We arrived in Harare at two in the afternoon following a fourteen hour journey from London, Heathrow. Along the way we stopped at Addis Ababa in Ethiopia and Lusaka in Zambia. The stops were enjoyable enough, enabling us to see other parts of Africa and the vast change in climate and environment.
After we arrived in Harare we took a minibus for a short journey to the Small World lodge. We were expecting something somewhat different and were all pleasantly surprised by the garden and living area of the lodge filled with crafted metal artwork and comfortable furniture.
The next morning our journey through Zimbabwe to Mutare began. Rising in the early hours of the morning we climbed onto the bus that would become our home for the next 6 hours. Most people were still exhausted from the previous day’s journey and so the keen sightseeing ambitions of the group quickly dissipated into lulls and snoring. For those who had the energy to keep their eyes open, the landscape was an ever changing spectacle presenting the lush trees and mountains of this iconic country. The only possible downside to travelling across the country was the consistent police checks which delayed the journey much more than originally anticipated, with thorough questioning about where we were going and what we were doing.
On arrival to Mutare we found our rooms and were shown around the Catholic University grounds in which we were staying while we waited for our national volunteers to arrive. They had to take public transport from Bulawayo lasting thirteen hours – setting off at five in the morning and arriving at six in the evening. That night we got to know each other and spent it playing card games and exchanging information about where we came from and our personal lives.
Over the next five days we took part in an orientation week which was run by Kupa and Mark, two Progressio workers from Zimbabwe. During the five day programme we learnt more about what each team was going to be doing throughout the ten week programme (ROH, DOMCCP & SIMUKAI). We also learnt about the Zimbabwe culture and the possible problems we may encounter and in exchange we taught the national volunteers about the possible difficulties faced in dealing with the British culture of late nights and grumpy mornings.
The daily lessons usually ended between four and five in the afternoon leaving us just over an hour to take a Kombi to the local supermarket to buy snacks for the evening. Everyone remembers their first Kombi journey. The bumpy, haphazard bus service used throughout Zimbabwe juxtapose all forms of British transport and the chaos of fitting eighteen people into a ten-seat minivan was a new experience for all. After the orientation week had ended and we said our goodbyes we boarded yet another bus that would take us to Harare for a night before then taking an eight hour coach to Bulawayo. We left our national counterparts for the night as they went home to pack for the placement and we checked into a little hotel near the centre of town. The following morning, after dropping our luggage at the ROH office we made our way to at first glance seemed as shopping mall where we were to meet our host families for the first time. There were many do’s and don’ts explained to both the volunteers and the host families and general ground rules set for the eight weeks that we’d be staying with them. After the meeting we took taxis back to the office to collect our possessions and head home.
Written by: Jonah Bacon