Zimbabwe · 55 Days · 57 Moments · March 2016

Alan Calder-mcnicoll

Alan's trip to Zimbabwe

10 May 2016

Said my goodbyes to everyone and flew down to Joburg. Arrived in the afternoon and just stayed in my room watching moVies on my iPad. I stay at the Emerald Guest House when I'm here. It's 5 minutes from the airport terminal. Flying out tonight and home tomorrow afternoon in Dundee. I have loved my stay as usual and feel so privileged and humble to have been able to help in the small way that I can. I never feel as if it's enough.
My last Saturday started great on a lion with 2 of our 22 month old lions shown in cover picture of this blog. After our a hearty breakfast it was off to town and into the Dutch Oven where I treated our driver to a soft drink and fresh home made doughnut. This is what I have done every Saturday morning when he is driving. It's a very small simple gesture to show him how much I appreciate him. Antelope park would find it difficult to function without who would be regarded by many as the least important. Shammy the elderly lady who cleans the toilets and Mildred who washes the pots in the kitchen for example. They have been there for years and I always give them a hug when I arrive. They call me Sakuru (uncle) some of the staff especially in the kitchen call me Shumba (lion)! In the evening I invited all 10 of the orphanage staff to dinner along with Maxwell Chaerera from the university. It's become a customary thing for me to do for the staff who could never afford such a treat.

9 May 2016

Had a very hectic day on Friday with Question and I meeting with key players who will be assisting MCHP at the orphanage and the drop in centre. We met with the Director of Work Related Learning and 3 different Deans including the Dean of Student Services. He is also a Rotoract member. Rotoract is a younger version of Rotary but a part of the same organisation. They are keen to get involved with fund raising and assisting by providing labour. That same day is when we showed Bata MD and rotary club around the garden and orphanage. It was non stop tying up all the loose ends before I left. I am now in Joburg where I flew today. Catching up on my blog as I had fallen so far behind. I am staying here till tomorrow night at a lodge near the airport. I fly Tuesday evening and arrive home Wednesday afternoon.

8 May 2016

I had the pleasure of singinging at another church on Sunday. Maxwell Chaerera (pictured with me at Antelope Park after church on Sunday) picked me up and brought me back. He is the Director of Work Related Learning at the uni. And a lovely guy. I know they will do great things for the project. He has a huge heart and it's an honour for me to be considered by him as a friend.

7 May 2016

We had a visitor this morning. It's a very young grey crane. Mum and dad have migrated for the winter and this poor orphan has taken to the staff and wanders about the place quite the thing doing as he pleases.

6 May 2016

Showing a couple of the Gweru Rotary Club members around the new orphanage.
This is Question and I showing Mr Ehmasuzzaman around the orphanage garden at Antelope Park. He is the managing director of Bata the shoe manufacturer. They are the biggest employers in the area but have had to scale back massively on their workforce. He was very happy by what he saw and I think he will do his best to do something to help us. Bata have s big flails responsibility programme involving schools.
This is Duncan one of our drivers at Antelope Park. A lovely guy. When we go into town on a Saturday morning I enjoy giving him a treat of s doughnut and soft drink at the Dutch Oven where I get my lovely filtered coffee. It's the only place where you can get a decent cuppa coffee anywhere.
Paid a visit to the Poly clinic to see my friends on the staff there. This pic shows them buying clothes from a travelling sales lady.

4 May 2016

Proudly wearing my golf shirt with a Stay Connected logo for champions for children. I designed it myself and wanted something that volunteers who stay connected to the programme could order and wear. I wanted something very simple that might make friends ask questions and that they could feel comfortable wearing anywhere because it does not scream charity. The design is embroidered onto the golf shirt.
Two of our lions were out on their usual morning walk with volunteers the other day. They took down a wildebeest. This was the second time in a couple of weeks that lions out on a walk managed to kill sizeable prey. Last time it was s zebra. We were standing on the ground just 3 metres away from them watching and I took several pics and videos. The attached is just one. I reckon there are not many places if anywhere you would have the opportunity to be standing on the ground so close to lions during a kill. I felt very privileged.

3 May 2016

We started at the new drop in centre on Tuesday at the Trinity Presbyterian Church. There is not the same freedom there but it is way cheaper than the old drop in. Instead of around $550 it is only $200. This is the volunteers serving up the lunch. The child is Ruvarshe. This means Child Of God. She is the latest addition to kids on the street. Her mother is just 16. She was born 2 weeks ago.

30 April 2016

I went back to the Presbyterian church and was given great news. I spoke to the minister. Question and Happiness came to see the place and we move in Monday. It's so exciting and much better for the street children.
The following day we were locked out of the existing drop in centre because we were behind with payment of rent. It was only a part payment of this month that we were behind. The landlord has not been very accommodating to say the least. We were told to leave and all the doors of the offices were locked. They always get their money even if it is slightly late.

29 April 2016

I went to a Rotary function last Friday and we exchanged club flags. This pic is me receiving the Gweru Rotary Flag. I have left them to think about the idea of twinning to raise funds for our project and they were very receptive to the idea.
I'm still working on my idea for the next project and have an important meeting today. It should have been yesterday but Dr Monks the CEO of ALERT was busy. Echo ( one of our male lions) was being given a vasectomy operation. The procedure took a lot longer than expected as he took longer to sedate after being darted than expected. The picture show Echo after darting (see dart in picture in his hind quarters) I did not have time to stay for to see the operation as I had been invited to a rotary function in town and had to get ready for that. I still have a passion for the wildlife but in here to work in community and that always has to take second place.

28 April 2016

I walked passed the Presbyterian church on Wednesday when I had a thought and decided to pop in to see if they could rent us some space for a drop in centre. I met the evangelist there and after a lengthy conversation he showed us some facilities that were available. The pictures show the space they could rent to us. I gave him our budget and he then told me it would have to go before the minister and the board. I then showed Happiness the place . It's much better than where we currently are and much cheaper at $280 per month including bills. Currently we pay $500 per month and it's a small compound. Because it's just an outside space with a couple of offices and a kitchen it is really not suitable for the kids especially in the cold winter.

25 April 2016

Our Murder Mystery Thyme of Death went extremely well. Mainly volunteers they got into the spirit of things right away! We managed to raise $240 with $140 going directly to Midlands Children Hope Centre. It was really a brilliant night.
Went to the clinic on Monday. I only went to see the staff who I have got to know well from many previous visits helping out there. The staff are truly dedicated. Sipiphele (not in uniform in picture) is the environmental officer in Gweru and has her office at the clinic. She is expected to use her own mobile phone and car to get around. She has not been paid since September last year but like everyone here still manages to smile. Rosy in the other picture is a dedicated member of the nursing staff. The nurses also have been really struggling because they have not been getting proper pay for months.
On Tuesday last week some guests here at Antelope park were out on a lion walk with a couple of our larger male cubs. They succeeded in bringing down an adult stallion zebra. This was a first in the history of the lion conservation programme at Antelope Park that they successfully made such a large kill. Normally it's the odd rabbit or other small mammal. All very exciting for the guests to see and it proves that our programme is working!!
Had this brown recluse spider on my bed the other night (Picture courtesy of wiki). It is nicknamed the violin spider. Can be very nasty as it rots the flesh around the bite. Heard one horrific story about one person here who got one bite recently on her private parts. I'll not go into detail here. Managed to catch it and dump it outside. Sooo glad it wasn't in my bed!!

21 April 2016

This is Brendan. He is 14 months old. Born on the street to a young lady who lives on the street. She comes to the Drop In Centre for food every day. Champions For Children. Champions For Children support the work the work that is being done here to help the destitute and vulnerable on the streets of Gweru. Things are much harder now with the economy far worse than before. Please tick like if you can join And donate just a little each month to help people like Brendan I'll message you with details.

20 April 2016

More local support which is really exciting and much more meaningful than help from Foreigners like us. Econet have wired the new orphanage for up to 10 computers. The children will be allocated time slots for distance learning where along with 18 other children's homes they will get distance learning. Free internet will be donated to them along with the first 4 computers also provided free!! Nothing beats education to give the kids a great start in life!! I always get excited about local support. It's much more important than outside help!
Spent the weekend with friends in Bulawayo. I sang a solo in their church called Whitestone Chapel on Sunday morning. Advertising my album which will be out soon to raise money for the orphanage MAYWAVE fund.
Question the orphanage director and his wife Happiness along with his kids Joy, Praise, Shine, Pristine and Bravo all went out to chicken slice for a nice meal recently. It was a fun night for us all
The two engineers from Engineers without borders completed yesterday the solar panel installation at the orphanage. This was provided by the Norwegian Group. It will make such a huge difference to life for the kids.
Arranged a meeting with the Principle of Gweru Polytechnic a college in Gweru(pictured with Question and myself) We were successful in agreeing the basis of an MOU which will be mutually signed and they will assist if we can raise funding for teaching car maintenance, welding as well as clothes making to the kids. Facilities at the college will be made available during college holidays where they will be able to use existing equipment and facilities.

14 April 2016

I have been involved in discussions and putting in place stuff for the next project we hope to be doing. Still cannot go public with this yet as there is still a chance it may not happen. Waiting on decisions being made.
Lene from Norway is here for a week with a couple of people from Engineers Without Borders. They are putting in the Solar Panels. No more electricity bills for the orphanage and this will make a fantastic saving.
The picture in the previous note shows us with a group of students from Denmark. On Wednesday evening I gave them a Champions For Children Presentation.

13 April 2016

It's hard to believe that a week has gone past without me updating my blog. The Internet has been really bad here this past few days. As the first picture shows I have been busy organising the murder mystery we are having on 23rd April to raise money for the orphanage.

8 April 2016

Earlier in the week we went to look at the orphanage garden. It is great to see just how that is really flourishing. I ate my first ever peanuts freshly picked and they tasted just amazing.

7 April 2016

I will be doing a murder mystery here at Antelope Park soon to raise money for the community projects in general. It will be Thyme If Death which is a story I wrote a couple of years back. Some of my friends on the staff are getting involved as well as volunteers.
I'm busy working on plans for our next project but can't announce what that is yet but hope to do that next week. The charity ALERT here at Antelope Park will be driving Champions For Children forward using our model that we have created. I personally will be there in the background and advising and of course assisting when I come here. I've really fallen in love with the place which I regard as my Africa home.

5 April 2016

I was at the rotary club in Gweru on Monday. Trying to encourage them to come on board with my work here. If they do then there is a good chance my club in Scotland will also get involved. I went to the Drop in Centre (see street kids in pic) on Tuesday and then had a meeting with The Director of Work Related Learning at Midlands State University. It was a very good meeting indeed and we look forward to interns joining us soon. A really cold front has come our way and the temps have plummeted but set to rise again next week.
On the road to Bulawayo on Friday Question and I came across this boy lying on the highway. We thought at first he was dead. He had felt dizzy and dropped from exhaustion. He had no water,food and just the clothes he stood in. We put him in the back of the vehicle (Question took these pics) He was a 19 year old boy from Kariba. He had walked for 24 hours in the blazing heat of day and all night with no food or water. He narrated his story that he had been deported from Botswana where he had been working and the department of immigration gave him a lift up to Bulawayo and he was trying to walk nearly 800km to his home in Kariba when he felt dizzy and collapsed. He could hardly walk and Question had to assist him into our car. In Bulawayo We paid for his bus fare and food to Kariba. He was all smiles when he waved goodbye to us on the comfort of the bus we had found for him.

3 April 2016

Yesterday we went to a funeral in the local area. A cousin of Question who worked in England as a nurse passed away suddenly at her work two weeks ago. Her body was flown back here to be buried in the village where she came from. This was also Question's mothers village where he grew up. The funeral service lasted about 3 hours. Typically African with the younger male mourners filling in the grave. Lots of hymn singing and eulogies under a blazing sun with temperatures in the 30s. All the mourners ( looked like about 150) were given lunch served by outside caterers. I suspect by the lunch queues waiting to be served more than a few came for lunch and not the funeral! It was for me a good cultural experience never before having attended such an event. The rains are now officially over. The seasons however are a bit topsy turvy and anything could happen. We are experiencing a heat wave right now however and this hot weather is apparently set to continue for another 2 weeks.
Must apologise for the delay in updating my blog. A mixture of things really. Bad internet, meetings and I will admit to being a bit lazy on this front. Since October last year we have had no new Champions until now that is. My presentation to the volunteers resulted in 7 volunteers registering for the Champions For Children programme!! Another 3 from Norway have requested to join the Norwegian organisation MCHP. It's s great boost all round.
Wednesday was spent planning our next project with Champions For Children. Had a meeting with Gary the manager here. I don't want to divulge yet what it is but Champions For Children will be taken over and driven by ALERT after July. We will continue with the Maywave part of Champions. Raising money for the furnishing of the new orphanages. I hope to let everyone know what the new project will be soon. A lot of work will be required by ALERT and others on the ground here. All I can say at this stage Is that it is not something I ever thought would happen but the need is so great.

1 April 2016

Question and I stayed in the Matopas overnight at a fantastic lodge called Matobo Hills Lodge. Pictures shows where we stayed. Service was of s very high standard. The location was truly stunning great views of the rocky outcrops and surrounding area. The lodge is actually perched high up on one of these outcrops.
On Friday I went with Question for a couple of days to Matopas. This is in the heart of Ndebele land. It is where Question comes from. We specifically wanted to see a project there called the Ebenezer trust. It's s Christian organisation that teaches kids how to farm. There are 80 students who are there. I met someone who was here at Antelope Park and told me about it. I wanted to see how it worked and we left there very impressed. It's a residential course lasting 2 years with options at stages for students to leave if they wish. It's for young adults 18 to 23. Very very impressive. The picture shows students in the dining hall at lunch.

30 March 2016

Earlier this week I spent time with local school children who were being presented with their certificates for completing ALERT's conservation modules. About 80 children were brought to Antelope Park and prior to their presentation they enjoyed our activities here. Visiting the elephants. Pony rides and a game drive to see our animals. A great day was had by all. It was hot .. Very hot!

27 March 2016

Easter Sunday and boy was it a scorcher. It felt like 30degrees. Today our Easter Bunny was driven in one of our horse drawn carriages to meet the guests and their children who were spending the weekend here. The kids of course loved the Easter egg hunt and Yvonne played the bunny beautifully.

25 March 2016

Last night a retired English policeman introduce himself to me. His name is Alan and he was here with his Zimbabwean girlfriend who is s social worker in England dealing with child protection. They have both offered their services to me and want to return with me the next time I am here to help us with our work.
The garden looks amaizing. I've deliberately spelt that word wrongly. This pic I took today is Maize the staple food of most people here. They are now making some profit from the garden which was came into being because of our Swedish Champions who made sure that water would never be a problem by installing a drop system fed by water pumped 4.5 kilometres from the local river. A quarter of the total population are having to be fed by International food aid and people are dying. Cattle are dying by the thousands. The rains have come but to late for the harvest. Our kids are safe and not going hungry.
Today I went to see Dr Msipa. He is the former Midlands Governor and one of the "Friends of the Orphanage" something we put in place at the beginning. This was part of our plan to create a local support network and these friends are people with influence that can help in times of crises. He has been a great help recently and without his help recently things would have been bad for the orphanage. He has published his book and gave me a signed copy.

24 March 2016

Went to the drop in centre yesterday for the street children. They come for their lunch and I was thrilled to see they are adhering to my request and paying for their lunch by bringing a couple of empty plastic bottles. They have been mounting and we will soon have enough to build with. This pic shows our volunteers helping them with their English.
I arrived back in my beloved Zimbabwe on Tuesday. Fabulous to see all my friends again. Spent all day yesterday with the orphanage director Question and Happiness just finding out what has been happening. Genius a former street kid was there. He is being supported financially to attend school and is now going to Chaplin School. It's a private school. Genius is the boy who we encouraged to make cards when he was on the street. He is living in rented accommodation. I learned that HIV is now on the rise again here. The economy is really worse than before. Government are clamping down hard on foreign companies operating here that do not follow the indigenisation programme that was introduced. This is where a foreign company has to be 51% owned by a Zimbabwean. Won't say any more about that. Going to the drop in centre today and have a big meeting with Gary the manager here at Antelope Park. Sorry no pics just now as Internet is so terribly slow here at the moment.

21 March 2016

After 5 days here in Cape Town it is time to say goodbye. In the very short time I was there I made friends with some really nice local people. One of the great things about travelling alone is that you meet so many interesting folks just by talking. If everyone just took time to talk to and listen to people they met, who would otherwise be strangers, their lives would be the richer for it. Many people find it hard to speak to strangers. I just love listening to people's stories, and most do have a story to tell. One lady confided in me something so personal ( she was in her 50s and had always kept this horrible secret) allowing me to be the first person to hear what happened to her. Vincent the rock musician I met at Mimi's Coffee Shop. He was a real live wire and we got on so well. Listening to him and his stories was amazing. Vivienne and Mike the owners of Mimi's with whom, after church yesterday, I spent 3 hours just chatting and getting to know them.

19 March 2016

She then succeeded in getting a job at a bank in London before returning to live and work in Africa. "My family were always saying we are so poor. Everyone has a switch she said that just has to be flicked." am sure there are many such stories of people who just "flick a switch". " We can do anything if we choose to." She said. You could say that she was lucky that her grandmother had a cow to sell and you would be right. However her grandmother gave up something she had in order to make sure that her granddaughter could create a better life for herself. Although she did not tell me I am sure her grandmother must have seen the switch waiting to be flicked. We can all complain about being victims of our circumstances but this story certainly demonstrates courage and fortitude.
Last night I met a couple in the Green Elephant Backpackers where I am staying in Capetown. During our conversation the lady told me an amazing story. She is happy for me to tell her story. Nonopa Zozo grew up in a small very rural village in the Eastern Cape here in South Africa. She spent her early childhood tending her grandmothers sheep and looking after cows. She would have been typical of many here in Africa. "I used to carry buckets of water on my head" she said. Such was her determination to improve her life and better herself that she moved to London. "Where did you get the money for that" I asked. " From my grandmother. She sold her cow". When Nonopa arrived in London she had only a few pounds. " I was amazed at what I saw there. Everything was so big and people were rushing around everywhere". She got a job fairly quickly and lived in the east end of London. She managed to get herself a place at a college studying accountancy. Continued...
Spent this morning going to a Saturday market held in a church down the road from here. Went to a coffee shop where I met really interesting guy called Vincent. He was really interested in what I was doing in Zim. As we chatted he told me if his interests in music and theatre. After hearing about my murder mystery writing he phoned a professional actor friend. He is going to contact me about the possibility of them staging a performance of one of my murders in a restaurant here. I said a portion of profits for the orphanage in Zimbabwe . All afternoon been enjoying the sun all day by the pool. The guy I met is in the photo.

18 March 2016

She then succeeded in getting a job at a bank in London before returning to live and work in Africa. "My family were always saying we are so poor. Everyone has a switch she said that just has to be flicked." am sure there are many such stories of people who just "flick a switch". " We can do anything if we choose to." She said. You could say that she was lucky that her grandmother had a cow to sell and you would be right. However her grandmother gave up something she had in order to make sure that her granddaughter could create a better life for herself. Although she did not tell me I am sure her grandmother must have seen the switch waiting to be flicked. We can all complain about being victims of our circumstances but this story certainly demonstrates courage and fortitude.
A conversation I had with the owner of this Backpackers led to Beth Uriel where I visited this morning.. This is the name of a residential establishment that caters for the needs of older children who have been in care. It's a transitional place where they are supported during their adjustment to the outside world. It was a very informative meeting. I spent the rest of the day in the company of the Paul Hooper Executive Director of another organisation called Homestead who operate a residential programme for street children. They have had an amazing success rate reducing the centre of Capetown's population of street kids population from 350 down to 7. I learned so much about his methods which, although unorthodox,made real sense to me. The street kids here are often referred to as cockroaches by people but "inside every cockroach there is a child", he told me. He showed me their amazing facility in a place called Khayelitsha which is close by a district known as Cape Flats.

16 March 2016

I know the picture looks a mess but boy did it taste delicious. I cooked this 450 gram of steak last night and had it with home made coleslaw and toms. It was amazing!! This morning I had a meeting with Greg Bows the MD of African Impact a sister company of Antelope Park. Looking at ways forward with Champions For Children and The Happy Africa Foundation which is another sister organisation. Tomorrow I have organised meetings with a children's safe house and another children's organisation here in Capetown. I plan very little before coming here leaving room for God to put opportunities in front of me and I'd never thought I would be meeting up with these guys but we have a street kid problem in Gweru. Just this morning I was told about them and I hear they are successful in tackling such issues.Tonight is the pizza night at the Green Elephant but I will be sticking to the low carb eating that I do and again having sirloin steak. Temp dropped to 23 here and folks saying it's cold!!
I know this blog says Zimbabwe but I am spending my first 5 days in Capetown, South Africa. I was a bit apprehensive about travelling by British Airways but I needn't have been. It was a trouble free flight last night from Heathrow all be it long one and I did manage to catch some sleep. 11.5 hours later at 11am local time we touched down into a very hot morning where the temperature had soared already to 30 degrees according to the driver who picked me up. 20 minutes later I arrived at my Capetown home for the next 5 days. It's called the Green Elephant and I stayed here last January. It's a backpackers in a district known as Obs. which is short for observatory. A trip down to the local spar got me some rations for cooking. They have a big communal kitchen here and steak is on the menu for me tonight and tomorrow and the day after!! I never get fed up of the stuff especially when it costs a fraction of the price you pay back home for sirloin.