Stay tuned, Zimbabwe Updates only 9 days away…

This entry is part 12 of 27 in the series Zimbabwe 2007 Project

While I am in Zimbabwe I am going to be posting here daily (as long as I have internet access/power) .? I will be posting to the Zimbabwe 2007 series that I started when I first announced my participation in this project.? If you’d like you can also subscribe to the series.

What am I going to be writing about?? At this point I really can’t say.? All I can promise you is that I’ll be chronicling my experiences and thoughts on what I am experiencing.? Kind of broad isn’t it? 🙂

“Fill the bags”

This entry is part 11 of 27 in the series Zimbabwe 2007 Project

We’ve just published a “needs list” of items that the Village of Hope could use and what we’d like to be able to take when our team goes in June (just under a month to go!).? Thanks to special arrangements with British Airways, we are able to take two extra bags per team member and each bag can be up to 50lbs.? That means we can take 400lbs worth of stuff on top of our own luggage.? It’s a great opportunity to be able to take things to Zimbabwe for much, much cheaper than it would cost to ship (at least $450/50lbs from Hanover) the same items separately.

We are hoping that we’ll be able to take most of the needs on the list – if any of my readers are able to contribute somehow it would be greatly appreciated!

Walkathon, Retreat, and Countdown

This entry is part 10 of 27 in the series Zimbabwe 2007 Project

Time for another update about my Zimbabwe trip. Between the Fundraisers for Zimbabwe 2007, the 50 Days of Prayer and Fasting that I’ve been participating in (which includes writing and publishing the devotional that my church is using) and my normal day job – I’ve been kept extremely busy and have barely had time to maintain all the websites I manage/own let alone put posts up. Yet, it’s really no excuse, I guess the creative part of my brain is just exhausted by the time the night rolls around and I haven’t been able to muster up the energy to put words down. I haven’t even twittered!

Anyway, tonight I’m finally taking some time to write up another installment in my Zimbabwe 2007 series.

Walk-athon Fundraiser

This was held on Saturday April 28th and all participants walked 10km (The number of average steps in 10km = number of kilometers to go to Zimbabwe). We collected pledges for each km or for the total distance. At last count there was close to $1200 collected for the project!

Gord and Anita Cooledge and their family were with us for that weekend and it was great getting a chance to meet the directors of the Village of Hope. Since I walked with Gord on the walk-a-thon I had a great chance to get to know him and talk about what its like for them in Zimbabwe. I really enjoyed our conversation and I’m really impressed by the faith and genuineness of this couple. I’m looking forward to seeing them again when I go to Zimbabwe in June.

STM Team Retreat

I joined the rest of the team this past Saturday at the Schaab’s cabin for a day retreat. We spent the day working on some conflict resolution exercises (I’m an owl and a teddy bear according to the test…) and we also spent some time looking at our spiritual gifts. Brian O’Gorman, a leader of a team that went to Zimbabwe in March, came and shared with us some of his experiences and there were a number of helpful tips he gave our team. We also heard from Dr. Stretch who has been on numerous missions trips to Ghana. Dr. Stretch gave us some health and safety tips for traveling to Africa and there were a number of things we wouldn’t have known otherwise had he not shared with us (I’ve crossed sandals off my list…don’t want to be invaded by egg laying bugs..) All in all, it was a great day to bond closer together as a team and get more prepared for the trip.

Countdown…

As of this post there are now 36 days until we depart. It’s hard to believe there is just over a month to go! As we get closer to the date I’m getting more and more excited about the adventure that awaits. Of course, there is also a bit of nervousness due to the vast distance we will be traveling and the stability of the country we are traveling to!

I’m also really excited that fundraising goal for the project has already been exceeded! We are well over our original goal of $27,000 and are quickly approaching $30,000. As a team we are praying and hoping that between now and our departure we’ll have raised an additional $10,000 (for a total of $40,000) to add to the amount we can give to the Village of Hope for their ongoing projects. It certainly is within reach! If you want to contribute please feel free to chip-in using the widget in my sidebar.

One of the things we discovered as a team when Gord and Anita Cooledge visited the church is that we will most likely have internet access each day. That means I’ll be able to post updates about what we’re doing while in Zimbabwe. So if you are following my journaling about the project you’ll be able to continue reading as I send posts from Harare. I’m thrilled that I’ll be able to keep all my supporters up-to-date!

Event Update (getting closer to Zimbabwe)

This entry is part 9 of 27 in the series Zimbabwe 2007 Project

Just thought I’d give a little bit of an update as to what’s happened in the past few weeks with the Zimbabwe 2007 Project that I’m a part of.

Day at the Sugar Bush Fundraiser [04/07/2007]

The unexpected snowy weather for this time of year turned out to be a blessing in disguise as it really contributed to the success of the day. The snow certainly gave a more appropriate backdrop to the whole experience of being in the sugar-bush.

When I arrived at the Schaab’s barn I quickly attended to my pre-arranged pancake duty. It was while making my extra special “flap-jacks” (all I did was coat the pan with oil, pour the mix, and flip) that I realized how many people were attending this fundraiser event. We were kept pretty busy making the pancakes and there were times that we couldn’t keep up with the number of people arriving!

All in all the day was a fun day – and thanks to all the volunteers and the generosity of the people attending we made just over $2,000 between the sale of Maple Syrup and the tickets for the day.

Community Supper and Silent Auction [04/14/2007]

My contribution to this event was designing the posters, tickets, program/auction item list, and power-point slides for the evening of the auction. So I was able to attend with my wife and enjoy the evening without being involved in all the other preparation that went into it. I must say, the Auction & Dinner committee really worked hard and it was evident in the awesome response of the evening.

The number of items that were available was amazing and the “bidding wars” that ensued through the night were good natured and hilarious 🙂 In some cases husbands and wives were bidding against each other! It was also humourous seeing people bid $10-$20 dollars over the value of a gift-certificate. This certainly demonstrated people’s willingness to support the Zimbabwe 2007 Project!

The entertainment for the evening was also really great. Steve Wall, a classical guitarist, played and boy can this guy play the guitar! The quality of his music was a real treat to listen to.

Dave Cummings sang a couple of songs for us and his contribution was much appreciated as well.

The only thing that wasn’t so great about the evening was the sound quality. The acoustics of the room we rented for this event were a real challenge for the people in charge of the sound equipment nevertheless it was obvious they made every effort to do the best they could with what they had.

Paul and Jennifer Hudson from my church were the MC’s for the evening and they both did an excellent job of keeping the evening moving forward and interesting! I also was really touched by the idea Paul had of circulating sheets for each person on the team that people could sign and write short notes on. I’m sure these “personal messages” will be much appreciated by all of us on the team when we read them while in Zimbabwe!

All-in-all the evening was a great event and we made just over $5,000 after expenses towards our goals for the project!

Team Meeting 04/16/2007

We met once again as a team to work on the planning and preparation for the trip. At this meeting we spent a lot of time talking about the actual logistics involved in getting to Zimbabwe and back. Our team leader, Barry Mutrie, has put a lot of time and preparation into researching various aspects of embarking on this project and I’m very appreciative of everything he has done.

We went over packing lists, questions we want to ask the Cooledges when they come to our church in two weeks, and we did some team-building exercises as well. We also spent time talking about the responsibility we all feel towards those who have contributed to the project. People have put their trust and faith in us by giving generously towards this cause and we want to be good stewards of the funds they’ve directed towards the project. Thought is being given towards how we can communicate with our supporters while we are in Zimbabwe and the reports we will give when we get back. For any supporters that may be reading this entry…thank you for giving generously – your gift is much appreciated!

Every team meeting we have reminds us how close we are getting to the actual date of departure and the excitement is certainly beginning to build. I go this week for my last shot before leaving and while I am looking forward to going to Harare I’m also a bit nervous as I think about just how far Zimbabwe actually is from Hanover! Not only that, but the change in culture and setting will be dramatically different from what I’m used to and it will be a challenge adjusting. Nevertheless, I’m anticipating that God is leading us and will be doing a work in those of us going that will transform each of us in some way. We’re trusting and believing that in responding to the call of God leading us to Zimbabwe that we can be a help in contributing to the work of the Village of Hope in bringing hope to the orphans and the people living in this part of the world. That is something I’m looking forward to most of all.

Still to come are two more fund-raisers. The “Walk for Hope” which is a 10km walk I’ll be participating on (we gather sponsors for each km of the walk) on April 28th – and the Flea Market/Garage Sale that will be held on May 12th. We are already nearly at our team goal of $27,000 so it’s exciting knowing that we will exceed that goal and be able to contribute much more to the Village of Hope than we originally planned!

Something I haven’t done yet is send out personal support letters to family and friends. I’m hoping to get that done this week – I’m sure there are family and friends who will willingly contribute to this cause and I’m counting on their support to help make a difference in Zimbabwe. If you are one of those people I’m referring to – thanks in advance 😉

Interviewed by A-Channel

This entry is part 8 of 27 in the series Zimbabwe 2007 Project

I was interviewed today by Mike Lorentz from A-Channel News about my participation in the Zimbabwe 2007 Project.? Two other team members (Barry Mutrie and James Giles) were interviewed as well.? I don’t know when the interview will be broadcast (more than likely only will be a snippet of the actual taping) but it was a good opportunity to think through once again some of my personal motivations for going on this missions trip.

Countdown

This entry is part 5 of 27 in the series Zimbabwe 2007 Project

Had my latest meeting with the Zimbabwe 2007 Team last night. Things are really progressing well with the planning and preparation. From my end:

  • My passport has been received and placed in a safe place (I actually got it two weeks ago – earlier than expected!) – of course my photo makes me look like a mobster hehe.
  • I’ve started receiving the necessary vaccinations (HepA and B, Typhoid) and have received my Malaria Medication. I still have to get my Tetanus shot and a second dose of HepB. The needles aren’t as bad as I thought they’d be. I don’t like needles but the prick came and went before I had a time to react!
  • Fund-raising planning has been going along great and we’re gearing up for some great events in April/May (see the fundraising page on my church website).
  • My personal support is coming in fairly well. I recently had a $40 donation via the “chipin” widget here on unfoldingneurons.com (Thanks Colleen!) which was a pleasant surprise. I wish I could add-in support I’ve recieved other ways as the tracker isn’t really reflective of what I’ve had donated to me to date. I’ve actually received around $900 (including the $40 through ChipIn) towards my personal support goal.
  • My brother-in-law has produced an awesome promotional DVD that captures what it is that is motivating us to go to Zimbabwe and help the orphans. I’ll be creating a format for the web and I’ll post it here on unfoldingneurons.com, on my church website, and on YouTube hopefully before the beginning of next week.

Like I said, things are progressing well! Hard to believe there’s only 85 more days to go (as of the date of this post) before departing from Pearson International Airport in Toronto!

Save Time on Passports

This entry is part 4 of 27 in the series Zimbabwe 2007 Project

Yesterday I made the journey to the Canada Passport office in Kitchener with one of the other team members, Alex Pendergast, so that we could get our passport applications handed in and begin the processing. Ordinarily I wouldn’t post something as mundane as this but we learned something that I think will be beneficial for anyone looking to get their Canada Passport in the next few months and so here’s the post.

Due to a recent U.S. Law entitled the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI), Canadians who want to travel to the United States are now required to have their passport (currently only required if traveling into the U.S. by air, but in 2008 will be required for border crossings as well). As a result the passport applications have skyrocketed and the wait time for getting passports has gone up as well. Not only that, but you can expect when going to a passport office to deliver the application in person (which speeds up the actual processing time vs. mailing in the application), that there will be a long waiting line for that as well.

However, there is an easier way to go about doing things – as Alex and I recently discovered (and no it has nothing to do with anything illegal!). When Alex went to get his passport photo taken at our local travel agency a couple weeks ago, the person taking his photo happened to mention that a relative of his filled out his passport application online and his subsequent trip to the passport office was quick compared to regular paper applications. As a result, Alex and I decided to fill out our passport applications online and go that route.

Well let’s just say, we were glad we did. We arrived around 11:00am at the Passport Office in Kitchener, Ont. When we travelled in the elevator there were a few other people with us with paper passport applications. Upon arriving at the office the place was packed with people – not only was there lineups for getting the applications processed but also a lineup for getting a number to get in line! Needless to say we weren’t looking forward to the wait. Then, one of the passport officers yelled out, “People will Online Applications follow me” and we were directed to a special line for those with applications that had been prepared online. We got our numbers, and went to wait. Within 15-20 minutes we were back in our car headed home. Yes, that’s right – 15-20 minutes!

Further, while we werewaiting Alex happened to run into someone he knew who had been waiting (paper application) since the office opened that morning. She had number A58, and they were only up to A35 when we were there. When we left they just changed to A36. Not only that, but the people who were on the elevator with us? They had numbers beginning at A126! They certainly were in for a long wait! We had numbers C345, and C346 respectively which is the queue for online applications – so you can see there were a large number processed already that day.

Bottom line, if you are applying for a Canada Passport any time soon – do it online. It’s as simple as pie. I’ll help with a brief outline of what to do.

1. Go to the government passport website at http://www.ppt.gc.ca/index.aspx?lang=e

2. Follow the links to the “online passport application” section. If you don’t have an E-pass you’ll have to register for one. (HINT: Do all of this on off-peak hours [really early in the morning, or late at night] or you may have difficulty finishing the process due to high volume load on the government servers [they don’t have super-hampsters running their servers of course…])

3. If you have an E-Pass you can login and start the application process (can take anywhere from 20-60 minutes depending on your typing speed and whether you’ve got all your necessary information handy). The instructions are fairly straightforward – follow them and fill out the application.

4. When done filling everything out you can then print the form. VERY IMPORTANT: Make sure you follow their print instructions to the tee, as they will be picky about that. If you have a crappy printer consider saving your application and printing it off on an office printer, or a friends printer if they are better. Most standard printers should do the job just fine though.

5. Get the necessary signatures and then you’re all done. Make sure you take the printed out application, all your necessary ID and documents, and your passport photos to the closest Passport Office to where you live and you’ll be all set.

Well, hopefully that helps some of you save some time when going through the passport process. Of course as more people catch on to the online applications that the government of Canada has made available the lineups for that will pick up a bit – but they’ll still go faster due to the decreased time a clerk has to enter the information.

One more caveat – at this point online passport applications can only be filled out by adults 16 and older and is only available for Canadians living in Canada. Still, for the majority of you that will greatly help – and for the rest, maybe the wait won’t be so long when more people apply online!

The dreaded needle…

This entry is part 3 of 27 in the series Zimbabwe 2007 Project

Well today I got my (hopefully only round) first round of shots in preparation for traveling to Zimbabwe. Even though the actual journey is still nearly 4 months away I want to make sure I get any necessary medical stuff out of the way. Did I tell you I hate needles yet? Well then, let me tell you, I HATE NEEDLES. But I was surprised, it didn’t hurt nearly as much as I thought it would. At least not as much as getting bloodwork done. When I visited the lab due to doctor’s orders to get my blood checked out for who knows what, I didn’t think they were going to take THAT much blood! Did I tell you I hate needles yet? Yeah I hate needles. I nearly passed out when they stuck that instrument of torture into my veins…at least the kind nurse found my vein on the first try! (clump, the sound of my body passing out and hitting the floor).

Well, on to another subject shall we? While getting my dose of the Hep-A vaccine and the mumps/measles/rubella concotion – I started to think about how much we take for granted here in our country. In the travel package I received from our local public health unit I noted the differences in disease risk – for Canada (my country), the traveler is warned,

Food-borne and water-borne illness:
* Minimal risk throughout the country.

And then the disease risk for Zimbabwe…

Food-borne and water-borne illness:
* High risk throughout the country including deluxe acommodations in major cities.

Did you catch that? Even in deluxe accomodations in Zimbabwe there are high risks for food-borne and water-borne illnesses – let alone the daily acommodations most Zimbabweans live with! In western society (especially in Canada) we have such freedom from concern when it comes to diseases and illness – not to say it doesn’t happen here – but in Zimbabwe its a fact of life!

Here’s another sobering thought – 1 in 4 Zimbabweans have AIDS. That means that if I walk down the streets of Harare and shake hands with folks, chances are that every 4th person I shake hands with has AIDS. Compare that to Canada? Well, AIDS doesn’t even make it to the travel advisory to Canada, I had to do some digging around to find statistics about the incidences of AIDS in my country. Here’s what I found: according to Public Health Canada, approximately 58,000 Canadians were living with AIDS by the end of 2005. According to Statistics Canada, the population of Canada is 32,623,490 at the end of 2005. Doing some simple math that means that 0.17778600634082987442483927991763% of the Canadian population has AIDS or in more understandable terms (and rounded) – 1 in 1779 people have AIDS. So in Zimbabwe, 1 in 4 people I shake hands with has AIDS, in Canada I’ll have to shake hands with 1,779 people before I shake hands with a person with AIDS. Wow, yeah…we kind of do take things for granted here don’t we?

By the way, did I tell you I hate needles…?

Zimbabwe 2007 makes front page news

This entry is part 1 of 27 in the series Zimbabwe 2007 Project

Our local newspaper carried a front page article covering the Zimbabwe 2007 project that I’m a part of.? It’s exciting seeing the word of this project being spread throughout the community.? We really hope that people catch the vision for helping these children who have been orphaned by AIDS and the opportunity to give the people of Zimbabwe hope.? It is our prayer that when we go, we will be able to take along a great contribution that will help towards the building of this community.