In May 2017 I was invited by Christian Aid and Commitment for Life ('C4L') to Zimbabwe to visit a number of partners in Harare (the Capital) and the districts surrounding Bulawayo (Southern Province Matabeleland). To be invited by C4L was truly humbling and I owe so much to C4L for reminding me that we truly are a worldwide church.
The group I travelled with consisted of: Robin Grey, Wessex Synod; Ruth Whitehead, Moderator of South Western Synod; Vuyisile Blessed Ndlovu, Christian Aid, Zimbabwe; John Plant, Christian Aid, UK; Charlotte Scott, Christian Aid, UK and Linda Mead, URC C4L Coordinator (left to right, opposite).
Our objective for the trip was to visit projects and collect stories from the villages and learn how C4L and Christian Aid have helped them develop their lives. There are so many stories I can tell you from the trip, of which I'll leave for tea and coffee after services (and look out for the Zimbabwe Christian Aid posters!), but just to give you an overview of how our trip planned out and who the partners were that we visited, a brief itinerary is as follows:
Day one: ZIMPRO, who have been in operation for over 30 years and a partner of Christian Aid since 1994 focus on the promotion of vegetable planting and training in nutrition, particularly that of children and people living with HIV/AIDS. The political crisis in Zimbabwe combined with increasingly erratic rainfall and the impact of HIV has lead to many communities in Zimbabwe facing serious food shortages. The overall objective of the project is to improve the access to reliable food sources for the people living in the districts of Gwanda and Insiza in South Matabeleland
Day two: Silveira House and Dabane Trust who develop food security strategies for staple and nutritious food production through appropriate and sustainable, environmentally friendly land use and water management systems with particular regard to Climate Resilient farming practices. Communities are assisted in developing alternative and seasonal water resources for sustainable domestic use, sanitation and hygiene.
Day three: The Institute of Rural Technologies (‘IRT’) who are committed to using knowledge and innovations to eradicate poverty and improve the social and economic wellbeing of rural communities in the two provinces of Matabeleland. IRT’s current main programme involves organizing villages into a village bank, offering low interest loans to local people so that they can set up their own businesses.
Day four: visit to Mbare United Presbyterian Church of South Africa where we attended their Sunday service - a three hour church service full of song and music. Fantastic service, despite it being in Shona, the local dialect!
Day five: We saw a different kind of partner to the rest of the trip - we were going to be taught 'the bigger picture' and learn more about the country itself. We visited Zimbabwe Environment Lawyers Association ('ZELA') who research human rights and environmental issues in Zimbabwe; the General Secretary of the Zimbabwean Council of Churches ('ZCC') who are seeking to encourage Christian unity as society becomes highly fragmented; and finally we met the Zimbabwean team at Christian Aid offices where we spoke about our experience and what the next steps for the partners were going to be.
I am in debt to C4L and thank God for giving me the experience to be involved in such an inspiring and informative visit. The trip taught me a lot about the workings of both charities and I feel it has been of vital importance in my journey as St John's C4L advocate.
A blog of the trip is now available to give you a flavor of what was experienced and this can be viewed on the C4L website or via the C4L Facebook page.
Publications of the different stories will be made available by Christian Aid shortly so I will not spoil the surprise here – please watch this space.
If you would like any further information of the trip or would like to know more about C4L and the partner countries then please do not hesitate to contact me.