Tag Archives: Shona

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

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