In the Beginning
November 1999, Cosmas Magaya and Jaiaen Beck made a list of ways they imagined a relationship developing between Zimbabwe and the US. Since then the items on that list have been time-tested for 1) value in this moment and pertinence to daily life, 2) importance to the future and survival, and 3) continuity with the traditions of the past. We evaluated the list by addressing the life issues that were arising out of hyper-inflation, a failing educational and medical system and living through the hardships within the community as residents lost loved ones at an unbearable rate, watched their jobs drift into nothingness, while trying to look forward with hope to something better. Being optimistic is tough. But the Shona are a resilient people and out of this work together we have whittled our list, organized our thoughts, and find clarity in the following:
The most critical point above all others, the apex of the pyramid, is supporting health and well-being. For many years, we were able to offer services through our own Donhodzo Health Center at the Nhimbe for Progress Community Center. This was a most fundamental program because it affected people’s health, and longevity. What is the point of any other service if the people aren’t alive to benefit from them? Through providing basic and simple medical services, Donhodzo changed the lives of everyone in the area as it provided free medical care and education to whomever reached its doors.
The next most important program is that which serves the children – the Youth Well Being program. Without tending to the needs of the children, there is no future. The children are the hope for the future, and they are the path forward to revitalize and sustain the culture. Our Youth Well Being program is addressing the needs of the children in various ways as we support them with special care for growing up as a child in today’s Africa.
Our third priority is to address the sub-standard living conditions of the families in the regions where we work. These are basic facilities that support the overall health and well being of all residents including the building of toilets, wells, huts and fuel-efficient stoves. Improvements to any one of these basic facilities can change the life styles of the extended family uplifting their lives dramatically for generations.
Our final program area is that of sustainability, which shows itself as a thread interwoven with the lives of everyone participating. How do we work together? How do we celebrate life through sharing our cultural diversity with an exchange that honors the past, present, and the future? What kinds of business skills are being learned so that all functions are run efficiently, managed professionally and demonstrate solid practices for years to come? How do our actions affect our whole environment – the social fabric, the permanent culture of nature in an agrarian society, the community resources? How is volunteerism an integral piece of the relationships? How do we circumvent a charity mindset if one is being charitable or receiving charity? The answers to these questions help to define sustainability as a program even more than as a philosophy of self-sufficiency.