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Tawa Rotary connects with Zimbabwe village

15 April 2013

Getrude Matsche and Pres Laura Sommer at Tawa Rotary when Getrude presented to our club in 2012.

Tawa Rotarians - Brian Frampton with his truck, Ken Woodgate, Doug Burrus and Pat Waite - have handed over 69 boxes of books for Zimbabwe children. Our team met Getrude Matshe at Seaview to deliver the books to her container. What she told us was REALLY impressive.

Getrude immigrated to New Zealand in 2001 with nothing and is now the Director of three successful companies. She is a member of the Hutt Rotary Club and visited Tawa Rotary in August last year. Getrude is an inspirational international speaker who has been described as a vibrant bundle of African energy whose zest and passion for life inspires everyone she meets. She is the founder and CEO of the Africa Alive Education Foundation, a non-profit organisation to provide safe homes and education for children who have lost their family to AIDS in Zimbabwe. Getrude formed Walk on the Wild Side Tours – a symbiotic tourism company that takes tourists to Zimbabwe to work with HIV orphans and the communities that support them. One project has been to establish a school library in her village in Zimbabwe.

Tawa Rotarians delivered donated books for Zimbabwe children’s library.

Originally, she had planned to hire a container for the journey, but this proved very expensive and left her with the obligation to return the container to the hirer – also quite expensive in a nation some way from the sea. Instead, she has purchased a second-hand 40 foot container outright. This not only saves the cost of returning it, but also allows her to make use of it long-term. Once unloaded, it will have doors and windows cut into it and become the village clinic. It amused us that she aims to give it a thatched roof to keep out the heat from their bright sun, but this is a very practical approach in her village. It will ultimately join two more containers she has organised from overseas Rotary sources.

Getrude explained that her village takes ownership of the school and other resources, including the library and its contents. Normal management of the thousands of books would be a problem, so she is setting up an honesty system that allows villagers to take books and return them at no cost. This might sound a bit risky to us, but she gave other examples of how things are working. The villagers are encouraged to get together and come up with ideas for meeting their needs, then “own” the problem and its solution. For example, they could not afford to fix broken windows at the school, so each home contributed a bucket of grain which was taken to the nearest market and sold. The income paid for the windows to be fixed.

They were having trouble paying for fuel to operate the power system she provided on a previous visit and also faced costs in having their grain milled the nearest mill about 10km away. A villager suggested that if they had their own mill it could make a big difference to their lives. Getrude arranged the $500 needed to buy a small mill, which not only avoided the work of carting the grain to and from the other mill, but also the charges for milling it. The money saved on milling now pays for running the power plant.

Getrude “guesstimates” she has collected or lined up some 65 000 books so far, plus many boxes of children’s clothing. Her school has 350 children, so there will be lots of books available for nearby schools and villages. It looks as if, given a bit of help, the results of her efforts will extend well beyond her own village.

Her container is likely to still be at Seaview in July, so we might be able to provide her with even more books after our next Book Fair that is held at Tawa Junction during the July school holidays.

Laura Sommer
Rotary Club of Tawa


Tawa Rotary connects with Zimbabwe village

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