Our planned field trip to Zimbabwe took on a new dimension when an email came through from Ezelle Schimper, our hostess and the overseer of the AFADU projects we are creating, asking us to organize a quantity of red, golfing shirts in large sizes with embroidered pockets. With the help of South African supporter Moira, who visited with the AFADU team in 2005, we procured the shirts and the next email followed.
“””””It is really wonderful. We are going to let the cat out of the bag as we cannot keep the secret any longer. We have arranged for the official opening of Lirhanzo while you are here so that you can share the special day with us. It is big, with high officials and all. Lots of people! The shirts are needed for the top officials as that is normally the custom at such a function here.
There, I said it!
After eleven long years filled with blood, sweat and many tears, Ezelle’s dream of opening a purpose built, culturally appropriate children’s home for at least a few of the thousands of children who have lost their parents to HIV/Aids is finally becoming a reality!!
THE TEAM ON THE WAY FROM OZ TO AFRICA
VIA THE SOUTH POLE!
Once we arrive at Edenvale Ranch, we are whirled up in the planning and organizing of such a large and important community event. Everything has to be perfect as local MP’s, Zimbabwean government ministers, Chief Chitanga and representatives from local church groups and health and medical services have been invited to attend. Numbers swell to 400 when friends, family,” New Farmers” from the nearby communities and of course the children are added up. Catering arrangements are not a small matter and even our AFADU field trip participant, Alison, (the kiwi component) has been seconded to work with the kids in the choir !
ALISON WORKING WITH THE CHOIR
Our Toyota Land Cruiser is seconded over the next few days to help pick up chairs and the cooking pots from various schools, church centre’s and youth organizations from the Chikombedzi community and take them to the Lirhanzo Children’s Village where the festivities will take place. At the same time Julie Routledge, the founder of AFADU, Delphine Archer who has been donating the Olea, Olive Leaf Extract for the kids immunity and Margaret Mutero, who has been working with Ezelle since 1999 and is now responsible for the day to day running of LCV, drive to Masvingo, 2 to 3 hours north, to pick up a new orphan from the local hospital and 360 litres of local beer. This Chibuku will be drunk by the local community after the official opening!!! Meanwhile, Christo, Ezelle’s husband, oversees the slaughtering of the many beasts necessary to feed the invited guests.
MAXWELL AND THE KIDS HELPING WITH THE SEATING ARRANGEMENTS
MARGARET PICKING UP THE BEER
SLAUGHTER DAY AT EDENVALE
JULIE AND DELPHINE WASHING THE GLASSES
SCRUBBING THE COOKING POTS
The long awaited day finally comes and we make the 20 minute journey from Edenvale along the dusty and potholed Chikombedzi road. At the turn off, a stone cairn with a brightly sign written “Lirhanzo Children’s Village 3.7 KM” is now proudly in place. As we drive the last few kilometres our vehicle passes donkey carts filled with smartly and brightly dressed local families all heading in the same direction.
PAM HITCHING A LIFT AT THE NEW SIGN
At LCV we find a Marquee in place with tables strewn with vividly colored bougainvillea. The children are busting with anticipation. Food preparation has begun and the open fires have huge pots of bubbling aromatic stews and sadsa, the staple African maize dish that is served usually at every meal. Chairs have been specifically placed around a large quadrangle, which has been immaculately swept and dampened by the local ladies to keep the African dust to a minimum.
COOKING THE SADSA, JULIE HELPING
In the marquee, Ezelle, Christo, Margaret and the VIP’s will sit and on the left and in front, invited guests who have assisted along the way to bring the project to fruition. On the right, in front of the play area and jungle gym, all the children who are now at LCV, the high school orphans who live in town and those doing tertiary courses in cities further afield who have returned for the big day will stand.
As more and more people arrive, Clifford, one of these tertiary students who is presently studying to be a motor mechanic in Chiredzi, passes out the official program to the guests. The VIP’s arrive, suitably late, which we are told is the custom. At the back of the seated guests, the “new settlers” who in the past showed so much opposition to the project are now there in their hundreds to show their support, beaming and excited.
THE ASSEMBLED CROWD
One hour after initially planned, the dignitaries are in place and the proceedings begin with the children singing “Welcome to Lirhanzo”, a song especially written for the occasion. The Master of ceremonies, Mr. Sibanda, who very proudly told me of his son who is working as a GP in South Australia and his grand daughter who is also studying medicine in Australia, does an excellent job of translating all speeches from Shona to English or from English to Shona so that everyone understands.
MARGARET, EZELLE AND THE VIPS CHEER THE CHILDREN
THE AFADU CONTINGENT, PAM, JULIE, ALISON AND DELPHINE AT THE OPENING
(JEANS WERE NOT AN OPTION FOR THE DAY)
As Founder, Ezelle’s speech acknowledges each individual, government and community group for their support in arriving at this day. She speaks eloquently and misses no one. Christo her husband, Martie Pepys her best friend and Margaret Mutero are singled out as her staunchest supporters. I look around as she finishes and watch everyone clapping and cheering. Between speeches the children entertain with long rehearsed songs, poems, dances and plays and even the local community woman entertain us with a traditional dance.
LOCAL COMMUNITY LADIES DANCING
BLESSING GIVES AN OSCAR WINNING PERFORMANCE!
The beautiful brass commemorative plaque was then unveiled by the Guest of Honour, Dr. Stamps, Health Advisor to the President.
The Lirhanzo Children’s Village
10 June 2010
—- but with God all things are possible
As the formalities wind up, the older children dressed smartly in white shirts and striped waistcoats begin to serve the guests. The food is sensational. At the back of the quadrangle the local farming community have cooked their own huge pots of sadza and beef stew provided for the day. Plates are piled high and many have never seen such a feast. The men start drinking the chibuku, the dancing begins and you hear them all agree what a wonderful project it is.
IN THEIR UNIFORMS (Sarudzai holding baby Gift)
OLDER GIRLS SERVING SADSA, RICE……… AND AN ASSORTMENT OF DISHES TO DIE FOR!
LOCAL FARMERS ENJOYING THE BEER
That such a shift in thinking has manifested to finally allow this day makes me think that Ezelle’s naming of the village, Lirhanzo, which when translated means “love” in the local Shangani dialect, has in some small way united this amazing and now vibrant community.
THE KIDS, OFFICIALLY NOW AT LCV