Here we finally are! After weeks of preparation, expectation and excitement, our team of ICS Progressio volunteers finally stepping into the rhythm of life and work in Zimbabwe. 

Our first week in-country saw us at Harare’s beautiful Rockwood conference centre for training days, language sessions and team bonding events. Here we were treated to our first Zimbabwean sunsets - the sight of the intensely red sun setting over the sea of purple jacaranda trees that cover the country’s urban areas. It can only be described as truly joyful. By the end of the training week we were sorry to say goodbye to the other teams but couldn’t wait to get to our respective placements. 5am saw our departure for Mutare. Despite the best efforts of the international volunteers and some stirring renditions of Tottenham-related football songs, we were thoroughly out-sung (and out-danced) by the national volunteers on the bus!

Our work has since begun in earnest at Simukai, our local partner organisation where for the next two months we will be combining our skills and resources with the wonderful work that the organisation already does for the vulnerable children of Mutare and the surrounding Manicaland Province. Translating from the Shona word for ‘Rise Up’, Simukai has a welcoming and professional staff of programme officers and committed local interns and volunteers. 

Our briefing from the organization’s remarkable and inspiring Programme Director, Mrs Barbara Matsanga, was something of a watershed, signaling the end of planning and the start of real work. Each ICS volunteer has been assigned to one of Simukai’s five main departments, focusing our efforts on education, family reunification, advocacy of children’s rights, and contact with children living on the street. Too many projects have been going on to detail fully in the space available here – for now, know that Vimbai and Josh have been engaging with the local community and their Saving and Loans Associations; Cassie and Anesu have started their work with the vulnerable children in Simukai’s central Place of Safety; and Sophie and Zack have been spending their days helping at the organization’s brilliant new Education and Rehabilitation Centre. The next few weeks should see us helping to cultivate Simukai’s new Out of School Study Group initiative, for children forced to drop out of school for any reason, and begin the process of family reunifications with a number of the children at Simukai.

We have set up camp in Mutare at the beautiful St Joseph’s Diocesan Training Centre, where we can enjoy sweeping views down over the town and onto the proud hills that encircle Mutare and divide Zimbabwe from neighbouring Mozambique. The population of Chikanga 2, our local district, is unfailingly friendly. In fact, Josh has been charming folk left, right and centre and has already become something of a local celebrity. Here’s hoping that things will continue as they have started – if they do, we are in for an enthralling, hectic and wonderful two months.

Written by ICS volunteer Henry Ashcroft