We have arrived, safe and sound in Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe. The weather is beautiful – sunny and warm. The journey was long and tiring, but we were all very excited to get our first view of Harare in the drive from the airport. Many things were surprising and new to us – people grilling corn on the cob on stones at the side of the road, people selling newspapers in the middle of the traffic or carrying crates of bread on their heads. We were all ready for the lovely evening meal at the Dominican Convent, where we received a very warm welcome from the sisters, which immediately made us feel at ease and at home.
Getting ready for a long awaited good night’s sleep turned out to be more eventful than expected. Leila locked herself out of her room and camped out on Lizzie’s floor, Lizzie temporarily broke the tap in the shower, Keiron overcame his fear of spiders thanks to the company of a particularly big black one in his room, and although Mary was missing her phone and the internet, all in all, we enjoyed a great rest.
It was unusual to wake up under a mosquito net. We spent our first day visiting the CAFOD Harare office which is the central office for Southern Africa. We were met by Verity, who introduced us to the rest of the staff here.
We were very interested to learn from the teams about the projects that CAFOD support in Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, and Mozambique. It was interesting to learn about the complexity and challenges of implementing projects here, and how dynamic and varied the projects are. Projects such as improving water access for a community have a much larger effect than we may initially realise – for instance by improving hygiene practices, reducing rates of disease, and enabling farmers to water their crops and providing people with livelihoods. Empowering women and girls by involving them in these projects and community decisions is also an interesting and fundamental aspect of the projects.
After being given so much food for thought, we were ready for our first traditional Zimbabwean lunch. We had Sadza (a staple dish made from maize) with tasty beans, spinach and a variety of meat stews – goat and beef – all eaten by hand! It was great to learn more about Zimbabwe from the team in Harare, which has definitely whet our appetite for the coming weeks! We’re all really excited to visit the projects in Binga and Harare, to meet the communities and CAFOD partners and to learn more.