I’ve had people ask me excitedly, “How was Zimbabwe?” and honestly, I never know what to say. How do you sum up 12 days of an otherworldly, life changing, soul piercing experience into a few sentences?
“It was good – life changing.”
So much happened there that I don’t even know where to begin. Even on here.
As time passes, I’ll be able to share more stories in depth. One at a time. To think of trying to do it all in a post or two – well there’s no way. You’d be reading a small novel on here. I need to process them, and often in the meantime they tie into my life in America in unexpected ways. It’s then that I feel that little rush to write about it, and then when it comes out the best.
Even the plane rides were an out of body experience.
Clockwise from left: The plane to Dubai, seats (blanket and pillows), the meal (menus provided to order from) and waiting to board Emirates.
Two hours to Houston.
15 to Dubai. An overnight there.
8 to Zambia.
2 to Harare, Zim.
The next day 2 more to Bulwayo.
I will never forget landing in Harare at around 5pm, seeing the team, the airport, the flat trees that look like exactly how you picture them, the heat, the red earth – and thinking to myself, “Holy sh*t, I’m in Africa.”
Then I thought, “Oh Diana, you’re on a Vision Trip with World Vision and the first thing you think has a cuss word in it.”
It still makes me giggle a little. I was just so overwhelmed that I’d made it.
Then visiting the villages. And seeing things that you only see in magazines or on TV. You know they’re real but until you’re standing in the midst of Zimbabwe women dancing and singing around you, with their babies strapped on their back and their bare feet pounding the earth, hugging you and smiling, proudly showing you their homes and telling you their stories – until you’re in the middle of it, you simply can’t imagine it’s that real.
We spent the first 3 days of our time in Zimbabwe learning about World Vision’s advocacy for maternal and infant health, as well as their relationship with USAID. We attended a meeting with the leaders for USAID to see how our tax dollars are spent in countries like Zimbabwe. It was powerful information. At the time I was so jet-lagged that 20 minutes into the talk I was thinking, “I’ll just slide under the table and take a short nap. No big deal. There are quite a few of us in here. No one will notice.” I was so exhausted that a few times my head slipped from my hand, propping it up, and I’d bounce up again with a wild look around to see if anyone had seen me.
Thursday was the first day we went out to the field. World Vision has ADP’s (Area Development Projects) where they go in and with the approval and help of the local people, they begin to work alongside them to make sustainable, long term changes in their communities; wells, hospitals, clinics, prenatal care, small business help, etc. When they leave 10-15 years later, the local people are living completely different lives – lives that they are able to sustain on their own.
We saw a village where the women and malnourished children came to receive high nutrient porridge made from ingredients found right in their communities.
A grandmother shared a story through a translator of how her grandson had come to live with her at around one year old, severely malnourished and underweight. His mother left to go work in the city – hours away. Because of this program, he’d gained weight and was now a darling little boy that she raised alone. She told us if it hadn’t been for the simple changes the program made in their lives, he would have died.
So many do.
Each day draws me into a different way of looking at my experience. I am surprised by how many feelings it brought back from India 11 years ago – and made me long to go back there again. There’s a part of me that was left in each of these places.
The one thing I want to convey here is how much developing countries – like Zimbabwe – want our help. They are capable. They are ready. They are working hard. They need our time, money, compassion, and genuine interest to lift their people out of poverty and into one where babies live, mothers get care, children have an education, men are able to provide for their families.
As I was leaving a church service on Sunday, one of the pastors stopped me to talk. He was a tall young man, wearing a suit that he’d painstakingly kept clean for church, and like so many he was incredibly curious about life here. At the end of our talk about his ministry, maternal health, hospitals, and training families to see their women and children in a new light – he reached for my hand and holding it said,
“When you go back to America, will you tell your people that we need their help? We are ready and waiting.”
He beamed at me, confident that we will come forward. That our nation of plenty will help their nation that is trying so hard to have 1/1,000th of the things we see as everyday life.
I promised I would. And that is my mission right now – to tell you, to ask you, to encourage you. To share stories and ask you to give – maybe even if it hurts. May we share the very best of our time, talents, and money to those who are waiting for us.