Zimbabwe: Expectations vs. Reality

I’ve been awake for the last 3 hours because of this little thing called jet lag 🙂 It’s good to be home, back in the USA, and I know that I still need to write about how my trip ENDED (I will do that soon!). For now, here’s a little video I recorded the first week I landed in Zim.

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Day 14-19: The Good, the Bad, the Incredibly Rough, & the Realization That God is Still Awesome.

This blog post is longer than normal!

And it’s mostly writing. If you want to see pictures, they will be posted on the TineVimbo Facebook page – so go ahead and like the page! 🙂

I also plan on eventually doing a video of my experience in the Zambezi Valley this past Thursday & Friday. I will also post that on the TineVimbo Facebook page.

The Realization That God Is Still Awesome

So this last week has been nothing short of CRAZY!

It started off pretty quiet, and we made plans to make a trip to Hwata Secondary School early in the week (which I’ve been spelling wrong this whole time!), which is located 4ish hours away.

There are specialists who had to go to “site” the land, and make sure that water could be found where we wanted to drill. In case you haven’t been following my entire trip, just to recap: about 3 months ago, I started fundraising for this mission trip to Zimbabwe. I’ve been in contact with my “Uncle”, who is an Adventist pastor here, and he told me about the needs and challenges facing the students here.

He also told me about a school that was recently handed over to the church to run: Hwata Secondary School. This school was (and still is) in need of repairs, and  a source of water, so I agreed to raise the funds to help the school.

First, I want to highlight these major obstacles that God has been moving out of the way to make things happen:

  1. I was afraid of failure. I mean, I’m just a teacher, one year out of college. I kept thinking, “I’m just one person – what can I do?!” I have very little knowledge about development, non-profit work, etc. and so even though I felt God telling me in January that I’d be in Zimbabwe this summer, I dragged my feet. I almost stood in the way of God’s plan. Still, God has done amazing things with my little faith. Guys – I’m in Zimbabwe right now! 🙂
  2. I had no clue where we’d get the money. Once I got over the fear of failure, I started to get overwhelmed by the calculations. To dig the borehole (well for water), set-up running water & bathrooms, repair the school, and equip the classrooms, (plus the costs of my airfare to Zim), it came up to roughly $20,000. This also included me wanting to support a couple other projects that ADRA (Adventist Development & Relief Agency) Zimbabwe is working on, like blankets for orphans, equipping clinics with medical supplies, and providing sustainable economic development opportunities to those most in need. Though all of these goals haven’t been realized – I am quite humbled by the over $5,000 that has been donated to the cause so far. I’ve felt the love of the generosity of friends, family, and even strangers, and for that I’m truly grateful.
  3. The logistics of this whole trip have been…interesting. Working with ADRA Zimbabwe has been such a blessing, because they have been so patient with me! Like I mentioned above, I don’t know how all of this works. Once I got on the ground, I also realized that the pace of life in general in Zim is a lot more relaxed than in America. So, yeah, let’s just say, I’ve learned a lot through many mistakes I’ve made in the last couple weeks. But still, God has been leading, guiding, and really keeping us safe through all of it. And for that, I am grateful.

Which leads me to…

 

The Good, The Bad, The Incredibly Rough

This past Thursday, at about 4 a.m., we finally set out for the Kanyemba region. We includes me, my “Uncle”, my friend Cora, and our driver.

This was the BIG trip – the trip to where the borehole would be drilled!

I had no idea what to expect.

I was quite groggy.

“Uncle” and Cora were very excited for the trip. The plan was to spend Thursday traveling all the way up north to Kanyemba, to see a very remote community that the church has been working in, among the tribe of Vadoma (the Doma) people group. ADRA was drilling a separate borehole there (which is why our borehole was perfectly timed – because they were already in the region with their equipment, we saved money!) Then Friday, we planned to travel to Hwata Secondary School, to finally drill OUR borehole!

I had no clue what I was in for.

We drove, and we drove, and we drove.

We stopped by a school – Gota – which I will blog about later (I took a ton of pictures there!).

We drove on the roughest roads I have ever encountered in my life.

And finally, around noon, we got to Kanyemba, and I was devastated.

I saw children running around, barefoot.

There houses were quite shocking structures.

I’m quite positive that I have never seen such poverty.

And “Uncle” told us that up until a few years ago, they had no contact with the outside world. They previously were unclothed, malnourished, and struggling for survival, before the Adventist church stepped in to provide food, and now, they are working toward building a school there for the children.

Kanyemba is one of those places that I will forever find incredibly hard to describe, because you have to be there to feel it. I just felt so helpless. Here are some pictures.

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I was shocked to find out that a family as big as 7 people live in homes like this.

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You can’t see it in the picture, but baboons were literally climbing up into this house as we drove by!

15

These were actually the nicer homes, made of mud, which we saw as we drove deeper into Kanyemba.

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And this is the church, and to the right is a clinic. They were built quite recently. These are the only buildings/modern structures for many, many, MANY kilometers.



So I got all overwhelmed and weepy.

But then, as I saw ADRA Zimbabwe drilling a borehole, providing clean water so this community doesn’t have to drink from the dirty river or walk dozens of kilometers just for water, I suddenly felt hope rising within me.

It hit me – we really do have to approach “changing the world” as something that happens one step, one person, and one community at a time.

The men of the village came to help ADRA finish setting up the borehole. Watching them do this on Thursday made me excited for OUR drilling on Friday :-)

The men of the village came to help ADRA finish setting up the borehole. Watching them do this on Thursday made me excited for OUR drilling on Friday 🙂

We only stayed for less than an hour, then we got back in the car, and drove up to the Zambezi River, on the border of Zimbabwe/Zambia.

This is me by the Zambezi. You can actually see Zambia - I'm pointing to it!

This is me by the Zambezi. You can actually see Zambia – I’m pointing to it!

"Uncle" and I, by the river. So, there are definitely crocodiles in there, and we heard hippos nearby!

“Uncle” and I, by the river. So, there are definitely crocodiles in there, and we heard hippos nearby!

Cora, "Uncle", and our driver.

Cora, “Uncle”, and our driver.

The incredibly rough part? I got car sick and a headache, and I honestly endured some pretty yucky hours, just bouncing along in the back of the vehicle. I made the mistake of trying to eat and drink less, so I wouldn’t have to find an outdoor bathroom (if you know what I mean), but that just made me feel sicker!

I was tired. I kept thinking to myself, why me, why me, why me! But it was such a blessing to travel with Cora and “Uncle”, such positive people. They kept me sane.

On Thursday alone, we spent over 14 hours of just driving time.

I survived.

 

I actually have to go now, but in my next post I will tell you all about what happened on Friday, when we got to Hwata Secondary for the drilling of the borehole.

 

Blessings & Peace,

Vimbo

Day 7 & 8: I Waited to Cry Until After I Said Goodbye…

Guys…it’s been, wow.

I’ve spent Monday and Tuesday in the “fields” with Esther – she is an ADRA (Adventist Development and Relief Agency) Zimbabwe project manager.

Let me rewind. I’m still in the process of trying to raise $20,000 for this 3-week mission trip, even though I’m already here in Zimbabwe. This amount was decided on because I contacted ADRA Zimbabwe before I came on my trip, asking what their greatest needs currently are. That is how I determined the following 3 main goals for the trip:

1. Help rebuild a school (Whata Secondary School) in rural eastern Zimbabwe

2. Dig a borehole (well for water) close to this school

3. Aid several specific ADRA Zimbabwe programs that were in need of funding

To clarify point #3 – the programs I’m focusing on are: a program to provide blankets for orphans, a program that provides medical supplies for clinics, and a program called Beyond Food Aid.

 

 

Beyond Food Aid

Monday morning, Esther told me that we would be spend the next two days “in the field”.

My first few days in Zimbabwe have been…relatively quiet and calm. I would say that up until Monday, I hadn’t really had that much culture shock. I’m staying in a pretty nice part of Harare, and I haven’t seen that much that is different from Miami, FL where I teach.

We have people in the US who are homeless or impoverished or begging on the streets of Miami, so while seeing that has saddened my heart, it wasn’t different from home.

Until Monday.

I went to an extremely rough part of town, and I was really shaken by what I had seen.

Guys – I was not ready.

I didn’t even take that many pictures at first, because I was just so….overwhelmed.

Villagesmall

It’s one thing to see pictures, here stories, or KNOW things about my home country, Zimbabwe, but it is COMPLETELY different to experience it, taste it, smell it, and see it for myself. Especially since the last time I visited was about 12 years ago.

I also met some amazing women, who touched my heart and inspired me with their strength.

These women are part of the Beyond Food Aid Program. All are HIV+, and are/were malnourished. The program provides them with what the need to start their own business, selling peanut butter, candles, and clothing to earn their own income and get back to health. The GREAT part about the whole thing is that ADRA Zimbabwe provides the training and mentorship, but they eventually encourage the women to become fully self-sustaining business owners! :)

These strong women are all beneficiaries of the Beyond Food Aid Program. All are HIV+, and are/were malnourished. The program has provided them with what the need to start their own business, selling peanut butter, candles, and clothing to earn their own income and get back to health. The GREAT part about the whole thing is that ADRA Zimbabwe provides the training and mentorship, but they eventually encourage the women to become fully self-sustaining business owners! 🙂

This woman has 3 children, and through the money she makes through Beyond Food Aid, she is able to support her family. Here, she is sewing a curtain.

This woman is the single mother of 3 children, and through the money she makes through Beyond Food Aid, she is able to support her family. She was so friendly and was really proud of the things she had created. Here, she is seen sewing a curtain.

Bags, clothing, candles, and curtains are some of the things these ladies can create!

Bags, clothing, candles, and curtains are some of the things these ladies can create!

There are 60+ men and women currently in the Beyond Food Aid program.  Here is another workshop location, at Epworth near Harare, Zimbabwe.

There are 60+ men and women currently in the Beyond Food Aid program, which operates out of several different locations. They meet in community centers or just empty rooms like this one. Here is another workshop location, at Epworth near Harare, Zimbabwe.

An ADRA Zimbabwe volunteer came on Monday to teach some of the women new sewing techniques to improve their products.

An ADRA Zimbabwe volunteer came on Monday to teach some of the women new sewing techniques to improve their products. Here is the skirt I bought that she sewed for me in less than an hour – – using a hand-operated sewing machine!!!

I have to be clear, our first priorities with the $4,700+ we have raised so far is to dig the well for water and rebuild the school. But if you’d like to donate directly to Beyond Food Aid, click here to donate and include in your donation message that you want the money to go to this program, and I guarantee that before I leave the money will go directly to these women I met today and yesterday.

 

 

ADRA Zimbabwe has been doing good for a long time…

The sign into the garden area :)

The sign into the garden area 🙂

While visiting the Beyond Food Aid group in Epworth today, we were able to see another ADRA Zimbabwe project success – a garden that was originally funded by ADRA Zimbabwe (along with ADRA Denmark and the European Commission on Humanitarian Aid). Three-years later, it is completely self-sustaining!

That means that at this point, they buy everything they need for the garden ON THEIR OWN and they sell their produce AT A PROFIT 🙂

This is so amazing, because I truly believe that best type of humanitarian aid comes when you give people an opportunity to take control of their own future.

When you give a motivated person the means to make a brighter future for themselves, there is nothing that can stop them!

Gardensmall

These gardeners were kind enough to let me photograph them as they worked. I applaud ADRA Zimbabwe for providing these women with the tools they need to succeed! 🙂

 

Ok, so you can call me SUPER emotional…

…but I couldn’t help just feeling so overwhelmed yet inspired, helpless yet hopeful, and saddened yet optimistic by what I’ve seen so far.

Pictures can’t capture all the things I’ve seen and heard in the past two days.

It’s a lot.

So yes, I shed a tear or two, after I got back to the ADRA vehicle. It was just a lot to take in.

And I haven’t even seen the community where we’re digging the well yet….

(Which apparently is in an even more impoverished area).

Needless to say, it’s become clear to me that I’m not here to save the world – I’m here to listen, learn, show the love to God to every man, woman, and child I meet, and just to take it all in.

 

Blessings & peace,

Vimbo

Why I’m not moving to Zimbabwe this year AND why TineVimbo is still a thing.

So, I have tried to write this entry for a couple of weeks now. It’s been tough.

Everything I have written has felt so forced. So…overthought.

Now, as I sit in a hotel room, over a 1,000 miles away from home, having completed my first day of training to work at a school here in the USA starting this fall, I can’t help but feel like I have a little bit of explaining to do.

Except, I am not going to think much about how this comes out.

This explanation is going to be messy, but it’s going to be from my heart.

 

It all started when I got a little overwhelmed…

I student taught this spring, as the final part of my undergraduate degree in elementary education. It was fun. It was stressful. Some days were exciting. Most days were exhausting. Every single day was insightful.

One of those days, early March, I was overwhelmed. I began to think,

“Wow, I can barely manage a classroom, let alone a school! I want to build schools?! I want to build schools…AH! What am I doing with my life???”

That led me to revisiting the drawing board; I began to reevaluate the whole dream.

 

Why did I want to go to Zimbabwe to build schools in the first place?

To help the children who otherwise wouldn’t be helped.

 

What are the practical things standing in the way of me moving to Zim to build schools right away?

Inexperience. School debt to pay off. A really shaky plan. And just a few months to make a huge life decision.

 

Now, I didn’t want to admit to myself these real barriers. I felt like I was betraying the dream if I didn’t go do it now!

 

But when I peeled back the layers, I realized that the only reason I felt like I needed to move right NOW was my pride. I never wanted to have to write this blog post about why I wasn’t moving yet. I wanted to be the 22 year old on Oprah’s Super Sunday special who got to talk about how I was changing the world, one school at a time.

 

However, I began earnestly praying a prayer of surrender, giving my plans AND timing into God’s hands. That very week, I got information about a teaching opportunity in a sunny state that, for some reason, just seemed like it might work.

 

A week later after (spending longer than usual) speaking with Jesus in the morning (I filled 4 pages of my prayer journal!), THAT VERY DAY I got a call, asking me to fly in for an interview.

 

A week after that, I was in a sunny city, interviewing for a teaching position.

 

And that very day, I was offered a wonderful job in a school that I believe will be the perfect fit for me.

 

It’s what I need to do right now.

So, maybe in 2, 4, or 7 years I may move permanently to Zimbabwe. But for now, I’ll have to settle for short-term summer and Christmas break trips.

 

 

So…what will happen to the dream of TineVimbo?

It’s no longer a dream. By God’s grace (no seriously, God has done SO MUCH) I have already intentionally begun making a difference for Zimbabwe.

I’m in the midst of a book drive, in which I was trying to collect 1,000 books to send to Zimbabwe with people I know who are moving there.

As of news I got just yesterday, it looks like we may end up with more than 3,000.

Some of the books collected so far. They are literally overtaking my room!

Some of the books collected so far

And a crate full of laptops for the students there.

Look at God.

 

In addition, Cora and I (the co-founder of TineVimbo) plan to go to Zim next summer for our first short-term project. We’re unsure of what it’ll be (possibly a short summer camp or we may go build a library and a water well)….we’re not sure about a lot.

What we are sure of is that TineVimbo isn’t just a dream anymore.

It’s a reality.

And this blog post does not signify the end.

But rather, the beginning of the first REAL chapter of the work of Tine Vimbo.

 

I’ll be sure to keep you posted.

Where Dreams Go To Die (and why mine is still on life support)…

You want to know where dreams go to die?

Monday. And the day after that. And the day after that. The “everyday grind” is exactly where dreams go to die. Why? Because almost every one of us have moments of time (even days, or weeks if your lucky) when we feel very inspired. We feel like we can do anything, be anything, achieve anything. We can make a difference. And we can make the world suck a little less by helping others.

Then, we get sucked into the overwhelming responsibilities of everyday life.

So, that is exactly what (almost) happened to my dream. Last summer I was sitting on my living room couch, talking to my parents about this phenomenal idea that I had just thought of. My dream was to build a school in Zimbabwe. At least one. Just one. Build one school, then I could die happy.

Yeah, I was in that honeymoon phase of dreaming. Everything was exciting. I was ambitious. I created this blog. I posted it on my Facebook timeline. Over 70 people viewed it. And then…nothing.

To my defense, I’ve been in school full-time since last June. This is my final year of college as an elementary education major, and I’ve been grinding away! In fact, I just began my final semester, student teaching.

Which brings us to now. Now what? 

This Christmas break, I spent a lot of time catching up with many of my friends via phone calls, Skype, and even going out to eat a few times. Undoubtedly, all of us 20-somethings were discussing what was coming next in our lives. I have an awesome friend who is an author and speaker. I have another friend currently living and studying in Lebanon. I have yet another friend who just spent some time in D.C. interning at a law firm. Many of my friends are workingtoward meaningful goals and jobs and vocations.

And myself? I had gotten to the place where I was complacent. I’m graduating this spring, and I’ve already been asked by any and everyone I know, “What are you doing after you’re done?”. I was considering teaching abroad to make some money and start my career. Or maybe staying here and beginning my career in teaching. Now, none of these options in and of themselves is wrong. What is wrong is selling yourself short when you know God has called you to something else.

Today, I re-decided that I really want to do this. I still want to go build schools in Zimbabwe.

Not 1. Not 36. But a 1,000. I may be 80 by the time I’m done, but (God-willing), it’ll get done.

Why? Because this dream actually makes me feel alive. Terrified. Hopeful. Passionate.

I’m all in. But. It will begin with me revisiting my original plan (see above blog post). Which is why, though I’ve “fallen off the wagon” once already, I want to try this…again. Posting a couple times a week, and keeping you all updated on the good, the bad, and the ugly.

This dream is not dead. But it is on life support! I’d appreciate your prayers as I continue to ask God to lead.

Where Do I Begin?

About a month ago, I was inspired to do something big. Like really big. I came up with the idea to raise money to build a school in Zimbabwe.

Let me back-track. I’m a senior in college in the US, who is currently studying elementary education, and I’ve always had a passion for children and teaching.

My plan for this summer goes something like this:

-Officially register my non-profit organization “Tine Vimbo” – Schools Providing Hope.

-Launch a website for the organization

-Blog on this WordPress about the ups & downs of the process of…building a school

-Raise $10,000 for a 3-month trip to Zim next summer from May-July to buy the land for the school, meet with administrators/teachers, and get government permission to build

-Contact my relatives that live there. Contact people I know that live there. Contact err’body and their mama.

-Plan, plan, plan. Make a to-do list. Make a timeline. Get serious.

As you can tell, this is a bit much for any one person to-do, which is why I’m trying to surround myself with wise people. I will be taking at least one other person along with me on my journey, probably my father, so that I won’t be alone.

But I might need a team 🙂 We’ll see about that – everything is still so new!

On a visit to Zimbabwe, by my Gogo's [grandma] house when I was 3 years old.

On a visit to Zimbabwe, by my Gogo’s [grandma] house when I was 3 years old.

WHY?

Why a school? Why now?

I have conversations with my friends all the time about “changing the world” and “doing big things”. It seems like our generation, more than others before, is obsessed with making a difference and leaving our mark on the world.

For me, it’s personal. I was born in Zimbabwe. Yes, I came to the US when I was 2 months, and I am now officially an American (as of last summer), but I still have Zim blood pumping through me.

My grandparents live in Zimbabwe. Some of my extended family still lives there. It’s home.

And though I haven’t visited since I was 12, it stays in my heart.

I was heartbroken when a month ago I read about the issues that my home country is still facing today, especially with education.

Read this article by UNICEF for more in-depth information.

Anyways, to answer the question of “Why schools? Why now?”, this is what I say…

If someone doesn’t take action, things will only get worse.

I’ve got a burden on my heart for the children of Zimbabwe. 

Welcome to my journey.