“I’m still above ground” was the response of one Pensioner in Mutare when Des Becker asked how he was.
They’re grateful, they’re positive, resigned, desperate, sad, lonely, happy enough; a mixture of emotions but, mostly, they are funny! A nation of comedians; the old folk of Zimbabwe have a special way of making light out of their pathetic situation. Through it all they are strong and resourceful. These are people of super humour, courage and strength.
On my first stop at John & Leonie Herbst in Harare, Leonie told me of an old couple that are both blind (one totally & one partially) but still fiercely independent. They were reluctant to allow my cousin, Michele Exton, onto their property and into their house, to deliver their box, as they didn’t know her. (I wouldn’t either if I were blind) The result was that they would receive their box at the gate and then carry each item, a fair distance, individually, into the kitchen. A huge task when you’re blind and on sticks!
We come across these tribulations wherever we go in Zim. This is what’s become of our old folk in a country into which they’ve invested so much. Michelle, very kindly, donated a pull-along cooler box for them. They can now do one or two driveway trips rather than twenty or thirty. Bless you Michelle!
Hearing that story was providential, at the beginning of my trip, because it reminded me of what we are doing in Zim. Our inconveniences and discomforts pale when compared to the trials that these special Pensioners endure every single day.
At my next stop in the Eastern highlands, the following day, I saw one of our old folk more bent over than she had been on my last visit. She has the dreaded cancer she tells me “but I’m not having any more chemo” she says, “because it’s costing my kids too much money”………….
I left that stop with a sick pit in my stomach, just so wishing I had all the money in the world to throw at these guys. How have we gotten to a time when our proud & successful elderly in Zim are having to make these choices? It’s just so wrong….
I tell these stories at the beginning of my report in the hope that I can give context to what the “Zimbabwe Pensioners Support Fund” does in Zimbabwe. We cannot simply donate food and be done with it. Our aim is to feed the stomachs AND souls of these beloved folk. Sustenance comes in many forms when you’re older, wobbly, frail & dependent. It’s our constant goal to build hope, support, and comfort for these guys. We need to love them, like our own.
I make a “note to self” as I go on my way around the country.
I had to fly into Zim this time around. For the first time in 18 years, I had to turn down the border crossing for fear that I’d be stuck there at the busiest time of my business year, and was incredibly pleased when Johan Schultz agreed to take the truck to Bulawayo. Thank you Johan!
I arrived in Bulawayo on the afternoon of 03 March and was pleased to see that Johan and his team had prepared the truck to leave the next morning. Johan took me to the Air B&B that I’d booked into, in town, (for convenient access) but when we pulled up outside, I had second thoughts about my lodgings. I had no doubt that I may have spent the night repelling midnight knocks on my door offering services of a dodgy, unprincipled nature. I opted instead to spend the night at Coronation cottages where, if I were ever that way inclined, I’d be the one doing the knocking, before their bedtime at 5h30 pm!
I met with Ryan Moss, an ex Zim, living in Gqeb…., Quseb….. gequ…….. Port Elizabeth! who I’d met earlier this year, when the Old Legs cycling Tour took off from Durban to the West Coast. Ryan was to travel with me to Harare where he would collect a vehicle to follow me around the country. He would take photographs and write stories to raise awareness of the plight of the Pensioners. I looked forward to spending time with this adventurer, photographer, writer, etc and I wasn’t disappointed. We left on Thursday 04 March and had a few hours to Harare to chat, laugh and exchange ideas. Ryan has written his own account of our few days together and I’d encourage all to have a read, on the ZPSF Facebook page. Thank you tons Ryan, for your ideas, input, physical help, and great company around Zim. I predict and look forward to working with you a whole lot more in the future.
John & Leonie Herbst have stepped into the Futters shoes in Harare and are now our central point at which we deliver all the boxes for Harare, Kariba, Soap, The Farmers union, Chivu etc. John has sacrificed his special boat garage to accommodate the many boxes that arrive every second month. Between them they ensure that each Pensioner around Harare gets their box in good time. This is logistical challenge for them as they fend off the many odd collect and deliver arrangements to suit each individual need. It’s a formidable task that they perform, and I may have the platform here to encourage recipients and all concerned to remember, and note, that these are generous volunteers. Any notion that they are delivery service at the beck & call of all is not fair or accurate. They have lives outside of this kindness that they do, and we’d be super grateful if those on their lists could help them make this job as easy & painless as possible. Thanks so very much John & Leonie. You’re so truly kind.
While Ryan went off to visit his sister in Harare, I dropped the truck with the ever generous and reliable Charlie & Glynnis Piers. Over the years they have babysat the truck for us and all they got in return, this time around, was a churned-up driveway, after the soaking rains the night before! Thanks so much again Charlie & Glynnis for your help, kindness, tractor tow and friendship. Please send me the bill for some drive-way fill! I’ve learned, since my visit, that Charlie has a seriously ill family member that could use all our thoughts and prayers. Thanks Guys.
I was desperately wanting to see my Harare mates, but my night was spent at my computer, catching up on office work at the super comfortable home of my friend Pushkin Style. Thanks so much again Push, for lending me you house and your car. I was greatly sad that you weren’t there but got to see you a week later as a bonus. You’ve been a humungous help to me & the fund for the past few years. Saves me a big buck on lodgings and Uber rides! (do they have Uber in Harare?
A huge expense on these trips is the fuel that the truck guzzles like a bulldog at the porridge. Litres and litres of the stuff is chomped away pushing our heavy loads along. We’ve been hugely blessed by the ever-willing Vic Bongiovanni at Concrete Structures outside Harare. Vic has been super generous in his fuel donations to us, and we cannot thank him enough for his great kindness. We are ever mindful that for every litre we are given for free we can feed another mouth. Thank you many millions Vic & Co. I’m so sorry I missed you again. You’re a good human!
After my refuel I set off for the Eastern highlands with my now friend, Ryan in tow. At Marondera we delivered a few boxes and then moved on to one of my favourite homes, Resthaven, in Rusape. As always, they’ve awaited our visit with a preparation of tea and homemade eats that no amount of resistance can change. Each pensioner proudly plates their contribution, and we nibble as we chat. I’ve grown to love these guys in Rusape. There’s something in the water in this town. They’re all just super nice! I was once fed alcoholic ginger beer at one of these tea parties and wobbled out of there with both eyes in one socket! Thanks for your hospitality Resthaven. You guys are the best.
In Mutare, later in the day, we met up with our great friends, Des & Sally Becker. We offloaded the boxes for the three Mutare homes, Nyanga and Chipinge. So as to recycle our boxes Des has devised a transfer of the food into plastic bags for delivery to the homes. This saves us a great deal of time and effort and we are once again hugely thankful to him and his dear Sally for their help in that area.
Oh, how I enjoy spending time with the Beckers! I’m thinking the fair Des has missed his vocation and may have spent his life in service to comedy but here he is, giving love and great kindness to this special town. On our walkabout to the various Mutare homes the following day it’s again so clear to me how the folk around Mutare adore and revere Des & Sally. They’ve devoted their lives to, not only the elderly, but all the people of Mutare and the gratitude is obvious as I drive around town with Des. We are so grateful to have these guys on our team.
I spent Friday and Saturday night with Des and Sally and the weekend highlight was a garden party/ braai with their neighbours in good old fashioned Zimbabwean style. While I knew a face or two from my past, it didn’t take long before I was a friend to all on the sunny lawns. This is the heart and soul that I so miss about Zimbabwe. The banter, laughter, teasing, gossip, man size tots of Whiskey and hot debates about who’s tipple is superior is what makes Zimbabweans real & genuine. Thanks Des, for summing up our time to leave. I could see my Sunday fading into the calamity of a headache and a goat on my tongue. Smart move.
Thank you again and eternally, The Beckers, for all you do for me and the fund and for being my friends. Love you guys millions.
Ryan & I moved on to Masvingo on Sunday to deliver to Pioneer Cottages. They were ready for us and the offload went without a hitch. I stopped in for a chat with our old Geography teacher, Mr Jimmy (Jughead) Millar. He’d recently had health issues and has been a bit poorly but was as bright and funny as usual. My suggestion that a side effect of the COVID vaccine may lead to a willy growing on his forehead was met with “Well at least my Prostrate would be easier to treat up here than all the way down there!”
At Pioneer Cottages I was also able to thank, personally, the folk who knitted & sent us the most beautiful booties, blankets, and clothes for my new grandson! How awesome is it to have old folk, far and away devote each little stitch to our new family baby! So friggen special. Thank you!!
At Zvishavane we had more sad news as we learned that John D’ewes was recovering from two ops in Cape Town. John & Lynne have been our helpers in Zvishavane for many years and we pray, deeply and sincerely, that all will be well with them. We dropped the boxes for the last four remaining Pensioners in the home there and moved on to Shurugwe.
Poor old Shurugwe……. The degradation and decay of Zimbabwe is most obvious, sad & profound in this former jewel. What a absolute s…..hole it has become ( In the words of Donald T) My heart is sad as we do our final delivery at the home up the hill away from the cesspool of the town. I quietly thank God for this geographic fortune. The folk in the cottages there are, hopefully, spared ever having to venture into this den of filth and neglect. They are super grateful for their boxes and I am super sad…….
Back in Gweru we have the best time chatting to the great folk of Boggies Trust who were putting us up in one of their cottages again. Ryan had had some car troubles during the day and in no time at all we had a mechanic sort out his problem. Thanks so much again, Alan for your willingness to help us out again. Thanks to Bruce, Babs, and all at Boggies for your kindness and help. You guys are flippen amazing.
On Monday morning it was goodbye to my new mate, Ryan who headed off back to Harare while I went on to Bulawayo. I was back there in time to have my Covid test within the 72-hour time allowed before I could get back into South Africa. I met with Johan and we had our tonsils and beyond poked and prodded in search of the dreaded bug. Thankfully negative!
I was invited to spend my last night with the Nel family, Willem & Caroline, and their awesome family. I got in some grandparenting practice with their boys and was reminded of how great little kids can be. The energy, unconditional friendship, a million questions and a gazillion stories. An excellent evening with an excellent Alfredo meal. Thanks so very much for your brilliant, relaxed, and kind hospitality The Nels. I look forward to treating you guys back in Durban!
I was like a horse headed for the stables by Tuesday morning in anticipation of seeing my new-born Grandie back in Durban.
I arrived home on Wednesday, richer and more blessed than when I set off. These trips to Zimbabwe are food for my soul. The love, gratitude, solitude, reflection, and joy that I get from them far outweigh the pressures that the trips present. I’m so grateful to be able to be a part of the lives of the great old people of Zimbabwe.
As always, the sincerest of all the wishes I come across with the recipients of our food is that we adequately carry their messages of thanks to the donors. These people cannot ever thank you guys enough for your ongoing support. They fear that in time to come we will tire of their nonsense and needs and move onto whales or baby seals, but I assure them constantly and with conviction that they will not be forgotten. The spirit and heritage of Zimbabweans lives within each of these old guys, and we are united in our love for them and our great country. A friend asked me a while ago when we will stop this project. My reply is simple; as long as there are old and elderly Zimbabweans in need, we will not give up on them. There are several groups throughout the world with a common purpose of supporting these beloved old folks and it’s my belief and wish that our mutual donors will never dry up and forget the Pioneers of our excellent country. Thank you all eternally for your support! God bless you all.
God bless Zimbabwe!
Head office South Africa contact details:
Linda Schultz – email@example.com – (C) 079 6082676 (T) 013 7900934
Johan Schultz – firstname.lastname@example.org – 082 4979328
Hannes Botha – email@example.com – 084 5893221
Section 21 Co Reg. 2007/034036/08; NPO Number 096733; Section 18A PBO No 930031642