Friday, 21 May 2010
Moving to Zimbabwe
As some of you may have heard already, Kate and I have recently decided to move out to Zimbabwe later this year, where I will be taking up the post of Director at Hlekweni Friends Rural Service, near Bulawayo.
Hlekweni is a Zimbabwean Quaker-led charity that provides training in vocational skills, including sustainable agriculture, carpentry and early years education to young people from all over the country. It is doing crucial work to give people the skills to earn a living and support themselves and their families in a country which now has 90% unemployment and massive poverty.
Obviously this is a huge step for us as a family with young children. We have been very encouraged by Sheffield Friends who supported us with making this decision through a Meeting for Clearness. It is very important to us to know that we are going with the support of our Meeting, and with a continuing connection to Friends here. We don't know how long we will be at Hlekweni for, probably for several years, but we intend to return to Sheffield after that.
Hlekweni, and Zimbabwe as a whole, are facing enormous challenges. I was reassured by a recent visit that Matabeleland is a relatively safe and peaceful area of the country (certainly much safer than where we lived in South Africa in '97-8). Hlekweni is also very well known throughout the region. It has been running for over 40 years, with generations of young people graduating from their training programmes, which are highly regarded in the country. This means that it is seen as an asset to the country, and police and local authorities continue to be very supportive of its work.
There is also a primary school for local children on site, which Moya and Jonathan will be able to attend. One of the things that Kate and I most want for our children is the experience of sharing their lives with an African community, and having their consciousness shaped by those friendships and encounters. Moya is especially excited about the chance to live in Africa, learn a new language (Ndebele), make new friends and keep animals...
We very much want to keep in touch with all of our Friends in Sheffield and the rest of the UK while we are in Zimbabwe. Hlekweni now has broadband, and we can phone and even text(!) so we can keep up with each others' news (including this blog). Volunteers and visitors would also be very welcome. There is plenty of guest accommodation (including the house in the picture above), and a canteen for meals. Volunteer help is especially useful in the areas of permaculture, appropriate technology, education and play-work, arts and creative activities, conflict resolution (Hlekweni also runs AVP workshops), computing and finance, amongst others...