I’m sitting at my desk with a hot water bottle inside my jumper, enduring the unexpectedly cold Zimbabwean mid-winter. The sun is shining as always, but there is a biting wind and of course no heating in the buildings so everyone is suffering and waiting for summer.
Hlekweni is completely full at last, with 107 trainees, including a group of 54 Shona-speakers from rural Masvingo Province who arrived in June. So we have become a tri-lingual community overnight (English, Ndebele and Shona). Needless to say, we had no idea that the June arrivals were all Shona-speaking until they arrived. For all of them this is their first experience of Matabeleland - for some the trip here was their first time on a bus. It feels quite significant that we are able to welcome young people from Zimbabwe’s different ethnic groups, which have a history of conflict, and that (so far) they are getting on well together and seem to be having a great time. They have started their own clubs for singing, drama, art and debating (!), with help from our new volunteer Jessica, a young Quaker from New Zealand, who is with us until December.
Our mid-week Quaker Meeting for Worship is becoming quite extraordinary. About 30 young trainees came last week. After about 15 minutes of silent worship a young woman started singing and everyone joined in. Then we had a flow of beautiful songs, interspersed with Bible readings in different languages, that went on until dinner time. All of it was unplanned and unorganized – the young people had got the message that Quaker worship is Spirit-led and just run with it.
The local children were delighted with all the new books donated by friends in the UK (there are some lovely photos on the website at: www.hlekweni.org). The school holidays are just starting here, and Kate and Jessica will be running another holiday club with games and crafts in the library.
Trying to manage Hlekweni continues to be a struggle - I generally feel like the ant that thinks it’s riding an elephant (ie the elephant has its own opinion… ). Half the farm has been burnt by wild fires over the last few weeks. It’s an eerie sight in the evening to see the horizon lit up by bushfires and palls of smoke drifting for miles. Jonathan has been quite worried that we are going to get burnt up, but no one else here seems too alarmed, which I’m hoping means it’s not dangerous. There certainly isn’t enough water to put out any fires - our water supply has been intermittent again, as the water table seems to be dropping steadily, and there’s no rain now until at least November.
Sending our love and do stay in touch – we really appreciate your emails, letters (and parcels!)