Having now spent a good few weeks of endless fun and work with Restoration of Hope, we’ve managed to get ourselves out of the office a bit more and spend much more time with the several contacts that we’ve been busy making. The Psychosocial Support Department in particular have been spending much of their weeks with Scripture Union. This is a contact centre and safe place for street children (ages ranging between 11 and 20+) to spend their day times, where they have the ability to wash their clothes, bathe themselves, and receive three meals per day.
Whilst making contact with SU early on in the cycle, we were lucky enough to find out about a football team they were intending on setting up. With one of the international volunteers in the PSS department having a keen interest in football and experience in coaching, we jumped at the opportunity to volunteer our time and help with the sessions. We now lead these football sessions twice a week, the plan being to meet at the football pitch, located a convenient two minute walk from our offices, at 11am. Once spending any more than a few hours in Africa however, one realises quickly that planning doesn’t always mean the same thing as it might do back in the UK – if anything at all! After making the mistake at the beginning of the cycle of thinking that a session of football would only last an hour or two, we now accept that volunteers visiting SU with be spending an entire afternoon with the children, being involved in a number of activities.
A typical day at SU, or indeed in the office, is difficult to describe, since things do not happen seem to happen ‘typically’ here. More often than not, something new and unexpected will turn up, helping to keep us on our toes and challenge us significantly..! The only certain thing for each day is the morning ‘teavotion’ in the office – a term coined by international volunteers, combining the morning devotion sessions and tea time. Although ‘tea time’ may be a very familiar term to all of us in the UK, it certainly does not mean the same to the Zimbabweans who hold a seemingly great importance on this daily cultural event. Consisting of tea, coffee, and Mazoe (a cordial type drink available in an abundance of flavours), it is accompanied always by stacks of bread and, if you’re lucky, occasional jam and/or peanut butter. Definitely something that needs to catch on in the UK.
Post tea time, two or three eager volunteers leave the office at around 10:40, in order to arrive punctually at SU for 11am, in true British style. Our promptness however often causes more problems than solving any, frequently arriving at the centre before even the children do…
The availability of free food and shelter may seem like a no brainer for you or me, however, for many of the street children, the option of staying on the street to earn money is a much more appealing one, and is an option that unfortunately many of them chose to take. Because of this, we will often find ourselves on ‘street visits’ - used in order to find and mobilise the children, making sure that they turn up at the centre.
After arriving back to the centre, hopefully with a (literal) truckload of children, we often spend an hour or so socialising with the children, as well as providing general psychosocial support for them; a favourite activity of theirs being a card game called ‘close-it’. Due to language barriers, it took us a (rather long) while to figure out the seemingly over-complicated rules, however we now seem to have mastered it, regularly making appearances in the ‘final’ rounds – and even sometimes winning! Despite their conditions, the energy and happiness that radiates from all the children is certainly motivating, and continues to baffle and inspire us.
Spending a lot of our time at the centre means that we’re available should the staff require our help with any tasks, often involving washing, cleaning, or cooking. Usually around 12pm one or two of us will help prepare the lunchtime meal for the children, whilst the others entertain the children and (attempt) to keep them out of trouble. The meal consists almost always of local dish ‘Sadza’ (a maize based dish eaten with hands) and a sauce made from meat, fish, beans, or vegetables. Sadza itself takes over an hour to prepare, and a lot of manpower. Many of the international volunteers have valiantly tried, but failed, to produce a dish completely, giving up mainly due to lack of muscles, technique, and apparently much needed practice!
After the children are suitably full, and the cleaning has been completed, it’s not long before the children begin demanding the increasingly popular football session, and it all ‘kicks off’.
Written by ICS Volunteers in Zimbabwe