“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!

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? 🙂

And we’re off!

This entry is part 13 of 27 in the series Zimbabwe 2007 Project

Bags are packed, vehicles are loaded, and we’re heading to Toronto for boarding the plane. The emotions of all the guys are mixed as we say good byes to our families and our hellos to each other in anticipation of this incredible two week journey. We definitely feel the weight of responsibility with all the stuff we’re taking with us to bless the Zimbabwean people as well as the support that has been given towards us from all of you who have helped!
If all goes well, we will update again when we arrive in London.
Till next update…

Brick Chain and hey – some pictures!

This entry is part 14 of 27 in the series Zimbabwe 2007 Project

Hi there folks! Another day has come and gone here in Zimbabwe. Did you know that the Zimbabwean day is nearly always 12hours long? The sun rises at 6am and sets at 6pm (give or take a few minutes). When the sun rises, it’s bright – when the sun sets its dark, almost immediately – the sunrise and sunset don’t last very long. Needless to say it’s pretty interesting for us Canadian folks used to wide varieties of seasonal daylight hours!
Today was a great day. We got a chance to join in with a community building day with men from Hope Community Church and men from the plots who live near the Village. Over 50 men from the community showed up to help get things started on the building of the structure for the third school classroom. By the way, this is what our project for the time we are here will be. We’re hoping to get the walls up and and the roof in place for the classroom in 6 working days. Quite a challenge but one we’re up to trying to meet! Today was an amazing day of getting to know some of the men of the village and contributing to a “human brick passing chain” that moved brick for the walls from where it was piled to a more accesible location surrounding the foundation where the walls are being built on. In Zimbabwe, construction is a bit different from Canada because they use brick for their structural support and steel or timber for the tresses (roof structure). Lumber is not easy to come by and it is much easier to build with brick and mortar. Anyway, we had lots of laughs and fun as we moved the brick from the pile to the foundation and got to know some of the men better.
A funny story: The Zimbabwe men have a new way of describing someone who talks alot thanks to the wonderful observation by Doug. While we were passing brick along one of the men from the area was very vocal in conversation and continually urging us to “hurry” and “two two” which was to get us passing more bricks along at once (sometimes “three three” and “four four”…) All in good fun of course and everyone was laughing. In good humor Doug contributed to the laughter by calling the gentleman “Barry”. The nickname stuck and now Barry is the byword for, “one who talks alot” 😉 For those of you who know Barry well…well, you’ll understand!
Following the work day we had a BBQ with the men who worked. Now a Zimbabwean BBQ is much different than the typical Canadian BBQ…frankly, our BBQ’s pale in comparison. When we get back we’ll show you some pictures of the difference but I highly suspect that you’re going to see some of the men build a *real *BBQ in their back yards… The food was delicious. One of the awkward things about the meal was that we got our plates with food and then we looked around for forks and knives…only to discover there were none. The Zimbabwe people eat with their fingers…now how do you think we felt about that? 8 guys from Canada learning that it was OKAY to eat our food with our fingers… 🙂 And yes, we did wash our hands first hehe.
In our team reflection time tonight back at our house we spent some time talking about the day and what stood out about it. I’m not going to share everything we talked about except to say that it’s obvious that this trip is affecting all of us in a big way. Words really can’t express the emotions we go through as we share with each other about the things the Zimbabwean people go through and yet the incredible resilience and joy they have in the midst of their trials. We also spent time talking about the reality of the economic situation here in Zimbabwe vs. what we know in Canada. For instance, we’ve been purchasing our food each day and this is what it costs:
A small brick of cheese = $330,000 ZD = $4.2 CDN A 6 pack of sausage = $104,000ZD = $1.3 CDN Peanut Butter = $60,000 ZD = $.74 CDN Ketchup = $37,000 ZD = $.46 CDN 10L Juice = $98,400 ZD = $1.21 CDN Cookies = $86,500 ZD = $1.17 CDN
And that was just today. Since the average inflation pushes prices up by 2-3% per day the costs continue to go up! Now translated into Canadian dollars the prices don’t really seem to be all that bad until I throw in the statistic that the avg take home pay for THOSE who work is about $31.50 CDN per MONTH! Not only that but taxes are at $47%! So…much of the things we take for granted at the local supermarket are considered “rich mans'” food here in Zimbabwe. Another sobering reality is the fact that the unemployment rate in Zimbabwe is around 75%. We certainly are challenged as a team by the realities of life for the people of Zimbabwe and amazed by the resourcefulness of the people in surviving.
For this update I thought I’d include a few pictures. Now because of the slow connection they won’t be in a very high resolution because I reduced the size of the file to cut down on transfer time. But I’m sure you’ll enjoy them anyway!
Here’s a brief description of each picture, 1. The team about to leave for the flight from Toronto. 2. The team in front of Westminister Abbey in London England 3. The team’s arrival at the Village of Hope. 4. Here the team is passing out some of the tools that were donations given to us to pass on the Village of Hope. You should have seen the eyes of the Zimbabwe workers when they saw those tools! Especially the cordless drill – they were wanting to try it right away! 5. Here is the “Brick passing chain” I wrote about earlier in the email.
Till next update folks… – Darren and the Zimbabwe 2007 Team

Fathers Day away from home

This entry is part 15 of 27 in the series Zimbabwe 2007 Project

Hi folks! Today we woke up to father’s day and for us Dad’s it was a bit of an emotional day away from home as we miss our families. The gifts and contact from our families certainly helped alot 🙂 Thanks!
We started out the day by making our way to Sunday School class at the Hope Community Church on the village grounds and Kevin and James went to the youth class while the rest of the team joined the men for their class. Following Sunday School we joined in with the service and WOW – things sure were lively in there 🙂 The harmony during praise and worship was amazing and they do actions with their songs that really get everyone involved. It was amazing to be in the presence of God with fellow believers so far from home!
Okay for those who know us well you might want to sit down while I tell you the next part – some of you will be shocked and I want you to be prepared. Pastor Zowa asked us yesterday if the team will do something special in the service. So…Barry spoke and shared a little bit on behalf of the team and also showed a short clip of the our kids singing the song from the farewell Sunday before we left home. It was special seeing our kids again! Then…all 8 of us got up on the platform and sang a song! Yes, you read that right, Doug, Alex, James, Kevin, Chris, Scott, Barry and myself all got up and sang Open the Eyes of my Heart. Now, when we practiced the night before accapella it actually didn’t sound to bad. But, for the service…well let’s just say it was pretty funny hehe. I played on the keyboard and Chris played drums but there wasn’t a mic for me and so the guys were having fun trying to follow along. Add to that that the guitar player and bass guitar player from the church played along (and did really good) and it made for quite a funny combination. Still, it was amazing to do that together and the congregation was really gracious with us 😉
Following the service we joined Gord and Anita Cooledge, Pastor Zowa and his wife and their daughter Ropa and went out for lunch together. Remember me writing about the Zimbabwe inflation in the last update? Well the bill for the lunch was $7,230,000! In CDN dollars that’s around $85. Another quick fact: Zimbabwe has the worst inflation in the world at 3,700%. To put that in perspective, the next worst nation is Iraq with 64%. Quite a significant difference isn’t it?
Tomorrow we will be getting right into the building project and will be working for 6 days on the school classroom – we’re looking forward to seeing progress being made on the building. I’m going to be accompanying Pastor Zowa to the Bible college where he teaches a class in the morning and then I’ll be rejoining the guys in the afternoon. I’m looking forward to that.
I’ve included a couple more pictures with this update:
1. Following the men’s Sunday School Class, Barry passed out some bookmarks that Alex’s daughter Jacinda had made for us to take. The men *really*appreciated them. Then following the service Barry passed out the rest of the bookmarks and some pens as well. Jacinda made 80 bookmarks and they were all passed out – Thanks Jacinda for making them! The kids loved it and Barry got mobbed! hehe
2. This is a picture of the price board for the pizza that we had for supper tonight. How would you feel if you saw this in Canada? This is what the avg Zimbabwean faces every day. One of the toughest struggles we are having as a team is that much of what we take for granted in Canada is such an *extreme *luxury here in Zimbabwe. Most Zimbabwe people would not be able to afford the food that we’ve been eating here – and it’s painfully obvious everytime we purchase something. We are spending more on food this week than what the avg Zimbabwe person sees in a year! A sobering reality of the economic conditions here.

Family Day in Zimbabwe!

This entry is part 16 of 27 in the series Zimbabwe 2007 Project

Today we attended worship at Hope Community Church for the morning service. We were thrilled that some of the workers we had invited to church attended this morning – it was great that they joined us for the service.
I had the wonderful privilege to preach this morning and it was a real neat experiencing preaching with a translator. Pastor Zowa translated for me and he did a great job. Following the service we joined in with Hope Community Church’s Family Day. Our group was split up and two of us went to each team that was set up for family day (Blue, Red, Black, White). There were over 250 participants and at first it was quite a bedlam on the property as it appeared that no one knew what they were doing. But as the day went on we realized that they were a lot more organized than we thought. We had fun participating in all the sports and activities although most of us were pretty tired when the day was done.
It was kind of an emotional day for many of us as well as we realized that this would most likely be the last time we’d see alot of the people there. We exchanged our addresses with many people as we said our goodbyes.
That’s it for this update! Here’s some pictures:
1. The people who won the “prizes from Canada”. Each pair from our group had to pick a person from the team we belonged to who demonstrated the most “team spirit”.
2. Chris and Doug in the tug of war
3. A picture of the crowd.
4. James and Scott in the tug of war.
5. Kevin playing volleyball
6. Me in the tug of war.
7. Alex flying a kite with the kids.
8. Barry in the tug of war
9. Me preaching

“ROAR” or so the Lion says…

This entry is part 17 of 27 in the series Zimbabwe 2007 Project

Today was our “R&R” day here in Zimbabwe. We went and visited a place called “Billy Vaughn Game Park” which is located about 30 minutes outside of Harare. The journey through the countryside on the way there was a treat in and of itself. The Zimbabwe countryside is absolutely gorgeous. Many of us had that feeling again where we couldn’t believe we were on the African Continent.
The whole day was spent at the park where we saw a wide variety of African wildlife. Highlights of the day included:
– a one-armed monkey “guiding” us through the park.
– Walking through an animal sanctuary with a wide variety of animals
– Riding Elephants
– Seeing a giraffe that is rarely spotted in the park…and getting close up pictures to boot.
– Getting some close up time with a lion named Brian and hearing some lions roar!! Heartpounding…
– Canoeing on an African river in some Canadian made canoes!
Of course between the 8 of us we got a huge amount of pictures and we’ll have fun showing them when we get home. I’ve just included a few for your perusal. Many of us are starting to get antsy about getting home but we still are looking forward to visiting an orphanage tomorrow and distributing some of the items we brought with us there.
Here’s a very small sampling of some of the pictures we took today:
1. Barry and Chris and Scott on elephants
2. A very very LARGE elephant bore down on us while we were waiting for the ones we were going to ride on. It was both a little bit frightening and exhilerating at the same time.
3. Doug with a horse. For those of you who know him, you’ll know Doug’s affinity with horses.
4. Kevin and Doug on an elephant.
5. King of the Jungle
6. Scott’s new friend…the one armed monkey!
7. Alex and me on an elephant
8. James on an elephant.
That’s the report for today folks!

Final Day in Harare

This entry is part 18 of 27 in the series Zimbabwe 2007 Project

Well here we are at last, a day that at first seemed like it was a long ways off and now has oh too quickly crept up on us. We’re at the last day of our journey here in Zimbabwe. As we’ve talked about the time here there are moments where it seems like we’ve been here for a month and then there are moments where it seems like we just arrived yesterday. One thing is for certain – we’re torn between leaving and saying our goodbyes to all the wonderful people we’ve met here and getting excited about going home to our families and friends who we are missing soooo much.
Today, we spent the morning shopping at a market in Harare. It’s similar to a flea market at home in Canada only the merchants are much more aggressive here and we were warned that as soon as they see a white person they will jack up the prices considerably so we had better barter. And barter we did! We spent a couple hours browsing and purchasing a few souvenirs and gifts for when we get home.
Following the market we had a lunch on our way to Svimba township where we visited another Orphanage that Gord and Anita Cooledge had been made aware of. The orphanage was called Vimbainesu Children’s Home. First some background to the story of what brought us to visit this particular orphanage.
Our original plans for our stay in Zimbabwe included a trip to a wildlife resort located about 3 hours away from Harare that included many activities including walking with lions. It was a two night stay. However, when we got to Zimbabwe, after our first weekend here we discussed the budget and realized that over half of our budget was going towards our staying at this wildlife resort. We agreed as a group that we really didn’t feel that it was a wise use of the money and so after going over things with Gord and looking at a number of different options we decided to cancel our trip to the resort and go to a closer Game Park that was much cheaper and still had a number of great activities to help us experience some of the animals of Africa.
The benefits of this decision were enormous! We were able to participate in the Family Day after church on Sunday which we wouldn’t have been able to had we gone to the wildlife resort. We were able to still get a great day in at the Game Park. And finally we had an opportunity to visit this orphanage that Gord had mentioned he had hoped to be able to take us too but originally wasn’t going to be able to because of our trip the Wildlife Resort. Are we ever glad we made the decision we did.
Vimbainesu Children’s Home was begun by two women who decided they wanted to do something for orphans and these two ladies have worked tirelessly and faithfully with a very minimal amount of resources to care for orphaned children. Most of this children have been orphaned because their parents died of AIDS. An organization that had regularly funded this orphanage had stopped the support and these ladies have really struggled to kep the care going for the children. We took two hockey bags full of stuff with us to the orphanage and with some of the money we saved from not going to the Wildlife Resort we were able to support the orphanage for a year at $125 USD/mo (which equals roughly ZIM $18,750,000 with current exchange rates).
What a blessing it was for us to be able to go and see this orphanage and the awesome work these ladies are doing with so little. It was also an awesome experience to see the children’s and house mother’s faces light up when we presented them with the gifts.
Currently the orphange houses 31 children which range in ages from infant to 16 or 17. All the children are in school and the orphanage itself runs a preschool for the orphans as well as other children in the community (they have an additional 58 kids that come to the preschool. There are two ladies that stay right on the property and care for the orphanage and they’ve recently had an additional two ladies come during the day to help be house moms.
As usual, a picture tells a lot more than words ever could so I’ve attached a few of the ones we took. This will be the last update from Harare. On our journey home which begins tomorrow I’ll update when we arrive safely at Heathrow and then again when we reach Toronto but that will be it. I’ll post one final update after a few days when we’ve had a chance to unwind a bit. Till then, thanks for following along on our journey and Praise God for everything he has done in us and through us while we’ve been here.
1. Barry holding the infant in the orphanage.
2. The kids showing off some of the gifts we brought.
3.One of the unique things on the orphanage is that the cows and chicken’s are alllowed to walk around freely. You can also see in this picture one of the building on the orphanage property.
4. A picture of the washrooms for the orphanage
5. The electric stove in the kitchen no longer works so they have had to start cooking over an open fire.
6. This is one of the “directors” of the orphanage with Barry.
7. Kevin with some of the kids from the orphanae.
8. The orphanage kids.
9. A picture of the classroom.
10. Doug with the kids.

Arrival safely in London

This entry is part 19 of 27 in the series Zimbabwe 2007 Project

Hi folks – just a quick update that we’ve arrived safely in London and have checked into the hotel for overnight. It was a pretty emotional goodbye in Harare this morning. All of us are looking forward to getting home 😉
To our families…if you want to send an email to any of us feel free to do so. We have internet access while we’re at the hotel so we will receive the emails and can reply. Just keep in mind that it is currently 9:00pm here in London (we’re 5 hours ahead of EST).

Back on Canadian Soil and a Great Surprise!

This entry is part 20 of 27 in the series Zimbabwe 2007 Project

We’re back on Canadian Soil! It’s good to be home and we were greeted with a pleasant surprise when some of our family members showed up to welcome us at the airport!
Now comes the difficult part of getting back into life as a Canadian without losing what we’ve learned from our time in Zimbabwe. Our team has already been talking about what we are doing now that we are home and in the coming months you’ll hear more from us. In the meantime we’re just going to take a month to think through what we’ve learned and enjoy our families. In the near future we’ll be announcing when we’ll have a presentation night of pictures and stories of our experiences – and where the Zimbabwe Project goes from here. There’s so much we have to share over and above these reports we’ve been giving you.
One more thing. Alex Pendergast’s bag didn’t arrive with us in Toronto. He’s been told there wasn’t enough room on the plane and they had to leave the bag in London. Keep this in prayer that the bag will arrive safely.
Tatenda! (Thank you)