Good Day All,
When Johan and Linda contacted us, asking if we were interested in helping to distribute the food boxes in Bulawayo for the March trip, it was a no brainer that we would do it – it was something we had talked about doing for so long. So on 22nd March we left home for Malalane to collect the fund vehicle and our instructions. The supplies had already been delivered and packed, in Bulawayo, ready for distribution. On Thursday we were off, travelling North in South Africa was amazing, after a good rainy season there was excellent grass cover everywhere, the landscape was green and lush. After a nights rest at Musina, it was the dreaded border crossing on Friday. It was extremely quiet, 2 very grumpy officials let us through the SA side, and we had the luxury of a runner, Robert, to assist on the Zim side. We were shocked at how much you have to pay out on the Zim side to get in, and you definitely need your walking shoes on, total time was over 2 hours!!
The road from Beit Bridge to Bulawayo is one of absolute contrasts – from extremely bad, where there is very little road left, and in places you drive on the sandy verge as it is in better condition than the actual road, to 22 foot wide tar in reasonable condition, where you just have to keep an eye out for the craters in the middle. We arrived in Bulawayo late afternoon, and met Angela and her crew at the warehouse. We delivered various items from Linda, and agreed that we would be ready to start work early on Monday.
While in Bulawayo we had the use of the flat that Coronation Cottages makes available to the fund. On Saturday we were able to attend a Memorial and tree planting for Eldon Gilmour, a school friend of Boet, at Queens Club, and on Sunday we attended Mass at the Catholic Church in Hillside, where we were married almost 57 years ago!!
We presented ourselves at the warehouse at 7am Monday morning, ready for the real reason for our trip to begin. The plan was to try to deliver all the boxes to the homes that day. The first was Coronation Cottages, there are quite a few people receiving help here, Coronation has small flats for singles and slightly larger units for couples, and they feed themselves. Most of the recipients seemed to know we were on our way, and it was such a privilege to be able to give out the boxes and have a quick chat with them. There are also smaller packets of supplies for the staff there, the units on the outside look a little tired, but are really spick and span on the inside. We then moved on to Garden Park, Masonic cottages, and Qualisa, which are all a similar set up, old folk living in their own units in a controlled environment. These deliveries all take some time, as a chat is usually a compulsory part of the delivery. We then moved on to delivering the bulk supplies to the residential homes. These are homes where there is assisted and frail care available. The residents are fed from a communal kitchen, so bulk supplies are delivered straight to the kitchens. In every case the kichens are old, as are the homes themselves, we went into the kitchens, saw the staff at work there, and in the case of Queen Mary they were dishing up lunch, it looked and smelt delicious, with the residents all sitting waiting expectantly in the dining room. Deliveries are made to Edith Duly, Railston House (Salvation Army Home) Queen Mary, and Barbara Burrell Home for the blind. We finished our day after 6pm, tired but with a feeling of having had a really worthwhile day. The homes are so grateful for these bulk supplies, they all told us how it makes such a difference to the quality of meals they can provide.
Tuesday was once again an early start, but today was going to be a bit different as we were going to deliver to the old folk still living in their own homes. We had no idea what was ahead. There is a long list of deserving oldies and by 8 am the Bakkie was loaded and we were off!! Every delivery we made has a story to be told. Many of these pensioners live in their own homes, but with very little or no income, they battle to maintain them, and it is sad to see how dilapidated they have become. We met elderly ladies who have moved into 2 rooms in their houses, and then they let out the rest of the house to generate some income, resulting in a yard full of children running around and people everywhere. There was one 90 year old lady, living alone in a big house in Hillside, behind huge locked gates, she is hard of hearing and can’t see very well, she came to the gate with a large bag, into which she put the padlocks, chains and metal plates that she uses to lock the gates, the bag was in case she forgot where she put them, and after we had taken the box in she repeated the process taking each item out of the bag to lock the gate again before we left. There were the 2 sisters, who kept excusing the building rubble outside the house, there because the house is falling apart due to termites. We drove up to one house where we couldn’t imagine the residents would need help – they didn’t, the old man needing the box lives in the garage at the back of the property. One of the properties in Queens Park was literally falling apart – one room of the main house still had a roof, so it was let out, and the couple live in the old servants quarters at the back. It is impossible to list everyone we saw and their circumstances, but the need is huge, and every delivery was gratefully received and is much appreciated. With most having no or very little income, things we take for granted, like medical aid, are just not possible.
On Wednesday we drove out to Esigodini, to deliver the boxes for the folk at Kingshaven, these are the MOTH Cottages, so the folk there live in their own cottage, and feed themselves, so get individual boxes. As soon as we arrived the squeaking wheelbarrows were on their way to collect and deliver the boxes, and people appeared from nowhere, delighted faces everywhere. In the afternoon we were back in the warehouse, taking in the empty boxes that had been returned to us. Then it was time to say good bye to Angela, who co-ordinates the packing of the boxes, sorts them into delivery order, and who came out every day to assist in locating all the houses. There is also Elizabeth and Nathan, who load the boxes, and seem to have endless energy carrying the boxes which are extremely heavy. A job well done guys!!
Thursday saw us back on the road to Beit Bridge, our job almost complete. We had 2 more deliveries to make, one to a pensioner and his sister in West Nicholson, and one to a lady who lives alone in an enormous but neglected house, on a ranch, 85 Kms north of Beit Bridge. The border crossing took much less time, and we were home the following day.
It had been a very emotional week, a trip that was both a little depressing, but also hugely uplifting. Most certainly a lesson in appreciating all that we have. It is important to note that the position these folk are in is not of their own making, they are victims of circumstance beyond their control. As one elderly gentleman said to us –“ we are in prison, a prison of circumstances beyond our control.”
To all the donors out there – a huge Thank You, the monies that you provide for these people are appreciated more than you can ever imagine.
Boet and Ann Holmes
Head office South Africa contact details:
Linda Schultz – firstname.lastname@example.org – (C) 079 6082676 (T) 013 7900934
Johan Schultz – email@example.com – 082 4979328
Section 21 Co Reg. 2007/034036/08; NPO Number 096733; Section 18A PBO No 930031642