By Jessica Hippolyte
As a 4th year medical student at Ohio State we have the opportunity to spend 4 weeks completing a global health elective. With a MPH degree in Global Health I knew ahead of time that I wanted to travel abroad. After hearing about the experience with Tiritose through a colleague of mine (Necrisha Roach), I knew spending my time in Zimbabwe with Tiritose was where I wanted to be for my 4-week rotation 2017.
From a medical standpoint, one of my objectives is to learn more about the diagnosis and treatment of diseases in Zimbabwe such as HIV, TB, and malnutrition. Through this experience I would like to assess patients with the physicians, complete physical exams, and discuss the assessment and plans. I also want to witness and understand the similarities and differences in practice between the private and public clinical settings and have a better understanding of Zimbabwe’s health care delivery system. It will be an amazing experience to interact with various physicians who are leaders in global health medicine as this is something I would like to pursue in my future career. Furthermore it is really important to learn about the culture in Zimbabwe and understand how that influences the practice of medicine.
From a social standpoint, I really want to immerse myself in Zimbabwe. This will be my first trip to Africa and I am beyond excited for what is to come. I want to learn more about the culture, the music, the language, and enjoy the food. I am told that Zimbabwe has a very friendly community so I am looking forward to getting to know the people. I am so excited to travel within the country and visit the beautiful sites and make the trip to Victoria Falls. These four weeks are going to take me out of my natural habitat and environment and I am so excited for this journey.
James Kapnek, an American entrepreneur found great financial success in Southern Africa in the late 19th century, and decided to leave his fortune to build communities in Zimbabwe. He is the founder of Kapnek Trust.
I came across the work of the Kapnek Trust through their Board Member Dr. Chiura, who also happens to be an Advisor on the work I am doing with Tiritose. It was a case of great timing as they were expecting a group of American high school students to visit Zimbabwe and volunteer at two of their sites in Ngezi. Call it love at first site if you may!
The Kapnek Trust is a registered charity operating in Zimbabwe with offices in the United States. The Trust pivoted its focus in the 1990s to become a grant-seeking implementer of programmes to benefit vulnerable children in Zimbabwe. Today, the organisation runs several programmes, including Paediatric HIV Prevention & Treatment, Pre-school Child Health, Paediatric Disabilities and Harare Children’s Hospital.
The group of high school students arrived in Harare in June 2016, accompanied by two parents. Tiritose being in charge of the logistics and on-the-ground support, I gave orientation talks on health, safety & security – preparing them for life in Zimbabwe, albeit being a visit of only two weeks. Regardless, it is always important to feel safe when exploring new and unfamiliar places.
The Tiritose orientation programme consists of exploring the local farmers’ markets for the fresh, organic produce, a trip to the Northern suburbs before contrasting it with a trip to underserved communities on the other side of town. Harare is a city of many contrasts, and a walk in the city centre exposes these contrasts, with a national gallery on the one end, a recreational park next to it, with some lovely sculptures, and then across the road are run-down government buildings and littered streets.
We also had a visit to Kapnek’s two sites in Mhondoro-Ngezi, about 120km from Harare in Mashonaland West Province. There they were finishing up a classroom block and painting it with the trademark Kapnek colour PINK. While in Mhondoro-Ngezi, the students stayed at one of the Zimbabwe National Parks accommodation sites, with a lush dam view perfect for watching the sunset – which was needed after the days they had at the sites.
The activities at the two sites varied from working on and painting the buildings in the morning and then spending time playing with the children in the afternoon. The high school students and their parents had fundraised in the United States so they came well prepared with soccer balls, clothes and other toys for the small children. The excitement was unreal from the Mhondoro-Ngezi children, and the high schoolers were equally excited to be accepted into a new community.
What’s a trip to Zimbabwe and Africa without a safari right? After spending a decent amount of time in the capital Harare, and in a rural setting in Ngezi, it was time to experience the 7th Wonder of the World – the mighty Victoria Falls. Just like anywhere in Zimbabwe, you can never have enough of it and sadly, after such a lovely time with the children and getting their hands dirty, we had to say goodbye. The girls certainly did not want to go, and the tears proved it, for the boys, well – they cried inside!
The work everyone involved with Tiritose has been doing over the last year has attracted all the right kind of attention. The latest being an invite to join the Fundraising Committee for the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) Harare, an appointment I did not take lightly. The SPCA is doing important work taking care of Harare’s animals, and I am humbled and very excited to get going so that we may reach the $425,000 needed to run the SPCA.
The first task we embarked on as a new committee was to put our volunteer t-shirts on at the St. John’s Spring Fair held during the weekend of 02 Oct 2016. The task seemed simple at face value: handing out membership forms to the crowd attending the Spring Fair. How difficult could that be right? Well, pretty difficult given that people met dozens of flyer-issuing people before they paid at the gates, and I know how I for one often try to avoid getting too many flyers when moving around a crowd. I think we all can agree it is not the most popular job in the city.
It was not all gloomy though; I had several people approach me to find out how they could adopt puppies and kittens. Some people came up to me to let me know they support the SPCA, which was all so very encouraging. Noteworthy, was one friendly couple that realised that I had mentioned ‘our vulnerable cats and dogs’ in my monologue to them. They proceeded to report a neighbour who they thought was abusing their dog as they could hear cries coming from the property regularly.
We have since handed the case to an SPCA inspector who will conduct further investigations. Such a case goes to show what the funds we raise goes towards. Another case is of horses that were found abandoned on a mine and had to be carried back to Harare to receive medical attention. All these initiatives do not come cheap, neither is running the kennels and the clinic that does not turn away animals regardless of the owner’s ability to pay the bill.
The Spring Fair served as the commemoration for the World Animal Day that is officially held on 04 Oct 2016. Those of you with some cool fundraising ideas, please do shoot them my way, and prepare for multiple calls over the course of the year to join us in any of our initiatives.
Done with University, I had to ask myself WHAT NOW?
Selfies, Facebook Likes, or a local girlfriend are quite tempting reasons to volunteer abroad. If any of these are your reasons for volunteering abroad, then I advise you stay in your home country and have a cookie. Volunteering is helping people in need voluntarily without reward, and the greatest reward is personal growth and knowing you have invested in the future. Volunteering may have deep and positive effects to both the community and the volunteer if the intentions of the project are good and noble.
After all, helping people and the environment generates good feelings and happiness for yourself, as well as to those people you are working with. You could argue there are many other ways to achieve the same goal, like donations. But I can guarantee you nothing is better and more effective than actually making a direct and physical impact on people with your help.
"Volunteering in Zimbabwe was a turning point in my life"
After choosing to volunteer abroad, the next question was ‘But Where?’ - Zimbabwe
The friendliness and the hospitality of Zimbabweans means I did not live to regret that decision. Doing the Tiritose online application and Wesley communicating with me throughout the process and chatting to me via Skype settled all my concerns and I felt prepared. Zimbabweans are always welcoming and smiling.
You will experience the hospitality at a homestay family dinner or when you attend the Boma dinner in Victoria Falls, a feast like a no other. The host plays drums and collaborates with the diners, filling the atmosphere with dancing. In the city of Harare, you will feel like you exist in a wonderland, particularly in summer. Standing at the Avenues (area with apartments in the City Centre) while two rows of blooming Jacaranda looking at you on the left and right. The purple guardians bring beauty and strength at the same time. Next to calmness, there is business.
My Worksite - Mukuvisi Woodlands
I was interested in gaining more knowledge about conservation work in a third world country, but I also wanted to remain in a City setting. Tiritose organised my placement at Mukuvisi Woodlands, a nature reserve located just 7km from the City Centre. By volunteering at the nature reserve, I brought no cost to the organisation, which freed up their budget and could employ more Zimbabwean interns who received a stipend, whilst fulfilling their academic credit.
Together with the team, we educated children or youngsters who visited the woodland through lectures and information about the flora and fauna within the woodland and environmental knowledge in general such as pollution and climate change. In practice, me and my colleagues were involved in the organising of COP – 21 climate change quiz and treasure hunt - which was then showcased at the National Gallery.
We also helped improve the garden, planted some vegetables close to the office so there would be food for the people who work at the nature reserve. I, personally started to make household cleaning liquid and essential oils by using fruit peels such as orange peels. At the same time, recycle and reuse the bottles at our trash place by making the liquid in the bottles. To promote the idea of sustainability; which can be very simple and waste can be a part of the product life cycle.
I loved the “open” woodland the most, it was always a pleasure to stroll around, walk close to the animals and observe the nature where you can learn something you didn’t expect to learn. A funny moment is when after arriving to volunteer in Zimbabwe, I wanted to live (camp) in the open woodland and live with the animals, which shocked and surprised everyone! I enjoyed a lot working at Mukuvisi, the colleagues are my source of happiness and they were very supportive and lovely!
Zimbabwe needs a variety of skills and expertise from all over the world including and in particular its own country to boost its progress. One way is to let foreign nationals volunteer in the country to help build capacity, and experience its current societal influences, cultural uniqueness and the authentic Zimbabwean people. Let one person spread the news to other people, which makes it true and effective. Zimbabwe need us, and we need Zimbabwe!
About the author: Gavin is a recent graduate from University of York in England. He graduated with a bachelor’s in Environment, Economics and Ecology. Gavin spent three months in Zimbabwe volunteering at Mukuvisi Woodlands and then spent a month travelling in Zimbabwe and neighbouring countries like South Africa and Namibia.
I met Marina Warner, the British polymathic literary scholar, novelist, short story writer, historian and mythographer in the Norwegian city of Bergen, after she accepted her Holberg Prize in 2015. She said something that struck me, and I have not been able to let it go ever since, ‘culture is a freedom, and it is dangerous for people not to have a culture’.
culture is a freedom, and it is dangerous for people not to have a culture
Marina Warner's Holberg Lecture 2015. Photo cred: www.holbergprisen.no/en
As the world commemorates World Refugee Week this June, along with Marina, I mourn the plight of refugee children who are raised to shun their culture and heritage as they try to become 'like the local people'. From my time in Norway and learning about the Sami People who were forced to take up “Norwegian” culture, the word assimilate is now known to me as a very very negative one due to its implications of how one becomes one with a culture or people with whom he/she is living amongst, totally negating their own cultural heritage. With the volunteering work in Zimbabwe we do with Tiritose, I have gained an even better appreciation of the plight of these refugee children. A family from Rwanda now inhabits the cottage on my property, and I mourn the loss of culture for their little girl who does not know a single word of Kinyarwanda and is “Zimbabwean” by every definition of the word.
I fear for the creation of an identity crisis, a sense of belonging nowhere. I sincerely hope that she does not go the same route as some of my friends who sought refuge in Zimbabwe with their parents and felt lost in society (and I am sure other refugees in other parts of the world have gone through the same ordeal). A big question we are still trying to answer at Tiritose is how to provide adequate assistance to refugee families.
Because the world has increasingly become one global village, migration has become the norm. However, the refugees emigrate not out of choice but a need to preserve life and survive whatever circumstance they would have been living under. I studied and worked in South Africa, and during this period I interacted with asylum seekers, refugees and other immigrants who tried as much as possible to blend in with the locals to the extent of denying their own heritage and identified more as South African. Granted, there is freedom of choice, but at what point does one right infringe on another, taking Marina’s words into perspective and treating culture as a freedom and positive right.
A big question we are still trying to answer at Tiritose is how to provide adequate assistance to refugee families.
Europe is experiencing a huge influx of refugees right now, and this receives wide media coverage. Being Zimbabwean, I have seen Eritreans, Somalis, Congolese and many other nationalities throng into the country seeking refuge in their thousands, and not once were the borders ever closed. Many of whom walked on foot from their countries of origin for a better life. Though with little resources, Zimbabwe has continues to welcome refugees. Tiritose is urging volunteers in Zimbabwe to join the fight to preserve the heritage, culture and history of the refugees because as Robert Marley said, ‘a man without a history, is like a tree without roots’. For the little girl who lives on my property and for many like her, Tiritose looks to embark on a campaign to encourage refugee parents to tell their children where they come from, their history, and what makes them who they are as a people.
nothing screams more loudly like the voice of the silent
An open invitation is also sent out to anyone keen to pursue a fight for freedom as it is true that nothing screams more loudly like the voice of the silent. The refugee children don’t have a voice and it will take government intervention, and volunteers like you and I giving their time to achieve this freedom.
Many Zimbabwean students are forced to drop out of school because their families can no longer afford tuition and the associated educational costs. This is an issue one American intern affiliated with Tiritose wanted to see change.
Necrisha Roach came to Zimbabwe in April 2016 as part of a global health elective offered by her home institution – The Ohio State University College of Medicine. This course is offered to medical students during their final year of medical school and it allows them to have a clinical experience that is different from what they would normally experience back in the United States of America.
Many of the young ladies she met were orphaned because of HIV and currently lived with extended families or in a single parent household. As a result, the costs associated with getting an education were often too much for the family to bear forcing them to drop out of school. These young girls then relied on the financial support of Tariro and its donors to cover school fees, school supplies and transportation costs.
Tariro is not only committed to ensuring that the girl’s material needs are met, but they also provide a support system for them and their families that involves HIV education, classes on healthy living as well as dance and music classes geared towards enhancing the girl’s love and appreciation for their rich Zimbabwean culture.
- Meeting these young women was a humbling experience. Their resilience and commitment to education in spite of what seems like insurmountable circumstances was truly inspirational, Necrisha says. Prior to traveling to Zimbabwe, Necrisha with the help of her friends, were able to raise funds to help cover the cost of school supplies for 30 Tariro students for the upcoming academic year.
The Tariro Hope visit became a turning point for both Necrisha and the young girls she met during her visit. The girls were moved that a young American doctor came all the way from America to not only visit them but her and her friends were willing to make a financial investment in their futures by covering the cost of school supplies. Recognizing that the donation for school supplies were greatly appreciated, it was evident that there was still a great need among the students. To that end, Necrisha decided to cover the tuition for the next three years for a young girl enrolled at Harare Polytechnic (a local tertiary institution) where she is pursuing her studies in Transport and Logistics.
Education is what brings a community, or rather a country forward, and for the current situation in Zimbabwe Necrisha wants to be part of the solution. In order to make her vision become a reality she teamed up with Tiritose and together they were able to establish a foundation that is designed to provide a scholarship to female students enrolled in colleges and universities in Zimbabwe.
The foundation is now established as a fundraising arm of Tiritose. The Tiritose stakeholders have decided to name it The Dr. Necrisha Roach Fellowship in honour of Necrisha, and her passion for education and creating opportunities for girls.
If you are interested in supporting disadvantaged Zimbabwean students or to know more about the Dr. Necrisha Roach Fellowship, please contact us via firstname.lastname@example.org
So, when you first arrive, particularly if its your first trip to Africa, everything is very different. The roads, the heat, the people, the environment and general ambience is a sense sensation. I felt quite disarmed being in Zimbabwe initially. I felt very different and a little disconcerted at the daunting venture that lay ahead.
One week in and I’d had a baptism of fire… I’d had a whistle-stop tour of Harare, courtesy of Wesley and I’d seen some of the issues – social and economic – that affect Zimbabwe. Wesley took me on a road trip, north of Mutare where I got to see some stunning scenery, experience scorching temperatures and walk on toasted earth. I met a village elder and his family and was welcomed into their home before being given the largest, most enormous water melon from their garden. I loved the diversity of the country and the friendliness of its people. How charming and welcoming they are. I’d been taken on a “low-medium” impact walk in the nearby countryside and experienced an humiliating few hours in the blistering heat at the hands of the Harare Mountaineering Club – thanks Wes!
I’ve attended meetings in the Ministry of Health, experiencing Zimbabwe's bureaucracy and administration; and I’ve spent time in both the northern and southern suburbs of Harare, learning that there is a huge disparity in wealth and lifestyle. At all times I have felt very safe.
Initially I felt uncomfortable with having a maid clean after me and remove my laundry, bring it back clean, ironed and beautifully folded; and that’s another aspect you learn is part of life here.
I’ve watched polo with the British Ambassador in attendance and seen her work out with AfroFit. I’ve seen dozens of youngsters ballroom dance and watched African dance to the beat of the drums. I’ve eaten at family meals and braais and I’ve been emotional at the welcome and friendship demonstrated towards me.
I’ve felt angry at the corruption and inequality of access to services and education. I’ve questioned the disparity of wages, expectations and living environments. I’ve been saddened at the decline of an obviously once beautiful city, and I’ve been shamed by my lack of knowledge of the colonisation of this proud country and its people.
Zimbabwe has given me so much more than a volunteering exercise, its broadened my horizons and taught me so much about the human spirit and … oh and along the way I’ve worked with some inspirational people with a vision to have addiction treatment delivered in this country. So I have to come back, again and again to see this vision and dream realised.
I can't wait!
Amanda J Thomas - UK
I was prepared for a change in culture, attitude and time management, I was prepared for heat…However nothing can quite prepare you for your first experience of Africa.
Arrival into Harare International Airport was a bit of a shock. There are no signs so you have no idea where to go, everyone is queuing, which one do I join – as a Brit we like queues and feel impelled to join the longest, which I did. I was wrong. Keep to the right and get your Visa paperwork completed, bring a pen or three, they will be needed. Be relaxed and patient, you will be waiting a while to get through immigration. Have your money handy and do chat to those around you about how much it is today, it changes. I paid $55, a week later it was $35 – perhaps it was a two for one offer?
- The people are so friendly, courteous, generous and well mannered.
The roads… oh the roads! Don’t be thinking that you might be looking to hire a car and drive yourself… make the most of your driver. The driving here is exceptional! You’ll be happily traveling down a road and there's a car driving at you and a couple of people crossing the road. The car will be avoiding pot holes and they will swerve before they hit you. The j-walkers will stop or move, they aren’t on a kamikaze mission, honest! Some of the roads are a little better than farm tracks. You won't be seeing any flash low slung vehicles here, SUV’s and big vehicles are the order of the day.
The people are so friendly, courteous, generous and well mannered. I have felt safe and welcomed every step of the way. I have been shocked at some of the scenes of poverty and extreme wealth, however, this is reality. My senses have been given a thorough workout… There are visual feasts – the colours, the fabrics, flowers, the sky so blue, the trees, the avocados, lemons, oranges so gorgeous, so huge. The food is interesting, peanut butter is a favourite flavouring and sadza a national staple. The stews are delicious and the use of fresh vegetables and fruits... delicious! If you get lucky you’ll be invited to a braai - a barbecue to you and me. A meat feast, vegetarians beware! As is customary the world over, the men feed the fire and do the cooking outside. It can be a bit chilly if you’re here nearing or in winter, so make sure you have a woolly handy!
They also drink lots here.. spirits, beers however if you don’t drink, don’t worry, there is always lots of squashes and fruit juices. The first week your chin will be spent somewhere around your knees. You’ll snap photos of everything, the road, the street corners, the trees, the street sellers, the sky, the cars, the houses, and the people. And then it all becomes normalised and you’ll feel really comfortable and really settled.
I don’t ever want to leave however I have to… and I will be back, again and again, bringing people with me to sample this extraordinary land and its people, culture and generosity of spirit.
- Amanda Thomas, U.K
- I have learnt to dance in the rain.
Necrisha at the National Heroes Acre. The site is a 57-acre (230,000 m2) burial ground and national monument situated on a ridge seven kilometres from the capital Harare.
Meet Necrisha - a medical student that came to Zimbabwe to do an internship. She spent 4 weeks in Harare and she shares her experience of Zimbabwe with us. Here is what she had to say:
What made you choose Zimbabwe?
During the 4th and final year of medical school, The Ohio State University College of Medicine gives their students the opportunity to do a global health elective in another country. I knew I wanted to go to Africa but initially I was not sure which country I wanted to visit. One day I stumbled upon a documentary about a retired school teacher in Zimbabwe who dedicated her life to raising young girls who were sexually abused and were no longer accepted by their families and communities.
The documentary was told from the prospective of a young woman who was part of an American drama team that would help victims of sexual abuse heal through the arts. It was a powerful documentary and I was truly inspired not only by the teacher’s dedication, but by the young girl’s resilience as the drama group was able to use the arts to bring healing and breathe life into them through their love for music, song, dance and acting. After watching that documentary, I fell in love with the spirit of the people of Zimbabwe and I knew that this was where I wanted to do my elective.
How was your internship in a foreign country?
While in Zimbabwe, I had the opportunity to work with a phenomenal group of physicians who took care of patients at both public and private hospitals. Although I did not speak Shona, the physicians and the medical students were always eager to serve as interpreters during my patient interactions. This first hand experience of the healthcare system in Zimbabwe was amazing on several fronts. In the US where healthcare services are readily available to the population, many diseases are treated early and as a result, the signs, symptoms and pathology associated with the advanced stages of a disease are rarely seen. However, this is not the case in Zimbabwe.
Many times, the patients would present at such an advanced stage that their presentations were usually atypical in nature making diagnosis even more challenging. In addition, many of the resources that are available to American physicians are not even an option for Zimbabwean doctors. Physicians in Zimbabwe have to rely very heavily on the history and physical examination findings as they don’t have the luxury of ordering a battery of tests and imaging studies to help them decipher what is going on. As a result, my physical examination skills were greatly improved and I learned to rely on my clinical judgement much more than I would have if I was in the US.
Could you tell us what your funniest moment was?
One night Wesley, the unofficial mayor of Harare, decided to take my friend and I out on the town to experience the Zim night life. Earlier that night he was hosting an event at a local hotel so he showed up fully dressed in a tuxedo. We arrived at one of the popular spots that was overflowing with young people.
My friend and I were convinced that this was the place we wanted to check out however there was a $10.00 cover charge. Coming from New York City where we have partied at some of the best night clubs for free, we figured we could work our American charm on the bouncers to get into the club. We approached the guys at the door and told them we were Americans visiting Zimbabwe and wanted to check out the night life and that was all it took to gain access.
They gave us the nod of approval to get in but we couldn’t leave Wesley hanging, so I turned to the bouncer closest to me and said, “Sir, is it OK if our driver comes with us. We don’t feel comfortable going in alone.” To which he responded, “Wow, you have a driver? (As he looked at Wesley fully dressed in his tuxedo) You must be a big deal. Yeah, he can go in with you.” Little did he know that Wesley was the one who was the big deal and my friend and I were lowly students visiting Zimbabwe. Either way, he played along and accepted the title of driver so that we could all have a good time at the club.
What was your experience with Wesley?
Wesley was simply amazing! I really appreciated the fact that he did not just give me a generic tour Harare, but the tour of the city included activities that he knew I would enjoy such as visiting the various city parks and the museums. He knows a lot about the history of Harare so the tour was more than just merely visiting a series of important buildings and monuments, but I got a first-hand history lesson of Harare and Zimbabwe as a whole. I also liked the fact that he was very accommodating. He had an idea of all the places he wanted to take me and was willing to take unplanned pit stops along the way. I couldn’t have asked for a better person to show me around. I had such a good time that I am committed to returning to Zimbabwe in the not too distant future if he promises to be my "driver" again :).
Zimbabweans are known to be the most polite people on earth. Was it easy to make friends with the locals?
I heard through the grapevine that Zimbabweans had this reputation, unfortunately that was not my experience. I became friends with the people who were formally introduced to me but I was unable to befriend anyone I met casually during my day to day activities. That was a bit disappointing, but hopefully on my second trip, my experience will be different.
What is your favourite Shona or Ndebele word/phrase and what does it mean?
Outside of the traditional greeting I did not learn any other Shona or Ndebele words/phrases. I did however learn Afrikaans phrases, my favourite being “eish”. Several times, I heard Zimbabweans using this phrase but I know it does not necessarily fall into the category of Shona or Ndebele words/phrases.
What was your favourite traditional meal and how was it?
I am not a fan of carbohydrate rich foods so sadza and peanut butter rice did not entice me in the least. On the other hand, I loved the grilled fish and trotters. The meats were well seasoned and quite flavourful and I would have been beyond happy if I could enjoy a serving of meats and greens (I think you guys call it relish) everyday.
A traditional Zimbabwean meal, with the most important ingredient - Sadza
Did you experience other cities in Zimbabwe besides Harare?
I had the opportunity to visit Victoria Falls which was an amazing experience. To be able to experience the magnificence of the falls is something I will keep with me for the rest of my life. After returning from Zimbabwe I shared video footage and pictures of my trip to the falls with friends and family, however the different medium failed to capture the marvel that is Victoria Falls. I am sure the awe of its splendour never gets old and I am looking forward to my next trip to the falls.
What part or parts of Zimbabwe did you take home with you?
I fell in love with the music particularly Zim dancehall. In addition, living in Zimbabwe for 4 weeks has taught me two important life lessons; 1. Things aren’t as bad as they seem, and 2. How to roll with the punches. Before visiting, I could easily generate a list of things that made life “difficult”. However, after meeting people that were able to smile, enjoy life and triumph in the face of what seemed like insurmountable challenges, caused me to re-examine my definition of the word "difficult". It took one trip to Parirenyatwa Hospital to help put things in perspective, and I quickly realized that things I thought were absolutely terrible, paled in comparison to the issues faced by the locals which quickly dissolved my right to complain about things that were in essence, quite trivial.
Another part of the Zimbabwean experience that stood out for me was how relaxed the people were. Coming from a place like New York City where everything must be done at the speed of light and people are always in a rush, it was refreshing to be among a people who were the polar opposite of this type of living. Initially it was difficult to adjust to this way of life because I was used to living a very fast paced life, but I soon realized that while things should be done in a timely manner, there is no need to be stressed out and running around like a chicken without a head. As a result, instead of becoming impatient when the line at the grocery store was taking too long to move, or annoyed when my order at the local restaurant did not come out fast enough, I just learned to sit back and roll with it recognizing that things would get done eventually just not according to my time line.
Victoria Falls - Zimbabwe's number one tourist attraction
What is your overall conclusion of your experience of Zimbabwe?
I have had the privilege of traveling the world, but my trip to Zimbabwe was my first time to Africa. I was not sure what to expect and while this trip was very different from any of the others, it was definitely one of my more memorable ones. I met a resilient people, who loved their country and was proud of their history and culture, despite the dire socioeconomic situation.
They contradicted every stereotype that Americans have of people who live in this part of the world. I remember as I was preparing for my trip, I had to attend a debriefing session and I was warned about the potential security issues, unwanted advances by men and other challenges I might encounter while in Zimbabwe. As a result, I packed just the basics and nothing more. I was so worried about being accosted and robbed that I did not even bring sunglasses and the only jewellery that I took were the pair of earrings I wore on the flight to Harare. However, for the entire duration of my trip, I never felt threatened, in fact, I felt safer there than I do in America.
Would you recommend Zimbabwe as a destination to volunteer in/study in/intern in?
I would certainly recommend Zimbabwe as a place to volunteer. You would have the opportunity to be immersed in a culture and be among a people that would cause you to embrace and love life with all of its ups and downs. Regardless of one’s station in life, we all have difficulties that we have to deal with and while our circumstances may not be easily remedied, we can change the way we approach them.
As a result of my Zimbabwean experience, I have learnt not to allow life or its challenges to affect me to the point where it changes who I am as a person. So instead of being down or frustrated when the storms of life are raging, I have learnt to dance in the rain. This Zimbabwean experience has caused me to rediscover the happiness, the joy, the glow that was dimmed by the cares of the world.
At the mystic and magic Chinhoyi Caves, an hour drive from Harare.
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