We are at the end of our first week in Regina and already we have been facing a number of challenges. On the same note we are already starting to see some small successes. We arrived on Saturday after an amazing journey. Regina is nestled in a valley, the houses and buildings are dotted about and animals, like goats and chickens, roam freely.
I think the world needs to know how amazing Zimbabwe is. The country’s economy is still recovering and we have learnt from the visiting the British Embassy and DFID in Harare, during the orientation week that the country, is very much relying on private sector investment for recovery. Being rich in natural beauty, in wildlife and the welcoming friendly people and their culture, there is a huge scope for tourism, however at the moment it is still a very small contributor. There has been so much negative hype of Zimbabwe these last few years and I think it is important, especially at this critical time of rebuilding that we focus on the future and what Zimbabwe has to offer to the world.
It is currently the rainy season in Zimbabwe and it rained constantly the first day. We had electricity when we arrived but as the weather got worse on the first Saturday night we experienced our first power cut. We went for 7 days in total without electricity. The first day was the hardest as we worked out how to cook our meals. With firewood being soaked, building our first outdoor stove was challenging, however we are now very well prepared for any future power cuts. We came prepared with torches and we have a few candles which has meant that night time entertainment was still possible and mainly consisted of sharing different card games, monopoly and discussing the differences of our cultures with the national volunteers. The evenings have become a great time for team bonding.
We had a visit from Progressio's Chief Excutive, Mark Lister, on Thursday and so the beginning of the week was dedicated to preparing for the visit and introductions. We started preparations for the visit during the orientation week, where we hit our first challenge.
DOMCPP (Diocese of Mutare Community Care Programme) the organisation we are working with whilst in Regina, knew that Mark's visit is an opportunity to raise awareness about the ICS programme in the community and therefore wanted to make it a big event. However when we tallied up the cost for running such an event we simply couldn’t afford such a big affair. We have therefore had a lot of cut backs, rearrangements and compromises, for example, it is customary when receiving a visitor in Zimbabwe to provide a meal - we were initially planning to provide a large meal for all guests, however we changed this to providing juice and snacks for the children and a meal for the adult guests.
This week and the preparation for the visit has been an excellent opportunity for us to get acquainted with the village and surrounding areas. The schools involved in the ICS programme with the previous volunteers showcased some of the dramas and poems they developed last time. The group from Regina Primary performed a drama on Disability and Discrimination and Samanyika Primary performed a drama about HIV and AIDS. We worked with the primary schools to help them rehearse the drama. In our first session with Regina Primary, they performed in Shona, our aim for the remainder of the session and the next was to have them add some English and to shorten the drama. We achieved some of this by the end of the first session, however the drama was not running very smoothly.
In the second session, there was a marked improvement, the children had obviously been practising their lines at home. With Randy (a national volunteer) leading the session and the rest of us chipping in suggestions and encouragement we eventually had a drama that ran smoothly, incorporated English and Shona and through the use of gesture and action was easily understandable, no matter which language was being spoken.
We also made the 45 minute walk to Samanyika Primary, a journey I personally struggled with due to the heat, however it was very much worth it to meet the staff team there and to start work both rehearsing the drama and planning. The visit went ahead without many problems, it seemed that all our preparations in conjunction with the hard work and preparation of the Progressio and DOMCPP staff paid off. Needless to say we were all very proud of the school children who performed very well, and were without a doubt the highlight of the programme we had set out.
Ideas had been flying aound all week at possible activities and workshops that we could hold and Friday was dedicated to making the first solid plans and to plan the first sessions. After much discussion, debating and some skill sharing we are now ready to get started. We plan to work with 6 schools in the area, to work with the local support groups, primarily helping with home visits for people who are HIV positive and continuing work developing the ECD (early child development centre) and working with the environmental club of Regina High school about waste management. This is just a start, as we become more involved we are very sure that we will develop new ideas and new opportunities will arise. It is a very exciting time for our Team Regina.
Jennifer Hall writes from Mutare Zimbabwe
Photo 1: A scene from the drama, acted by the pupils of Regina Primary Drama Group
Photo 2: Ryan cooks outside during the powercut
Photo 3: The view on the walk back from Samanyika Primary school