On arrival and orientation

After a 13 hour long flight our group finally landed at Harare airport safe and sound, with a ball of excitement rolling in our stomach we were picked up by Tsitsi, from Progressio Zimbabwe. As soon as we stepped out of the airport, we were welcomed by the soft Zimbabwean morning sunshine, together with the smell of the fresh cut grass and the wind gently blew away our tiredness, before we headed to the accommodation to settle down and get some rest.

The next day, the group met up with the volunteers from Zimbabwe for the very first time. Great friendships were built immediately, everyone was busy introducing themselves and remembering each others' names. Progressio Zimbabwe had prepared us with a one week long programme to learn more about the Zimbabwean culture and the offical language, Shona. It was a great opportunity to exchange cultural differences and to get to know each other better. The representatives of Churches Against AIDS Forum (CAAF) and Diocese of Mutare Community Care Programme (DOMCCP) gave us presentations of their organisations to help us to gain a better understanding of what we will be doing in the next couples of months. In total, there are 21 volunteers from the UK and Zimbabwe and we will divide into two teams, one will be volunteering with CAAF in Honde Valley and the other one will be volunteering with DOMCCP in Regina Coeli Mission.

On Friday, we were given an opportunity to visit CAAF Mission in Honde Valley, which was a chance for us to meet the Mission primary school teachers and students. The hospitality that we had received was second to none, both villagers and students came together to preform poems, songs and dances to welcome us. After that, we visited the banana and vegetable farms that the CAAF team will be working at during their placement in Honde Valley. We had also received a delicious meal from the community, it was our pleasure to be able to sit and share food with the local community members. It had been a very eventful week with every volunteer from the UK practising their Shona as much as possible, from greeting each other in the morning by saying Mangwanani (Good morning) to Manheru, which is wishing each other to have a good evening.

Everyone was now ready to leave to start our volunteering placements in Honde Valley and Regina Coeli. Hopefully by the end of our placements, we will be able to make some impact in the Zimbabwe local community by supporting both organisations' missions and by working together as a team.

Starting placement

On arrival at the Regina Coeli Mission in Nyanga all the volunteers attended a counselling workshop, which was being held at the mission hall by the DOMCCP project officer Mr Richard Musarara and Sister Rutendo.

The next day the volunteers had a meeting with the Regina Coeli Mission hospital staff, in particular Sister Albertina the Sister-in-charge. We discussed the intended activities which needed to be done on the mission and also the expectations of the group, individual interests and the expectations they had for the volunteers. The meeting also gave a platform for the volunteers to meet with the Priest-in-charge, Father Chetse, who is in charge for the whole mission.

During the afternoon the volunteers visited Samanyika primary school. The main objective of the visit was to introduce the volunteers to the care givers of the community surrounding Samanyika, care facilitators, Samanyika teachers and HIV support group members. The field officer Mr Richard Musarara introduced the volunteers and explained the intended aims and objectives of the placement. Then the volunteers discussed with the staff the activities which needed to be carried out, for example formation of HIV and AIDS clubs and home visits to the support group members.

The following day the volunteers had a Gender Mainstreaming workshop which was facilitated by Mr B Sithole from the Ministry of Women Affairs, Gender and Development in Nyanga District. Charlotte Bennett, one of the UK volunteers also facilitated the workshop by talking about gender in the UK. Gender was explained from all angles so that the community would understand the gender issues better. Mr Sithole pointed out that gender issues seem as if they are now focusing more on women than men hence the formation of P.A.D.A.R.E for men.

On the 20th of July the volunteers held a career guidance sessions with the junior classes at Regina Coeli High School. The sessions were to encourage students to work hard in education and to give them some studying skills tips to improve their grades, when it comes to examinations. The volunteers also had a small meeting with the school headmaster to discuss the intended activities for the school. Some of the activities were creating Child Led School Development Committees, cleaning up campaigns,  career guidance sessions and also to add value to the existing activities within the school such as the Young People We Care.

By UK ICS volunteer Constance Pang and ICS national volunteer Petronellah Sisimai