Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Level 5 in Zimbabwe

Am numb. I have just sat through a very moving talk given by a wonderful human about a charity called 'The Just Children Foundation'. The Revd Mike Kierle is a trustee of the charity who work with street children in Harare, Zimbabwe, a non denominational Christian Charity that was begun in 1996 by a man called Moosa Kasimonje, who will be in Guernsey in March. In 1996 Moosa owned a fast food outlet and at the end of each day he noticed children coming to him for food. So moved by their need and desperation he sold his business and in 1998 began a small overnight shelter for the children on the streets. Today there are 4 centres around the country. the aims of the charity are very simple:

To provide care and shelter where possible to children in need

To re-unite children with families where possible and appropriate

To offer education, couselling and life skills

To be advocates for the right of children in Zimbabwe and to endeavour to change attitudes toward children in need

Am moved, disturbed, angry, challenged, inspired by the talk. The irritation has once more, as my missed friend Yac used to say, been irritated.

Life expectancy in Zimbabwe is currently the lowest on our planet - it stands at 36 years of age!

Those suffering from the Aids pandemic is anything between 33% and 56% of the population

Inflation in Zimbabwe is currently 586% (yes five hundred and eighty six) and rising.

A kilo of courgettes will cost over a month's wages for the poorest.

Unemployment runs at 80%

Toward the end of last year, Mugabe's government embarked on Operation Murambitsvina, which means 'clear out the trash'. He sent in police and army into what he claimed were shanty towns and illegal dwellings and bulldozed homes, instantly leaving over 800,000 people homeless.

Fuel has gone up by 480% overnight. A colleague in December told Mike that in order to get a tank of fuel for the Just Foundation they had to queue for 22 days!!

To give you some idea of the economy in 1995 the exchange rate was $13 to £1. Yesteday was $170,843 to £1 - today it is a bloody staggering $225,000 to £1!!!!!!!!!!!!

Words fail, but at the heart of the work of this foundation, is the fact that JCF provides a place for children to belong. They become part of a family and they have a place where they can know security for the first time in their lives. Evidently it is quite common when children come to the centres that they don't speak for some time - they are completly traumatized - and it is quite simply because they are not used to being listened to or cared for and most certainly not used to feeling secure.

The irritation has been refreshed to go clear the land for a new culture. As Douglas Coupland suggests in 'Girlfriend in a Coma', "If you are not spending every waking moment of your life radically re-thinking the nature of the world - if you are not plotting every moment boiling the carcass of the old order - then you are wasting your day."

It's time we started sifting our souls of the muck and mire of our spritual ego's and think very hard what it means to take up the basin and towel in today's world. As the wonderful Desmond Tutu says, "God says to you, I have a dream. Please help me realise it. It is a dream of a world whose ugliness and squalor and poverty, whose war and hostility, greed and harsh competitiveness, alienation and disharmony are changed into their glorious counterparts."

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