Recent News From Mhondoro!

It's with enormous gratitude and appreciation that I write with the latest about what is going on in Mhondoro.  Besides bringing an opportunity to share some historical context about Nhimbe for Progress, additionally, there are some lovely video updates towards the end.  Being able to write is sorely needed for me, in coming to terms with the miracle of life and death.

.

Blogs “should” maybe be short, but, sometimes it’s not possible.

.

With Cosmas’ passing and his family being tested, Covid-19 became a reality to his neighbors, both locally and for the entire region.  Likely, the first person any of us have known personally to have died from the virus, the impact has been great to our hearts and psyches.  Cosmas grew up in the Magaya village and herded cattle like other small boys.  Little did anyone know that he would evolve into such a beloved teacher and friend to so many around the world.

.

Many articles have been written to commemorate his life.  The NY Times article is linked here. Although reading about his life in these various ways is helping with healing for us all, I continue to be a little miffed reading the articles because he is acknowledged as the Project Director of Nhimbe for Progress, but not the co-founder.  So here I am, just wanting to set that record straight…Cosmas Magaya and Jaiaen Beck joined together in a vision for this particular pragmatic elaboration of consciousness. 

.

Yes, Ancient Ways as a non-profit was my vision and began 5 years earlier, but I had no premeditated inclination to ever go to Zimbabwe, Africa in general, nor to jump into humanitarian outreach in this fashion.  I knew I was feeling prompted to do something since childhood, but what exactly?

.

When Cosmas and I met in ‘98 during his first trip to Eugene, he came to visit our community near Scio and we spent much of our time talking about his father (now late), a nganga or more commonly n’anga, which is an herbalist and spiritual healer.  I wasn’t one of Cosmas’ mbira students, but instead had this compulsion to study his father’s work. 

.

His father Joshua, renowned in the region, and mother Matilda, both had enormous hearts, and handled everything that would arise with compassion, always looking for the high road in difficulties, as well as the most progressive and enlightened approaches to practical aspects of life, including being well-known for their farming.  It was the Light emanating from that relationship exploration that became an undeniable driving force in my life.

.

During Paul Berliner’s Soul of Mbira tour in ‘99, Cosmas and I took our imaginings of a dream, and created a laundry list.  That day, surrounded by my first marimba teacher Maggie from Kutsinhira, and Marilyn and Mark, who are other members from the multi-faceted, devoted and affectionate Eugene music community organization, Cosmas and I defined our specifics. All of this impelled, compelled and propelled me to be on a plane 3 months later, on my first trip into the Zimbabwean veld, the savannah, the bush.

.

That same day, as we were delving into what was possible, they received a phone call that Dumisani Maraire had passed on.  The imprint of that moment transferred all of the undefined passionate energy I had received from Dumi, as my first Zimbabwean teacher, into the as-yet unnamed project Cosmas and I were in the midst of birthing.  Cosmas was my co-conspirator, if you will, to change the face of rural Zimbabwe, alleviate the suffering, and create opportunity for another way forward through difficult times (kuenda mberi), and the Kutsinhira community became a mid-wife of sorts.

.

It’s obvious to those on the inside of our larger Zimbabwean music community, that his 20 years of devotion and dedicated work to Nhimbe was not a light-weight endeavor.  Anyone who has visited Africa for any duration, or even camped anywhere for longer than a few days, understands how everything requires more effort to achieve basic results, since water and electricity flow are not easily available. Compound that with the politics of the day and you have a determined but careful leader, who was often found saying “We are winning!”.  

.

Besides requiring incredible endurance and resilience, which appear to be innate Shona characteristics, the Large Love from Cosmas’ parents infused his life with a genuine capacity to not just find a way to dance with everyone he would meet, but also at every turn, he would highlight how we as communities need every diverse reflection of the Divine…all of us, even when we don’t like something we see in another, are each bringing out some aspect that contributes to the whole, with forgiveness and acceptance as huge gifts to evolve us through the challenges.

.

It is with his hand at the plow, complemented by his dear wife, Patricia, that we have expanded over the years. Her energy exceeds no bounds and her administrative and management skills have been growing by leaps. The many enthusiastic and loyal family members, and Nhimbe staff, have created a strong fiber so that Nhimbe has evolved beyond a faithful and steadfast mushroom, into a native beauty with fervor and zeal, and which now belongs to the entire community from the elderly and children, all the way to the local politicians, and the Mhondoro member of Parliament.

.

MHONDORO UPDATE

.

This last week, the 18th to 20th of July, the member of Parliament who had attended the MMC (Mhandara Monthly Care) Camp during our 20th anniversary trip November 2019, organized 300 Covid-19 tests for Mhondoro, at Mudavanhu’s (Cosmas’ son) request.  Muda has taken on the role of family head there at this point, negotiating the terrain, filling some enormously large shoes. Because of those promptings, 56 of the tests were given at the Magaya homestead for the nearby neighbors, thereby including Nhimbe residents, with the remaining tests being given in surrounding villages to include multiple Chief’s regions.  This is an incredible awakening gift to the villagers considering the current lack of medical and insurance systems in Zimbabwe!

.

We continue with our Nhimbe intervention, as we await the immediate family test results.  Patricia is staying in town during this isolation time, and so is guiding the efforts by cell phone calls and Whatsapp, reaching out to members of the Nhimbe community.  The following video, created by a neighboring villager coming to help out, shows our two guards, the preschool head and a teacher, harvesting rugare from the new garden.  The bounty is amazing!

Those identified as the elderly, plus pregnant and nursing women, are being given these beautiful bundles of greens, the most impactful vitamins and minerals available. And, this is winter! I can feel such a grateful reverence for this process.  It’s so very touching to see!

Patricia also reports that Isaac, who is in charge of the wells, has completed deepening another 2 wells.  We have finished 17, but have another 30 to go.  The drought has taken its toll on the water levels, so at times there is absolutely nothing there.  We had 48 to do, but one was dropped, so we only have 47.  They found out that there was plenty of water in the family's well, it was just that the rope on the bucket was quite a bit shorter back in 2010 when it was built, so they bought another rope and are happy campers!

.

Thank you for all the ways you are helping us with these efforts.  Always feel free to reach out by phone or email – I appreciate the encouragement, and find comfort in being engaged by and responding to your inquiries.  Below are a few links to peruse further:

.

Many blessings your way, with health, well being and safety for all of you and yours!  Tatenda Chaizvo!

How do we meet grief?

Dear Friends of Zimbabwe –

.

Its with a heavy heart that I share with you that Cosmas Magaya, long-time friend and co-visionary as our Project Director of Nhimbe for Progress in Zimbabwe, as well as master mbira teacher and performer, father of four, husband, and headman of the Magaya village, passed on July 10,2020 in Harare.  He is soon expected to be laid to rest in his rural home in Magaya Village, Mhondoro, Zimbabwe.  Cosmas and his wife Patricia have been an incredible team bringing to fruition many dreams both personally and professionally.

.

I’m sorry for the delay in sharing this news.  I’ve been unable to write sooner…my body is still dumbfounded, just staring when I attempt to think or feel. 

.

He was surrounded by family members, and held dearly by his son, Mudavanhu, as he passed, bringing everyone comfort.  The tests for Covid-19 were positive, so the family is isolating together in Mhondoro, and will be tested themselves soon.

.

A Cosmas Magaya Memorial Fund has been set up to take donations that will help with medical expenses, burial and funeral costs, etc.  Please find more information here as to how you can help!

.

Donations here to Ancient Ways are also welcome to assist with Nhimbe moving forward.  At this point nothing is clear, although Cosmas and I have been training his wife Patricia for a few years now as “the succession plan”.

.

As two of my long-time marimba teacher-friends pointed out, “the work is not over, of course” and also encouraging words for us to “keep developments going in the area”.  I think they get me.  Both of them knowing Cosmas well, so also having insight into his determination to succeed with Nhimbe and commitment to take care of it.  He used to speak of Nhimbe as his first child, with the second being Humwe, which he started with his daughter Tsitsi Hantuba.  Both of these demonstrate his devotion to his humanity and his music.  The suffering in Zimbabwe was not something he ever forgot about.

.

Another old friend has put together a beautiful slide show on Facebook that has helped me tremendously.  His sharing made it possible for me to get this blog actually out there, instead of saying to myself that I “should” be writing something.  I’m very grateful for his help as well, to get this moving forward.

.

Thank you all for the outpouring of your hearts.  The depth of feeling you are sharing for this gentle giant of a man is enormous.

.

Thank you for the ways that you reach out to the world around you, and hold it in appreciation, sharing your gratitude with others.  We are here for a blink of an eye, relative to the cosmos.  Life here on planet earth is such a precious moment in that time.

Incredible Garden Unfolding!

Please see what fantastic growth is occurring at Nhimbe for Progress because of your support!  The donations for the masks you are now wearing, as well as the ongoing remembrance of our work, both financially and through your words of encouragement, is making all of this possible.  And, it is heartwarming!

There has been a spontaneous ignition of effort at the Nhimbe Community Center permaculture garden since the infusion of water and air with the new bore hole and windmill.  They took the mombe by the horns and with great determination, the Nhimbe staff (not actively operating the preschool yet) are shown in these videos, doing what they know how to do so well.  As people who live close to the earth, and who innately work hard with focus, the team has done an extraordinary job. 

They decided to expand our 10 rows to 24!  And, did so rapidly.  What an amazing and resourceful group effort! We extend a big makorokoto (congratulations) to them all!

This gives one an appetite for greens tonight at dinner.

This picture shows some of the results from our planting in the November training.  It’s called Rugare and is easily started from cuttings. This plant continues to produce over time, and you may be able to see that the leaves have been being harvested over this year’s summer and fall months.  The great success from the Zambian training with the drip hose and bucket system married to the new water tank full of an abundant supply is producing enthusiasm as well as vegetables.

To prepare the new beds, the ground is first broken up and dug down to create a wide deep trench.  Then the maize stover (stalks, leaves and remaining cobs) is laid into the bottom, covered with manure and water, and finally topped with a final layer of soil. In our training we planted immediately which surprised me, but it obviously worked well. 

The sadza preparation lets us know that this was a full day of work. I know that it took more than one day!

Listen carefully and you will hear the Shona/English mix which is the norm.  I hear masks, Covid, social distance, for instance.

The stover is moved around the field by arm loads and really gives great tilth!  We are not sure where the maize and manure has come from but are very happy it was made available.

Moving the manure around the field is a bigger deal!

The brigade makes them a highly productive unit.

This garden is impressive considering they are heading into winter.  There are tomatoes as well as onions and other vegetables. What a lovely contrast…the productive garden and the just prepared new beds.

There is something soothing and meditative about the windmill pump action…really easy to listen to…makes me want one in my back yard.  Clearly, the growth of gardens is symbolic of the mushrooming of our Nhimbe project. Its delightful to be in partnership with our team, seeing big results (we really aren’t known for small ones), and finding the path forward to be well-stimulated, particularly during these high stress times.

We will still need to create the bucket platform and buy buckets and drip hoses for all of the new beds (22 of them) but due to the quarantine and focusing on getting the borehole/windmill operational, there hasn’t been time to source them.  We are really hoping to find them somewhere in Harare, since the first two drip hoses came from Zambia.  The trainers unexpectedly dissolved operations there, and so we are on our own.  I’m grateful that we tapped into the training when we did … timing is really everything! Like the notes and rhythms put together amongst us all (you absolutely being part of that us), blessing everyone in a huge way with this music. 

Just imagine how powerful of an impact was made in all of their hearts and minds, to see the outpouring of concern from our side of the planet, right as the collective shut-down occurred.  Many more smiles and happy sentiments, as well as enormous gratitude, fuels well-being on a grand scale.

Thank you so much for your interest and concern for these people.  I realize that, for many of you, its Cosmas Magaya, and your relationship to him, that led you to initially get on board with our community building efforts, but there are also countless others of you that are just simply huge-hearted humanitarians, not knowing anything about Mhondoro, and now having found a special connection here.  Whatever your motivation, it is all greatly appreciated!

Please find our mask making venture here (proceeds are supporting our Covid-19 intervention efforts), as well as read about CHANGE!, our Covid-19 Intervention here, checking in on our Progress report here.  We always accept donations via the website here or paypal at zimbabwe@ancient-ways.org, and also appreciate it greatly if you set up a monthly bank draft, as your dollar goes much further (there are no online fees), plus it helps us tremendously in budgeting. 

We are investing in these people and this community.  It’s experimental in a way…like what happens when people have enough clean water and other basic resources?  Are we changing the face of rural Zimbabwe?  We certainly hope so, in a positive, and eventually, self-sustaining way!  Tatenda Chaizvo (thank you very much) for your impactful contribution…you do make the difference!

The Miracle Water Project is Complete!


We are so grateful to be writing to share that the “miracle” windmill was completed this weekend!  As we headed into the quarantine, in the new and absolute upside-down March reality , we reached out to ask you for help.  Some of you were so moved by our request and the timing was so perfect in your lives that you responded, right there in the midst of the chaos…and that was a miracle in my book! 

The impetus to even ask for donations of this magnitude right in the middle of the worldwide confusion, when people were frightened about their futures, was the foundation for our leap into this new way forward...and as it turns out, which we couldn’t have fully imagined at the time since we didn’t have a clue where this was all going, this windmill plus the power of the water and the marriage of that with the gardening efforts, is a substantial key to the entire “vulnerable intervention” piece of the CHANGE! Plan.

This will be clean, clear and abundant water for all activities at the Community Center, including the educational and gathering aspects of the space, as well as the permaculture efforts, and too, providing water for anyone in need to carry water home.  Schools will be reopening in Zimbabwe in about a month.  Our preschool is considered phase 5 of their reopening plan, so I’m not sure what that means, but it translates to yes, children will be back on the grounds this year. 

Here is the latest report from their government on reported cases, etc. It has increased since March but not radically. They are just heading into winter now.

This windmill pump moves the water from out of the bore hole (a well with pipe casing) and up into the large 5,000 liter tank on the stand, which then flows with gravity to the pipes buried underground to the faucet. Check out the lush vegetables...wow!

Trenches to Bury Pipes

The most touching piece of this story is that the first person to respond to our plea for assistance, was someone who just happened to walk into the 2012 Moscow Idaho Zimfest (check out 2020 offerings), out of nowhere, and with no personal relationship to this music that many of us love, study and play.  As a water geologist, she has a deep relationship to water, and so right away began helping us with well building that year and each year following, and then also joined in, assisting the preschool and other projects.  This particular time, when she tried to donate using the website, it just wouldn’t work right, so we talked on the phone instead, and that is where her real story emerged. 

She had been praying for a way to help the world as the Covid-19 situation erupted everywhere.  And then, there was our email the next morning, asking for just that - help with our bore hole!  The larger part of her story was that her husband, healing from a broken hip, was in rehabilitation and therefore lock down.  Even though there was only 1 case in the huge county (the size of Connecticut), the care center wasn’t taking any chances. Unfortunately, their phones weren’t working, nor their computers, so she was writing him a letter every day, and delivering it where the care center would keep it for 72 hours before he could read it.  They could see each other only through a small glass window.

That morning after donating to us, she went to deliver the daily letter, and they unexpectedly asked if she would like to see her husband!  The nurse let her in through a gate and wheeled him into the courtyard, where this elderly couple, caught in the middle of this Covid challenge, were reunited, sitting across the 6 feet span with tremendous gratitude, her on a bench, and he in his wheelchair.  Her life was touched by a miracle that day, just like ours, after being separated for so long.  The frosting on my cake was to hear that he was finally released about a month ago, being able to come home and do the physical therapy there, so they are living in a world full of great gratitude!

You know, they say everything is connected, and this lovely opportunity to see that up-close-and-personal in reality, was just what the doctor ordered.  It blessed my life and blessed hers.  And will continue to ripple goodness to all involved…it feels like the water itself is blessed!

We all want to thank you for your help with this critical resource. And, thank you in advance for whatever you do as we move forward, and however you do it...just telling our story is huge!

This is a sweet story in my book of "evolving on this path"…I continue to learn so much.  Thank you all for the many ways you influence me and are shaping the lives in rural Mhondoro, just because you care.

There are many pieces to this borehole and windmill…one is the pump.

The windmill stand was welded and installed.  It has to be strong and balanced.

There he is at the top making sure the windmill is all ready to go!

And here, the miracle in action! (I think we are over hearing a lady or three, relaxing, sipping on a soda while they watch the unfolding ;*)))

Thank you immensely for your continued support and compassion for our Zimbabwean neighbors.  We, as a collective of concerned people, are making a dent in what would otherwise be further challenges in daily life there.  Your generosity is touching many many people! Tatenda Chaizvo!



CHANGE! is HAPPENING!

We are so very excited to share tremendous news.  Our Nhimbe for Progress team has achieved one of the key goals of CHANGE! (Covid-19 Health Advocacy Network Growing Education!)…

They organized the educational event to teach about Covid-19, distributing masks and soap this week to the Nhimbe villages!  How exciting is that?

I know I sound like a mother at the soccer field and the kid just made the goal, but really after you have been there and walked a day in the Shona shoes, you get a great appreciation for all that it takes to do little things that we here take for granted. You know, you don’t just turn on the faucet to get water, or flip on the stove to cook.  Each moment of every day gives additional tasks to complete to be able to do the basics, reducing the overall time available to do other things to improve one’s life.  Plus, they are still in a major lock-down mode!

This whole thing just moves me so deeply…we, as Ancient Ways the organization, have always been speaking to well-being as the humanitarian ideal, and so do what is possible within that context, and within the funds that you, the donor, provide us.  But this latest change on our planet is reaching into another level of intervention…we are talking about life and death, how to affect limited critical resource availability and assist with resilience, the internalizing of hope, and dreaming up another future with options. Thank you for your part…my heart is finding healing in knowing you, standing with you, and reaching out.

Our team is amazing and they are becoming so skilled. Each time we make a plan, I’m so impressed and grateful for their ability to follow through and succeed in great measure.  I guess 20 years of working together really is creating a fairly seamless operation. And, as we tackle more serious and complicated projects, the collaboration results are getting more impactful.  We are all grateful…the whole is far greater than the sum of the parts!  I want to shout across the planet Makorokoto (Congratulations!) to them! Fine job! Most especially I want to acknowledge Patricia as the leader of the CHANGE! brigade…she continues to demonstrate excellent leadership skills and a profound tenacity to tackle big jobs!

PLEASE FOLLOW OUR LATEST PROGRESS BY CLICKING HERE.  You can return anytime by going to the main Covid-19 page and then, select any one of your favorite projects for a filtered view. (It is most accurate going to the google sheet from our webpage in each selected category, rather than switching worksheets from within google…otherwise the filters are not maintained by using the tabs at the bottom.)

The program went exceptionally well. The Chikara clinic representatives came to talk to the residents. Covid-19 booklets, written in Shona, were provided by the government and each household representative went home with their own copy.  They were very happy that we here in the US reached out into their lives with such care.

We didn’t know how much help they would have locally for the entire event, and so sent them everything we could in case Patricia was handling some of the hygiene aspects of the presentation.  She said that what we sent was the same as the clinic health team gave to the people. That was a real relief.

People were sitting down for the educational part of the event, and the social distance was maintained throughout.  We are so relieved.  Part of our concerns have been because the government there, at least on their website, is recommending just 1 meter distancing, whereas we here are following the 2 meter standard.  We emphasized to them that we must educate according to this 6’ standard to honor our financial support of this event. Cosmas has a satellite dish on their hut and so they watch BBC and really understand far more than the average person here, so had no problem agreeing with the plan.  I must say though, that I’m am quite amazed that they had such compliance with all of the villagers.  But this really speaks to the Shona nature as well.  They are very respectful of authority as part of their heritage.  Many of our ancestors came to this land from rebel stock to some degree, and so have a lot of independence running through our veins (no one is going to tell us what to do).

Everyone was so very happy to be able to receive the masks and soap. Each person was wearing a different type of cloth covering the nose and mouth. Sometimes a skirt, or t-shirt, or towel - all different types of masks that were worn.  They were not allowed to enter inside the gate without covering the nose and the mouth.

Before entering the Nhimbe grounds, everyone washed their hands using the chigubhu, pumping the water flow operation with a foot pedal, tipping the water container, with less hand involvement.  It was more of a token gesture since they didn’t take the 20 seconds or use soap.  But it was something.  And the clever use of the chigubhu was a good idea to teach people what they can make at home as well. 

After washing they stopped at the survey table where their name, village and registration number was recorded. We have been maintaining survey data since the first trip.  The goal was to get my brain around what our project was really looking at in terms of residents, their living conditions, and children we are serving, but it has continued to be a key way to monitor all resources and how they are flowing into the people’s lives.  Everything from huts, toilets, wells, fuel-efficient stoves, food during famine, children sponsored for education, and maturing girls, has been recorded based upon a registration number. And now soap and masks are added to the list.  237 people from 6 villages were given masks and soap, meaning some people were not in attendance, and we will need to talk over what to do next with that piece.

Do check out that windmill in the background! It is almost done and we should be able to share another bit about that story quite soon, like maybe even tomorrow!

They thanked us all – they know that everything that comes, only comes because of you, the donors!  I hope you go away with a huge smile on your face today!  I feel so blessed by your partnership in this work…you are truly incredible.  Tatenda Chaizvo! (We thank you very much!)

Thank you also for your donations in response to needing a mask for yourself, your family and your bandmates…that is taking on a life of its own. CLICK HERE FOR MASKS if you are interested. Thank you for your patience as we fill your orders!

Big Trip to Town for Nhimbe!

Cosmas and Patricia went to the capital city, Harare, early in the morning on May 8th, to purchase materials for Nhimbe’s windmill and permaculture project. They carried their official letter that let them through the barricades, as the country is currently in Lockdown Level 2.

Level 2 means that big companies, like those focused on industrial and manufacturing, big garages, and food wholesalers, are all open. Fabric shops, clothing stores, small grocery, tuckshops, beer halls, and all informal markets are still closed. Soldiers and police are stationed at road blocks. People are being advised to stay at home and wear masks wherever they go, especially in public places. People are not allowed to go some places, if they do not have a mask.

Not only will this 5,000 litre tank hold plenty of water for drinking, cooking, washing and watering, but the miracle of it is how gravity feed actually can provide enough pressure for faucets, flush toilets and showers!  I visited someone in December who had set up a solar unit and tank for his elderly disabled parents, and they were stylin' with the upscale accommodations right there, just up the road from our Center. Obviously, that is not our priority at this point, but just an interesting side note to imagine, particularly for those of you who have stayed in rural areas without facilities.  We actually will be installing a faucet for ease of use.

Patricia tells us their story of getting into town through the controlled city traffic, and then walking into the store asking to buy a tank and a stand, but the shopkeeper apologized, saying that the store had only the tank, but not the stand.  After explaining that they had traveled all the way from Mhondoro, which is very far, the sales staff considered Cosmas' age (now a full-fledged senior citizen) and his traveling during this trying period of lock down.  The other store keeper said “let me talk to my boss, we have a tank stand already paid for by someone who is coming to collect it tomorrow”.   After some minutes he came back and said, “go ahead and pay for the tank stand and the tank!”  They managed to buy the pipes as well.  I like it that being an elder pays off!


Wow…what an incredible turn of events!  We are definitely feeling the full support of compassion both from that business, and from you making this a reality! We are so grateful for all of your help with this!

They had Cosmas’ son, Muda, along for the ride, both at the store and out in the rural area, as he helped with loading and offloading at the Community Center. We are always happy when he can be a member of the team.

It was a very busy day going around to different locations to look for a truck to carry these two rather big things! They are so very happy to have been so successful. 

It was really great to see some of the young fellows wearing masks! I'm always amazed at how many people here don't. Its like there are two tribes on earth right now...the mask people and the no-mask people.

Tatenda Chaizvo! (we thank you very much!)  This extraordinary collaboration between Zimbabwe and you, our donors, has always been a life-changing conversation, but now with Covid-19, the impact has been stepped up.  We so appreciate you!

Find our latest focus here for Covid-19 intervention strategies for Nhimbe as they go into the winter months!

Nhimbe’s Covid-19 Intervention!

We are happy to share that YES! we really are making progress, slow but sure, with a plan in place, money on its way, and the sun on the horizon. Please check out our basic approach. CHANGE! Covid-19 Health Advocacy Network Growing Education

Thank you for all of your support this year to help direct, activate and grow our mission to assist in Zimbabwe, both earlier in the year, to help us get out of the gate, and then as the year has progressed, even though your own lives have been topsy-turvy. What a miracle! What large hearts! What kindness!

Your support has encouraged me to have more faith in the tasks we have undertaken, with more hope for the future, and the needed tenacity to stay focused on the positive outcome, holding that as the only possibility.

Please do see what we are up to. We welcome your ideas (always feel free to call or write), your time (as a volunteer for example), and your contributions financially.

We Thank you very much! Tatenda Chaizvo!

(This was supposed to be) A Quick Update (but is now long) from our Nhimbe Team & Board of Directors

From the Nhimbe Team

Cosmas and Patricia went to town and hoped to buy some food for her shops.  Not only was there no one in the city center except police and soldiers, they were seriously and officially detained.  All shops were closed, no cars moving, all pavement was clear.  Even though she had her store license with her, and explained that people are dying of hunger, and they just wanted to get a few items, it was not satisfactory.  After thorough discussions, even police wanting to impound their car, an officer got in the back seat and accompanied them to the big wholesaler so they could buy a couple of staples, like flour and sugar.

.

The streets were so empty they were even driving the opposite direction on a one-way.  Once at the regular wholesaling store, they weren’t allowed inside, but the items were brought out and they just put the purchase on her regular business account.  It seems that a turning point in the ordeal, was when they asked Cosmas how old he was.  The Shona are particularly respectful of their elders. The day was a bit more of an adventure than they planned!

.

This chart is sent out daily on text messaging so every phone in Zimbabwe is in the know.  Small messages are also sent, for instance on Monday there was one telling of a person that had just returned from South Africa two weeks prior, who checked in at their local Rwizi clinic with symptoms.  They are being kept well informed.

.

According to this plan, the 21-day lock down will be over on Sunday, and so another trip to the city is being anticipated for next week.  Not only is food needed for the local villagers, but also Western Union is expected to be open, so we can send much needed funds.

.

From the Board

.

We were able to meet on this last weekend over Zoom and face the solemnity of the situation together.  Not a normal board meeting at all.  Everyone stepping up and into their hearts with good faith for the future, was a useful approach.  Here is a quick report on our priorities once the funds are able to be moved across the planet with Western Union, reportedly opening three days a week:

.

WINDMILL AT THE COMMUNITY CENTER - The windmill welding is being finished up and will be installed with all the pipes, once the lock down is lifted.  Thank you so much for your incredible support with this powerful intervention…clean water is one of the keys to immunity and so the timing of this is has been critical.

.

WELL DEEPENING - Many people are unable to grow food and drink clean water because of an ongoing drought.  The rains did not fall during the recent summer months (they are now in autumn) and so harvests are scarce.  Last year was also short on rainfall.  This means that the wells, some of which were built just in 2018 and dug deep enough then, are now dry! 

The Muzambi Family pictured here has no water in their well.

She was our preschool teacher and librarian until she unexpectedly had a baby last year, taking her out of working. She is such a smart woman and has always helped immensely at the Center. He has been a carver for years selling us his crafts…maybe you recall the cheetahs?  They texted just to say hello and check-in, so as we were discussing how to stay safe, they explained that their well is dry and they have been going to the neighbors (often ¼ mile away) for quite some time to fetch water. Now, they are very worried, as they don’t know how the neighbors have been exposed.  So they keep their distance, bring the water back, and wash up with soap immediately.  I didn’t even think about that problem! 

.

So well-deepening is a huge issue and we currently have 49 families with a dry well.  That is 49 families dealing with cross-contamination potential that we can curtail. Also, there are another 15 or so needing repairs, additionally taking about $600.  

.

Well deepening costs 1/3 of a regular well, so if we redirect the $1,500 worth of funds that have come in this year to build new wells, we can cover almost half of the required funds. If you requested a well built this year, please let me know if you would object to us redirecting those funds.  If you are moved to help with this well deepening project, which is becoming one of our highest priorities now, everyone definitely appreciates the support!

.

COMMUNITY CENTER GARDEN – As part of the drip-line training we studied in November, we expanded the garden area and are looking for big harvests from the space!  With the windmill being finished up, we only need 8 rows of drip-line to implement fully.  We estimate we can do this for under $900 buying a nice high-quality drip-line that will last, and a decent long hose to attach to the windmill faucet to making bucket-filling simple, reducing overall effort of maintaining this garden. 

.

See the bright yellow bucket at the leftmost upper corner in the picture below…there will be 10 of those buckets that gravity fill the drip-line.  This permaculture system will provide plenty of fresh food for the area, and hopefully enough to sell in town as well.  It also feels great to know that people will be assured that the food is handled by non-infected gardeners, and everyone will be another step closer to safety. 

Here Mhandara Monthly Care Girls Get Involved!

COVID INTERVENTION – We have made a plan with Patricia, our co-captain there, to lead the Covid19 Health Advocacy Network Growing Education! (CHANGE!).  She is excited to be able to do something, rather than sit by and listen to the reports from the government repeatedly speaking of remodeling the hospitals to be used as isolation wards for the sick.  The constant barrage of media is just like here, and can be dis-empowering to have the details pumped into our brains.

.

We have budgeted for only the next 6 months for this program, to be reevaluated at that point. This is a fairly inexpensive intervention considering the impact.  The largest piece truly is education of the estimated 400 families.  Currently they are going into the colder months (May starts cooling off and by June they wear hats and sweaters), and so the virus is being held at bay currently by the temps.  Our goal is to get in there ahead of any issues and immediately assist with education, mask making, and soap distribution.

.

  • Their government appears to be doing a daily great job with education, so we are expecting to only supplement that with a leaflet, along with the distribution of masks and soap from our Community Center.  The police would potentially need to be involved to help people stand in line at appropriate distances, as they would be routed through the different gates at their assigned pickup time.  Printing costs seem minimal and with the masks and soap we can make this happen for around $1,600.  Any way that you are moved to get involved with the CHANGE! outreach, do please help us help them!
  • The mask making can all be done for under $350!  A mask is clearly to remind people not to touch their faces, as well as giving them fabric that is the highest quality cotton possible with an insert area for additional protection when desired, to make sure they understand the need. Women will receive patterns and can make by hand for their families, and other women with machines will be hired to sew for everyone. They also will want to understand about washing the mask after use.  Initially, the goal is one mask per family in all six villages, so whomever goes into public settings has one.  The women pictured below are the ones with major sewing skills who surfaced first. I was super surprised to see they already have begun meeting!
  • Helping to design the best pattern for the rural non-English speaking person with possibly little education is something I would appreciate help with…if you understand all the mask patterns you see online, and are willing to give me a hand in simplifying and putting it together, please call!  My sister has been making masks and it really just needs to formalized for Zimbabwe. We would make a short video to send as well. Thanks much!
  • Our intent is to give each family soap to last for 2 months, and then do that 3 times to get everyone through, until the hotter weather returns.  Our estimate is that $1,200 will accomplish this goal.  That is only $200 a month covering 400 families! Typically, soap is not culturally on the top of the grocery list, simply due to poverty.  If you are able to help with this, it is much appreciated!
The First CHANGE! Mask-Making Meeting Already Has Begun - 6' apart!

STAFF STIPENDS - We have put together a budget to pay the various people involved in Nhimbe from 50% to 100% of their compensation, for the rest of 2020, depending upon their part of the organization.  For instance, the guards, gardener and book keeper are continuing with full-time contributions. Many others are not expected to return to work right away, but we may need to reevaluate later in the year. 

.

Considering current donation levels, the importance of the water and permaculture project, and our lack of fundraising normalcy with music venues and classes cancelled, we were limited in what we projected we could do.  But are so grateful to be able to offer the 50%!  I know some of you are continuing to pay your housekeeper, or hairdresser, even though you aren’t seeing them, which is incredibly thoughtful.  That is the ideal and I’m amazed at this kind of generosity. Many blessings your way for continuing your support of those in need in your immediate circle!

.

Mhandara Monthly Care – MMC materials for 120 girls were purchased in March before the lock down, so funds have been set aside to make those items and deliver, as things settle in Zimbabwe.  We are hoping to reach out to the girls in readiness in a gradual way as things unfold.

.

If we are unable to buy fabric at the stores and are forced to dip into some materials purchased for MMC for the masks, we could use the purse sewing kit fabric, and holder fabric, providing enough for each family to have one mask. The flannel is comparatively more of a loose weave so we will keep in MMC supplies. Next week will tell us more about the store openings.

.

Tatenda Chaizvo!  Any way you are able to assist us is welcome. Your thoughts and heart-felt words are always appreciated! Donations can be sent by check, or using the website, just noting your focus in the description. Although not as convenient, sending a check means that the credit system (PayPal, etc.) doesn’t receive the 4% finance charge, so your donation goes further to the actual services we are providing on the ground.   

.

Thank you for your continued interest in these particular neighbors and their lives, who continue to face similar difficulties to your own. 

.

Those of you who have donated towards our efforts have given everyone here and there great encouragement for the long haul.  We understand that personal finances can be precarious for some.  Any and all ways you reach out make a huge difference.  Thank you for whatever you can do!

Latest News from Zimbabwe!


(This post went out last night but got buried in the Mailchimp post, so here I'm re-sending it.)

Like many of you, our Zimbabwean neighbors, although on the opposite side of our earth, are very much daily in our hearts and minds. 

Currently, the situation is much like Oregon with a limited number of Covid-19 cases, and governmental intervention to keep it that way.  Last week we heard they closed Western Union, as well as most all stores except large markets. Then also, the postal services from the US to Zimbabwe were ceased until at least the 19th of April, due to lack of flights.  This week we hear that banks, including Western Union, will reopen on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.  But, to travel to town, a person would need to present a supporting letter from the police. Soon, we will know more. Everyone waits by their radios in the rural area to hear the news as it unfolds for each day.

This is harvest time and most people would normally have a good harvest but due to the drought, some farmers in the Nhimbe area, are reaping only 30-40 kgs of maize to use for their whole year. Four days ago the government announced a delivery from World Food Program to those who were eligible.  Those selected people receive 6 kg mealie meal (ground maize), ¾ litre cooking oil and 1.5 kg peas.  The food was distributed according to the number of people residing at the homestead. Not everyone is chosen and so, food continues to be a challenge.

Everyone is in a lock down mode with armed guards at the store next to our Community Center. Soldiers and police were deployed to keep people from gathering.  There are a few stores now open again, but little that one can buy because the shelves are empty, since wholesale shops have not reopened.  Generally, no one is allowed to be walking around, unless they are on their way to their fields.  City life is also restricted and most people are staying home.  Fortunately, they know to wear some form of mask on their face and have heard about washing hands with soap.  TV also is very informative for most in the city.

Here Patricia shares how she is using a scarf, as they don't yet have masks.
The US Team is also using masks!

We have been talking about the idea that wearing masks really help a person remember not to touch their face, and it really isn't full protective gear.  We are discussing how to implement a way to support the villagers in making masks.  My sister here, like many gifted seamstresses, are making masks and donating where there is a need.  She is helping us to describe an easy mask to sew, since she has made many and continues to make improvements.  There aren’t many ways for us to help them, but this seems like one possibility, although our team there and I haven’t sorted logistics.  Education is largely word of mouth in the rural area, but if you can’t gather and visit it changes everything.  One possibility is when the print shop reopens, a pattern could be printed with instructions on one side, and other educational information on the other.  We continue to wait upon the unfolding.

When I saw that stores were to be closing here, I asked Patricia to go out and buy 8 batches of MMC supplies. enough for 120 girls, so when the stores closed there, we would at least have our basic materials. No one knows the future, but we do know that girls don’t stop blossoming.  If stores are closed, we might borrow the MMC purse fabric we just purchased, and use for mask making, which would make approximately 200 masks.  Just a thought.

Thank you again for your interest and support, now more than ever!

We totally understand that some of you are facing very difficult family circumstances and financial hardship. We are holding you all in our thoughts and hearts, and we know we will get through this together!