NEWS

UPDATE FROM JACKSON IN ZIMBABWE2008-03-13

Jackson, his luggage and his cash all arrived safely on Thu 6th March with no dramas. Praise God!

A people on their knees

The first few days were spent acclimatising, meeting people and undertaking the common Zimbabwean phenomenon of queuing and 'making a plan': just to achieve basic tasks like withdrawing cash and buying food. This is very frustrating and really gets people down, not to mention the huge amount of time wasted doing it. There is a law preventing people from carrying more than ZW$ 500 million (around £10 at the market rate) at any one time, or from withdrawing more than that same amount per day - so even those who have some money can't access it. This is very restrictive, as you can imagine. If you want to fix a car, or buy a part, you have to break the law - or it doesn't get fixed. It's amazing how many things suddenly cost exactly ZW$ 500 million when that law was passed...people are impressively adaptable!

On the up side, queuing is a good opportunity to talk to people, so Jackson has managed to do a lot of catching up with SEED staff, as well as some impromptu training in the most unlikely of venues. He has been hearing many tales of woe - people are really struggling - and identifying with people in their struggles. After her managed to get some cash he was able to help an elderly couple who have decided to pack up their jobs working for a white family in Greendale for the equivalent of just 4 loaves of bread a month, and return to their rural home where at least they can try to grow food. They haven't managed to save anything from their years in the big city, not even the bus fare home.

He's also found people sending their children to do the shopping for them because they can't face it themselves. Nothing is labelled with prices so they get to the checkout and then stand crestfallen as they try to count the zeros in the total, and figure out what they have to put back.

Possibilities...?

In the last few days Jackson has been meeting with a huge range of people from charity workers to teachers, from gardeners to doctors, and gaining a lot of interest in the microfinance idea. We are still working out details of how to make it work in a context of hyperinflation (where others have tried and failed), by meeting with those who have tried, with bankers, and others. The idea certainly has great potential as there are many with money-making ideas but no initial cash injection.

He is also finding ways in which SEED could support other organisations in their work. For example, Oasis is running a training academy, but needs help with their vegetable garden to feed their employees and students. The Greendale school teaching the gardeners and maids at night school would value input to their garden in part exchange for the knowledge they impart.

Signs of hope

Certain young people known to us have actually managed to gain GCSEs and A-levels despite major teacher and book shortages! One, who has the means to go to university in another country, is actually going to do a degree in Zimbabwe because it is still very good for industrial engineering. Another has managed to hold down a retail job and put her little brother through school. Hopefully one day he can return the favour.

Staff training is going very well, and Jackson is able to complement what both are learning in their degrees, and help them to apply it to their work with SEED. They are excited about what lies ahead and keen to develop themselves even further.

A local entrepreneur has agreed to be SEED's official sponsor, which is great news! This local support is very important to our sustainable vision, as well as being of great financial value. Her example shows that those with a leg up to begin with, and who are very innovative, can still do well in Zimbabwe.

Can you help?

We still haven't raised all the funds needed to cover this key trip. Could you sponsor a day for £25.50? Or better still, set up a standing order to The SEED Project. This is a highly valuable reliable source of income for us, without which we wouldn't have got this far. Please click here for details of how to set up a standing order or to make a one-off donation.

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