My Last Week in Zimbabwe

My last week at Africa University could have been a bit dull since classes were finished, but it turned out to be a marvelous week. I finished grading the final examination papers from all my classes by mid-week and was pleased to see that everyone did quite well.

On Tuesday, Elizabeth Chadambuka (faculty coordinator for the MPH program,) invited me to go with her later in the week to visit her oldest brother at their ancestral home. She told me early in the semester about the community development program he has initiated in their rural village, and I had expressed interest in seeing it. When the Dean and Assistant Dean heard about this, they wanted to go also. We went in the Assistant Dean’s van after we attended Friday morning Grand Rounds at Mutare Provincial Hospital.

Gomba-Komba, the name of the village, is located about twelve miles south of Mutare. We arrived a bit after 10 AM. Elizabeth’s brother greeted us warmly, and after introductory pleasantries, he took us on a walking tour of the village. Our first stop was at the new 200-foot deep well with a submersible pump that’s powered by four large solar panels. The water is pumped to large tanks situated on a high point about three or four hundred yards away. From that vantage, water is distributed by gravity to key points in the area, including the village schools, church, training shops, and a public water tap that villagers use to collect water for their homes. Coming from such a deep safe source, the water is cool, clean and of excellent quality.

We went by the schools on our way to the new skills training shops being built for sewing, carpentry and welding classes. They are almost finished, constructed with bricks made by volunteers from the community. The training shops will not only offer useful skills to villagers, but they will provide employment and earning capacity that hasn’t been available before. The amazing thing is that all of this has been accomplished in just one year. Elizabeth’s brother is a retired mechanical engineer. He has the time, skills, interest, and drive to coordinate and supervise all aspects of the project, from fund-raising to community involvement, to market development. He gained the interest and funding support of an NGO (Non-Governmental Organization) active in many developing countries. This has clearly been of great value, but the major key to success is the fact that the entire project was conceived and strongly supported at the grassroots level. The village has taken ownership of it in every sense of the word.

Meantime, I had also been invited to give my “Be Healthy” presentation to two different United Methodist churches in the Mutare area on Thursday and Friday evenings. I created this PowerPoint presentation based on my new book, Be Healthy, published in January this year. About 60 people turned out Thursday evening at St. Peter’s church, and between 300-400 adults and youth came to St. Jame’s church on Friday evening. The Dean came with me Friday evening, and my friends George Miti and Tom Sarimana gave me technical help and support. The response to the message about the value of a healthy lifestyle that embraces the principles of holistic health was overwhelmingly positive. It was a nice note on which to conclude my visit to Zimbabwe this year.