Our colleague, Sylvester, in the Birmingham diocese shares his personal experience of a recent trip to Zimbabwe

Map of ZimbabweMuch has been spoken and written about the country of my birth – the country I grew up in.

Childhood memories of Zimbabwe and its beauty remain some of my fondest. I remember the beautiful and majestic Victoria Falls; the incredible architecture and stonework of Great Zimbabwe; and the gorgeous golden sunsets along the Zambezi river.

I think of Jacaranda trees lining either side of the streets. In spring, their bloom created a beautiful purple carpet along the roads. It seemed to me that everyone had a friendly smile – there was a real sense of hope everywhere I went.

These are unforgettable memories.

Sadly, the Zimbabwe I witnessed during a recent three-week visit paints a different picture – a stark, if not bleak, contrast to my memories.

Zimbabwe once boasted an enviable subtropical climate, excellent rainfall seasons and fertile soil, but climate change and spiralling hyperinflation over the last three decades have altered the social and physical landscape of the country.  The once reliable and abundant rains – the backbone of the agricultural sector – have been replaced by long dry spells and extensive droughts. Seventy per cent of Zimbabwe’s population live in the rural areas. They are farmers that rely on agriculture to feed and support their families. Persistent droughts have resulted in little-to-no crop yields and the loss of livestock – the measure of a family’s wealth.

Family collecting water from a small hole in a dry river bed

Zimbabwe’s urban population were mostly unaffected by previous droughts. This too has changed, as daily average temperatures soar. In Harare, the main dam supplying water to all households is below capacity. As a result, running water is limited to just one day each week.

 

Moreover, because of the dire economic situation, Local Councils cannot afford to treat water sufficiently; therefore, the water that does manage to come through the household taps is unsafe to drink. In order to get safe drinking water, most urban families are forced to walk or drive for miles on end, with large containers, to form queues at busy boreholes.

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Sr Yvonne from Zambia

supporters-with-sr-yvonne-at-nazareth-house-cardiffOn Monday 13 February we welcomed Sr Yvonne to Wales.  She is from the Sisters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary who is one of our overseas partners in Mbala in Zambia.

Sr Yvonne and her community are living out Pope Francis’ call to hear the Cry of the Earth and the Cry of the Poor.

She shared her story with supporters at Nazareth House on Monday 13 February.  Sr Yvonne has been working with a project called “Households in Distress” supporting some of the most vulnerable communities to adapt to climate change.

sr-yvonneSr Yvonne is also working with small-scale farmers, helping them to grow crops that are resistant to drought. Farmers who only maintain maize are much more susceptible to crop failure, especially as maize totally depends on the rains which are become increasingly erratic because of a changing climate.

Sr Yvonne shared the story of Florence, a widow with two children from Zambia (pictured below) who, with your help, has been able to turn tiny fish into a thriving business and a future for her family.

florence-in-zambia

She says:

“Each day of my life, I look at everything – creation, people – and I say, ‘Well this is what God has created and it is good.’

 

It is our duty as Christians to bring back that goodness because in this world and in our country – some of the injustices, the sufferings and a lot of negative things, unfortunately take away that goodness. So for me it’s all the time trying to bring that goodness.”

If you missed Sr Yvonne’s talk or webinar, all is not lost as there is a YouTube link here

Find all our Lent Fast day resources here

supporters-with-green-heart-show-the-love-for-our-neighbours-in-zambia