, Tracey and Petronella are being sponsored by one of Bill Jones’ daughter.  This was Parent-Teacher Conference Day and Bill wanted to meet the girls.  It was a special opportunity for us to meet a few of the teachers.  The girls were delighted to see us.  All of the teachers had nothing but praise for the girls.  They are both doing very well.  The Deputy Head indicated that Petronella stood an excellent chance of passing the exam for entrance to the University when the time comes.  I believe they both have the ability to pass the exam.

I mentioned that Albert arranged transportation to take us to Nyahuni Boarding School.  I need to explain that the transportation was one of the famous Combies.  We didn’t have to deal with many extra riders; we had more than a Combie load by ourselves.  In fact, Bill said that at one leg of the journey we had 16 people packed into a 12 passenger vehicle.  That was my first experience with Zimbabwe Transportation.

When we don’t have our own transportation, one has to rely on what is available.  Tuesday, Albert hired a private vehicle to take us to Harare.  That trip supplied another Zimbabwe experience.  We had a flat tire about 20 minutes out of Harare.  Guess what!  The jack was broken and the spare was a smaller tire than the rest on the vehicle.  After numerous attempts to flag down a passing vehicle, we did get some help and arrived in Harare safely.  Just another African experience!

The plan was for me to fly to S.A. and get the truck Ralph and I had.  Mr. Penny took me to the airport while the rest of our team went with Albert.  Mr. Penny and I made plans for him to fly to S.A. once the paper work is complete and drive back to Harare with me.  However, as I was going through security, they discovered that I had a lot of cash.  So I had to go to ZIMRA.  They were going to take anything over $10,000.  I asked how I would get it back.  They just smiled at me.  I told them that they couldn’t do that.  Fortunately, I could call Mr. Penny and he came back to the airport and I gave the extra money to him in front of ZIMRA officials.  Jeff, I am sure you can relate to this experience.

I am presently in S.A. with no further problems.  I am in the process of getting the paper work on my personal truck changed so that I can export it out of S.A. to Zimbabwe.  I will license it in Zimbabwe so that we at least have our own mode of transportation. Mr. Penny will bring the extra money with him when he flies down to meet me.

There never ceases to be new experiences every time I come to Zimbabwe.  Sometimes it is very exasperating.  All of my guests seem to be surviving.  They just roll with the punches.  We have all had some good laughs.  Bill and Phillip have been a big help and are enjoying the children.  Deanna’s time is short and so she is cramming in everything she can in the time she has.

In His Service,


October 5, 2011 Zimbabwe Students and God’s Blessings

5 Oct

Greetings from Zimbabwe,

Tomorrow Jeff and I need to go to Harare to take care of several bits of business. So I am going to put together a Journal to night. I am uncertain when we will be going back to town. However, some weeks the trips are rather frequent. So far we have driven 6,200 km since picking up the truck in SA. That gives an idea of the frequent trips to Harare.

Sunday, October 2, we traveled to Nyahuni Boarding School. Tracey and Pertronella, two orphans, are students
HCOC has been sponsoring there. Sunday was a gathering of friends and families for the end of the year awards
celebration. Tracy, the girl whose picture is on the left received three awards. She was the top student in her
grade in physical science, agriculture and commercial studies. We are so very proud of her.

Petronella, the girl in the picture on the right, was the top student in her grade level in Geography. It has been a struggle to find the money for school fees for these children but their achievements have been our reward. We are committed to providing for their schooling if at all possible.

We presently have three students attending Cheunje Boarding School. Those three students will be graduating at the end of this term. Due to the shortage of funds, there are no plans at this time to start any new students in Boarding School beginning the school year in January.

This has been a rainy week. It has begun to rain the last three evenings just after dark. This evening it is a gentle steady rain. Last night we had hard rain with wind and some hail. Normally this time of year we get scattered showers but not heavy rains. I guess the weather is changing the world over.

In spite of the rains the Well Drillers were able to do their work. The men and equipment arrived at HCOC about noon on Monday, October 3. They began drilling early afternoon and hit water at about 45 meters. The following day they continued drilling to 70 meters and continued to get some water. The final results are about 500 gallons an hour. It isn’t as good as we had hoped for but better than previous attempts. It certainly will provide for the crops that are soon to be planted.

Tuesday afternoon, the well drillers tore down their rig and Jeff led them to Guzha Primary School. We were not optimistic about the prospects of getting water. The hydrologist gave us only a 67 % chance of finding water. He thought the best we could hope for was enough water for a hand pump. Today, they continued to drill to 70 meters and continued to find more water.

The water was coming in so fast that the driller couldn’t blow out the borehole to install the casing. The casing that they were attempting to install kept breaking because the water and soil created too much pressure. It was necessary for them to call for a heavier casing. The final results were 2,000 gallons per hour. This is far beyond our wildest expectations. When we left the people were dancing and celebrating.

On Monday Trevor, the person that we will be buying the pumps from, will be coming out to HCOC. We had originally hoped to put in a solar pump at Guzha but he may advise otherwise. Guzha does not have electricity or any hopes of getting electricity in the near future. There are many decisions to be made and lots of work to be accomplished. Once we meet with Trevor, we will have a better idea of the time frame we are dealing with.

The picture on the right is the view outside our door this morning after the rain last night. The Jacaranda trees are in full bloom and the ground was covered in purple blossoms. I hated to see anyone walk on them but then
the goats were out and they love to eat the blossoms.

God has truly answered our prayers for good sources of water. Praise Him! We ask for your prayers as we make decisions next week. Our goal is to be God’s hands and feet in this place and to carry out His will.

In His Service,


September 25, 2011 Some Cuts are needed Due to Low Revenue

25 Sep

Greetings from Zimbabwe,

Some projects here are moving forward and others are at a standstill. Thursday, a large truck load of sawdust was delivered for bedding in the chicken run. The sawdust is free, there is only a charge for the trucking. We are going to have to figure out a way to store such a quantity. We won’t need it all at one time but as the batches of chickens are moved all of the bedding must be replaced.

Friday, we brought home 700 day old chicks. Jeff worried all the way about losing them. He had waited in the heat for nearly an hour for an order of food for the chicks. However, all was well when we finally arrived. The following morning they were all still alive. Albert was very pleased. Losing a few in the beginning is normal. The other batch of chickens is now six weeks old. They will begin selling those later next week. In three weeks we plan to purchase another 700 chicks. The goal is to have three batches of chickens at different ages going all of the time.

We have to make some tough decisions. It is the part of the job that I don’t like. Our revenue sources are not generating enough income to keep the Mission operating. The number of orphans has not changed significantly. Costs of operation have increased. We need to make some significant cuts somewhere. The chicken project is at the point now that it generates enough income to sustain it and also to produce some profit. I estimate that they will realize about $600.00 plus every six to eight weeks. But that will not cover all the expenses in other areas.

Some cuts we are considering are: No longer providing uniforms for orphans. This should save about $6,000.00 each year. We need to ship the clothing that ZMP has gathered as soon as possible so that these children will have something to wear.

1. School fees are another big expenditure. We have only been paying a portion of the school fees for a couple of years. Now that is even difficult. Schools have been encouraged to develop income generation projects that will help pay school fees of orphans. But even that takes money they don’t have.

2. We have recommended that outstanding students no longer be sent to Boarding School. So in January, the beginning of the school year, no new students will be sent to Boarding School. Some small groups at Church have supported these student in the past but donations for those fees have been slow to come and sometimes not at all. We presently have five students attending Boarding School. Somehow we want to be able to let them finish their O-Levels, which is equal to a high school graduation. It costs $1,500.00 per term for the five students. There are three terms in the school year.

3. One of our big expenses is petrol for the vehicles. We are asking the staff, who uses the vehicles, to use public transport wherever possible. Instead of using petrol for the vehicles to ferry water to the chickens, garden etc. we are considering buying oxen and a water carts for such purposes. The oxen will cost about $800. Presently a hand dug well close to the chickens is being dug. We are encouraged by the flow of water. It should produce enough water for the chickens.

4. Since the Sewing Co-Op will no longer be making uniforms for HCOC, I have been working with them on a business plan, so they will be able to continue to have an income. Unfortunately, many people in the community cannot afford to pay for school uniforms. So I am encouraging them to buy fabric and make other types of clothing that they can try and sell in Murewa or even Harare. They had already begun to do a bit of this. Some people bring their own fabric and the women make whatever they request. That way they charge for their time and a bit for maintenance of machines.

Some things never change…..We thought we had a well driller hired. When we called the driller, after the hydrologist had cited for wells, and he was booked up for a month. That would be after we were scheduled to return to the U.S. We have a different well drilled booked for next Monday, Oct. 3. Pray for us that we are fortunate and find good sources of water. We can’t schedule the pump installer until we know what kind of water supply we find. This delay has set us behind schedule and we may have to reschedule our return. It won’t be the first time.

In closing I ask for your prayers for Jeff and me. We need strength and wisdom to do what needs to be done here. I also ask that you pray that God will provide good sources of water where we drill. Without a good source of water, future expansion at the site is out of the question.

In His Service,


September 14, 2011 Zimbabwe Mission

14 Sep

Greetings from Zimbabwe,

Our gardener, Lovemore’s wife passed away a couple of days ago in Motoko. She had been in not good health for some time. More recently she had been in the hospital in Motoko. Yesterday, Mr. Bondeponde drove the big truck to go and pick up the body for burial at the family home. Mr. Bondeponde called at about 5:00 to say that the clutch had gone out on the truck about 10 km from the location they were to pick up the body. Jeff and Bryce had just come in from working all day. They were hot and tired and had not had dinner. So they drove with Albert to the township to see if they could hire a truck and driver to go and rescue the group and bring the body back. The rescue team left here about 7:00 and I understand that they got back here about 1:00 am. They towed the big truck back as well. So
it was not left on the side of the road to be vandalized. The funeral is today. Teachers have taken turns going to the home of the family. I put in a brief appearance because Jeff and Bryce were busy.

The guys have been busy working at the chicken run. The building was constructed earlier in the year. The openings were to be covered with chicken wire. However, the job was poorly done and it would not keep out varmints. We purchased a roll of new wire when we were in town earlier in the week. Jeff and Bryce have worked to get the job done correctly. They also purchased plastic canvass to cover the windows of the brooder building.

This group of chickens is doing very well and should be ready for market in less than two weeks. The brooder room is clean and ready for a new batch of day old chicks. Godfrey is ordering them today. Jeff and I hope to get them operating on a three week cycle of 700 chicks in each batch.

Yesterday afternoon a USAID truck arrived with a delivery of medicine for the HCOC (Heather Chimhoga Orphan Care) clinic. They are well supplied for several months. The only medicine that is not provided is medicine for ringworm and for Bilharzia. The medicine for Bilharzia is very expensive and works only if children are educated about staying out of polluted water. It is not easy to convince children to stay out of the water, especially when it is very hot.

Bryce left last Friday, September 16. It has left a void for me. I miss him terribly. He kept Jeff and I busy and on our toes. I had not realized how many traits that he has like Ralph. I only see him on brief visits in Houston and in Denver.

We have had a set-back. The well driller we used last year had told Jeff to give him three or four days’ notice and he would come and drill the wells. So when the hydrologist had completed his work and sent his report, Jeff notified the well driller that we were ready for him. Then we were told that he was booked for 30 days. So today we are in town to meet with another well driller. Hopefully he can get to us in a couple of weeks.

Jeff is also attending a Rotary meeting at lunch time. The club he is meeting with is the host club for this project. Perhaps they can help us get a reliable driller. In closing, I ask that you pray that we can find a well driller soon and that the drilling will be successful. Unfortunately, we are in an area where it is difficult to find water. We are going to be limited in our expansion if we cannot get adequate water.

In His Service,


September 04, 2011 Zimbabwe Journal

4 Sep

Greetings from Zimbabwe,

Our need for an ambulance was reaffirmed this afternoon. Late in the afternoon, Jeff was summoned to take a woman to the hospital. Beauty the nurse felt that she was having a stroke. Albert went with Jeff to the hospital. The road from here to the tarmac is very rough and so it was a long trip. It was after dark before they returned. Jeff says the road is rougher after dark. The woman was admitted to the hospital.

Bryce arrived yesterday morning, Saturday September 3. It was good to have him here after a very long trip. Bryce had worked all day Thursday at his office and then left at 6:00 in the evening to begin the long trip here, 34 hours of travel. He seemed to not be too tired because he had been able to sleep some on the plane.

After some errands, we returned to the mission. We found that there was no power. We have had no power since a week ago today. Without power we have no water either. The tanks at our house still had a small amount of water in them. Jeff started a load of his laundry and Bryce rigged the generator up to operate the washing machine. It worked fine but then we ran out of water. Can’t do laundry without water!! This morning Bryce hooked up the generator to the pump in the well.

Water is pumping into the tanks as I type this. The teachers want to turn on the big tanks but Bryce locked them down until the generator can pump enough water to get ahead of the demand that there will be. Soooo, Bryce has really been put to work.

Our biggest challenge at the moment is water. The garden at the expansion site is minimal because the amount of water available is very limited. Water has to be hauled from Nyamashato to the chicken project. This takes the time of someone who can drive. Albert still doesn’t have anyone to take Mr. Scott’s place. As you may remember Mr. Scott passed away last year.

When we made a visit to Inyagui, we learned that they were unable to start the generator to pump water. Bryce and Jeff worked on it and determined that the air filter had not been cleaned. They finally were able to start it by jumping it with the truck battery. Enough water was pumped to last for a few days until a new battery could be found.

Today, September 8, I rode with Bryce and Jeff to Inyagui School. The gardener was busy expanding the garden. The Headmistress told us that he is a community volunteer. He had told her that he wanted to help the orphans. We hope this sets an example for others in the community.

I suggested that the staff at the school (Inyagui) dig a pit at the water tank to catch the run off when people come to collect water. I also suggested that water used to wash vegetables and to do dishes could also be dumped into the pit. I told them that they could dip buckets of water from the pit to use in watering the garden. When Jeff and Bryce returned from there the other day they were busy digging the pit. They will brick it and cement the inside to hold the water.

It is 4:00 in the afternoon and we have just received a phone call from Albert. He is stranded in Harare. He and Godfrey had gone to town today to pick up things necessary for the Memorial Service for tomorrow and food supplies for the Feeding Center. On their way out of town, they heard a noise and stopped to have a look, only to discover that one of the front wheels was about to come off the truck. Jeff and Bryce have just left to go pick them up and bring the supplies back that they have purchased.

Friday, September 9th the Memorial Service for Ralph was held. People were everywhere. It was estimated that there
were 1,500 people who attended excluding children. People attended from the district offices as well as the people locally. Some of our friends from Harare also attended. Many spoke of the things that had been accomplished over the 15 years we had been coming to Zimbabwe.

Today, September 13, we are in Harare to purchase materials so that Bryce can construct some coverings for the windows needed for the chicken brooder. At present they are using plastic that flaps in the breeze and is pretty well torn up. I think they have to replace it every time they buy a new batch of chicks. This seems to be wasted money.

I hope to have an opportunity to send this before we leave Harare. I don’t always have a chance to
email when we are in town.

In His Service,


September 2, 2011 Arrive in Harare

2 Sep


Jeff and I arrived safely in Harare about 6:30 last night, Friday.  We stayed at the B & B that Ralph and I often stayed at.  The drive was long and tiring but had no truck problems.  Crossing the border went off in a fairly timely fashion.  However, there was one glitch that was overcome by my age. Ha! Ha!  Customs discovered that I only had four or five pages left in my passport and refused to give me a visa.  He insisted that I go to a US Embassy and get additional pages.  It was very obvious that most of the pages were filled with Zimbabwe Visas from past years.  SA had not found it a problem when we landed at Jo’bug.  After much talking and his scrutinizing my passport, he realized my age and finally gave me the visa.  He said I was older than his great granny.  In this culture age is respected.  Sooo old age does have its perks.

In a few minutes we will leave to visit Derek Forbes and drop off things we brought for people here in Zimbabwe.  Then Jeff and I will pick up some supplies and head out to school.  Getting the house opened is always a long stressful day.  I am glad that we both had a good rest last night.  Jeff was really tired after the long day yesterday.  The roads in Zimbabwe have not improved any.

Albert called yesterday.  Everyone at HCOC is anxiously awaiting our arrival.  I am afraid that is going to be a difficult reunion for me.

More later.

In His Service,