Our school programme is now on the roll and it is full steam ahead from here. After all the meetings and various amendments to our action plan we now have a concrete list of all the topics we will be presenting to our targeted primary and secondary schools in and around Regina. Our topics range from child abuse to waste management to HIV & AIDS basics to gender equality.

During my short time here I’ve been so amazed at how maturely the primary school children in particular are able to handle such sensitive topics like child abuse and HIV & AIDS and how they are able to turn such grim and difficult subjects into heart-warming and thought provoking poems and dramas.

This week we conducted our first ever secondary school session which was somewhat of a learning experience, i.e. don’t play games with teenagers - it won’t work! Even though the students at Kambudzi Secondary School were less than enthusiastic about participating in our HIV transmission demonstration, we powered through our HIV & AIDS Basics session, however, with a lot of questions as to how to approach future sessions with the secondary schools.

As if that wasn’t eventful enough the following day at Regina High school we took a class of 196 students, which if I may add, was definitely not planned. The look on all our faces was quite the picture as we walked into the school dining hall filled with forms 1, 2 & 3 (aka 14-16 year olds), but we took on the challenge like the troopers we are and conducted a very interactive and successful session on child abuse.

This week we also experienced an electricity cut which lasted a day and a half no less!  It’s fair to say that we were all pretty much wrecks especially when adding to the mix the signal failure of Econet (Zimbabwe’s only mobile network) which in itself lasted a whole day.  With no electricity to use the cooker, we had to refer to the traditional African way of cooking using firewood. It was quite the event  trying to start up a fire with the heavens threatening to pour down upon us, yet the drizzle didn’t last long and the fire was up and running - I wish I could say in no time but I think it did take us about half an hour to get it started properly.  Despite this me, Hannah, Joy and Yvonne (all international volunteers) were more than happy at our achievement.

To cap off the week the group attended an orphan gala at Chatindo Primary School organised by Sister Christiana, who works within the Regina Coeli mission where we are staying. The orphan gala was an awareness raising event, as well as an opportunity to show the 400 plus orphans in and around the surrounding area how much the community around them care about them.  As a group we participated in the judging of the various children’s competitions, which was fun but at one point became rather scary when one child almost drowned by sticking his head too far into a bucket full of water in order to pick up a lemon using just his mouth!  Just to note, the child in question is fine and even managed to laugh at his own incredible dedication to the competition (who for the record, got second place). We then took part in the prize giving ceremony that followed the competitions and after that we, along with various other community members, helped Sister Christiana distribute the donated clothes, shoes and toys to the orphans and vulnerable children (OVC).

One of funniest things so far has got to be when Hannah and Yvonne successfully reunited a crying baby goat (or “mbudzi” as it is called in Shona) with its mother after it had locked itself inside the hospital compound with no way of getting out - whilst me, Joy and Petronellah stood back and watched a little nervous about the fact that the baby goat was very close to the hospitals’ mortuary, YIKES!!!

Hannah with students

Our schedule these next coming weeks is going to be hectic with our school programme in full swing, as well as the start of our home visits to HIV positive support group members.  In addition, we have some exciting new projects in the pipeline, all of which were thought up by us volunteers, they include; setting up a skills-sharing group for local men and women, launching a young women’s debate/discussion group as well as renovating the local crèche and helping to establish a proper syllabus for the grade 0’s.

Although, in all honesty it’s quite daunting thinking about the vast number of things we plan on doing in the next month and a half, I don’t think I would have it any other way, after all this is what I and the other volunteers signed up for.  Our work with Progressio’s  partner organisation Diocese of Mutare Community Care Programme (DOMCCP) is all about educating, supporting and empowering local community members - who are amongst some of the poorest people in Zimbabwe - to take control of their lives, especially considering most of the clients are HIV positive and the spread of HIV is currently a huge issue in Zimbabwe.  In this sense our main objective is to add value to DOMCCP’s activities and conduct a programme which will benefit all members of the community - young and old, in and around the Regina Coeli mission, whilst trying to initiate our own projects that will be sustainable long after we have left the country.

I have to say we must be doing something right so far, as the school kids are beginning to remember and shout out our names when saying hello, even when we are off duty and just heading to the tuck shop to pick up mobile airtime or indulge in some sweet treats! I really feel appreciated by these children and by the other village members within the Regina Coeli mission who always give us a warm smile or a friendly greeting each day as we pass by them on our way to our daily activities.  I’m so glad that our presence in the community and the activities we are taking part in are genuinely making a difference in the community, no matter how small and I hope we continue to have such a positive impact on the community for the time we are here.

By UK Progressio ICS Hilary Osei-Asibey.

Photo 1: A student receiving their prize at the orphan gala

Photo 2: Hannah with a suprising amount of students