Our Senior Nurse reports “We had an exceptional term in which our preschool kids were generally healthy with no reported disease outbreak, but only a few bouts of flu and cough from the harsh winter cold winds. The supply of food has been timely, constant and balanced. We also would like to commend the community residents for they have been quick to respond to all firewood issues. We have been closely monitoring our preschool kids and we are pleased that we are recording few cases of diarrhea and skin diseases, which in the past have been major issues.
After many years of waiting and negotiations, the National AIDS Council through their sister program, the New Start Center (part of PSI International), committed to partner with Nhimbe for Progress by offering mobile HIV testing and counseling services. As a first, they offered free CD4 count tests for those people living with HIV/AIDS as a tool to assess the progression of the diseases and responsiveness to anti-retro-viral therapy as well as to give advice on ways to improve the livelihood of people living with HIV/AIDS. Our Senior Nurse says, “What a great milestone in our endeavor to reach out to our community!"
Now is the time to plant one’s maize field as the rains are coming in Zimbabwe! We have spent approximately $840 to purchase certified seed for 27 families so that they can plant their field knowing that the quality will ensure a successful crop of 1-2 tons (depending upon whether they borrowed for 10 or 20kg of seed), assuming the weather is reasonable. This will be considered a loan without interest. They will repay the loan by giving the financial equivalent of maize to the preschool in 2012. We feed the preschoolers daily and the maize will supplement the other foods we grow and buy. This is a win-win situation!
A new toilet has been completed at the Nhimbe Community Center for the preschool children through the collaboration of the Ministry of Health and Environmental Department who donated 5 bags of cement for the project, the general community residents who donated pit sand, and our financial help to buy bricks and pay the builders. Yes to partnership!
Our Senior Nurse says, “The installation of a water pump at the Community Center has not only simplified our access to water but has also assured us the safest drinking water for our many children and the community at large. The pump has the capacity to draw out enough water to fill 3000 liters of water within an hour.” Many thanks to the collaboration of the Ministry of Health, Child Welfare and UNICEF for transforming our well!
UNICEF has chosen the Nhimbe for Progress preschool as one of its first sites to install a well pump in the rural Mhondoro area. The reason given was our great track record and stability! This well pump will increase the gallons per minute phenomenally compared to manually bringing a bucket out at a time. This is still a manual operation but empowers those gardening, cooking and cleaning to achieve must easier results. We are very grateful for this recognition from UNICEF as well as for the practical nature of this gift!
Here is something that was just received from Zimbabwe. Ironically Brendan is sending this exactly when I was due to travel and arrive for my work there (the 25th/26th) but canceled my trip … it's just like a musician to have incredible timing! See also Brendan's website brendantaaffe.com
Some of you have been to Zimbabwe and some haven’t but his writing is reminiscent of going to the ‘rural home’ (kumusha) and is very comforting to hear. Its so helpful to what we are doing there to have someone share their personal insights.
“Meat with Bones”
Early evening in Harare, and I have just returned from a visit to Mhondoro, a rural area about two hours outside of the capital. This is my third day in Zimbabwe, not counting the first night when I arrived after some twenty four hours of travel from London, and I'm beginning to make some sense of it. But first a swirl of images, starting with the road from the airport, the sky spreading out at sunset in a way that makes the world, more than anything, feel flat and wide. Roads in bad shape; dollar bills (the going currency here) used so many times that they are brown and soft rather than green and crisp; jacaranda trees arching, gracefully, over one of the central avenues in Harare; roadsides everywhere lined with people selling airtime for cell phones, tomatoes, and bananas; people walking, crammed into combis, hanging out; small patches of corn anywhere it can fit, even in Harare; dirt yards, carefully swept every morning; sadza with every meal.
I am staying, these first days, with Cosmas Magaya and his family: Cosmas is a master mbira player that I had met in the States. He has been hosting me, and yesterday took me to visit Mhondoro, his home village and the site of Nhimbe for Progress, an aid project that he directs. The road to Mhondoro was great: flat African savannah rolling by, two baboons at the side of the road, fields and fields of corn and, as we got closer, round huts with conical thatched roofs—exactly what a tourist in Africa wants to see. Arriving at Nhimbe—a combination of a pre-school and a village health center, a cluster of round blue huts—about 80 children were playing in the yard with some old tires, some homemade monkey bars under way. There was then a long series of introductions, which was fine if a little formal, and then the awesomeness began. The children, ages three to six, gathered to sing Titambire vaenzi, a welcoming song that I'm excited to share once I get home, and then recited some adorable nursery rhymes. Twinkle, twinkle in a four year old's Shona-inflected English is, as the immortal Larry Gordon would say, “to die for”. A few more songs and some wandering about, and then the marimba band started up. Three instruments had been set outside in the grass, between two of the huts, played by some lads in their 20s. Once they started rolling, children appeared from everywhere and started to dance. First a small group of 10 year old girls who could really tear it up and then a surging mass of pre-schoolers and then the adults and words can not describe how awesome this was. They played for at least half an hour, the children dancing the whole time. For all of our advanced educational opportunities and technology in the U.S.—interactive white boards and computers in every classroom as opposed to Nhimbe, where the children learn to write and draw with chalk on the concrete floor because of a lack of blackboards—for all of this, I have never seen anything in an American school to rival the pure and sustained joy that I saw as these kids danced and danced. Nor the sophistication: 4 year olds clapping polyrhythms and dancing some complicated steps. When I get a chance, I'll post a few videos of the marimba band and the dancers.
Amidst all this awesomeness, Nhimbe is also a project in need of support. At the end of my time here, I'll be leaving a lot of the clothes that I brought (can't do it yet, because I need to wear them), some odds and ends, and a little money. If you are able, they can use much more support than that: they need more instruments, blackboards, and medicine as well as the ability to compensate their staff. More important, to my mind, than what they need is what they are doing, which is multiplying joy. These children, by any standard, are poor: but I can only think this strong foundation is not only what they need, but is what this country needs. You can find Nhimbe for Progress on the web at http://www.ancient-ways.org
As if that wasn't enough for a day... when evening came, I found myself in the kitchen hut playing mbira with Cosmas, while chicken necks and sadza cooked over an wood fire, a candle flickering in the middle of the room, a woman breastfeeding her son. Moments where I was in the flow, hearing both parts and settling into the music: other moments where I thought that if I were ever to make a bucket list, those things one must do before dying, that this would be on the list, sitting in a candle-lit hut in a village in Zimbabwe playing the mbira.
Cosmas has spent a lot of time in the U.S., teaching and performing. We were talking about that experience and he said that one of the things he misses most when he is in America is meat with bones. When I arrived here and dinner that first night was chicken necks and sadza, I assumed that we were eating the necks because they were cheapest. But everyone here prefers meat with a lot of bone because it tastes better, and there's a lesson to be found there.
We got word that the preschool kitchen hut had collapsed. This is an open air hut that provides a small room for washing dishes and another small room for cooking over a fire. Research was underway to find a better way to repair the hut. Utilizing our local builder's expertise and metal poles to reinforce the roof we completed the repair for around $250. The new kitchen hut now is strong and keeps the rain out!
Additionally the J.F.Kapnek Charitable Trust found our village preschool in need of playground repairs. They are partnering with our residents (primarily parents of preschoolers), the older Girl Guides and Machapro boys, and our staff to upgrade the playground equipment. We supplied paint and nails which cost around $250. Kapnek and residents are providing most everything else to make the following: Climbing Frame, Brick sand-pit, Log sand-pit, Tire sand-pit, Floating Bridge, Balancing Beams, Brick balancing beam, Single Swing, Double Swing and Monkey bar. This is all currently under construction and will complement the swings, merry-go-round and slide we built many years ago.