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!