I met Sylvia (name changed) early this year. Yet due to the intervening pandemic, it seems like many years ago. So much has changed since January, when I looked into Sylvia’s sparkling, spunky eyes. Then, through Hope’s Promise’s support, she had the hope of attending school and pursuing a better future. In March, Zimbabwean schools closed due to lockdown and remain shuttered, with no date announced for re-opening. Additionally, the lockdown rendered most of Zimbabwe’s day laborer workforce unable to earn income.
Even before Covid19, eight-year-old Sylvia endured more real-life nightmares than many people will face in a lifetime. Sylvia’s parents died when she was very young, along with most of her aunts and uncles. Grandma and Grandpa took in Sylvia and her cousins. Then Grandpa died. Grandma’s only option – relocate as a squatter to nearby farmland, build a mud hut, and eke out subsistence day by day for her young charges. Compounding the challenges, some of her grandchildren now battle the same disease that wiped out their parents’ generation. They need healthcare, of course. But reports from earlier this year of seven babies stillborn in one night poignantly reveal the endemic malfunction of Zimbabwe’s medical system: France24 article.
More fundamental even than access to a doctor, kids like Sylvia need proper nutrition for medication efficacy, much less survival. But if Sylvia eats a little sadza (cornmeal mixed with water) every day, she’s lucky. Even before Covid19, half of Zimbabwe’s population (total population of over 14 million people) already needed food aid according to the World Food Programme. Sylvia represents one data point in that massive statistic.
As if food shortages were not enough, Zimbabweans lack even basic access to water and sanitation: Human Rights Watch article. The pandemic has further compounded terrible pre-existing suffering, but, shockingly, Zimbabwe’s health minister was arrested and convicted of grafting Covid19 resources. Aljazeera article.
Due to the leadership of Hope’s Promise Zimbabwe staff and the generosity of Hope’s Promise donors, Hope’s Promise is making a vital difference in the lives of kids like Sylvia. So far, we’ve provided emergency and rent funding for three months to our families and hold enough in reserve to assist through November if the lockdown continues. With each bag of staple food items passed hand to hand from our Zimbabwean staff to our families, we affirm this core truth: Zimbabwe is not comprised of statistics, but people counted one-by-one. Sylvia, and each child like her, matter.
My father died when I was almost four years old, and my mom died when I was six. Sad, right? That is what I used to think. I even got angry sometimes and asked God why I had to be an orphan.
Across the world, we assume we are so different. Separated by geography, customs, food, governments, and economic and class status. And then the unimaginable happens, chaos encompasses the globe in a universal experience.
How do I summarize ten of the most amazing days of my life? I’m home now, still jet-lagged, but Kenya remains on my mind – the warmth of the Kenyans, the ever-present smiles, the stark beauty of the land, the evocative singing, animals I don’t find in my backyard, the children and the people we met, our awesome team…
I grew up during the Vietnam War. Certain graphic images and military words are etched into my memory: Mekong Delta, Ho Chi Minh, agent orange, napalm bomb, Viet Cong…and the image of a young American soldier sloshing through a muddy rice field in the relentless pouring rain.
The tank squats low and heavy in the middle of the city at the center of a roundabout, a giant hunk of refuse. Dark, cold metal, it absorbs the tropical light like a black hole.
I applied for the Hope’s Promise connection team trip to Vietnam in June, then I blinked, and here I am making final preparations. Emotions weigh heavy on me as I prepare to take an airplane to a country that is unfamiliar and uncharted territory for me.
You slip into the world raw and trembling, aching for tender touch. But instead, the one you most long for walks away.
I didn’t recognize the young man I sat down beside. We smiled at each other, and I extended my hand and said, “Hi, I’m Diane, what’s your name?” He smiled and said, “Stanley!”
Last week during a break at a church board meeting, one of my friends took out her phone and began to show me pictures of her grandchildren. She took the time to tell me their names, ages and what was unique or notable about each child.