An eight-person team left Newfoundland and Labrador on the weekend to provide aid to an area in southern Africa.
They’re heading to a Tshelanyemba, Zimbabwe, to meet up with a 40-foot shipping container they filled with supplies from donations from people in St John’s, and will spend the next two weeks unloading it and training locals how to use the goods.
Rotary Clubs in St John’s (Canada, District 7820) have been providing support to Tshelanyemba for decades, and this particular team has been going there since 2007.
But during its last trip in 2015 the group become involved with members of a Rotary Club in Zimbabwe and were able to secure a grant through Rotary International called Adopt a Village, with the Canadian government stepping in to match the grant.
With that, and donations from local Rotary Clubs and individuals, they were able to raise $100,000 and fill the container with supplies which is now en route to Tshelanyemba.
“We’ve sent a 40 foot container filled with hospital goods, school supplies, computer technology, general household supplies, you name it,” said Jillian Gibson, past president of the Rotary club St. John’s Northwest.
“Everything that a village will need to help sustain itself.”
Even though the team will only be there for the next two weeks to get the supplies off the container, the actual project will span the next two years, with the team training local Zimbabweans how to properly dispense and use the materials.
The main focus will be improving access to clean water in the village, but the supplies will also go towards improving healthcare and education.
“The eight people going each have their own unique skill set and will be providing training to the people in the village on how to use the equipment that’s on board the container,” Gibson said.
“We’re hoping it will transform the village towards being more self-sustaining.”
‘Thrive with so little’
The region that will receive the aid, Tshelanyemba, in southernmost Zimbabwe, has a population of approximately 44,000.
A village called Mazwi is at its centre with approximately 500 people. That’s where people can access a hospital, a primary school, a high school and some small shops.
Gibson said her last trip to the region in 2015 was a formative experience for all the team members involved, and seven out of eight of them going this year are returning for a second time.
She said while the group is there to provide aid to Africans, the experience can be just as rewarding for the Newfoundland and Labrador team members themselves.
“It made me feel as though I’ve won the lottery already by being born here. Truly it was an eye opening experience to see how people can thrive with so little,” she said.
“I think I said ‘thank you’ to them as much as they said ‘thank you’ to me — for letting me see and experience how the simple life is a beautiful life to live.”