For someone born and raised in Zimbabwe, it is easy to take some things for granted. I am sure it is the same for a Parisian and the Eiffel Tower! There are certainly some things that you only begin to appreciate once visitors to your country comment or in my case, meeting different people when I travel abroad who ask me about places or experiences I have no idea exist in Zimbabwe, and yet they would have only spent 2 weeks to a month in the country.
With this in mind, I thought to compile a few things that I don't think receive enough attention, and yet makes Zimbabwe the jewel it is - the good, the bad, and the ugly that still needs some appreciation!
Some of the world’s best coffee comes from this unlikely place – the country only grows the premium type of Arabic coffee. The coffee has a quite a rich taste and tempting flavour, and the smallholder farmers are part of the fair trade movement. The Eastern Highlands, arguably one of the best places on the planet, period! is where most of this coffee is grown by smallholder farmers as well as giants like Tanganda (most known for their teas). It is true that the country does not compete on the global coffee market, only in quantity, but certainly do so in quality. In a different blog post, I mention the top notch places to grab a coffee in several cities when travelling in Zimbabwe.
Rastafarianism is well represented in Zimbabwe. The music genre; Dancehall has been localised and now known as Zim Dancehall. Winky D was on BBC Africa chart and like so many other artists, have travelled to the U.K., continental Europe, the Americas, Asia, and Australasia to perform. The great Bob Marley attended and performed a song titled Zimbabwe in 1980, becoming the first international artist to play in independent Zimbabwe.
Travel and tourism in Zimbabwe has more to offer than just the Victoria Falls. With what I have seen recently from some destination marketers, I have to mention that the Victoria Falls is not in South Africa, and so you do not have to travel to South Africa to see the Seventh Wonder, And as a side note, the best views of the falls are also not in Zambia, but Zimbabwe. However, beyond the Falls, there are very many gems hiding in plain sight. Binga is one such cultural virgin land, boasting of immaculate beaches, hot springs, caves, and an authentic cultural people. In this post, I highlight my top 10 places to visit in Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe is home to the most amount of Mercedes Benz per capita outside of Germany. It is not our love for all things German, certainly not – we love what it represents: the symbolism – class. Surprisingly, after being a British colony, you would think we should have fallen in love with the Range or Land Rover. In return, the Germans are topping the list of the most amount of tourists by country visiting Zimbabwe. Talk about quid pro quo!
Zimbabwe is a cash economy, although it has been moving towards paperless during the course of the year. So when travelling to Zimbabwe, try to bring U.S. dollars in cash, and your MasterCard or Visa becomes backup. 90% of the economy is informal – what this means is business studies or MBA students will thrive basing their research component and internships in this country, dealing with unique challenges. Nearly half the population is under 25: meaning the youth are the majority and yet most disadvantaged. Clearly, Zimbabwe is a country of many contrasts...
Addiction is a real thing – drug and substance abuse has been on the rise and there is no law or provisions for addiction treatment. At best, an addict is classified as a mental patient. Experts say that an addict becomes a mental patient only after being left without treatment. Tiritose is working to establish policy and laws and set up a blueprint for addiction treatment. In the meantime, we have facilitated for the establishment of an addiction counselling centre in Harare called The First Step together with Western Counselling, a U.K. based addiction treatment centre as well as the Ministry of Health and Child Care.
African Time is a real thing. Time is not used in the digital form as it is known elsewhere. You should be okay with hearing things like, ‘I will be there now’, which means I am in the process of getting ready and will be on my way shortly - the shortly is not defined. What this means is a 10am appointment could start at 12noon and in most parts, it is totally acceptable. In business however, it is a bit problematic and only acceptable in the informal businesses, which make up close to 90% of the economy.
The PEOPLE, oh! The People are delightful. One of the best in this whole wide world, even if I say so myself. Friendly is synonymous with Zimbabweans, ever so helpful and resilient is a pretty close description of the people as well. You could be hiking in the wilderness of Muzarabani, and your GPS stops working, you should not worry, because they will happily open their doors to you and your party for the night!
Street signage and street lights are not a thing, we believe more in darkness haha!! Potholes - we all drive like drunk people trying to avoid the potholes in the streets, so where your GPS says 20 minute drive, prepare for 40 minutes. I met a diplomat at a function hosted at the British residency who on his first day decided to walk along the street from his hotel and would walk only when a car was coming and flashing lights, which was the only way he could see where he was going. Exaggeration? maybe, but all of that make this home to 14 million people, and visitors who want to explore an environment, and culture different from their own!
Marina and Marijke were only in town for 10 days, which were completely filled with work at the Bible Society of Zimbabwe, where they were helping the local team with some translation work into various local Zimbabwean languages. The two could only get away for one day, and like many responsible travellers, they believe in sustainable tourism, wherein you contribute both to the tourism as well as build capacity in local institutions and organisations.
I enjoy early starts, and so I picked them up at 6:30am from their hotel. Harare was pretty hot, and so I was in shorts and none of us had jackets. What a mistake that turned out to be! Marondera, a town where Imire Game Park is located was under a heavy dark cloud, and as cold as winter. Kate was kind enough to offer us blankets to take with us on the safari truck, and boy were we grateful. The morning tea and cookies were a delight,a nd made us forget about the cold, temporarily!
I picked out a few photos that represent the great time we had out at Imire, and have put them in this blog post, so enjoy:
Rescued from the abuse he was facing being kept as a pet. Imire is now a retirement home, where he will spend the rest of his life being well taken care of...
These two boys are probably the smartest I have seen in a long time. They knew so much about flora, fauna and avifauna. They just knew it all and were schooling us adults in the safari truck!
The Eland is a sacred antelope in Zimbabwe, it is believed that if you upset it in the wild, your chances of returning unharmed are very little, so be sure to stay on the good side of the Eland.
Lunch is definitely a highlight on the Imire day trip. The food is good and well prepared, and of course the wine to top it all off.
You can't help but shout PUMBA each time you see these guys!
The lone crocodile, survivor of the heavy rains from last year that swept away th other crocs when the pond got too full...
Turns out the elephant was rescued as a baby, and since it could not join the bigger elephants, the buffalos adopted him, and now he is suffering from an identity crisis because he is convinced he is a buffalo. He has killed several male buffalos in order to maintain his alpha male status!
I wish I could remember what we were talking about here, but alas! We do look like we were deep in conversation though!
Starting out at 5am was a daunting idea at first but something I knew had to be done if we were going to reach Mount Nyangani (3-4 hour drive) in time to go up and down before the mist covered up this sacred mountain, which would increase the risk of disappearing. Yes! people have been known to disappear, and our guide, Stewart was quick to mention that the last person to disappear was an 'Indian guy' in 2014.
So our driver Tendai was on time to pick me up at my house at 5am, and we were well on our way to Mt Pleasant, a neighbourhood in Harare to collect Maddie, Wendy, Ella, Sebastian and James. These guys came from the United States last week to volunteer building a classroom for an Early Childhood Development school in Ngezi. The group is already involved with Kapnek Trust, one of our partners involved in the education of children as well as HIV prevention and nutrition programmes. The most inspiring thing is how Ella recruited some friends at her high school in Santa Barbara to tag along on this trip, and did I mention she is just 15 years old?
Typical of the Zimbabwean roads in the recent times, we had to go through a few police roadblocks, which don't really scare me because I always have everything they require for vehicles to have when travelling. This trip was a little different though, and we found out about a new law wherein a vehicle is not supposed to mix humans with luggage. I am still puzzled a day later and Google search has not yielded any results. We know there is no luggage without humans, but oh well, we paid the $10 fine and after 40 minutes of arguing with them, we were on our way. We all had a good laugh about it, and agreed that it makes for a better blog post!
We got to Nyanga National Park offices and paid $63 to hike the tallest mountain in Zimbabwe. I have gone up the mountain before several times, however, the experience for me starts from the offices, where baboons and monkeys cross the road in front of the car as you drive on the circular drive. The drive is so scenic that you may confuse it with the actual hike, just without using as much energy and exerting as much pressure on the muscles, if only right! We started out at 12:40, which for Mount Nyangani (nicknamed: the swallowing mountain) is pretty late as I mentioned earlier - DISAPPEAR! The first one hour is always the toughest part of the hike, and with James nursing a broken toe (he accidentally kicked a rock playing soccer with the children in Ngezi), I thought we were going to stay up there for hours on end, but to my surprise, he soldiered on like an ox. Ella is James' daughter, and she thought he was the most stubborn person for not sitting this one out, and ironically, James thought Ella was the most stubborn person in the world because she did not want to take any water, snacks or jacket up the mountain. Glad to say, she budged on the jacket and replaced water with juice. Turns out she did not need the water because along with Stewart (our guide), she drank from the flowing spring water. I of course told her about the healing qualities of this natural water!
On the way back to the National Park offices, we had to pass through the pit structures for our group to see a reconstructed traditional household. I am always fascinated by how inventive traditional societies were, and the pit structures show just how much! So the head of the household would dig a tunnel that would go under his hut, into a round pit where all his animals would congregate at night. This prevented predators like Hyenas from eating his livestock, genius right? Surrounding his hut and the pit were granaries, a hut for the boys, another for the girl children, and of course depending on how rich he was, several houses for the different wives. James couldn't help but mention how attractive that system was for that era hahah! It is a good thing his wife was not with him for this trip!
We got to Troutbeck Resort, where we were spending the night around 6pm, and a much needed shower had to be had if we were going to feel human again. We had worked out an appetite and needed a dinner of champions. Nothing short of a buffet would have done the trick, and this resort had just what we needed - from the greens for the health fanatics, to loading up carbs and protein and then of course several dessert options, which we all appreciated. The free WiFi and electric blankets made for the best lodging option on this side of the country.
As I sit in my huge room watching the Lions vs New Zealand replay that I missed, I am enjoying the electric blanket so much I do not want to go for breakfast (and I love me some good food, so that says something). Alas! I have to eat and get back on the road to pass through Mutarazi Falls, the tallest waterfall in Zimbabwe and 6th tallest in the world.
Zimbabwe has more types of wild fruits than even the natives are aware of. Different parts of this small country are known for different fruits, so no matter where you go, you'll be sure to find something that will pleasantly surprise your taste buds and your body because they are all organic. Each one's appearance will be stranger than the next one and that makes for a unique and nice change from the ones we eat daily.
I used the plural terms for each of the fruit, as very rarely do you hear people asking/requesting for just one of any of these fruits.
Also known as horned melon or African horned cucumber, this nutritious fruit is very tasty and though it's seedier, the seeds are soft and totally chewable. Most of them usually have a slightly tangy taste but a lot of people add salt to them. They are green on the outside before they are fully ripe and yellow when they are ready to be eaten. The "horns" outside are quite sharp so it has to be handled with care. It has many health benefits and here are a few of them:
Nutritional benefits include:
This sweet wild loquat fruit drives Zimbabweans crazy. You'd have to have quite a good number to feel that you have had a fair portion and yet we love them. This is one fruit that says a lot about how people used to live long and healthy lives without the bags and bags of medication we need these days.
Nutritional benefits include:
Baobab is known as the "Tree of Life" - acknowledging its nutrient-dense superfruit. Every single part of this massive tree is useful, not just for humans, but for the animals - with giant elephants chewing on the barks, weavers building nests, and the hollowed interiors are comfortable homes for reptiles. The baobab is native to the African Savannah, and so in order to see these majestic trees, you have to travel to Africa.
Nutritional benefits include:
It's a wild fruit from the red ivorywood tree, also referred to as mountain dates. The seed takes up quite a bit from the fruit itself, so you need a bit of patience to go through a bowl. Surely not a fruit you want to have when you are hungry, it may just make you 'hangry'. Works better as a snack in-between meals. You will find both fresh and dried Nyii, equally good, although my preference is dried Nyii.
Nutritional benefits include:
A drought resistant African delicacy also known as the snot apple. The fruit basically has 5 segments that you can break and chew one at a time. It's not far from the truth to name them African chewing gum - due to the sweetness, and fact that you chew until the juice runs dry and you spit the pulp.
Nutritional benefits include:
This tropical tree produces sweet-sour, yellow fruits that are to die for! You will need a hammer to crack it open, and if you want to do it like the natives do, smash it to the ground and reveal the tightly packed seeds. The fruit has quite the tangy taste, and humans have to compete with monkeys, which explains why the fruit is also called the monkey orange.
Nutritional benefits include:
Although not indigenous, masawu makes the list because it has largely naturalised, and found almost everywhere in Zimbabwe. The fruits are eaten raw, and may be fresh or dried, and again, my personal preference are the dried fruit - which really brings out the soury taste. The locals make traditionally distilled alcohol with the fruit (not recommended as no one knows the alcohol percentage).
Nutritional benefits include:
A shiny black fruit when ripe, also called the smelly-berry fingerleaf. The fruit has a pulpy black flesh, with a hard seed inside. Does amazing things to the skin due to the phytonutrients it contains - helping the sun in providing the widely underrated Vitamin D.
Nutritional benefits include:
Well, this is Africa and its indigenous fruits. Certainly worth a visit to Zimbabwe to have a taste of all of these delicacies and learn about traditional uses as well as medicinal qualities that each of the trees and fruits have. Suddenly, it is easier to get the children to each their fruit with no hussle.
Chipo Mutibvu and Wesley Maraire
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.
As has become customary on a Saturday afternoon, I take nature walks and hikes mostly to clear my head while the birds sing to me. It’s a great escape from the busy streets in the City of Harare. I am definitely a city boy, and I don’t think I could stomach small cities, however, a young get away once a week is a good fix, and a perfect opportunity to reflect and listen to the inside voice that usually helps me plan the coming week. I am on this entrepreneurial journey, which can be exhausting due to the fast pace and speed at which time flies, yet 100 more things remain to be completed. I love it though, because I thrive in the chaos. Much like struggling to get to the top of the mountain, and then the breathtaking view at the top makes it all worth it.
This past weekend, 08 October 2016, I went out to the Chinamhora area to the Inyauri River. After having to drive my old lady to a wedding, I was running a tit bit late and so I made a quick call to Simani (hiking buddy/camera crazy mate – catch the drift?) to ask him not to leave me behind. I initially told him I was 5 minutes away as I was by Borrowdale Junior School and we were meeting at Sam Levy’s Village, but man, the traffic along Borrowdale road was crazy. I figured I had to drive like a Kombi (mini-van public transport – it needs it’s own blog) to get there anytime that same day, and so I just followed behind one Kombi that created a third lane hahah oops!!! I made it on time, that’s what counts right?
We were on our way shortly after, and drove through Domboshava shops, one place I wish I could spend more time as it is always busy, regardless of the time of day. We took the turn after Ngomakurira and there were too many paths to remember which one was the right one to take but eventually we settled on one that turned out to be the correct one, leading us up the mountain. It’s summer right now in Zimbabwe, and summer this year feels like the summer of 2014 in Dubai – so you bet I had stocked up on the water. I have to show off a little bit and say I returned from holiday in Norway with a new killer hiking backpack and camel tube with a pipe, which I had always wanted because I can drink water with... NO HANDS!!!
It was quite an intriguing hike, it felt like we were going downhill the whole time as we meandered around the mountain and we would find ourselves in the valley, where the crickets and bees were competing for our attention with the buzzing. An hour later, the river channel snuck up on us and it was sad to see the effects of the El Nino induced drought, which dried up the river and there is hardly any water. We found a turtle that was trapped in a hole, perhaps as a result of the drying up of the river and after thinking it was dead, we put it close to the water, and before we could say turtle, it had disappeared. We did our good deed for the day, now I’m just waiting for the good karma to come my way. We went along the channel, checking out the other three waterfalls, which are not really waterfalls at the moment, so the plan is to go back there when the first rains pour.
As intrigued as I was with the hike, heading back to the car was tough eish! It was incline all the way, and we sure paid for the downhill path we took coming to the riverbed. After getting back to the car, tea and cookies have never felt that good hmmm! It may be one of the reasons why I hike he he he!!! Then I cannot feel guilty about munching on those cookies. Soon after, we were on our way back to the City and the sunset was staring right at us as we drove through the potholes.
Here is to the next one friends, signed, sealed and delivered:
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.
Tell your friends and family about our initiatives. There's no better way to make an impact than to become an active advocate yourself. Write for us and make an impact!