One special bloke

December 16th, 2008

 

There are just some people out there that are purely, modestly and consistently generous with their time and money when it comes to AFADU…. I could be describing all of our volunteers and supporters actually.

 Pammie admires Bernie\'s fabricsPammie admires Bernies fabrics

There’s one chap, though, that kind of stands out in my mind. He has opened up the doors to his fabric warehouse for as many years as I can remember. It’s Bernie from Caesar Textiles in Marrickville. Bernie, if you’re reading this, just know that we think you’re the BEST. At least once maybe twice a year we call up Bernie and say ‘Hey! How bout it? Anything to donate?’. Without a fuss he obliges. His only concern being that we’d be OK to come and pick up the stuff! Heck yeh, Bernie!

 So we head out to Marrickville making sure we have a truck ‘big enough’ as instructed by Bernie, and we collect…and not just metres here and metres there. I’m talking about rolls upon rolls upon rolls. When the Batsirani Sewing Group first kicked off in 2005, we went to Bernie and asked for some fabrics that the woman could use to make school uniforms.

 Since that he’s opened up his warehouse doors to us countless times. I just rang Bernie today to ‘hit him up’ for more fabrics and told him how well BSG is doing and, can he help! Genuinely interested and not in any way being fanatical about it, he’s says… ‘Sure. Id rather it go to good use that not.’ Then he says, ‘Actually, would they be interested in stuff like office furniture, filing cabinets etc?’. When I tell him that they are about to embark on building a factory and show room and that office furniture would come in handy, he modestly replies ‘well that’s great then!’….and we go on to have a chat about the state of the world and the financial crisis and its effect on trade….as if that fact that he has potentially decked out the office for the new BSG building and supplied a good chunk of fabric that would last at least 6months is not a big deal.  What financial crisis?? I’m keen to ask him!

 Modest in every way this man, I’m not actually quite sure he really knows how much of a difference he is making. Bernie, we think you’re tops!

 Thank you from the bottom of you hearts.

 

 

 

 

 

Aussie Nurse .. Kelly.. checks out the wheat at LCV

December 16th, 2008

 

Kelly takes a visit to Lirhanzo Children’s Village to find lots of wheat having been harvested. The community are all enjoying the harvest especially the kids. 

 

 

 

 

Congratulations to our Pammie…Australian of the Year Finalist

November 19th, 2008
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Our Pammie has been nominated for the Australian of the year award 2009. She is one of the four finalists in the Northern Territory. A massive acknowledgment of who she is…her selflessness and tireless work to help others.
Congratulations Pammie…We love you!
Read the below excerpt from the National Australia Day Council website or go to http://www.australianoftheyear.org.au/pages/page464.asp
………………………………………
Northern Territory Finalists 2009
Australian of the Year Finalists 2009

Pam Harrison
Nurse and philanthropist
Pam Harrison is a dedicated senior registered nurse who has been raising funds for the Lirhanzo Children’s Village for AIDS orphans in Zimbabwe, sourcing medical and educational supplies in Australia and arranging their transport through South Africa. Pam’s fundraising efforts have helped build sections of the school and fund water projects. She was integral in organising essential pharmaceuticals for the local hospital and secured regular funding for doctors’ salaries. Pam demonstrates that one person can make an enormous difference in the seemingly overwhelming problems facing Third World countries like Zimbabwe.

Batsirinai Sewing Group expands their market into South Africa…

November 12th, 2008

The amazing women of BSG have obtained a new contract to produce school uniforms for schools on the border of South Africa and Zimbabwe. This will provide new and much needed income in SA Rands to boost the project and at the same time providing their ongoing contribution to LCV, its orphaned children and carers.

 

The water project provides food for families….

November 12th, 2008

Villagers pump directly from the river onto the fields near the river…producing their second crop being wheat this year and corn last year.

There are two tank stands erected – one at the river irrigation group and one at the village irrigation group. The pipe connections are complete and water can now reach both sites of irrigation.

A resident AREX (Agricultural Extension) officer now lives at LCV.  He is there courtesy of the government and earns a tiny salary from Government.  The officer guides and trains the community in all aspects of agriculture.  He regularly meets with the community and encourages them to realise the importance of the whole project for their families.  They are used to their old Shangani ways, which does not include agriculture since they were hunters.  The first maize seed purchased in South Africa as it was not available in Zimbabwe at the time, was planted on dry lands instead of at the irrigation because of good rains in December.  However, the rain did not fall enough later in the season and many villages in the project lost their crops due to drought when the plants were half mature.  At LCV the two groups however did harvest some of the maize. The political interference also played a big role in slowing the process down with political figures telling people that they would not own the crops once planted.

After much training from the Arex officer, the villagers realise the value of having water at their disposal and obtained wheat seed from the government programme, miraculously and the two groups prepared their fields. The project group members put a traditional type fence around their field using local trees shrubs.  This is however not permanent of nature and the groups hope to find a kind-hearted donor to help the fence the fields.  The seed was planted in June as a winter crop and they are growing well.  At the river some vegetables are also being grown. 

Challenges have been…. weakness in the fence allowing some cattle to wander into the fields at night and graze the green wheat to the ground. The groups have now assigned duties to each member and are becoming more responsible for the project.  Many of the villagers are illiterate and it takes time for them to learn and understand, but they are progressing and benefit from their hard work.  At the moment LCV is providing all the fuel for pumping until such time as the group members can make an income to contribute towards the purchase of fuel.

 

 

 

 

 

Success story from one side of the world to the other!!

November 11th, 2008

Pammie from Hamilton Island Australia writes:

“Thought my friends at RBMC, Darwin, might like to see that our old mattresses arrived safe   and sound and no doubt will be put to very good use at the hospital. Great to also see the bicycles 


 

 

 

 

which are a Godsend over there!

We will look forward to hearing more feedback as there were thousands of dollars of dressings and medical equipment collected and sent from the Northern Territory, Australia T. Thanks to my hard working counterpart Peter in Sydney.

The container also contained 5 cartons of bras donated from last years Breast Cancer Awareness campaign. Bet there will be a lot of desperately needed laughs in Zim!

The container arrived on Saturday night and was offloaded on Sunday.

From Ezelle and the gang in Chikombedzi:

“ A BIG THANK YOU TO ALL WHO HELPED AND DONATED!!

Ian the AFADU container coordinator, especially thank you to you and your team both in Australia, Singapore and South Africa for arranging everything, In the difficult times we are in, everything in that container means more than you know.

Love you all from us all in Zimbabwe.”

Loveness, My Dream to be a designer

September 22nd, 2008

 

Waking up early in the morning, I do not know what to do since I have finished my schooling.  I am not clever enough academically, but I will use my hands.  I want to be a dressmaker.  There is a lady that I know who can change my life.  I am joining Batsiranai Sewing group, which was initiated by Patricia Cuciti (now Mrs. Pagorer).  You cannot believe I am the same girl that you knew two years ago.  I hope to be a well-known dressmaker of Chikombedzi community, even as far as Chiredzi, my nearest big town.

 

I dream to become the popular designer of the Masvingo Province.  I wish if my parents were alive to see the gift, which they never knew I have.  I want to thank a few individuals like Julie, Pam, Jenny not forgetting Patricia for all they have done for us to have such a project.  By the way my name is Loveness, I am one of the older girls at the village. Thank you for your love 

 

 

 

 

Diary Entry Friday July 20th 2008

August 16th, 2008

It is 8am and I am sitting under the great mahogany tree drinking my second cup of coffee for the morning. I look up, but the squirrels are no longer living in the tree and I remember the pesky, little, rusk addicted rascals who used to appear from nowhere when the tea bell rang. Chickens are pecking across the green lawn which was parched, brown dirt when we were here last. I am dazzled by the brightly coloured bougainvilleas which are creeping up some of the more established trees on the other side of the yard and from here I hear the pigs squealing. They live in the sty next to the farm vehicle which finally fell apart and seems to shrink each time we visit, as more and more of it is used for spare parts.

On the far side of the road I can see the gardener working in the vegetable garden just near the little hut where he sleeps at night to protect his valuable charges. This year because of the good rains there is an abundance of green leafy veggies and big fat tomatoes and after each serve we are given, I can almost feel the boost of vitamins and minerals from the home grown produce, racing around my body. Our beautifully prepared meals planned by Ezelle and cooked by Juanita and the girls, are as usual nutritious as well as absolutely delicious!

JULIE, JUANITA WITH CAP, JULIANA STANDING AT BACK AND CRESINA SITTING

Happiness’s father has now wheeled him in the doll’s pram to the middle of the lawn where he proceeds to rake the fallen leaves. The nine month old baby is placed lovingly on the ground and now crawls on the lawn and makes contented gurgling sounds as he watches his father work. He is an unusual man. After losing his wife, not long after the baby was born, he didn’t abandon him but arrived late one night at Margaret’s house in Chikombedzi, desperate and begging for help. He had been turned away by the Social Welfare Department in Chiredzi. The baby was totally malnourished. Margaret brought him and the child whose name was “Tears”, to the farm where they have lived since, however, Ezelle insisted on changing the child’s name to celebrate their change of circumstances. He is now known as Happiness who was known as Tears! They say his father is almost ready to look for another wife and I wish him well. He is a good man.

9 MONTHS OLD, HAPPINESS IN THE DOLL’S PRAM WITH HIS 3 YEAR OLD BABY SITTERS —- BUT DAD ISN’T FAR AWAY!

From the trees I hear the birds twittering and from the school room, where Ezelle and Marty home-school Nanelle and Ludwig, who are awaiting their university entrance results and little Victor who is only 14, I hear piano music. There is a sense of peace in this yard which is bizarre when you consider what’s happening outside. I finish my coffee and am ready for another day a special one at that for the pre-schoolers as today is Friday!

Ezelle has introduced ACE, “Accelerated Christian Learning” a system founded in Louisville, Tennessee in USA, into the little school room and the children are “firing.” Esnath, Naison, Hope, Reggie, the twins Amos and Annah, along with Esnath’s little sister, the effervescent Sipepisiwe, are all doing well. Ndazi and Blessing, two of the guardian mothers teach them under Ezelle’s expert guidance and although a couple of the “littlies” are considered slow, having been born to a Mum with an obvious mental disability, they also are improving. Reggie is always top of the class!

All the children have their own jar and each time they do something well the teachers deposit a coloured token into the jar. It is a leveling system and even if a child has just sat quietly for a few minutes, or read the whole page of a book, they still get an additional token for their jar. On Friday afternoon Ezelle goes in and counts all the tokens and then the kids get their rewards, however, on this Friday as the Chikombedzi High School and Primary School have been shut down for another fortnight until after the “Election” is over, the older children have been brought from town and with us, are now crowded into the tiny room.

The excitement builds and much is made of each child’s special achievements which have been documented by the teachers. One by one, Ezelle gets each child to come out front, count their tokens and work out for themselves what they would like to buy from the shop, the lolly shop of course!

 

SIPEPISIWE AT THE SHOP

 

CHOICE MADE!

Eight tokens may buy eight individual lollies at one point each, or two lollypops at four points each. The elusive chocolate frog, at twelve points, stays in the shop as no one quite manages to get enough points to buy it, but, there is always next week. The older children cheer them on and help them make their decisions and once the official part of the afternoon is over everyone gets an extra lolly, including Louis who has been filming the festivities. The kids think his antics are funny and all laugh at him.

We have brought in presents for Esnath and Alfred whose sponsors live in Darwin. Esnath takes it all in and is delighted with her new pyjamas and trinkets and is very interested in the photos that my friend Angie has sent of her own 3 girls who regard Esnath as their “African sister.” Alfred is always so shy but this year we get a huge smile out of him when he sees his new clothes. He puts on his jacket and relishes its warmth!

 

ESNATH IN NEW PJ’S LOOKING AT HER SPONSORS

 

 

ALFRED IN TRACKSUIT WITH PHOTO OF EMMY AND VANESSA

When all the excitement settles down, the kids sing for us sweetly and melodically. They are never shy when they perform and get great joy from the experience, as we do also. They are amazing!


KIDS SINGING IN THE PRE-SCHOOL ROOM

Diary Entry June 13th 2008

August 16th, 2008

We stayed again only 5 minutes from the airport at the Metcourt Laurel. This motel, the only place I have been in Johannesburg is attached to the Emperor’s Palace a bizarre casino complex which is totally over the top and advertised, rightly so, as “a place like no other.” In the attached food mall with the giant Statue of David plonked in the middle of the walkway and where the entire area is covered with a blue roof, painted to look like night sky, we eat fish and chips then crash out after the flight from Sydney which has left us all exhausted.

Early next morning Joseph is waiting for us again and has our paperwork ready to sign for the Toyota Hilux Duel Cab we are renting from him. Having owned an AVIS agency for many years and having learned how to avoid trouble, I am always amazed that Joseph is trusting enough to let two ladies in their 50’s along with the usual menagerie of dodgy souls, take his vehicles into Zimbabwe, an area which each year seems to become more and more dicey!

He gives us a hug, waves us off and Jules, Louis and myself find our way out of the casino complex and onto the road north.

By mid afternoon, after an uneventful trip we are approaching the township of Louis Trichhardt or should I say Makhado, as so many of the old Afrikaans names are now being replaced by African names. We ring Ezelle and arrange to meet her at a modern shopping centre on the highway and after the initial excitement of seeing her again and introducing her to Louis we help her organize the supplies we will need to live on for the next few weeks. We then drive onto Messina and out to Motombo Lodge where I have booked some cheap and cheerful accommodation for the night. As we now have two vehicles I accompany Ezelle and am able to start catching up on 2 years of news that was unable to be shared during our brief emails.

She looked amazingly well, so unlike our last visit when she had been recovering from a bout of malaria which had hit her for six. Louis had imagined her to be a middle aged school marmish type, complete with bun and was taken back when he was introduced to this attractive, charming woman in her early 40‘s.

EZELLE

Next day we drive back into Messina, the last town in South Africa before the border and find that the town is thriving. There is a huge SPAR supermarket that would rival anything in Australia and it is packed, Ezelle says, with Zimbabweans who still have buying power and who have empty shelves back home. She tells us there is absolutely nothing to buy in any of the southern towns and relates the story of the shopper who went into a shop in Chilombedzi and wanted to buy the shelving. When told it wasn’t for sale the shopper got quite upset because “they were on display.” Again she laughs and I find her ability to do this amazing.

 

 

SIGN SEEN IN MESSINA, SOUTH AFRICA

After a few last minute purchases we head for the border. This will be my third crossing and I must admit I am a tad anxious and wonder what our fate, this time will be. We go through the South African side with ease, however, there is the usual long line of cars on the Beitbridge side. This time we avoid the lads from “Border Assist”, the touts and outright crooks who for a fee and a large one at that, expedite the crossing process and with Louis and I inching each vehicle forward through the lines and Ezelle and Julie, filling out paperwork and lining up and paying all the usual import duties, car and carbon taxes and and sorting the passport requirements all of a sudden we are through. More to the point we are still alive as Louis, despite warnings, has insisted on filming with his movie camera to fill in time! I say, what about our passport stamping and am told it has been done for both Louis and I without them sighting us!!! All of this completed in less than two and a half hours and Ezelle claims it is “the best crossing yet”

The trip north is smooth and a delight for me as we continue to catch up on the gossip. We stop for a coffee, which costs us 5 billion dollars at The Elephant and Castle, a road house at Bubi Village, then head for Mwenezi. We are waved through two road blocks, myself feeling greatly relieved before we turn off the highway and I  start to now relax.

 

 

5 BILLION DOLLARS FOR 4 COFFEES

Ezelle tells me about the children and we talk about Kirri and Rudo who have both passed away this year, after years of battling HIV/Aids. I think of Rudo who told me last time I visited that she wanted to be a policewoman when she grew up! We talk about the “present situation.” and how it is affecting not only themselves but the people who are living in the community and who continue to suffer because of the decisions being made. She tells me about our friend Chris who lived and worked on a game farm on the main road but who no longer has a job and had just had his house commandeered. He was in the process of getting his belongings to the farm until he made some decisions about what to do next, but because he had been a little tardy there is now a warrant out for his arrest.

She also tells me about the new owner of the Mwenezi Ranch, the third largest land holding in Zimbabwe. This farm borders Edenvale and Ezelle says rumours are flying about the owners future plans for a huge game park which will be built soon. The new owner is rumoured to be Billy Rautenbach and when I return to Oz I check his credentials on the internet.

It states he was wanted in South Africa on dozens of criminal charges and in a July decree that declared him persona non grata, the Democratic Republic of the Congo said it “acknowledges that the South African judicial authorities have been looking for him, to answer for cases of fraud, thefts, corruptions, violations of commercial laws, etc”.

Rautenbach, according to a DRC government statement, “had amassed a large number of mineral and other assets in the DRC during the civil war and subsequently”. His assets, (close to billions they say), were first obtained during the DRC‘s 1997-2003 war, under the Zimbabwe military’s Operation Sovereign Legitimacy (Osleg) in which over four million people died of “unnatural causes.”

The other rumour is that besides being a gun runner, he is a dear friend of Robert Mugabe and that the farm has been given to him for services rendered. He is a white Zimbabwean who has been given a farm, a very big farm! I wonder about all the white Zimbabweans who have had their farms taken away!

THE RIVER CROSSING

We arrive at the river crossing just on dusk and change the Hilux into 4 wheel drive. The river is beautiful as we drive through and the sun is going down which makes it even more spectacular. I am excited and as we drive up the bank into the farm it is fantastic to know we are here again in this little piece of paradise.

Kids and guardian mothers greet us shyly as it’s been two years since our last visit. We find the big bag of lollies which we have brought up from South Africa and everyone gets a little surprise before we get ready for tea. It is Shangaan chicken and it is delicious and this time I vow to get the recipe to take back home.

 A BIG SHY SMILE FROM ANNAH

 

Diary Entry 19th June 2008

August 9th, 2008

It is Jules birthday today. No time to give more than a quick hug as at 0700 we are leaving with Ezelle for Chiredzi. As hospital chairperson, Ezelle is representing the Chikombedzi Hospital at the monthly “meet and greet” being held at the Chiredzi Council offices. Margaret comes with us but she is not happy that we are traveling away from the farm and is uncomfortable and concerned for our safety all day.

                                                                                    

We stop just after the ford in the river where in 2005 I saw a flock of flamingos. I search in anticipation but they are not there. We photograph Louis beneath the enormous baobab tree which I estimate is over 110 feet around the base. It is ancient. As we near Chiredzi we decide to take the back roads, so approach the town through the sugar cane farms which remind me so much of Proserpine. It reminds me also that Greg, who we usually visit on these trips, to pick up sugar for the children is no longer there. Greg, a member of the Triangle Lions Club, and long term management at the Triangle Sugar Mill, emailed about 6 months ago and told me that he and his family were moving to South Africa as it was no longer safe for his young daughter to walk to the shop alone. The town itself is suffering and the neatness of the company houses and their attractively kept gardens where the bougainvillea flourishes have suffered and are looking sad and neglected!

Our effort to create less attention along the back road backfires, as we run into Zanu PF trucks filled with men who stare at us with hatred. They give us the closed fist hand signal which signifies they support Mugabe. Usually these trips away from the farm are so much fun but this time our relaxed and warmly given. “Aussie” waves to the people we come across are not given, in case they are interpreted wrongly as the open handed MDC (Member for Democratic Change) greeting. Margaret explains we are able to give a non-political thumbs wave but the spontaneity is no longer there, very few smile at us anymore and we end up not responding to anyone which I found sad.

We pull up outside an engineering works in Chiredzi to pick up a part for a pump which Ezelle has ordered. Margaret is mortified and refuses to come in as the workshop is owned by Gerry Whitehead who is one of the main MDC activists in the area. Gerry had his own farm, the Marakanga Ranch destroyed and taken over in 2002. The climax tragically ended with a dramatic shooting spree resulting in 2 witnesses and a game scout being shot dead.  Gerry is extremely agitated when we arrive. He has just received his 12th death threat and this time he says it is serious! He is organizing to get his wife Rose and grandchildren out of the country. Rose appears. Her skin is grey and she looks old before her time. We hug her but her fear is palpable!

Gerry likens the present position of being an MDC supporter in present day Zimbabwe as being close to being a Jew in Nazi Germany. He tells us about the Mayor of Bulawayo who had had his wife and child abducted on the previous day. They have heard that today the child has been returned in a traumatized state and they have found the mother dead. When we get home we are told that it was actually the Mayor of Harare’s’ wife who has been murdered. Rumors are every where and it is difficult to know exactly the truth!

At Ezelle’s meeting, someone has heard that she is campaigning for Simba Makoni, the leader of the Zanu PF group that has broken away from Mugabe and the hardliners. She bursts out laughing as she says the idea is ridiculous but the rumors still fly.

When we drop Ezelle at the Council for her meeting, we decide to visit Tore and Smithy Balance who are long term friends of Jules. Tore used to have a game lodge but that was many years ago. He is renowned as being one of the tireless and courageous “wild life warriors” who worked to save the black rhinoceros of Zimbabwe from extinction, due to relentless poaching. Until recently, his wife Smithy worked at a local private school teaching French but when it got to the point that her wages were no longer covering the cost of petrol to get there, she resigned.

The Balances now survive on handouts from their family and from the sale of the beautiful candle sticks and lamps Tore makes out of the magnificent Zimbabwean low veldt timbers that he sources from the bush. His company is called “Be Not Far” and each masterpiece has a tag which states that they have been crafted from deadwood destined to be burnt. It goes on to say, “The candle stick maker gives the wood new life as a bearer of light. As you look at these candlesticks reflect on the true Candlestick Maker. He chooses each of us who are also destined for the fire and delights in transforming us into the bearers of His light”

 In 2006 I bought two, very heavy pieces made of Zebra wood which I successfully lug back to Australia. This year I buy two more, of lighter timber, at totally inflated prices I am told by Margaret. It is all about self esteem and I am happy to leave the desperately needed Rand. I hear Tore organizing to go back to pay their pharmacy bill with some of the money. They have spent the morning taking their faithful and long term helper, Judith to the GP to get treatment for pneumonia. She also has TB and end stage Aids. When we last saw her she was a robust woman in her 50’s, living in her little hut at the back of the main house. Now Tore and Smithy care for her in the spare room and because she is now so frail they feed her, wash her and help her to mobilise when needed.

Tore talks for a couple of hours about the “present” situation and what he feels the outcomes will be. He thinks the people are almost ready for change and are becoming increasingly resentful of the vote rigging and compulsory voting that has swept the country. He tells us also of the local Zanu PF pastor who is actually campaigning with clenched fist from the pulpit of a local church. We tell him that as we drove to his place we passed the Chiredzi Police Station where we see a hundred or so uniformed police, assembled and getting ready to cast their “compulsory” vote. Local militia stood around with guns to expedite the process. We were told they were voting early so that they would be free on election day to encourage and “assist” others to vote for the ruling party.

Tore says that the plight of the Zimbabwean people can be likened to the plight of the Israelites. As a Christian, as well as an MDC activist he feels its time to be counted! We say our farewells to Judith, hug the Balances and leave.

We have arranged to meet my friend Agrippa who arrives at the Council Offices on one of the bicycles supplied from the NT Police lost property. When I heard that he was still living and working in Chiredzi I was delighted and surprised as we were told that he may have “border jumped” into South Africa. He looked well and his skin was clear and when I commented on how well he looked he told me that his latest test for HIV done at the New Start Clinic” was still negative. He proudly gave me a photo of his wife Violet, and beautiful new baby but was remorseful that some of the things that we had given him had been sold to raise money. I wondered if I would have done the same if circumstances were reversed and thought that I might.

 

His surprise was that he now has a small shoe factory just out of town and is making a living, converting old rubber tyres into manyeteros which are the local form of footwear. He has big plans for the future and wants to expand his factory and also build a bakery when things improve! On special occasions he still presents his plays to the general public and his love of acting is still burning bright but he explains that this way he no longer has to rely on donations from school children or mentors like me. He has letters for me from the other members of the group, Charles and Tawanda. In them they apologise for being unable to visit me and explain they have been “detained at base camp due to the situation.” Ezelle states that 300-400 youths have been rounded up  by the militia, against their will and have been threatened and intimidated to hand over their ID cards so that their votes can be manipulated. The officials are furious when they find that only 14 of the young men have ID cards as the majority is unaware when they were born and need a record of birth to obtain their official “identity” The majority can’t vote anyway.

                                                                                 

My meeting with Agrippa goes well although I am extremely conscious of the fact that we are being watched. It runs through my mind that he may also be spying for the other side so I am careful and choose my words carefully when I speak. I want to help financially but after a round table conference with Margaret and the rest of the group prior to seeing him, we decide that we can help him more by placing orders for shoes for the children. We work out that R200 (about $28.50) will be enough to buy 30 pair of shoes which still leaves Agrippa with a healthy profit. I give him R100 and tell him that when the order is ready he will get the rest from Margaret. He is delighted and thanks me and I tell him I am proud of him.

Before heading home we have one more job to do and we head for the local council building authority to get the plans stamped by the government authority responsible for the sewing factory, souvenir shop and café which is to be built on “future” prime real estate in Chikombedzi, on the corner of the road leading to the Gonarezhou National Park. The cost is 3.2 trillion dollars, on that day approximately $A700, but Margaret and Ezelle are ecstatic as they have been working for this for some time. The plans are stamped without further changes which is also a bonus. Now all we need is the money to build which comes to approximately A$210,000. A little thing like money has never stopped Ezelle and her dreams and we are already planning ways to raise it!

As we drive out of town we see Mrs. Chamuka waiting for the bus service to take her back home to the Makambe School where she is the head mistress. She is also our Batsiranai Sewing Project teacher and an old friend and we immediately stop and find her a seat in the vehicle. As she is older than Margaret, Margaret gives up her seat and gets in the back of the vehicle. On the way home she tells us that her school had been visited by Zanu PF thugs and they had been threatened with beatings if they didn’t vote for the ruling party. She stated that all the teachers “ stuck together like kangaroos” and we all laugh at her expression but hear later that it was only because the Catholic bishop from Bulawayo intervened that the threats and intimidation stopped and they were allowed to continue teaching.

Mrs. Chamuga earns Z$160billion net per month and on present day rates where a loaf of bread costs Z$2.5 billion she says that it has long passed where her salary  actually has any meaning. She now teaches to ensure that the 140 secondary children in her care do not grow up illiterate. Her own two boys are doing well and one is doing his final year medicine at University.

                                                                                      

 

We drive home and I am caught up in the wonder of yet another spellbinding African sunset. It is impossible not to click away to catch the perfect image! We make good time and Christo is relieved that we are home early and he doesn’t have to worry. Martie who lives with the Schimpers explains that Christo is like a broody hen and can’t relax until all the chicks are home to nest but we know his nerves aren’t good and are glad we don’t have to distress him on this occasion.

Finally we can relax and now can celebrate Julie’s birthday with the chocolate cake that Ezelle made especially for her the night before and the champagne and Amarula which we have brought up from South Africa for a special celebration such as this. It would be so easy to let the whole day get to you but they have taught me that life must go on and we drink up!