Zimbabwe · 32 Days · 31 Moments · September 2016

Bruce Elston

Zimbabwe September 2016

8 October 2016

I'm still in Zim and not home till Thursday. Got passport nicked and did not realise till 2 hrs before I was due to head to the airport yesterday. Pretty stressful day and and expensive loss. About £500 so far with changes to flights etc and extra nights stay in Zim and temp papers which I have to get the British embassy to organise for me on Monday. It's boiling here so just gonna chill out hopefully. My insurance will only give me up to £100 compensation. Groan!! Happened getting off bus yesterday but never discovered it till this afternoon. Reported to police of course... Not that they were interested but at least I got a report number needed by embassy and insurance.

6 October 2016

Today I said my goodbyes to Jill and she drove me to the bus at 7am for the long bus journey to Harare. On the bus the guy sitting next to me was a past Rotary member and we had s great chat. I'm hopeful something might come from that but either way he was a really interesting guy who now lives in the UK. We are going to stay in touch. Arrived at my friend Carol's guest house and was immediately made to feel at home. She has an Indian guy staying for some time who works here and I really enjoyed some goat curry he made for us. Fly home tomorrow ( Friday) at 6.40.pm. A really long trip. It has been a greatly rewarding trip this time with much achievement I feel. Time will tell and I will be back here in March for a couple of months.
On Wednesday I got a call from a the secretary of Gweru Rotary called Philipa. She told me she had arrived in Bulawayo to spend s couple of days with family and would I like to attend a family birthday lunch at the Holiday Inn. It was her son and daughter's birthday. They are twins. It was a really nice affair and so kind of them to invite me to such s private occasion.
Talk about coincidences. At Brooke's Cafe I met with a white guy sitting at a table. We chatted and very early on in the chat he told me he was a member of Rotary in Bulawayo. I hadn't even mentioned Rotary or what I was doing! That meeting resulted in me attending a Rotary lunch meeting where I was asked to speak about the work I was doing. Perhaps another door will open from that.

4 October 2016

Taking advantage of the half decent internet at Brooks Cafe where I am sitting in Bulawayo where I came to yesterday after saying my goodbyes to Antelope Park. The coffee here is really amazing! Staying with my friend Jill and will leave on Thursday to Harare. I fly Friday and will arrive in Glasgow Saturday night. Gonna stay at the airport hotel and go home Sunday.
Sunday was a restful day. I did not go to church and instead decided to chill out by the pool. In the evening the university director Maxwell Chaerera came to see me and so we had dinner together and discussed the street children vocational training programme and the involvement of MSU. Maxwell had had a very hectic day having driven 500ks round trip to a funeral and although exhausted came to see me.
My last weekend in Zimbabwe was good. I went to the Drop In Centre where the kids were playing my album! Did not think kids or young adults would like it. But the opposite seems to be true. It has been such a pleasure to be able to serve the orphanage. The focus now however will be on the street children. We need funding though for reunification with families where possible. That has to be the first priority. Saturday in the afternoon I went to a rotary function at whitewater. It was a new board induction for the the interact club of Guinea Fowl school. It is really great to see so much Rotary activity by locals in a country where there is so much poverty. Their motto Service above Self is truly the case here.

30 September 2016

This week I handed over more than 1000 albums to the Rotary Club of Gweru. They will be sold for $1 each. People cannot afford any more than that.
The shower cubicle has been built and painted nicely. The bucket is still awaiting adaption with the attachments ( this is Africa) but hopefully that will happen today. Tonight I am treating The orphanage director along with his wife and kids out to the Chicken Inn for a treat. I keep going on about this but the staff are so important. They are the ones who look after the children for virtually nothing in terms of pay. Life is an incredible struggle here for them and we are so lucky they have chosen to stand by the programme.
Saturday evening we held a Murder Mystery here at Antelope Park. It was fantastic and we had a good size audience. The event took place over dinner. The Swedes,myself and a couple of staff provided the entertainment by playing the characters in this modern day scenario. We wrote it a couple of weeks ago and made the story about Antelope Park and the development of a fictitious home for the elderly here. Eva and Christina played amazingly. The audience loved it. We did not charge but instead asked for donations. The sum of $163 was raised and that money will be used at the Drop On Centre to cover electricity etc.
Monday my Swedish Champions For Children co founders and friends left in the morning for home. They have done a huge amount of work here and are really committed to helping the street children.

26 September 2016

Sunday was was a great day. I had decided on Saturday I would not go to church as i was pretty tired. Soon after I had made that decision a Canadian guest approached me and asked where there was a church she could go to the following day. I said to myself ... Well if I don't go there is no way she can go. I of course changed my mind and took her as well as a volunteer. I thought they would be fed up of my singing by now but they asked me again. My guests loved the whole African church experience. In the late afternoon when the weather had cooled down we took all the orphanage staff out to a BBQ in the Flamingo about 12 ks from town. They loved it and the Swedish Champions paid for everything. They are a fantastic staff and they must be appreciated. They give so much for extremely little in return.
On Saturday morning we went to visit a family who live in the country a few miles out of town. This is the same family I visited last year. They really are struggling and have to walk 2 kilometres for water every day. They have so many children and they looked very dirty and some looked undernourished. We took a good amount of food for them and of course they were grateful for that. We went into town and the Swedish Champions purchased the bucket and fittings for our primitive shower. It is going to make such a difference to the street kids.

23 September 2016

We went to a tribal village afterwards and treated to a display of dancing by the locals. We are achieving a lot on this visit. Our Swedish Champions are amazing. The installation of a shower at the Drop in Centre will make a huge difference to the street kids.
A couple of days ago we all went to see the Great Zimbabwe Ruins. We had a really great day. We hired a driver and car for the day. The weather was lovely. Hot but not unbearable. These ruins are second only to the pyramids of Egypt. Check out this link for more info http://www.victoriafalls-guide.net/great-zimbabwe.html We climbed the 600 metres to the top and the views were really amazing.
A couple of days later the same young volunteer was working on a snare sweep when he saw a python. A snare sweep involves a group walking a given area frequented by poachers and removing horrible wire traps that are put there to catch animals. Everyone thought he was joking when he saw it and were surprised!

18 September 2016

Last night one of the volunteers went to the loo and was unable to get out because a puff adder was sprawled across the entrance. Luckily he had his mobile phone and called reception to get a member of staff to deal with it. This is snake time and if you are bitten by a puff adder or a mamba it is time to say goodbye. There is no anti venom locally. There are also no ventilators anywhere in the country.
I have had my albums made here and they are supposed to be delivered tonight at 5pm. I've learned that time is not respected here and and 5pm can mean anything. I have paid for 1200 copies and Rotary will be selling them.
Organising a murder mystery this week at Antelope Park. Hoping to raise some funds for the Street Kids Drop In Centre. There is not going to be a charge other than the normal dinner cost. We will be just asking for donations.
It has been a steady few days and the Internet has not been great. The weather has been very hot but today it has cooled down somewhat. I was asked to sing at church today. I went to Cephas Msipa's church. He invited me to his house beforehand for tea and asked me to travel with him and his driver. He is the former provincial governor and is very well respected in the country. At over 80 years of age he is amazing and he does so much for good causes. Yesterday myself and Eva were invited to a BBQ at a place called Whitewater about 30 k from here. It was a social function held by the Gweru Rotary club. Very informal and just for ourselves. A great chance to meet and get to know everyone. The temp yesterday was 35 ish. Pretty darned hot!!

14 September 2016

Rotary are one of the largest charities in the world and this project ticks all the right boxes for them. The President of the club is also the Principle of the local college. The club here will appeal internationally to other clubs in the longer term.
Until we have the required infrastructure in place these courses will be offered free to the older street children and other vulnerable children within Gweru and will take place at Gweru Polytech College. The courses (20 students per course) will be piloted in December of this year during the College holiday periods and if successful they will be run during all holiday periods. In addition to this simpler structures can be erected to facilitate training outwith the college. Both short term courses will require a total of $5000 for December only and this money will be raised initially by the local Rotary club. It has always been my personal vision and that of my cofounders that we have local support. Our Swedish Champions have agreed to donate $1000 to the Rotary in order to get the ball rolling.
Gweru Street Children Project. On Sunday evening we had a very successful meeting with rotary. We discussed a street children project. I have been working towards this since my last visit here. I chose not to go public on social media with anything until we had acceptance by the local Rotary of my proposal and a concrete plan of action. I am happy to say that we now have both. The longer term aim is to have a Skills Block built. This will be equipped with all the necessary tools required to run vocational courses. It was agreed that we would start with two pilot courses in Motor Mechanics and Cosmetology. These are the ones that would be most useful in terms of income generation for the students but It will take time to develop this and Rotary views this as a long term project.
Our Swedish Champions arrived here with masses of medical supplies donated to them including diabetes testing kits for the local Poly Clinic here in Gweru. The staff there were overwhelmed by the amount of things. Everyone is suffering here in the country and its fabulous they were able to help in this way.
Went to the Drop In Centre yesterday. The one we were using at the church turned out to be impractical as movement was restricted. Question negotiated a much better rental at the old place. Antelope Park contribute to the monthly rentals and Australian Champion Heidi has ensured that the difference will be made up for the next year. She has done amazing things when here and has provided much needed food as well as other things. Not only at the Drop In but also at a local school that is being fundraised for by Antelope Park. Heidi left a couple of days ago and will be sorely missed by the kids.

12 September 2016

Gary, the manager here, was however unable to shoot him. One look at his sweet face would tell you why! He now gets thoroughly spoiled by the volunteers as he wanders freely around the camp. Being blind and very partially sighted in one eye he tends to stick close to the volunteer living quarters and will live out his last days in the lap of luxury!
Johnny Walker is normally synonymous with whisky but in the this case Johnny Walker is a donkey, a very lucky donkey. He arrived here at Antelope Park purchased from the locals as lion feed. It's normal practice for us to buy animals that are perhaps old or infirm, humanely despatch them and use them for feed. Johnny was one such beast taken in. He looked as if he had been badly neglected and worked extremely hard. Covered in sores and wounds where he had been beaten, he was a very forlorn figure. Donkeys here are used mainly for pulling carts laden with heavy wood or for transporting anything really.

9 September 2016

Contd/ My cofounders of Champions For Children Eva and Christina arrived the same day along with 3 of their Swedish group. After much blethering and catching up it was bed at 10pm and a great nights sleep. Yesterday I went back to the Drop In Centre and met up with Heidi who is a champion from Australis. She has been here almost a month and has spent a huge amount of money stocking up the freezer and cupboards. She has also bought much needed cooking equipment. I introduced myself to the volunteers and spent some time doing push ups with the kids. It is always a bit of amusement for them but I can hold my own managing an impressive 15 correctly done! I hope to beat that figure over the next few days. Last year I managed 20 but I guess I am no chicken!'
Contd/ At 11am the coach rolled into the courtyard of the Chicken Inn in Gweru. The usual vendors were there selling their airtime vouchers.for pay as you go mobile phones. They and taxi drivers are never pushy in Zimbabwe unlike other parts of the world. Bring a low carber I'm not used to eating chicken and chips but I must confess to looking forward to this meal so early in the day. Under a cloudless sky I devoured my long awaited prize and awaited the arrival of Question the orphanage director, who would take me to Antelope Park, We stopped off at the Drop Inn Centre en route, I had a brought a few things for Question and Hsppiness and their children.
I call it the Chicken Run because the bus trip that I take from Harare to Gweru always stops at the Chicken Inn. All the passengers on board as well as those leaving are given chicken and chips as well as a bottle of coke or juice. I arrived at the bus after a nights rest at Carol's guest house in Avondale Harare and paid the $20 for my ticket climbed aboard the luxury double decker coach and seated myself on the executive top deck at the front. The 3.5 hour bus journey was uneventful. I managed to sleep a good part of the journey.

6 September 2016

Arrived in Zimbabwe tonight after a transit that lasted 29 hours from leaving Dundee. Great flights with Emirates and managed to get exit seats all the way. Managed to get some sleep and feel surprisingly rested. Cuthbert is a taxi driver I use and he always picks me up at the airport. Staying at Carol's guest house in Avondale where I usually stay when I fly into Harare. She is away just now but her domestic staff member called Jealous cooked my evening meal.