A quick update from Zimbabwe…

This entry is part 21 of 27 in the series Zimbabwe 2007 Project

Hi there folks – it’s getting late and I’m tired and there’s a long day tomorrow but I thought I’d send out this quick update being that I missed yesterday’s due to the power being out and not being able to attain an internet connection. June 18th: – Kevin and James were the first two from the team to go visit the “plots” in the morning. The plots are places where farmhands live on the land that belongs to a farmer. A farmhand makes about 200 Zimbabwean dollars a month. Read that again in light of the Zimbabwe inflation and what I told you earlier about the cost of items. Remember a pizza costing $800,000. In light of that pay you can begin to get a bit of a picture what the plots are like. Each week day, two preschool teachers from the village go to the plots and they get the children started on learning how to read and write in English. They also do a Bible Verse, Pray the Lord’s Prayer, play a game with the chidlen, and then the children get fed a porridge. We will have pictures following Friday. We have been asked to limit the picture taking to one person and only on one day. – We had a full day of work at the Village. Doug worked alongside with the foreman of the construction crew working on the school block to keep everyone busy and make sure everyone had a job to do. Scott and Alex set the bricks and Chris mixed the cement. Kevin, James, and I were kept busy doing odd jobs but most of the time we transported bricks by wheelbarrow from where they had been dropped off to a place more accessible for the brick layers. Barry was helping move the bricks as well but spent some of the day with the Cooledges finalizing arrangments for the project. – We found out that the two missing bags will be in Wednesady morning. – We finished the day tired and beat but happy with what we had accomplished. – We invited the groundskeeper of the house we’re staying in and his family (Mr.Techaon) for dinner with us.
June 19th. – Arrived at the village – Chris and I took our turns going to the plots while the rest of the guys resumed working at the school. – I did some computer work for the Cooledges – In the afternoon Pastor Darren went with Pastor Zowa for a tour of the Bible College and Barry and James did a live interview wth Radio 97.9 “the Beach’ back home. – Another great day at work and we accomplished a lot.
Sorry for the lack of detail and pictures tonight. It’s 12:51am here and I’m getting pretty tired. By the time all the guys check their email, we have supper and have our group meeting it’s gotten pretty late and I’m pretty tired from the day. Twice I’ve had to delete a few lines of one letter as I’ve drifted off to sleep while typing this update!
Thanks for all your prayers and suport, – Darren Ethier and the Zimbabwe 2007 Team.

Makanaka Mwari!

This entry is part 22 of 27 in the series Zimbabwe 2007 Project

Greetings friends and family! We have ended day 6 of our journey in Zimbabwe and there are only 7 days left before we fly out to leave for home. Many of us have expressed that in some ways it feels like we’ve been here a month. We have experienced so much and worked so hard that time has become a bit of a nebulous fragment. A common thought among all of us is that we are greatly enjoying this experience, greatly challenged by it, and missing home as well.
Today we woke up to the sun once again. The weather is so consistent here in the winter. Overnight the temperature drops to around 1-4 degrees Celsius and as soon as the sun rises around 6:00am the temperature begins rising until it reaches around 22-24 degrees Celsius. We’ve had a lot of fun telling our new Zimbabwe friends what winters in Canada are like and have even shown pictures of our famous snowbanks to a few people. They always tremble at the thought of how cold it is and wonder how we survive!
When we arrived at the village, Barry and Alex went to the plots and participated in the feeding and education program there with two of the preschool teachers from the Village. Chris went to the preschool class and joined with them for most of the morning. He was responsible for doing the Bible lesson that morning and taught on David and Goliath. Apparently the “Davids” had a blast bringing down big old “Goliath” (Chris) hehe! The rest of us joined in with staff devotions and I participated in that with leading the devotion and opening in prayer and James closed in prayer. Every morning the staff of the Village of Hope meet together and pray for the daily activities before starting their day. Prayer is so vital and we certainly recognize how important faith in Jesus Christ has been in the success of the Village.
Following the staff devotional I stayed in the office and worked on the office computers cleaning them up from a virus infestation they had and repairing other glitches and software problems they had been having. The rest of the men went to continue working on the school block. We’ve been working with some local contractors to build the school block. These workers have been hired for the current construction work on the property and have deadlines they have to meet. If they go over the deadlines there is a reduction in the payment they will receive for the work. It is nice knowing that our coming and helping these contractors isn’t going to cost them anything but is actually a blessing to them as well as to the village as it helps enable them to finish the work faster. We’ve had a chance to build some relationships with the local workers and many of the more experienced construction guys on our team have been able to pass on some skills to them as we’ve worked along side of them. Below you’ll see some pictures of how some of the construction is coming along.
In the morning we took a break to take a picture with the team and workers from the village with a mock-up cheque representing the amount that has been raised over and above our team expenses that will be given to the Village of Hope. The cheque was for $25,000. I really can’t begin to express the emotions that we shared as we got together for that picture. We’ve talked often about the support we’ve received from friends and family and our community that has enabled us to bless the VOH in this way. We’ve also talked about the responsibility we feel to be good stewards of that trust. It is such a wonderful feeling to be able to bless the Village in this way! Thanks again so much for your support folks! We can assure you *firsthand *that the money is begin put to good use. There are two pictures of the cheque below.
This afternoon Barry went to the airport with Gord Cooledge to see about the two bags that didn’t make it to Zimbabwe. When he arrived he discovered that so far only one bag has arrived but Praise God it was the bag with tools, toys and crafts! Apparently the bag was completely ripped and torn up but it’s contents were pretty much undamaged. The hockey bag was mine but I got to tell you, I have no problems with it being torn up 🙂 It’ll make a nice souvenir of our trip to Zimbabwe!
At the end of the day we returned to the house tired but feeling good about what is being accomplished while we are here. Our team meetings in the evening are usually lasting about an hour and a half by the time each of us share the experiences of the day with each other and we pray together. It has been an incredible bonding time as a team as we go through this exprience together.
Some new facts to share: – There are nearly always lineups for fuel due to the cost and steps the people have to go through in order to get the fuel. – Gas costs $140,000 Zimbabwean per litre here. And we complain because…. – The official currency exchange rate for the Zimbabwe Dollar that you will find out from financial sources online and in the banks is listed at 1 Canadian Dollar = roughly $234 ZWD. In actual fact, as we’ve discovered while here, the exchange rate is closer to 1 CAD = about $114,000 ZWD. – The most a teacher will make in Zimbabwe is one million ZWD’s / month. Barry got three postcards today and two stamps and the cost was $335,000 ZWD. That’s it *for today* – it would cost more tomorrow. Now, you can imagine how difficult it is for people to afford to buy even the basic necessities each month! The saddest thing is that for a lot of employees in Zimbabwe the wages don’t increase inline with inflation. We were pleased to discover that the Village of Hope makes it a practice to increase wages for their staff in line with the inflation rate.
One final fact for this update: Makanaka Mwari means “God You are Good”. This is a line of a song that one of our Zimbabwe friends, Mr. Mufasa, has been teaching us. Mr. Mufasa is the headmaster of the elementary school being developed on the Village of Hope grounds. It truly is a blessing for us to witness that in spite of the devestated economy, in spite of the hardships the people here face, and in spite of the seemingly insurmountable obstacles – they still are able to say, “God You are Good”. For they understand that *real life* and *real joy* is found not in the possessions we have but in the relationships we are blessed with. Especially the relationship we can enjoy with our Heavenly Father through Jesus Christ. Further, believers here also readily say that they know God takes care of them. And indeed He is, indeed He does. Makanaka Mwari!
Here’s some pictures: 1. A picture of Barry at the plots with some of the children. 2. A picture of the Zimbabwe 2007 team presenting the cheque to some of the Village of Hope Staff and the pastor of the Hope Community Church located on the Village grounds (middle next to me). 3. A picture of the cheque with the Grade one and two class of CHAPS (Cornelius Hope Academy Primary School). Mr. Mufasa, the headmaster, is in the middle and the two women are the teachers. 4. A picture showing the progress being made on the school block we are working on. 5. A picture showing some of the contracted workers we are working with.
Blessings!
– Darren Ethier and the Zimbabwe 2007 Team

Kutenda kusina mabasa kwakafa

This entry is part 23 of 27 in the series Zimbabwe 2007 Project

Greetings again! Well today, we had a change in weather. It was cloudy and overcast. Kind of surprising really considering how used we have become to the cloudless sunny days! Nevertheless we were told by our driver, Mr. Chedokwa, that even though it may get cloudy it still doesn’t rain in this time of year. Another interesting developement is that we seem to be feeling the chill a little bit more than we used to. Could it be that we are becoming acclimatized to the weather here? If so, you won’t hear us complaining about the summer heat when we get back home 😉
Today Doug and Scott went to the plots. As each team member has taken a turn going to the poorest areas around the Village of Hope we’ve all come back changed. There is really no way to describe the emotions we go through when we see the conditions the people are living in there and the children. The parents leave in the morning at 6am to work the fields and they usually don’t return until around 5pm that night. If it weren’t for the Village of Hope feeding and education program in the plots those children would go without food *all* day! Another sobering reality is the fact that at the moment the Village is only able to go to 4 plots – there are many others with nothing. We’ve already been talking about as a team ways in which we can encourage people to join us in helping fund further plots under the feeding program. We will be leaving some of the extra money behind from what we brought with us to help establish the necessary funding for one more plot.
When Doug went to the plot today he met a 19 month old girl named Veely. She lives with her Aunt because her mother died of AIDS. When she was first discovered at 1 year old she had the body of a 5 month old. She’s just started to walk in the last week or so. Veely was breastfed as a baby so there is a very real possibility that she has AIDS as well. Just one example of the realities we’ve been coming face to face with.
While Doug and Scott were visiting the plots, Alex went to join in with the pre-school class and participated by leading the devotional for the class. Barry and myself went to the Grade 1 and 2 classes. I entertained the children by doing some juggling and then Barry declared Canada day in the classroom and proceeded to give the kids some teaching about Canada. Barry was a great ambassador for Canada and the children learned alot about the different animals in Canada, our Canadian Flag, the seasons in Canada, and some distinctive Canadian sports and activities. We also passed out some keychains that the children of our church made to give out. Unfortunately I didn’t get a picture of that but I can assure you the Zimbawean children absolutley loved them! They wanted to know what the words in the middle of each key chain said and it was fun watching them go “wow”.
Chris, James, and Kevin went right to work at the construction site while waiting for the rest of us to get back from our other activities. It really is amazing seeing how far we’ve come. Doug figures we’ve laid down about 7,000 bricks and figures by our last working day, “Saturday” we will have laid close to, if not succeeding, 10,000 bricks!
Today, I finished fixing two desktop computers in the administration office and cleaned out a virus that was found on them. Then in the afternoon I concentrated on finishing preparing my message for Sunday.
Today we had pizza for supper. Remember the pizza picture I sent along in the update for Sunday? Well pizza then was a maximum of $410,000 for a Hawaiin pizza. Today that same pizza cost over $600,000. In case you aren’t getting how bad inflation is here hopefully that will give you some insight.
Here are some other facts:
– To Dry clean a suit 1 month ago it cost $75,000. Two weeks ago it cost 150,000. Now, it costs 300,000!
– Bread today cost $20,000 per loaf. Mr. Cooledge stocked up today because tomorrow bread may be as much as $60,000
– Bus fare from where we are living right now to where the Village of Hope is would cost $80,000.
– To illustrate how far the Zimbabwe Dollar has fallen – in 1980 the Zimbabwe Dollar = British Pound 1:1. Wow.
– In a lot of cases the wife and children live in rural areas while the husband lives and works in the city. The husand is usuallly away from his family 3 months at a time.
– In Zimbabwe we’ve come across a lot of construction sites where it looks like the partially finished home has been abandoned. In fact as we found out, what’s happened is that people have set out to construct their homes and then the inflation has risen to the point where they can no longer afford to finish the home.
– Finally, I want to include a few stats I took from an article in the local Zimbabwe newspaper, “The Herald” titled, “Family Basket Shoots up to 5.5million” $5.5 million is the cost of living for a family of six for the month of May. The figure was 3.3 million in April. That equals an increase of 65.6%
– Water and Electricity increased by 251%
– Clothing and Footwear rose by 214%
– Transport rose by 150%
– Tea leaves rose by 121%
– Milk rose by 92.2%
– Beef rose by 85.5%
– Bread rose by 76.5%
*TOMORROW*: Alex, Barry, and Gord Cooledge will be interviewed live by CFOS 560AM at 12:45am. Make sure you turn to that on you dial.
Oh, and in case your wondering, “Kutenda kuseni mabassa kwakafa” means. It means Faih without works is dead. How true!
Picture Time: 1. Mr. Canada himself!
2. James on brick detail
3. A look at the progress – we started putting in windows okay.
4. A picture of an overcast day in Zimbabwe.
Blessings everyone!
– Darren Ethier and the Zimbabwe 2007 Team

A few words…

This entry is part 24 of 27 in the series Zimbabwe 2007 Project

This update will be short and sweet – we had a late night tonight and I can barely keep my eyes open. Also, we’re getting up at 6am to get an early start on our last work day tomorrow so I want to make sure I get at least a few ours of sleep 🙂 What the guys did:
– Kevin went to preschool in the morning.
– Doug and James went to the plots in the morning.
– Barry did a devotion with the VOH staff in the morning.
– The rest of us continued to work on the school block
– I spent some time in the morning with Pastor Zowa going over Sunday morning’s Service and praying with Him for Sunday.
– Barry, Chris, Kevin and James participated in the after-school program today and were teaching the kids how to play baseball.
– Barry and Alex participated in a radio intervview by CFOS
– We all had supper at house number 1 of the orphanage and what a supper it was! We had a blast meeting with the kids and learning about them. They took our cameras and took pictures all over the house.
I’m about to fall off the couch and drop the laptop from exhaustion – I’m just going to attach the pictures for now.
Picture #1: Is a picrture of the Zimbabwe Construction crew we worked with while here – they were an awesome bunch to work with!!
Picture#2: Here’s the kids from the plots receiving some toys that we passed out as gifts today.
Picture #3: Here’s a picture of one of the “better” houses found on the plots.
Picrture #4: Here’s a picture of where we are in the construction equity.

Finishing up with a Brii

This entry is part 25 of 27 in the series Zimbabwe 2007 Project

Today was the final “work” day here in Zimbabwe. We worked in the morning on the school block and just about finished getting all the walls up to the level where the gable ends get attached. The progress made in the week here was phenomenal and we were thrilled to have the opportunity to be a part of building this school block that will be of such importance in the education of the children here.
Another important part of this week was the opportunity for us to get to know the contracted workers who will continue to build while we are gone. At the beginning of the week we were strangers and at the end of the week we’re friends. There has been an exchange of addresses and some of the workers are pretty adamant that they are going to come to Canada some day! Considering the difficulty for them in getting a passport and the huge cost for them to make the trip the reality of this happening is pretty slim. However, they will be most welcome if they make it 🙂
The names of the men we worked with are: Tir Ivaviri Chimeri (foreman), Maute Taruberekerr, Kelvin Kanyemba, Chirasha Artweii, Simon Mashash, Albert Gapu, Marake Ngwende, Jimiel Mahenga, Fidelis Mukarati, Luckstar Chikunda, Brown Nyambo, and Simon Kangara. One of the things many of our crew noticed were the awful shape some of the footwear of these workers was in – one of the workers had no footwear at all.. Through the week our guys compared shoe sizes and today some of our guys made a gift of their boots to those men who could use them the most. It was incredibly moving moments – especially as Doug, Kevin and Alex walked back from the job site in their bare feet.
Following the work day we threw a Zimbabwe Brii (prounounced Brye) which is the Zimbabwean equivalent of a Canadian BBQ. James and myself cooked steak while the guys finished up and then we shared a final meal with the workers. It was a great way to culminate our time together.
This was the final work day for us in Zimbabwe. However we still have plans to visit an orphanage next week – more on that in future updates.
This evening we went to Gord and Anita Cooledge’s house and joined in with a dinner with many of the people that we’ve spent time with this week. We also got a chance to meet three other missionaries who are in Zimbabwe – Gary and Marvelyn Schell and Cecilia Paluch. Gary is the Academic Dean at Pan African Christian College in Harare and Cecilia oversees the Child Care Plus program for all of Zimbabwe. It was great meeting them and learning a little bit about what they do here as well.
As part of the evening we held a “Canadian Birthday Party” for Gord. His birthday wasn’t today but it is coming up soon and we wanted to celebrate it before leaving. We presented him with a special mug from home and inside the mug Barry included some headache pills… a fun and useful gift hehe.
Today’s pictures:
1. Sitting in “the Green Monster”: We’ve dubbed our ride that we take every day to the Village, “The Green Monster”. It is a green colored pickup that has a covered bed and 7 of us ride in the back while 1 of us sits up front. It sucks us in in the morning and spits us out at the Village! We’ve given it that name because the fumes in the back are pretty strong and we feel every bump and jolt along the way. Even though it is a tough ride we are still grateful for it and aren’t really complaining about it – it’s just become a running joke with us as we prepare for the ride to and fro from the village. Our driver Mr. Chedokwa is a really nice guy and we’ve enjoyed getting to know him over the week. We also greatly appreciate the time he is taking to come and pick us up and deliver us where we need to be.
2. The School Block work Crew: This picture was taken from the rooftop of a school block that is almost finished. It includes our team and the work crew we did the construction with this past week. You can also see the progress we made.
3. A bigger picture of the construction project: We estimate that we laid about 9,000 bricks in this past week. We actually probably moved around close to 12,000 bricks. It is amazing to see the pile of bricks that had been dropped off shrink over the week. Originally, it was this massive amount that was intimidating to say the least, but now most of it is in place as part of the new school block. It was a tremendous feeling of accomplishment for us as a team to look at the work that had been completed over the past week and the relationships we got to make with the work crew. We can’t wait to see the pictures of the finished school block when it is done!
Well, that’s it for today’s report!
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Something else to Remember…

This entry is part 26 of 27 in the series Zimbabwe 2007 Project

Hi folks, Well we’ve been back for a couple of days and have had a chance to begin showing some pictures and sharing about our experiences with our families. It’s nice that it hasn’t been too hot – it’s given us a chance to adapt back to the Canadian Summer after being in the Zimbabwe Winter ;).
One more thing you all can keep in prayer if possible. Scott’s camera went missing while on the trip and there were quite a few picture on it that he would have liked to be able to share with his family. If you can pray that it’ll turn up at the village that’d be much appreciated!

Launch of vohzimbabwe.com

This entry is part 27 of 27 in the series Zimbabwe 2007 Project

vohzimbabwe.com screenshotAs part of the team of men who went to Zimbabwe in June – I was amazed by the work being done to make a difference in the country of Zimbabwe by the Village of Hope and their work with children. One of the things that I discovered in working with them is that they don’t have a website to promote what they are doing and provide an information/communication portal for their current and potential supporters. I decided to donate my services to design and host the website because I believe so strongly in the work the Village of Hope is doing.

So without further ado, I’m announcing the launch of the brand new website for the Village of Hope in Zimbabwe (vohzimbabwe.com).

Coincidently, that is why there’s been some inactivity on this blog lately (and also why development of the Organize Series Plugin has been stalled)…