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Provide Youth in Zimbabwe with Hope

by American Foundation for Children with AIDS
Provide Youth in Zimbabwe with Hope

This is the season we watch carefully for the Flame Lily flowers.  They are not prolific in our area and when we sight them we quickly tell others where to see them.  The Flame Lily is our National flower, which also makes them special in our eyes.

After the excitement and relief of the first rains, we have received little more.  If we don’t receive more very soon many crops already in the ground in our area will die, causing more hunger and external dependency for this year.  A friend living in Austria who assists in many projects in our area contacted us recently and asked if people were already needing help.  We told him about the rain and crop situation and he immediately stepped up and sent food to help the most vulnerable in the area.  Several of our AFCA beneficiaries were on the list and in dire need of assistance.  We were blessed to be able to help them with the gift of corn meal and a few other food items.

Our kids are growing up quickly and will soon be ready to wean.  Always a hard time for them as they will be separated from their mothers for at least 6 weeks until the mums milk dries up and the kids can rejoin the herd.  Right now they are only separated at nights and spend the days with the herd when they can drink.  This is the time when we can see which of the does are good milk suppliers and we decide which buck we put them with for their next pregnancy.  The good milkers will be matched to Fred, the Saanen buck who is our dairy buck, and the others will be matched to Bruce, the Kalahari buck who is a good meat producing goat.  When we send does to beneficiaries we try to send a mix of both dairy and meat goats.

Our last kid to be born in 2019 was Gus, son of Clover.  Gus was her first born and is a tough little character who complains loudly when he cannot see his friends, who are a little bigger, more nimble and faster than him!  Every day the herd is checked for any health problems and are attended to where necessary.  Both the guys have been to several workshops where they have learnt about illnesses, correct goat nutrition and how to make supplementary feeds from the available plants in their areas. 

In the last month we have had a quieter time and were able to take more walks around the ranch and visit a few of our neighbors.  We also had a few visitors who took advantage of the climbing routes amongst the rocks.  It looks like it is going to be another hard year for the community with the continuing struggle for water for gardens and crops.  Even drinking water is likely to be a serious problem.  Our beneficiaries at least have water filters which are still working well.  However, this community is amazing in how they live with expectations and dreams of their situations improving.  If there is a word that I always think applies to people living with hardship, it is Hope.  Hope that there will be food for the day, money for school fees, an improvement in their day to day existence.  Life is so hard but whenever we visit people there is a welcoming smile.  Their lives are a lesson to us to be grateful for the little things we take for granted: a teaspoon of sugar, a slice of bread, clean water in our cup and a bed to lie in at night under a roof that does not leak.  Until next time when we HOPE to report a miraculous weather change that will supply our community with enough water to take us though to the next rainy season!  Be blessed!

Everyone here at the American Foundation for Children with AIDS, and our partners in Africa. thank you for your continued support of this important project.  If you would like to learn even more about this project and others, please contact Tanya Weaver at tweaver@AFCAids.org. 

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Although we still have had no rain and plants and trees are looking stressed, the Jacarandas still show their beauty around the city and bring smiles to stressed faces. 

We have 5 new babies!  Not all have names yet but that will change shortly, either when we get sponsors or when we find fitting names for them, as it is very confusing having babies running around with no names!

The drought and lack of good browsing is having an effect on some of our pregnant does, especially our ‘first-timers’.  A few of our older goats and the feeding mamas are struggling to maintain good condition. We have lost several babies who were born premature and even aborting half-way through their pregnancy.  Reports have been made to us that this has also been happening within the community. On a trip to town this week I called in to consult our vet about this problem and he recommended some mineral and vitamin supplements but assured me that we were not the only one experiencing this at the moment.  He also puts it down to the extreme heat and dryness of vegetation.  We have purchased a lot more supplement to help them get through to the rains and new growth

One of our latest beneficiaries is Elaine, let me introduce you.  Elaine is a widow whose husband died of AIDS, leaving her with 4 children to bring up and educate.  Her father is a local village head.  She is fortunate in the fact that they all live in their own homesteads, and the homesteads are very close, making it safer for Elaine, a single parent, to have her own home while enjoying the security of family close by.  They are a very poor family and work their small gardens for food and to sell if they have extra.  I met Elaine some 11 years ago when she and a group of other ladies who had AIDS visited me and asked for help with food.  I was not in a position to give hand outs but suggested we look at what skills they had or would like to learn.  And so birthed the little Craft Group that meets at Morning Star regularly.  The club is made up of 8 ladies who have various skills.  One or two knit and crochet well while the others are better with sewing projects.  We have been able to make a steady but small additional income that has helped the ladies pay school fees for their children and buy groceries.

Elaine is a very strong character and a GREAT dancer!  Life is especially hard for woman alone in Africa. Although she lives close to family, quite a few of the family are AIDS sufferers as well and not strong.  She has been busy constructing a new home almost entirely on her own, with a little help from her father and brother.  It’s a start but there is lots still to do. When we delivered her goats, they were all close to giving birth.  After a week we received a panicked message to say they had run away.  The word was put out in the neighborhood that there were lost goats and to our delight after a few days they were reported to be about 5 miles from their new home.  Diamond and Thando went out and collected them and redelivered to Elaine, who was so very happy!  Although she was happy to get them home, over the next couple of weeks they all either lost their babies or aborted.  Desperately looking for reasons why this should have happened, we put it down to the stress of being lost and travelling so far before being found.  We have no idea what experiences they may have gone through.  We will collect them all as soon as the rains start and have our bucks cover them again.

The team here at the American Foundation for Children with AIDS thanks you for supporting this project and the work we do for the children in Africa.  As you start to make decisions regarding your end of year giving, please keep us in mind so we can continue our good work into 2020 and beyond.  We wish you a new year full of many blessings and as much hope as you have shared with us.  If you would like to learn even more about what we do or how you can meet some of the children you have helped, please contact Tanya Weaver at tweaver@AFCAids.org. 

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Mamas with big tummies are waddling around preparing to surprise us with a delivery or two!  Already this birthing time we have been presented with 11 babies.  In that number are included twins by our half Kalahari doe.  Bruce is the father, so we are getting closer to breeding pure Kalahari Red goats.  The twins, Henri and Mercy are also amongst the 11 and are a good size.  We anticipate they will be fine specimens when they are full-grown. 

Before we left for break there were two mamas, Marci and Demmy, who were obviously so close to delivery.  We were sure they would deliver before we left and so we visited them regularly, day and night, to see how they were doing and begging them to birth before we left.  The last thing we did before getting into the car, on the day we left, was to check on them once more – but nothing.   We were eager to meet these babies as they would be Fred’s first babies to be born since his arrival on the farm in March of this year.  No sooner did we arrive in town (a 90 minute drive) than I received a text saying BOTH of them had given birth!!!  Marci produced a whopping 8 pound doeling and Demmy presented us with a set of twins; a buckling weighing in at 6 ½ pounds and a girl at 6 pounds.  Well done Fred!  This will hopefully be the start of the milking herd.  In a little more than a year these two girls should be producing their own babies and therefore milk.  A number of does who are due to deliver soon are first timers.  It is good to be close by to help if necessary, although our assistance is seldom needed!

Last month we delivered to two further beneficiaries: Easy received Tess, Cocoa and Hobo, while Jabulani received Marty McFly, Toot Toot and Mango.  Jabulani had a smile from ear to ear when he visited us, a few  weeks after receiving his does, to tell us that they had all birthed and he now had eight goats!  In just over a month his herd more than doubled! 

As we entered our second year of our partnership with AFCA and the goat project (we had a herd of around 50 goats at that time with some does pregnant), I remember Tanya asking if we wanted to expand the herd.  Our reply was – ‘Not yet, let us get established with this number first, we still have a lot to learn.’  Well, we are into our third year and like it or not our herd has expanded to just under 100!  We are STILL learning and STILL have a lot to learn, but it has been a fun time with some heartaches along the way, but so many more highs than lows.  Meeting the folks who join AFCA’s visiting teams has been a definite high, making friends that often feel like family by the time they leave.  Sharing what we are doing with the teams and their enthusiasm refreshes us for the harder days we face.  Right now, our major concern is the drought and the scarcity of water in our region. 

One of the challenges we had to face with a larger herd was staffing.  We needed to employ another man for the goat team and asked Keith to join us.  He lives on the border of the ranch and is the son of a lady, Emma, who we often ask to help in the camp when we have visiting teams with us.  Talking of additional helpers, we had a young man spend a few days with us and he asked if there was something he could do to help us.  NEVER do you ask me that question unless you seriously want to help!  Micah Witherow sat for several days updating the goat records, from the simplest of data collection to the more ‘interesting’ activity of creating new records following buck and doe progeny.  LOTS of work!  He did a great job as I had not been able to fully update the records since the start of our teams arriving in June. 

Thanks for taking the time to share our triumphs and challenges.  Please keep us in your prayers and thoughts as we struggle through this dry time towards the hope of early rains.

Finally, I read this today and felt there is a lot of truth in it, so I share it with you! 

A great thinker was asked, ‘What is the meaning of life?’  He replied, ‘Life itself has no meaning, it is an opportunity to create a meaning.’

Be strong, be kind and create meaning in your life!

Everyone here at the American Foundation for Children with AIDS, and our partners in Africa. thank you for your continued support of this important project.  If you would like to learn even more about this project and others, please contact Tanya Weaver at tweaver@AFCAids.org. 

Micah Hard at Work Doing Administration
Micah Hard at Work Doing Administration
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Victor’s homestead is simple – a couple huts (one for cooking and one for sleeping) surrounded by dust. A single tree stands to the side of one of the huts and at its base there are different types of cacti, some in groups and some sitting singly. They are beautiful, their tiny, bright flowers adding color to this barren plot of land. It shows that someone who lives here cares and that they like beauty. It shows attention to detail.

An empty water pail sits on the right of me as we look for Victor, smelling the unmistakable smell of a fire that burned recently, but which is now going out. We don’t see him anywhere, but I notice little things – a door closed tightly so nothing will get into his hut, a bit of water at the bottom of the pail, swept ground, a spot where corn grew during the growing season, a donkey far back, almost unseen. Everything is still other than the smell of a dying fire and a bell that must come from the neck of the donkey. The air is quiet and the sky is the most beautiful, cloudless blue. There is no need to wear a jacket and I am grateful for my sunglasses and wide-brimmed hat.

We walk towards a well-built goat house, and even though we can’t find a door, we easily see the goats. But, yet, no Victor. And, no water for the goats.

We walk back across his property and head off down the dusty road in search of him. Inside, I am actually praying that he is at the well, fetching water for his goats as I know they need it, but most importantly, because he can lose his goats if he doesn’t care for them properly and I know Norma is as strict as we need her to be with these issues.

We look up and yes! Victor is coming towards us, pushing a barrel which carries jugs of water for his goats. Three female goats and three kids, just born in the past couple of weeks. One other kid died at birth, the twin to one who is making mewing sounds as he looks for the water his owner brings towards him. Victor works slowly but steadily as he fills the water bucket, lowering it down the side of the wall for the animals and smiles quietly when they lap it up.

We ask about the door and he says he built the goat house in such a way that robbers wouldn’t be able to easily get in. The door is hidden and he shows us how it works.

Norma reviews some items with Victor, looking over his record book, making corrections as they go through the figures. Thando translates for Norma, as Victor doesn’t understand or speak English. I listen here and there, thinking about a million other things until I suddenly realize what exactly is going on. Victor has been sent to his hut to find some elastic. I say out loud, “Is one of the kids getting castrated now?” and when it is confirmed, Gina, one of our team members, lets out a whoop of joy because today she will see something she’s never seen. She is overjoyed to learn something new and her joy is contagious. Poor little kid ends up with three staring visitors as Thando and Norma teach Victor how to castrate a goat. This little fellow is the only one of the kids who is to be castrated as the other male born is remarkable and will be kept as a stud. When the job is finished, he goes off to find his mother and in a couple of minutes, he is nursing his woes away.

As we leave his home, I offer Victor a small blessing, that his herd will grow healthy and large and he shyly looks down. We shake hands and when I thank him in N’debele, he does laugh out loud, a good sound to hear.

The sky is still clear and bright. Bits of dry corn husks float down from above making everything look magical suddenly. I have never seen this sight and we marvel at it – wondering what it is that is floating and it is only when it hits the ground that we understand that the wind has brought us this gift.

 

Everyone here at the American Foundation for Children with AIDS, and our partners in Africa. thank you for your continued support of this important project.  If you would like to learn even more about this project and others, please contact Tanya Weaver at tweaver@AFCAids.org. 

 

 

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The Flame Lily is not only the National Flower of Zimbabwe, it is also the flower that usually shows up during the rainy season. This year it has showed up with very little encouragement from the rains as the rainfall in our area is well below our annual requirements. We are all concerned about the state of the crops and what effects that will have on not only our community but the whole country. Fortunately, though, what rain we have received has brought out good browse and grazing for the goats. We have been able to stop supplementing their diet and they are growing fat on what they browse and graze. Many of the does are showing signs that they are pregnant and we should be sending some of them out to beneficiaries in the next months. 

The Kids using the milking stand as a jungle gym! It is hard to believe that our babies are ready to be weaned. They are not very happy to be in Dad’s herd without their mums, but Bruce seems to be taking his duties seriously and it is lovely to see him watching over his babies with such dedication! Another interesting thing we have observed is how the family unit in the herd is strong, even after the weaning process and mothers have other kids and daughters of those mothers have their own babies, we see them so often resting and grooming each other and lying together when they are not out grazing. Until next time when we hope to bring you news about new goat placements and imminent births of two of the does, keep well and strong.

We invite you to visit one of our other GlobalGiving projects “Let’s Give Girls Training for a Vibrant Future” which is competing for a spot in the GlobalGiving Girl Fund now through March 14th.  You can vote with a donation as small as $10 and make a huge difference in the life of these young women by visiting https://www.globalgiving.org/projects/girls-vibrant-future/

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Organization Information

American Foundation for Children with AIDS

Location: Harrisburg, PA - USA
Website:
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Twitter: @AFCAids
Project Leader:
tanya weaver
Harrisburg, PA United States

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