Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Better to light a candle than curse the darkness…

Yesterday Marty and I went to our first Kufusa Mari Field Day in Nyanga. Field days are graduation ceremonies for ASAP’s rural savings club program. In the Kufusa Mari program, participants, mainly women, pool their money together and take turns loaning it out to one another, so that they can start small income-generating businesses. The program is directed by the participants themselves who write their own constitution, keep their own books, and make all group decisions. Women and men graduate when the field officers decide they are capable of carrying on their savings activities without supervision. Thus, the field days are a time for celebration of success!

Many of these women have become capable of paying their children’s school fees, improving their family’s nutrition, or paying a family member’s medical costs. The program has truly changed participants’ lives and they came yesterday ready to show their joy! The participants performed skits, songs, dances, and poetry expressing their happiness and success, as well as some of the community’s continuing concerns. One of my favorite performances was from a group of children who sang a song about the dangers of AIDS and how to avoid contracting the disease.

At the end of the day, Joseph Miti, ASAP’s Projects Manager, and Francis Zengeni, the Field Officer for the area, awarded certificates and t-shirts to 150 graduating participants. They joyfully accepted their awards and danced around the field wearing their new shirts and holding their certificates in the air.

The entire celebration was filled with joy. I had the chance to talk with several of the graduating women. They all seemed happy to joke good naturedly, asking me questions about Marty, and commenting that he was very handsome… for a white man. Yet, the burden of Zimbabwe’s current reality was not far away. When I asked them about their families, I most often heard stories of death, disease, and devastating poverty. In the midst of such painful lives, Kufusa Mari promises hope that things can change. After meeting these strong, beautiful, resourceful, and caring women, I have no doubt that change is on the way in each of their lives.


Thursday, May 24, 2007

The Journey Begins...

Marty and Stephanie, our new IT and PR interns graduated from Vanderbilt University two weeks ago and have now arrived in Mutare to assist ASAP with our program expansions. Over the coming weeks expect to read updates from them about what they are learning as they encounter Zimbabwe and the world of development work for the first time.

Marty and I have only been in Zimbabwe for a few short, jet-lagged days, but already I am learning so much from seeing the country and its citizens first hand. For the past year I have been reading news article after news article about Zimbabwe’s troubles, so I came prepared for the very worst. I have to say that I did not find what I had been expecting. In this country with the world’s highest inflation, widespread food shortages, an HIV/AIDS infection rate of 20.1%, according to Global Health Reporting, and a plummeting life expectancy of 34 for females and 37 males, life is surprisingly... normal. People wake up in the morning, go to work or look for work, come home at night, and tuck their children into bed. Despite everything, life continues.

Perhaps what allows these people to continue their daily routines in circumstances that many of us would consider chaotic is hope. Zimbabwe has not always suffered the problems it currently faces. In fact, not so long ago Zimbabwe was considered the bread basket of Africa and represented the promise that development could make real change. As the situation here slowly worsened, people did not forget the growth that they had once experienced. The aftertaste of success fades slowly.

In the end, it is this hope that is the most lasting remnant of the country’s previous development. The Zimbabwean people know there is more for them, so they are not content with their current situation. They have seen what it is to not be poor and hungry and they will continue to strive together until they no longer have to be.

- Stephanie

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Thanks you Sierra Vista High School

ASAP Africa was recently shocked to receive a donation in the mail from Sierra Vista High School for almost 600 dollars. It was such a magical feeling to know that we have a growing number of supporters that have teamed with ASAP to make a difference in the world. Good things always seem to happen at just the right time.

ASAP is continuing our Meet or Beat Challenge with schools, businesses, and even indivuals. We have currently had three schools face the challenge and succeed with great success. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts to:

Sierra Vista High School
Grace Church School
Sandy Creek High School

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Unwavering Spirit

“Anyone can give up, it's the easiest thing in the world to do. But to hold it together when everyone else would understand if you fell apart, that's true strength.” -Unknown

In times of turmoil…we press on, in times of defeat…we press on, and in times of celebration…we savor the moment and appreciate the path that brought us here. Life in Zimbabwe is not easy and almost unimaginable for those not living in these conditions. One thing that I have learned during my time with ASAP is that regardless of the battle you must stay focused and POSITIVE. In a land where it seems that most things are collapsing, ASAP is fighting to sustain and build on our vision of “A World Without Poverty.” This brings me to our latest announcement:

ASAP Africa Welcomes Our Newest Members:
William Maeka- Field Officer- HANDEI
Jolomia Mbendana - Field Officer- Kufusa Mari
Kudzai Sagwidza- Field Officer- Kufusa MAri
Charles Tumbare- Driver

We are so excited about the growth of our ASAP family and we look forward to future expansions.