Admincontrol back in Zimbabwe
At the beginning of 2020, our CSR officer Nina Felic and Managing Director Møyfrid Øygard, travelled to Zimbabwe to learn more about our long-time partner, Sabona. The trip gave them lots of joy, many tears, but more importantly made them realise how important Admincontrol`s support is to people in desperate need for help.
Blog post is written by Nina Felic, Lead Client Manager & CSR Officer in Admincontrol
In 2015 I spent three months volunteering for Sabona in Zimbabwe, splitting my time between Bulawayo, where the headquarters is located, and the rural village Dopota where they have their main operations. I have been looking forward to returning one day to visit dear friends and seeing how projects are thriving. Finally, this year the opportunity came, and together with a small delegation I travelled back in the beginning of March.
My travel companions were: Sabona`s founder Ynghild Solholm, Admincontrol`s Managing Director Møyfrid Øygard, and Jonas Kinge Bergland and Ole Soo who are healthcare workers.
Nina’s journal from Zimbabwe
Through this blog post I want to take you through our trip to visit the Sabona family and projects we have seen, people we have talked to and all the impressions during a field trip like this.
– Felt like coming home
22 hours after taking off from Oslo, we landed in rainy Victoria Falls, and still had a few hours’ drive down to Dopota. For me, it felt like coming home. Five years is a long time, and there has been major changes in the country during this time. But the warmth from the people and the feeling of being part of a family was just as present as when I left.
A great welcoming committee waited for us as we drove into the gates of the school, singing and dancing which started the first round of joyful tears, one of many throughout the stay.
The poor economy effects the schools
The first day I spent with the teachers of Dopota Primary School, where I mostly worked when I was living here in 2015. Since my last stay the country has gotten a new leader, after almost 40 years under the rule of Robert Mugabe. Zimbabwe is still struggling politically, and the economy is weak and puts the population under a tremedous pressure.
The poor economy also effects the schools, as the governmental contribution to the schools has stayed at the same level for years, with no consideration to the rising inflation. The schools are forced to cut certain things of their plans, such as sports, gatherings, courses of the teachers and new materials and technology for the children.
Food station at the schools
In total, we visited five schools during our stay, all who are sponsored or helped in a way by Sabona, three primary and two secondary schools. The primary schools all have food stations present, providing the children with a hot and nutritious meal every day. Each of these schools serves on average 300 meals every day, prepared by women who rotate on different weeks.
In Dopota, the food has been prepared under a temporary shed the women would stand under. Children eat out all year, under the scolding sun during summer, and with the cold winds that pierce your bones during winter. Finally, there has been set up a kitchen house for both the cooking and for the children to eat under a roof.
The need for these food stations is indeed great in the area, as this is often the only meal they will eat during a day. Children from the poorest families are struggling to secure enough food, and there is a lot of children living with old grandparents who have a hard time providing their families. We met young children who were clearly malnourished for the reasons mentioned, and this reality can be hard to grasp.
The positive side of this is Sabona`s presence in these communities. With their field managers and working committees, they can pick up on the most vulnerable families, and especially children, and add them to their help fund. This part of the organisation ensures that health problems are addressed, they supply basic food articles and add the children to the sponsorship program. Being a small organisation, decisions can be made fast and easily, and the impact is immediate.
Walking 20 km one way to school
The secondary schools we visited, unfortunately don`t have any food stations now and having only two schools in the area the young adults face other challenges as well. Not only because they will often go hungry all day with no lunch pack, but some of the students we met walk 20 km one way to get to school. There are no school buses, no parents with cars, and no one has a bike.
They get up in the middle of the night, maybe have some breakfast before they start walking to school. They make it just in time of the day to start, spend the whole day there before they walk all the way home again. They get home at dusk, then they might have to help with the younger children or house chores, before spending some time studying over a candle. I think these are some of the most robust young adults I have ever met and being able to complete your high school years in these conditions is seriously impressing.
Bore holes, community gardens and sewing groups
During our visit, Møyfrid and I wanted to see as many of Sabona’s projects possible, and to get to these projects we walked a great length around in the village.
Our tour took to us to bore holes, community gardens, sewing groups, the newly started poultry run and a sneak peek into the grounds of Sabona Development Center (read more about this project in a previous blog post). Bore holes, mostly solar driven ones, provide security for the households and make sure that time can be managed more efficiently than spending hours fetching water. Community gardens are linked up to these boreholes, and small irrigation systems are set in use.
In these gardens they grow cabbage, tomatoes, maize etc. Having the gardens helps those who don’t have the means to produce themselves and works as a way to earn money. It can be challenging to keep the gardens alive, not only because of the climate and more frequent droughts but also there is another major factor to take into consideration; Wild animals.
Our lunch spot for one of the days touring was one of the sewing groups in Dopota. These groups gather a couple of times a week, and with old hand driven Singer sewing machines they make school uniforms, clothes, curtains, linens, and braid baskets. Having these groups empowers the women to create their own job and earn some money on what they can sell in the community.
Once the Sabona Development Center is up and running the sewing clubs will have an outlet to sell what they produce, further helping them have a steadier income.
Helping the local staff
Ole and Jonas have been working with Sabona for the last few years, both home in Norway and on field trips to Zimbabwe. Back home they also work as comedians and have been involved with Sabona’s Stand Up Aid hosted by Latter in Oslo.
During their time in Dopota they worked in the different clinics in the area, helping the local staff with diagnostics and treatment plans for the patients. They met several patients from their previous stay who have shown significant improvements to their health issues.
The health system is challenged
The health system in Zimbabwe is seriously challenged, with a lack of staff, medicine, and equipment throughout the country. These clinics are placed in various locations in the communities and not everyone is able to walk the distance. To make sure that all who needed would get the chance to consult with a physician, we spent one day doing home visits in Dopota.
–Thrilled to see the Fatima Clinic
After spending time in the rural part of Sabona’s operations, we were heading to Bulawayo and the projects running in this part of the country. On the drive down we stopped by the Fatima Clinic to have a look at the maternity ward Admincontrol helped sponsor a few years back.
Having visited this clinic in 2015, I was thrilled to see all that had been accomplished and that the staff now have what they need to provide labouring women with assistance and care.
Proud to sponsor Sabona
Having spent close to two weeks together with Sabona and the team, we saw first-hand how positive the ripple effects this organisation has in the places they are present. Currently there are no other organisations like Sabona working in the same area, and without this valuable help, the situation would be completely different.
We were instantly taken into this big warm family and leaving the team was just as hard as we imagined it would be after all the impressions. Emotions had been running high and low, and some days were really intense. Long days walking and chatting in the bush, late nights by the fire and hours spent on the road going back and forth between the different communities.
The situation was also quite special as we left Zimbabwe just on the verge of the world closing due to Covid-19. The health care system in countries like Zimbabwe will not be able to handle a full-on outbreak, and lockdowns for poor economies is a major challenge for the population. Sabona works hard to help in any way they can, with information, food, or the various homeschooling groups they have created.
We are so proud of the work and initiatives done by this organisation and feel privileged that we can follow them so closely as we do. We look forward to many more years of our fruitful partnership and to see how our family in Zimbabwe prosper.
The article is written by Nina Ferlic. Nina works as a Lead Client Manager & CSR Officer in Admincontrol. She serves as our steering compass when it comes to Corporate Social Responsibility. Nina has personally been working closely with Sabona for years and spent three months in Zimbabwe in 2015 visiting the Sabona Project. In March 2020 she and Managing Director, Møyfrid Øygard went back to Zimbabwe.