Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Christmas in Zimbabwe

While I was away on holiday (;)) Craig emailed me to say that things are going well except that their computer access is a little too slow for him to upload this himself. It was nice to arrive back to news of Craig and Hlekweni.

It was Graduation last week at Hlekweni and all of our trainees have left, so it feels very quiet with just the permanent community of staff and tenants here until the new intake in January. Moya and Jonathan have been helping the farm staff this week, as they are very short-handed when trainees are away. Moya especially has taken to manual labour in a big way, fetching water and happily plucking and gutting chickens. Today she came home proudly with a bag of chicken offal in return for her labours, which we will be cooking up for our Christmas dinner.

We have just discovered that Hlekweni has a library, which is open twice a week in term-time for trainees. It has a fairly random selection of very old and tattered books, but we were all excited by our find, as books are very scarce and expensive in Zimbabwe. While we were in there, a young teenage girl knocked on the door, asking if she could come in to look at the books. She was delighted to find 'Romeo & Juliet' and she sat poring over it until we had to leave. She is studying the play at school, but they don't have enough copies for the students to take home. There is a great book-hunger here. It is quite heart-breaking when little children come to our house asking 'please a book for reading'. Unfortunately the books we brought for Moya and Jonathan are too difficult for most of them, but we are aiming to build up the library collection if possible and make it more accessible to the community here.

Kate has been getting to know the local families by visiting all the houses with Angeline Ndlovu, our pre-school trainer. They have been discovering that many households here are caring for orphans, and have difficulty paying their school fees of £10 per term, so Kate is planning to set up a small bursary fund to support them. Angeline is also trying to organise the women of the community to help themselves. She has started with a Hlekweni netball team, but has plans for a small income-generating project, and she has asked Kate to help with getting it off the ground.

Through Steve Brooks, who was Interim Co-ordinator here earlier this year, we have also met some local activists from Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ). Gay people experience severe persecution in Zimbabwe, including eviction, violence and arrest, but a small community of activists are openly advocating for their rights with incredible courage. They are celebrating having organised Bulawayo's first ever Gay Pride march for Human Rights Day a couple of weeks ago, which was broken up by the police when they eventually realised what their 'proud to be pink' T-shirts stood for.

It is quite a relief to be in a country which doesn’t have shopping as top priority at this time of year. There is little to buy in the shops at any time and even less money to buy it with. Christmas in Zimbabwe is a time for visiting relatives in the rural areas and working in vegetable gardens. We now have our own vegetable plot in the back garden and are enjoying watching our spinach and tomatoes growing fast in the perpetual sunshine. Thinking of all our Friends in snowy Sheffield and sending our love at Christmas.

Sunday, 2 January 2011

As the Spirit moves us

On a good day, we may be fortunate enough to be moved by the Spirit. Not 'lucky' enough, or 'good' enough. It's not luck, not a lottery, just that we are in the right place in our hearts and minds, and for once, we listen. We can't earn it. It's not a case of, 'I'll sit here as good as gold. I've done all the right things, so come and get me, God, so I can know that I'm right and all the others are wrong.' It's a case of, 'On a good day, God, I can hear you. Tell me what you want me to do.'