Greetings to all the Coalition for Courage supporters! As many of you know, each year Liz and/or Arden travel to Zimbabwe to visit the children, review finances, and check on Coalition for Courage programs. This year, I was fortunate enough to travel with Liz! I am a teacher at the Dale Street School in Medfield, MA. We’ve been helping to support Tsungirirai since 2002 through our annual Hunger Awareness program.
Our trip to Zimbabwe, with five suitcases packed within ounces of the weight limit, was quite smooth. We were met at the airport by four friends from Tsungirirai and taken straight to an area where Vitalis, the heart and soul of Coalition for Courage in Zimbabwe, could exchange some of our American money and buy us some groceries on the black market. We had heard that there were major food shortages in Zimbabwe, and this was certainly the case. Supermarket shelves were mainly bare except for packages of tea, cheese curls, and potato chips.
As we drove into the gates of the Tsungirirai Orphan Care Center, 80 children burst into song and traditional African dance with drums and rattles. We were overwhelmed by the excitement and love they were exuding through their songs of welcome and blessing. For the next ten days there was barely a moment of solitude, as children and adults literally lined up in our kitchen or out the front door to visit. Older children who have “graduated” from Tsungirirai and now have children of their own, relatives of children who have received scholarships, previous staff members, and current students all arrived within the first couple days with smiles, hugs and many thanks. I noticed that our visitors must have thought all Coalition donors live close to one another. I was always being asked if I knew a particular donor. (How exciting it is to realize that there are Coalition supporters all across the USA and even some overseas!) They were all so grateful and yet when Liz would ask how they were doing the mood would change, “Ah, things in Zimbabwe are hard, very hard. Sometimes there is no food.” Unless you’ve got a way to get items from the black market, you’re basically out of luck.
Liz and I experienced first hand the difficulties of having no water or electricity for the majority of our stay. For the first three days we had neither, then the government starting turning on either or both utilities from 10 pm-5 am. It was funny the first night when the electricity came back on. We were enjoying our sleep when all of a sudden we heard cheering and clapping from nearby houses.
Now that I am home, I can’t help telling people all about the work that Coalition for Courage does, especially since I’ve seen it with my own eyes. We spent a lot of time with students who receive school funding. Liz and I were lucky enough to travel to a Zimbabwean University in Gweru to see Evans and Chatama. Several students traveled with us so they could see their friends and get a feel for the Zimbabwean University. The two boys were so proud to show us all around the University. We even got a special staff tour of the library. We also spent some time at Young Africa, a technical school where students can learn trades like motor mechanics, secretarial training, and dressmaking.
Although there were numerous stories of heartbreak, there were also amazing stories of success. The children who are receiving scholarships are emerging as leaders in their schools and communities. These students don’t take anything for granted. They are hard-working, care for one another, and give thanks daily for the blessings they have in life, namely Tsungirirai, Coalition for Courage, and donors who care for them!
As our last day approached, many of the children asked me if I was ready to go home. Despite the lack of electricity and water, and the heartbreaking stories of poverty, I did not want to leave. From the moment I arrived at Tsungirirai, I felt I was instantly connected to the love, gratitude, and sincerity pouring from our Zimbabwean friends. Of course I wanted to go home to be with my family and back with my students, but I felt so comfortable and relevant in Zimbabwe.
Everyday since I’ve been home, I’ve had at least one episode a day where I feel like bursting into tears. This feeling is not necessarily a bad one. I am positive that this feeling comes to remind me that the Tsungi kids are praying for me, my well-being, and that I won’t forget how much they need all the Coalition for Courage donors. They love each of us as parents. They know that we work hard, and they are full of the most sincere gratitude that even though we live hectic lives, we take the time and make the effort to remember them with a donation to support their health, education, and future.
There is so much to do, but I left feeling that we have also accomplished so much. The kids know we are close by. Coalition for Courage connects us.