‘This year it is so bad, we really have to guard our compound and fields because of the baboons.’

This is a very common statement that we have been hearing from our home visits.  It really does sound like something you would hear in a movie. The more we move around the villages, the more things become more real and yet surreal at the same time.  It was explained to us almost too graphically of how these baboons would come to the compound; pluck out eyes from the little goats before savaging them, they would also pick up chickens and  run with them back into the mountains as well as eat the crops in the fields.  Mrs Kutsanza explained to us that if you walk around with a dog, the baboons would come and fight with it, therefore the dog has to be able to fight the baboon or else it will literally be picked up, hit against the ground and thrown further away. I feel like a little girl again hearing these stories as if they were tales from great-grand parents. As I Interpreted the story to Hilary she just looked at me and said, ‘what? Baboons? Here?’  in shock of the story, however after hearing the same things happening around the different villages she is coming to terms with it being a reality.

We have now passed our mid-term and now have just a few short weeks of placement, which puts us a bit under pressure as we want to achieve so much in so little time.  We have been doing home visits for the last couple of weeks, where we visit people living with HIV/AIDS and it has been so eye-opening. These people speak so freely, letting us into their homes and private lives. On one of the visits we sat in the kitchen-hut and were offered food, it would be rude to say no right? The lady dished sadza on the plate which is Zimbabwe’s staple food. It looks like mashed potato but it is almost tasteless however it gets its wonderful taste when combined with the side dish which ranges from chicken or beef stew, green vegetables with peanut butter or any other relish. After being given the sadza we waited for the relish which in this case was very different, it was peanuts. Sadza and peanuts?  I was puzzled my throat felt so dry just looking at it, with a big smile I said ‘thank you’ a few minutes later I looked to my left where Petronellah, one of the volunteers had finished her food, I looked to my right where Hilary also had finished her food, next to her was Hannah who was also on her way to finishing her food. There was much pressure on me to finish this food but I failed. However in that failing I learnt a lot. This is what these people eat from time to time and they are still happy people, friendly and their hospitality is just beautiful. They are content with what they have and very grateful.

Alongside these home visits we are still doing awareness sessions in schools. As much as a lot of the volunteers are not fans of walking, myself included I must say that our 4km walk every Tuesday to Samanyika became very interesting for me. I could not wait to get there because of my new discovery. I had picked up on a cloud of smoke that would come from the mountains and I couldn’t understand where it would start from. Petronellah began to explain to me that when it is really hot the rocks would fall on each other, cause friction and then start a fire. Yes I know! Its basic textbook information but when you see it, it is quite the sight. I now see a different scenery where one mountain looks completely dark as the clouds are literally sitting right on top and yet the next mountain looks very bright, Hannah mentioned to me that Scotland does look like that at times so you can just imagine for yourself. It now seems the rains are on their way with heavy sounds of thunder and the sight of lighting, it is quite a glorious view.  After seeing all these natural wonders and such a real way of life, I feel I would be a fool to say there is no God. Africa is just too amazing.

With Christmas approaching we have also begun to assist Sister Christiana, who, on a yearly basis, goes out to the surrounding villages to hand out food donations to the orphans for the Christmas festival. We go out in pairs and because of the roads around the area it is quite a ride. Both myself and Kenny get into the back of the car nice and clean but by the time we arrive, we are covered in dust from head to toe, not forgetting a few bruises. One of the things that really touches my heart is the way the community really take on orphans as their children and makes sure they are looked after. It actually brings shame to a community headman or carers if orphans are not registered or being looked after. The solidarity, kindness and greetings from our neighbours have been so great. Everywhere we visit we come back with bags of fruits or vegetables. The giving heart that they have has made us feel like family, surely my prayer is that I also pick up this heart of kindness as I continue my journey of life and leave these people in a few weeks which will be so hard.

Blog by: Joy Mandivenga

Photo: Sister Christina handing out food donations to orphans



Samanyika... Is this the Samanyika in eastern Zimbabwe? Very close to the Mozambique border?

[Editor's reply: Yes, Samanyika is in the area around Mutare where Joy Mandivenga's team of Progressio ICS volunteers is based.]