Step into the Gap – Our week at Mashambanzou

CAFOD’s gap year volunteers in Zimbabwe have been learning about our work supporting people with HIV and AIDS:

CAFOD's gap year volunteers saw the work our partner Mashambanzou does for those living with HIV and AIDS
CAFOD’s gap year volunteers saw the work our partner Mashambanzou does for those living with HIV and AIDS

HIV and AIDS is something we’re all aware of and have heard about, but until we were immersed in the reality of Zimbabwe, we could not truly appreciate the impact it has on the individuals affected, their livelihoods, families and communities. However, within a situation which can sometimes seem hopeless and desperate, we have been truly inspired by the work of the Mashambanzou Care Trust.

Find out more about CAFOD’s HIV and AIDS work

Mashambanzou is a CAFOD partner which ultimately aims to see HIV-free communities through empowerment, care and support. They work mainly in poor, overcrowded areas of Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe. Over the past week we have witnessed many incredible projects, such as a children’s day care centre, child protection clubs in schools, and home visits to people living with HIV. Continue reading “Step into the Gap – Our week at Mashambanzou”

Step into the Gap Zimbabwe – Kieron sees the power of solar

Kieron is one of CAFOD’s Step into the Gap volunteers. He’s currently working as a chaplain at St. Mary’s Catholic Academy in Blackpool and is visiting CAFOD partners in Zimbabwe.

Kieron meeting communities in Zimbabwe
Kieron meeting communities in Zimbabwe

As the days continue to fly by in Zimbabwe and time is quickly slipping away, it’s time to share from my perspective what I have experienced so far. After spending nearly two weeks here in the landlocked country of Zimbabwe, there have been many moving encounters meeting with partners of CAFOD and communities.

Call on the UK government to support renewable energy and bring power to the poorest people

After spending a few days in the capital Harare, getting to know our surroundings and being greeted by the CAFOD staff, we began our journey to the north west of Zimbabwe, to an area named Binga. After a long journey, in the heat of a cloudless sky, we arrived safe and sound.

Continue reading “Step into the Gap Zimbabwe – Kieron sees the power of solar”

Step into the Gap Zimbabwe – Lizzie & Leila

Lizzie is working as a chaplain at Newman University and Leila is a volunteer at the Good Shepherd in Nelson, respectively. They are both visiting Zimbabwe as part of CAFOD‘s Step into the Gap programme.

We’ve spent the past week in the west of Zimbabwe, in a place called Binga. And what a week it’s been. We’ve visited so many great projects and met so many inspirational communities, it’s hard to know where to begin. So here are just a couple of highlights from our week.

18-30? Learn about CAFOD’s gap year with a difference

Lizzie says:

For me, Binga has been an extremely memorable and moving experience. In Siamtelele village, Moyo Mthatshelwa, a 49-year-old farmer, warmly welcomed us with a traditional lunch of sadza, goat’s intestines, spinach, groundnut maize, sour milk and crumbled bread, all produced off their farm. I was touched by the generosity of his family. Moyo explained that “CAFOD’s scheme is very nice to us farmers. You’ve assisted us well. We thank you very much. It will improve ourselves and will pay for school for my thirteen children and help develop our future”.

Moyo and other farmers have been helped by CAFOD
Moyo and other farmers have been helped by CAFOD

Continue reading “Step into the Gap Zimbabwe – Lizzie & Leila”

Step into the Gap Zimbabwe – Mary meets Mpofu

Mary is one of CAFOD’s gap year volunteers, and has been working with the Youth Ministry Team in the Diocese of Hexham & Newcastle. Here, she shares her story so far from her Zimbabwe visit:

Mary with Mpofu, a farmer in Zimbabwe
Mary with Mpofu, a farmer in Zimbabwe

Here in Zimbabwe we are learning more and more every day. The sun is always shining and hot and the people are so welcoming and friendly. This week we are staying in the rural area of Binga to visit the projects of CAFOD partner – Caritas Hwange.

Learn more about CAFOD’s work in Zimbabwe

Our visit yesterday was to a farm in Zuka – a two-and-a-half hour drive away from Binga over incredibly rocky roads, full of potholes as well as herds of goats and cows and the occasional baboon! It was fascinating to drive past traditional thatched roof huts of the rural villages, and see the women, men and children going to work and school.

Continue reading “Step into the Gap Zimbabwe – Mary meets Mpofu”

Ebola Crisis: On leaving Sierra Leone

Caritas_Sierra Leone_Tommy Trenchard_Oct (9)
CAFOD’s work includes promoting good hygiene and training communities in how to stop the spread of the disease.

Catherine Mahony, CAFOD’s  Humanitarian Coordinator for West Africa, has been working on Ebola in Sierra Leone for the last three months. She reflects on coming home.

Donate to CAFOD’s Ebola crisis appeal

This week I’ll be taking the boat to the airport to leave Sierra Leone, three months to the day since I arrived.

I remember well the apprehension I felt when I first came in on that boat, mainly at the enormity of the task and the scale of the crisis.

In October last year we were preparing ourselves for the possibility that 1.4 million people would be infected with Ebola by the end of the year if we didn’t massively step up our efforts.

As of the 25 January, the World Health Organisation estimates that the cumulative confirmed, probable and suspected cases across Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea stands at 21,724 and the graphs finally seem to be flattening out, showing fewer cases per day. It’s still too many lives lost, but thankfully not our worst case scenario.

At last, districts in Sierra Leone are crossing the ‘Ebola free’ threshold, having passed 42 days without a new case. I feel a sense of relief that we were able to prevent the worst and our optimism albeit small is allowed to grow a little every day.

So many people have made an extraordinary effort to get us to this point: the local health workers who selflessly stepped up to care for the sick and dying, 221 of whom here in Sierra Leone lost their lives to Ebola; the brave men and women who volunteered to join burial teams and dig graves, every day facing the strain of grieving families; and the people across England and Wales who’ve generously donated to CAFOD. Continue reading “Ebola Crisis: On leaving Sierra Leone”

Step into the Gap Zimbabwe – Day visit to Murehwa

CAFOD’s gap year volunteers in Zimbabwe send their latest update from their journey…

Kieron and Lizzie meet partners
Kieron and Lizzie meet CAFOD partners from ‘Sanitation to Success’

Today we were thrilled to be visiting our first CAFOD project in Murehwa, one hour north-east of Harare. On arrival we met with CAFOD partner, Caritas Harare and the Murehwa authorities. They told us about the Sanitation for Success programme that CAFOD supports, and that we’d be visiting throughout the day.

Learn more about CAFOD’s work in Zimbabwe

First up, we attended a training workshop for community health workers about the importance of good sanitation in communities. As it was the first meeting, we all took part in a ‘getting to know you’ exercise, which we really enjoyed. This showed us the importance of the programme facilitators taking the time to get to know the community health workers and likewise for the health workers to really get to know their communities, facilitating collaboration, understanding and strong teamwork.

Continue reading “Step into the Gap Zimbabwe – Day visit to Murehwa”

Hands On: A big thank you from Philip

2015 is in full swing and so are the people of Kitui.

Everyone is hard at work on all aspects of the project – terracing, tree-planting, sand dams, check dams and preparing for work on the main Musosya dam.

Philip, the project coordinator for Hands On Kitui is pleased to say he’s back at work after a bad car accident. He’s sent a video to say thank you to everyone who sent cards and well wishes. If you want to send Philip a message, just let us know in the comments below!

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aP8GNCkat2o&w=640&h=360]

Continue reading “Hands On: A big thank you from Philip”

Step into the Gap – first blog from Zimbabwe!

The Step into the Gap volunteers arrive in Zimbabwe
The Step into the Gap volunteers arrive in Zimbabwe

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.

Find out more and apply for the Step into the Gap programme

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.

Continue reading “Step into the Gap – first blog from Zimbabwe!”

Forging peace in South Sudan

By John Ashworth, adviser to the Sudan and South Sudan churches

South Sudan sank into civil war in December 2013, less than three years after gaining independence. This latest civil war is often described as a political power struggle which soon morphed into ethnic conflict.

However, it might be more accurate to say ‘revenge-driven’ rather than ‘ethnic’. The lack of a reconciliation process to address the hurts of earlier conflicts has only exacerbated the thirst for revenge. The peace talks led by the regional grouping IGAD in Ethiopia’s capital Addis are attempting to address the political component; but who will address the cycle of revenge?

Bibiana - refugee camp, Juba, South Sudan
Bibiana Okong lives in the safety of a camp on the outskirts of Juba. She fled to the camp after one of her sons was accused of being a government soldier and was killed.

‘People to People’ – bringing communities together

In the 1990s, during an earlier conflict which also exhibited ethnic revenge dynamics, the churches created an innovative People to People Peace Process which brought warring communities together again. Aid agencies such as CAFOD played a major role as partners in supporting the original People to People Peace process, working with and through the Church at the grassroots to build peace at a local level in communities. The lessons learnt from this process can contribute to resolving the current conflict.

Please donate to support vulnerable communities in South Sudan

These days the term ‘People to People’ seems to be bandied about by anyone who wants to raise funds for their own particular peace and reconciliation conference. However, People to People was not primarily about conferences; it was about months and indeed years of patient preparation, mobilisation, awareness-raising, consultation and trust-building on the ground before the high-profile conferences took place. Bringing a few chiefs and elders together for a highly-visible quick-fix conference is not ‘People to People’. Continue reading “Forging peace in South Sudan”