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MAKING A CHANGE IN PEOPLE'S LIVES: SAMARITAN WOMAN EMPOWERMENT

Communities are the heart of nations. When families thrive, communities thrive. The Samaritan Woman Empowerment Trust is committed to working with local churches and organisations who believe in building strong communities by working to empower vulnerable young women.
In Zimbabwe there are so many communities in which families are struggling simply to put food on their tables. It is in such situations that SWET sets out to train women cost-effectively, and empowers them to feed their families with less struggle and stress. We may not be able to change the choices people make, but we can definitely increase the choices that they have available to them, by providing the much-needed training.

As the famous quotation by English Poet John Donne says, “No man is an island entire of itself.”
Each of us is connected to one another and each one of us in one way or another knowingly or unknowingly has surely changed another person's life in a positive way. It would be such a lonely life if one lived only for oneself and not for others. Being able to touch others in a positive way will always bring a smile to the one who helps and to the one helped. It is uplifting and invigorating to do good for others, and to be kind and compassionate, especially towards those in great need.
Doing something positive for others, being a blessing to someone, will always put us in that happy and peaceful state which is what we all strive for in our lives – and this is what Samaritan Woman Empowerment Trust, which was founded in December 2015, does. Samaritan Woman Empowerment offers short training courses in the following:

  • Liquid dishwasher making
  • Toilet cleaner making
  • Baking (Scones, Cakes, Queen cakes)
  • Samoosa making
  • Drink-making, all flavours
  • How to write a business proposal
  • How to market products

The Seven Ps of Success
These cost-effective training courses really can help women create a viable livelihood. They do not require a lot of resources, just willingness to undergo the training, so that afterwards, a living can be made. Call SWET now if you are a group of five or more women, to book some training.
The Samaritan Grief Share Support Group
Offering support, friendship and a safe haven for the bereaved.
If you have lost a loved one - a husband, wife, child, sibling, other relative or close friend, you need your hand to be held, you need friendship through this challenging journey. Come and join the Samaritan Grief Share Support Group which meets weekly. Here you can share your grief and address some of the challenges of bereavement:

  • Coping with persistent unpleasant memories
  • Avoiding certain rooms or situations in the house
  • Experiencing hallucinations where the dead spouse is seen or heard
  • Dealing with the spouse's personal effects - clothes, tools, and other belongings
    Unpleasant memories most often relate to the painful images surrounding the death, and the frustration of not being able to do anything to change the outcome.
    Samaritan Grief Share Support Group offers:

Counselling
Sharing stories and talking about it A shoulder to lean on Celebrating success Resources to help and support
To contact SWET: swetinformation@gmail.com, 0772 185 069

Water is Life – taking personal responsibility for groundwater protection

By Alicia Dauth

The Miracle Missions Trust celebrated World Environment Day 2017 with its highly successful monthly Waste Management Networking meeting. These recurring meetings are very informative, bringing together like-minded people in a relaxed forum. At this event, I was invited by the enthusiastic Sharon Hook from Miracle Missions to speak on a topic about which I am very passionate; a topic which I have pursued in my educational and professional capacity.
I decided to focus my presentation on water quality within the domestic environment, and the prevention of localised groundwater pollution. This topic requires much more awareness than it is currently receiving. With private boreholes being drilled throughout the country, taking great responsibility to protect boreholes is crucial. Essentially a borehole is a direct line to the valuable groundwater source we all happily and rapidly exploit. Groundwater monitoring agencies may find it burdening trying to manage the water quality of boreholes around the country. The primary responsible party should be the residents of these private wells who must be aware and act as the defence in preventing contamination from occurring.
Household impacts can directly affect the condition of the surrounding groundwater quality in an area, via leaking septic tanks which leach bacteria, the burning of all sorts of trash, waste products being dumped down sinks, storm water runoff, and pesticide and fertiliser use.
These activities and hazards create the need for awareness for well protection safety. Not only do home-owners need to be aware of the water quality coming into their property for household use; they need also to concern themselves with what is going into their aquifers, as this is just as much of a worry.
The common mindset that groundwater is bound to be 'clean', due to natural geologic filtration, needs to change. Groundwater is indeed 'cleaner' than surface water sources; however, groundwater can also be contaminated with natural or anthropogenic impurities, knowledge of which may not be acquired until it is too late. Water testing is the first step to understanding the water quality from a private well.

 

Water storage and distribution is a secondary concern when it comes to water quality. If the water is potable but is stored in an unsanitary environment then the entire distribution system is comprised. Some key points I like to consider when I conduct source water protection assessments include:
Source - Where does it come from?
Safety - Is it safe to drink?
Environment - What are nearby activities occurring which could negatively impact water quality?
Appearance - What does it look and smell like?
Storage - How is it stored prior to drinking?
Treatment - Has it been treated and how?
Distribution - How does it get from storage to end use?
In conclusion, a home or business owner should become aware of all the dangers associated with borehole use and maintenance (operational or abandoned wells) and the impact their daily activities may have on the groundwater quality. Water storage and management is a topic which shouldn't be ignored. It is time for people to take action and accept accountability for how private wells are being protected against contamination from outside contributors.
Alicia Dauth is an Environmental Consultant with EnviroExperts-Africa; www.enviroexperts-africa.com, 0772 695 657

World Wetlands Day Celebrated at Mukuvisi Woodlands

Rosie Mitchell

Over 700 school children, teachers, college and university students, lecturers, government and government agency officials and VIPs, Mukuvisi Woodlands Councillors and staff, and many other interested parties, gathered at Mukuvisi Woodlands on 10 February to celebrate World Wetlands Day and raise awareness of the critical, urgent need to conserve these from any further damage in our city.  It was a very festive and successful occasion! 

The children went on tours in the Woodlands to see the wetlands contained within it – at this time extremely waterlogged and well demonstrating their description.  Many of the attending children also recited poems, read essays, sang songs and performed plays, about the importance of conserving our precious wetlands, which provide so many useful services to us, free of charge. Their recitations and performances were both delightful and passionate, as well as very informative, demonstrating their in-depth knowledge of the many reasons why wetland conservation is so vitally important.  The best performances were awarded prizes.

Guest of honour was the Minister for Provincial Affairs, Harare, the Honourable Mrs Mirriam Chikukwa, who gave a speech about the extremely urgent need to protect our wetlands citywide, and prevent any further destruction to them, currently being perpetrated by construction, dumping and cultivation. She strongly urged all the relevant Authorities with the power to prevent illegal development on wetlands to ensure that the law in this regard was adhered to, and enforced.

Well-known wetlands expert Professor Chris Magadza also gave a very informative speech, which included some excellent illustrations of their quantifiable financial value to us, the residents of Harare, and how much money they save us all – as long as they are left intact!

What may be defined as a WETLAND?

The description WETLAND encompasses vleis, marshes, estuaries, river catchment areas, flood plains, swamps, dambos and sponges – in fact ANY area which is either permanently or seasonally water-logged.  Most wetlands globally are under threat of destruction through human activity.  

A quick drive through the suburbs of the city of Harare will soon show you what is going on in our many vlei areas.  These open green spaces which are seasonally waterlogged, have been protected from building development, dumping and crop cultivation by law, ever since Harare began to be planned and built, turning gradually into the sprawling city we know today. The value of these green spaces was early recognised.  It is and always has been deemed by town and city planners the world over, absolutely essential to leave some green belts in any city un-developed and in their natural state, for the enjoyment of residents, and to break up what is otherwise a ‘concrete jungle’ devoid of attractive plants and trees. Even more importantly, water supply for the residents is a fundamental when planning any town or city.  The vital role of Harare’s wetlands that can be found dotted about all over our suburbs, was fully understood by our early town planners.  Harare was developed right at the top of the watershed.  Some towns and cities rely on run-off from land higher up, into the rivers, dams and reservoirs that in turn supply their residents. 

Not so Harare, which was built right by and around the rivers and tributaries supplying its water, and at the highest point in its area and its environs.  This fact appears still to be lost on so many people who live in Harare, which is why they do not seem to place value on the vleis throughout our city, and just see real estate – and dollars and cents - when they look at these important green spaces.  Because without them – our water will dry up and run out!  These are our starting point for our water supply.  These vleis - otherwise known as wetlands - store and purify our water for us.  They act as sponges, soaking up vast amounts of water in the rains, then releasing it gradually into the rivers which supply our dams and down the line, the water we drink and use.  They thus also prevent flooding.  In addition, as this water is naturally released from the vlei over time into the water supply, so it is filtered and purified – at no cost at all. 

These huge natural sponges can thus be recognised as a vital link in the chain of complex, intricate, highly efficient natural hydration processes and systems upon which all living species, ourselves included, rely.  These vleis were once upon a time left well alone by would-be developers, both because the law was enforced and because these areas were recognised as highly unsuitable for construction in any case, given their seasonally water-logged nature. Cultivation and dumping on them was also tightly controlled, because the useful, valuable functions they were serving, as attractive open green areas, vital water reservoirs and filters, and in flood mitigation, was recognised, honoured and gratefully acknowledged. 

Not so in more recent decades – and a trend that has alarmingly escalated in the past few years.  Houses and buildings are to be seen going up all over the city in these precious areas, while annual mealie and other crops have gobbled up vast swathes of wetlands citywide.  This illegal cultivation in wetlands has run rampant, doing irreparable ecological damage.  All kinds of horrible rubbish is being dumped in them too, with unsightly, unsanitary and ecologically devastating consequences. 

Huge tarred roads are going in on our many of our wetlands too, put there by would-be developers, breaking them up into segments, damaging them, removing the wonderful rich, dark, absorbent vlei soil, and rendering them useless to absorb water in their natural way since time immemorial.  If you wonder why our roads are so often flooded and awash in heavy rain – this rampant vlei destruction in its many forms, is the reason!  In addition, these wetlands are home to many unusual species of flora and fauna, the continuing existence of all of which are under severe threat from these many human incursions and activities. 

All destructive human interferences with our city’s precious wetlands, critical to the survival of our city and of we who live here, if allowed to continue, will cause these wetlands to dry up completely.  That day is drawing close - we are not talking decades away any more!  And if they do dry up, the implications for Harare as a city, for on-going ecological integrity, and for species survival and biodiversity, are vast.  So if you think those crying out for wetland conservation are just a bunch of ‘greenies’ who only care about wildlife - think again!  In the final analysis – YOU are affected -personally.  You drink water, don’t you?  Can you live without it?  This is not a problem for someone ‘out there’ to fix.  It belongs to all of us! Download More Wetlands Day Celebrations Photos

Turgwe River Lodge – Community Projects a Key Conservation Element

In Issue 165, we featured Turgwe River Lodge.  At the time I visited this lovely place, late last year, located on Humani Estate in Save Valley Conservancy, like the entire country, it was dry as a bone.  The Turgwe team was actually feeding some of the wildlife to prevent starvation arising from the dreadful drought.  Well, just as we in Harare have been absolutely inundated with rather late rain, so too has the area surrounding the lovely Turgwe River Lodge – what a relief!

Quite a number of Zimtrader readers took note of Turgwe’s special pricing for locals and accordingly have already visited, enjoyed, and reported back to us, or it is on the cards for this year!  So if you are planning your half term and school holiday getaways for 2017, now would be the time to grab some bookings, taking advantage of their great offer.  One big bonus is that even if you decide to take your own food rather than opt for full board, you don’t have to do your own cooking if you don’t feel like it!  One of the services Turgwe throws in, is the preparation, cooking and serving of food brought by those who are self-catering.  You won’t be incurring hefty drinks sold at bar prices either.  You simply bring your own alcohol, fizzy drinks and fruit juices along and they will keep them cold for you. 

Turgwe River Lodge, situated on Humani Estate, one of the 22 individual estates which together comprise the Save Valley Conservancy, works hard to sustain good relationships with communities bordering their wildlife area, and assists the people living there in various ways.  Building such ties is a fundamental element in the successful management of any game area.

Those living adjacent to wildlife areas generally have very few resources.  Many are subsistence farmers.  Poaching wildlife to survive is often seen as a solution to hunger, while such people can also frequently view wildlife as a nuisance – which sometimes damages their crops, fences and other infrastructure or kills their livestock to eat.  This conflictual situation with wild animals can be addressed through on-going, year round conservation education, as well as practical assistance in protecting crops and livestock from wildlife where this is possible.  Generally assisting the community to improve their quality of life also helps a great deal, helping to forge positive, lasting relationships.   

Through education, local people, especially when learning about conservation from a very young age, can attain a deeper understanding of environmental issues, and become more committed to  conserving the landscapes in which they live, and the animals whose habitats these landscapes represent. When wildlife and habitats are seen as having real value to a community, the people living there become more invested in sustaining it into the future.

Conservation education and community support programmes at Turgwe River Lodge are seen as vital to the survival of the game area and its wildlife inhabitants.  School children from six surrounding schools are annually brought into the game park for a wonderful day of adventure in the bush.  Guides take them out to explore and game spot and they learn much about wildlife, the environment and the conservation of both.  They enjoy a lovely braai out in the bush, and go home with greater knowledge of environmental issues.  This knowledge is then shared with family and community.  They also receive donated text books, stationery or other educational items, and enjoy themselves very much. 

St John’s College in Harare, via its Interact Club, has a strong on-going relationship with Turgwe River Lodge, and three times annually, groups of students travel down to visit, and to do voluntary work at Humani school.  They play soccer with the Humani children, go on guided bush walks, learn about anti-poaching, plant trees and enjoy all sorts of bush activities both by day and by night.  It is primarily via St John’s Interact Club that the donated books and other items already mentioned, reach local schools near Turgwe.  This is definitely a win-win relationship, of much benefit to the education of all the children involved, whether living locally, or visiting from St John’s.

When Chigwete Primary School children came for their visit last year, the headmaster asked that the school be permitted to thank the estate for what they do for local communities, by collecting litter for a day.  This excellent idea was carried out, and 350 school children came with their teachers, and collected 130 bags of litter!   The estate provided the whole party with a meat and sadza lunch and all were very happy with what was achieved!  There are plans for more such Litter Days this year.  In November, Turgwe River Lodge’s Anne Whittall was the Guest of Honour at a special prize giving ceremony at Chigwete Primary School.  St John’s College donated the prizes and the children who were awarded prizes for reading, read out loud at the ceremony, and demonstrate how far they had come with their reading! 

The photos show local school children who live near Turgwe River Lodge on Humani Estate, receiving donations and prizes, and coming for their bush adventures in the game park.

Sky Running – the crazy idea of running up and down mountains for fun - is relatively new as a sport and recreation, dating back to the early 1990s. Launched in Europe, it caught on very quickly in South Africa, where a notoriously difficult yet very beautiful Sky Run has taken place annually since 1993, with a 65km and 100km option. Participants set out into the mountains from Lady Grey in the Eastern Cape, near the Lesotho border. Sky running involves running, hiking, scrambling and climbing up and down mountains at high altitude. The scenery is by definition spectacular, the degree of difficulty and stamina required, as high as the summits along the routes!
Far and Wide in Nyanga inaugurated our very own version in 2015. The moment it was advertised, I entered.
I love trail running adventures and this marked the second major event to be introduced on the local running calendar, following the September 2015 launch of the Umfurudzi Train Run. Sadly, a car accident and whiplash injury meant I could not run. So I was determined nothing would prevent me from participation in Sky Run Zimbabwe 2016!
The route, using Far and Wide's truly magnificent Turaco Trail, takes runners roughly 53 km through Nyanga's magnificent mountains and gorges and includes ascending Nyangani, our country's highest mountain. Starting at Far and Wide in Juliasdale, the race culminates at Aberfoyle Estate's lovely golf course. I'd heard enough from fellow ultra marathon runners to know that this event was not for the faint-hearted! Some of our toughest, fittest, most experienced runners had been defeated by the 2015 edition, with well over half the entrants not finishing, and several who did, arrived long after dark and totally broken!

I felt reasonably confident as we drove up to Nyanga for the event, mid-December. I do almost all my training in the bush and hills of Chikurubi and Chishawasha. I had run the Umfurudzi Trail Run in September, the newly launched PPC Msasa Marathon in October, and just a week previously, the CIMAS iGo 20 Miler. Earlier in the year I'd done the Two Oceans and Comrades ultra marathons too. Combined with lots of lovely long trail training runs, I felt well enough prepared, though the warnings of seasoned Comrades runners who'd tackled the inaugural event that this was a race defying description in terms of its difficulty, rang in my head as we got closer to Far and Wide!
We were warmly greeted by organiser Chris Cragg at registration. He asked how ready I felt to take on the Sky Run. I told him I'd trained well in the bush, in hills and on trails, and had run The Two Oceans and Comrades twice, including this year, along with several other marathons – and the Umfurudzi, of course. The Comrades is a 90 kay race in the heat, on tar, with lots of hills. Could this really be harder?
“This is twice as tough as the Comrades,” he said. Sobered, I sighed, and resolved simply to give it my very best shot!
Sarah, with the handful of other long-suffering seconders and supporters of the few ultra runners crazy enough to enter this, put in champion efforts of their own, which were much appreciated by the participants! It was a very long day for supporters and runners alike, starting with a 3.30 am alarm, and culminating after dinner and prize-giving. Just to reach the food and drink station, also the final cut-off, at the 23 km point, took the supporters some hours of careful navigation and challenging driving through very tough terrain. And they were a VERY welcome sight for the runners, that is for sure – because that 23 kays, a distance most of us would run in an hour and a half to two and a half hours, took most of us from four and half to over five – a fair indicator of the difficulty! By that stage, the pain had well set into the legs! We were granted 5½ hours to get there, and late arrivals were taken out of the race. Those of us who made it on time were cautioned that this was the 'point of no return'! There are no ways in, for rescuers, and just one more food and drink station! This gave all of us pause for thought. But after my own brief pause, and despite the severe pain in my thighs, declaring 'In for a penny, in for a pound!' off I trotted, before I could think about what it meant, too much!

What made this event so phenomenally tough, were the exact same characteristics that had enticed me to it in the first place. The extremely mountainous terrain provides incredible pristine natural beauty, vistas and views, gorgeous rock formations, waterfalls, forests, wildflowers, and fantastic scenic variety; that same terrain wreaks untold damage and havoc on your legs! In addition you are carrying a fair weight on your back in water, food and compulsory kit for emergencies. The tremendously steep ups and downs on rough, skiddy surfaces throughout the course, taxed our muscles and our minds far beyond normal limits, while the altitude also had its effect, the reduced oxygen concentration to some extent impairing running efficiency.
There's the solitude, too. 42 people entered, 32 started, 14 finished. Over that distance and in that terrain, you are out there for many, many hours all alone. The level of pain is completely off the scale in the last, gruelling, mostly very steeply downhill sections, as one descends to Aberfoyle. At that stage, expletives fly into the air, addressed to no-one in particular! I was thankful, therefore, to have some intermittent company for that final torturous section, and could share in the suffering a little, with a trio of Danish runners currently living in Zimbabwe, plus Roberto Bertoletti, an HAC friend. It never bothers me to run alone, in fact, I prefer training solo. However, after 10, then 11, then 12 hours out there on my own, with ever-increasing pain from the seemingly unending steep, slippery, muddy, rocky downhills, it was good to suffer, on and off, in the company of others who could empathise! I discovered too, that I was not the only participant who had contended with a runny gut all day, into the bargain!
Towards dusk, after the 4.45am race start, I was almost in despair of ever reaching the end. I wondered whether my typical ultra runner's overly-developed, well-practised pain tolerance, plus the mental tricks to distract myself from that pain, could possibly hold out for even one more step. But wait……. suddenly, in the distance, I hear what might be drumming. Dare I hope? The drumming is real. It gets louder. I run and run and run along the little path through the forest. Every step hurts like I could never have imagined! I am desperate to stop. Another truly tortuous steep downhill section – and the forest ends! The rolling lawns of Aberfoyle golf course stretch out ahead! I grit my teeth, realising it's yet another uphill section all the way, probably a kay, to where supporters, drummers and the Finish line await. Though I'd rather crawl, the drumming and cheering makes it possible, only just, to keep running, that little
way more….
Over the Finish line at last, I collapse onto the grass. It has taken me 12 hours, 43 minutes. Sarah shoots video of me gasping, 'Never, Ever Again!' Onlookers laugh out loud. They've heard it all before, from me and others who choose to take on these crazy, fantastic races, that demand your everything, break your body, and almost – not quite – break your will. Chris Cragg is there. “You're right! WAY harder than the Comrades!” I call out, weakly.

However..... did I love the Sky Run? Well of course I did! Serious, serious pain and suffering and upset stomach (from which it turned out all the other finishers had suffered also!) notwithstanding, this was an extraordinary adventure, challenge, experience and privilege. The stunning scenery completely took my breath away from start to finish - a trip to Paradise! To experience such beauty made me so grateful to be healthy and alive and strong and fit enough to take on this amazing feat!

What a country we have the joy to live in, and appreciate! I was in my element, and successfully meeting a challenge this tough is in itself, extraordinarily satisfying. I took up running 12 years ago. For me it has always been about soaking up and enjoying my surroundings, which is why I train primarily in the bush. It washes away my stress, clears my mind, and I am totally absorbed in the moment. I love participating in running events, too, especially huge ones like Two Oceans and Comrades. The atmosphere, camaraderie and public support are wonderful to experience. I don't really enjoy training on tar in the suburbs. I get bored. Training on trails in the bush and hills, takes you through constantly changing scenery. There is wildlife to spot and enjoy and you never run exactly the same route twice. There are the seasonal changes too. It is never dull, repetitive or a chore. It can be tinder dry, with long, gorgeous straw coloured grass that turns golden at sunset, or lush, green, muddy and waterlogged, with marshes, streams and rivers to wade. It takes you back to the simple enjoyments of childhood - going off as a lone, intrepid explorer on an exciting adventure into the unknown. The Sky Run ticked all these boxes and more. It was far and away the toughest event I ever tackled by a long shot! Just three crazy women and 11 crazy men finished it - you have to be a bit crazy to take on this sort of race!

There were many, many sections that simply couldn't be run at all; rocks to climb, engaging all four limbs, streams and rivers to wade, mud to squelch through, stones to trip on, scree to skid down - simply NO flat ground! Either we were scrambling steeply upwards or skidding precipitously downwards.
I couldn't walk downstairs for a week, instead, limping down them backwards, and hobbled stiffly about, generally - new for me, because even my two Comrades to date did not damage me to this extent! The day after Comrades Up Run, I was not stiff at all and after the Down, I struggled a bit with stairs for just a couple of days. The Sky Run inflicts the sort of muscle micro-tears that take months to heal completely. BUT - in the end of course, those little injuries make your legs much stronger – ready for the next one…… because: Will I do it again? YOU BET! for more photos clik here

“Animals are like little angels sent to earth to teach us how to love. They don't get angry or play silly games. They are always there for us.” - Whitney Mandel
Animals are a very important part of this earth; our lives depends on theirs, and theirs on us. It is a cycle that should not be changed by a human being.
Twala Trust Animal Sanctuary is a non–profit organisation estsablished by Sarah Carter and resident veterinarian Dr. Vinay Ramlaul. to care for animals in need in Zimbabwe The trust was established on one simple yet fundamental foundation: Love. Sarah and Vinay possess an extraordinary passion and love for all animals.

Twala is a beautiful haven for rescued animals and birds, where they are nurtured and loved. Where possible, rescued animals are released and returned to their natural habitats in the wild. However - some of the creatures cared for, actually choose to come back, and remain at Twala which becomes their home! One of the amazing things about Twala is how the different species of animals interact with each other, such as Horace the monkey, snuggling with Tiger-Lily the cat or Keiko the rescue dog having a chat with his old friend Harriet the serval. It's extraordinary watching all these very different animals getting along with one another, and living in harmony.

At Twala there are several groups of rescued lions, serval cats, African hedgehogs, antelope, primates, reptiles, raptors and many more. There is also a farmyard full of rescued birds and farm animals as well as horses and donkeys.
Twala's community education programme brings children from rural Zimbabwe to Twala at no charge to educate the community on the importance of conservation, and loving and having empathy and compassion for animals of every kind. School children and organisations also have the chance to visit Twala and learn about our wildlife heritage as well as about animal welfare.

The Twala Trust runs an interactive volunteer programme, for oversea veterinary students and individuals who wish to experience living and working in an animal sanctuary. Twala also offers a family volunteer programme where up to 6 family members can volunteer together and share the volunteer house. Volunteers are given the chance to assist with all aspects of work at Twala such as feeding animals, cleaning and enriching habitats, rehabilitation of animals and release back into the wild, going on rescues, helping with veterinary procedures and helping with the busy, free community vet service and feeding programme for rural dogs in the area surrounding the Sanctuary.
Twala provides all the animals with a steady, calm and loving environment; a home where all animals feel welcomed, loved and respected, and experience deep compassion. It’s spectacular!

"Until one has loved an animal, a part of one's soul remains unawakened." — Anatole France

To visit Twala, which must be pre-booked, contact 0733 436 239, sarah@twalatrust.co.zw. This makes a lovely
day out for you and your family; it’s only half an hour’s drive from Kamfinsa shops! To follow all
the joy there day by day and see lovely pictures, go to The Twala Animal Sanctuary page on Facebook.

“Kindness can transform someone's dark moment with a blaze of light. You'll never know how much your caring matters. Make a difference for another today.”
One is never too young to make a difference in the community and these teens have taken the task of doing something to better the world we live in. It takes hard work, courage and commitment to do what they do and it’s truly extraordinary!
'Close to Home' is a Christian-based community-serving youth group which simply started between the interaction of two people, Hong Ming Tommee who has an unfaltering passion for service and Daniel Antipas who has a desire to make a change for the better. 'Close to Home' (CtH) is now an outreach to the broken and
a Home for all.
The official launch of CtH took place on 30th of August 2015 followed by the adoption of Emerald Hill Children's home and Jairos Jiri. CtH has visited various other orphanages too. When interviewed, they describe the visits as “worthy experiences for all who came along, not to mention the fun games with different children but also the appreciation of their welcomes and listening to their beautiful dreams and aspirations.”
CtH is also one of the Zimbabwean youth groups which was part of the #thisischristmas project which was aimed at delivering gifts to various orphanages
in the city of Harare. CtH is a remarkable youth group that continues to grow and flourish, helping our community whenever they can.

Close to Home Close to Home Close to Home Close to Home Close to Home

Another inspirational group of teens is Rudimbwa. Rudimbwa is the brainchild of Chiedza Mashonganyika and Nakisa Dzimwasha. It is an aspiring Trust whose main aim is to make a difference in the lives of underprivileged children. It is currently based in Zimbabwe with the hope to expand in the future. Rudimbwa has visited several homes such as, Emerald Hill Children's Home, Harare Children's Home and Rose of Sharon Welfare Organisation.
In August Rudimbwa visited Emerald Hill Children's Home and continued their mission to spread hope, peace and love to the Zimbabwean community. They could create new bonds with the children. Jokes and stories were shared over a game of cards while some innovative and heroic skills were displayed during the volleyball game. The children showed their artistic talents with some beautiful drawings, while others enjoyed the wonderful game of football. They say that “if you want to bring a group of people closer together, just give them a football and the rest will take care of itself!”
Rudimbwa and CtH were each started by two teenagers who wanted to make a difference and by doing so they have encouraged other teens to join their movement - thus the youth groups grow bigger and bigger each day! These two groups are clear examples of how one is never too young (or old) to make a difference; each of us have the power to help, inspire and motivate. Kamand Kojouri once said, “Why do you feel so powerless? Go spend an hour with ants. Each of those black specks you see is a life. One whole life that you can save, take, or affect in some way. You have the power to make so many lives better. It is within you. Don't lose sight of that.”

Whilst most wildlife enthusiasts have heard of the Save Valley Conservancy, surprisingly few of my acquaintance have actually visited this beautiful area. I confess my first visit was not so long ago, either! True, it is a long drive from Harare. However, it is also a scenic one, and for at least the last hour or so of your trip, you will be inside the Conservancy. Actually - make that two hours! Because you really don't want to rush this section! On my drive in, once past the Conservancy boom, I was very soon spotting wildlife – giraffe, elephant, kudu, zebra, impala and more. The landscape is surprisingly varied, too, ranging from areas of granite kopjes and domes, to thick, tall mopani forest, to dry scrub and savanna. Once well inside the Conservancy, and especially once within Humani Estate, my destination, baobab and ilala palm abound and the scenery really is gorgeous as well as diversely varied.
On my way home again, I made a point of taking this part of my journey at a very leisurely pace so I could really enjoy both the scenery and the animals. I counted no less than 32 giraffe on the return trip - and could not resist stopping to photograph most of them! In addition, as I deliberately took this section really slowly, I was lucky enough to spot a very small antelope in the road, which disappeared into the bush far up ahead. I managed to find it, and confirmed my suspicion that this was a Sharpe’s grysbok, a very shy, nocturnal animal not often seen. One really has to be lucky to find this elusive little creature so this was just one more added bonus to an excellent trip!

I also spotted two warthog lying in a streambed in the mopani forest, taking a shady siesta, and took a short stroll to photograph them (pic on previous page). Turgwe River Lodge inside Humani Estate, one of the 22 estates which together form the Save Valley Conservancy, is superbly situated with magnificent vistas in both directions, over the Turgwe River. From the Lodge's dining and sitting area, and from your room, you can sit quietly for hours, gaze out over this marvellous view of wild Africa, and spot animals as they come down to drink. I was there for just two days but in that time saw nyala, impala, waterbuck, kudu, bushbuck, eland, and of course, large troupes of baboons, whose antics never fail to entertain me, down in the river bed cautiously drinking, then moving on. There were crocs down there too, and there are plenty of other predators in the area, so their caution was well placed! If I'd sat still for longer, no doubt I'd have seen plenty more – but with this being a rather flying visit, there was not enough time just to chill out, enjoy this spectacular view and scan the river and the sand for game. Next time!
I reckon a week or more would be best to enjoy a stay at Turgwe thoroughly, and partake of all activities, landscapes and wildlife on offer here. It's most definitely affordable; one of the best deals around in Zimbabwe right now for people who love game viewing and bird spotting. Better still, 'self-catering' at Turgwe means – bring your ingredients and their team will do all the cooking and washing-up for you! So: Long-suffering wives and mothers to whom holiday catering seems most often to fall, really do get a full-on holiday from everything, cooking included, here - and affordably too.

There's great flexibility and variety in terms of what you can spend your time doing at Turgwe once you have arrived and settled. You can self-game-drive and walk, as long as you are accompanied, for your own safety, by one of the Lodge's own armed trackers, for a small charge of $15 per day for your group. Or, you can hire one of their knowledgeable professional guides at $100 per half day, a fee which when split amongst a party is very modest - and be driven in a Lodge vehicle, and guided, or go tracking rhino, lion or wild dog – or any other species you'd like to track in the hopes of seeing it, for that matter. Plan your trip in advance and be sure to book your guide and/or tracker. Night game drives are another popular option, and fishing is also offered at $10 per day per head. Tsikirai Rowayi, the friendly tracker on duty during my visit, was there to meet and escort me over the river to camp in the early afternoon. By 4pm, we were off on our evening game drive. First wildlife spotted, was a sizable leopard tortoise; not often seen in the wild, thus a rare treat! Later, imagine my delight, to spot three retreating black rhino at dusk during this drive – another very rare sight indeed, and a privilege! We were even able to alight from our vehicle and walk quite close to this family group of mum, dad and youngster. There was no breeze to carry our scent to these magnificent beasts and we got remarkably near to them – though by then I was somewhat wary, having once been charged by a black rhino while on a game walk, about 20 years ago in the Matusadona. Though I was not harmed, it was a rather narrow escape and a far too 'up-close-and-personal' lesson in just how huge these animals are, and just how fast they can run, when they feel under threat from humans!

I cannot offer photographic evidence of this rhino sighting at Turgwe, as the light had faded fast - and sometimes, in any case, one just wants to enjoy and soak up a wildlife experience that is this special. Along with a whole host of other species spotted during our evening drive – eland, zebra, kudu, impala, wildebeest, giraffe, duiker, dwarf mongoose, plus the elephant I'd seen on my way in, earlier in the day – this counted as a somewhat astonishing game-spotting experience in an incredibly short period of time. All these species were seen and enjoyed, between 1 and 7pm before I'd even spent a night at Turgwe!
The infrastructure at Turgwe River Lodge is designed to allow visitors to feel as close to nature as possible, whilst in complete comfort and with a sense of safety. The spacious rooms are completely open at front and side so that the guest can enjoy the fabulous view over the river and watch for game and birds from this vantage point. En suite shower, basin and loo are at the back and mozzie nets are provided, as are ceiling and standing fans, this being the lowveld, and extremely hot for much of the year. Turgwe also has a cottage which sleeps 5, and a permanent tented camp as well. The tents also have a fan, plus en suite shower and loo.
So if you have a large party there is plenty of space for all, and all very affordable! The large, airy communal dining and sitting room, also with fantastic views, and shade from a massive baobab, plus swimming pool, bar and fire pit for those wonderful evening braais after a day of game viewing, complete the picture. The staff are delightful and all have worked there for many years. Turgwe also offers a beautiful campsite out in the game park by the river. This has basic facilities – a water tank, showers, one flushing loo and additional long-drops.

Of course, I hoped we might also see them, though perhaps I was by now getting greedy! The icing on my Turgwe visit cake, though, along with the black rhino seen the previous evening, soon came! Towards the end of our night drive while looking for the elusive lion we'd heard, a stunning male leopard glided elegantly over the road ahead. He very obligingly lay down in clear, full sight by our spotlight, about 150 metres from the vehicle! There he remained, nonchalantly watching us watching him, for a long time, allowing me both to enjoy studying his every detail with my powerful binoculars, and even, to get a few full zoom photos! In fact he only moved off when we restarted the vehicle, whose battery might otherwise have run dry, due to extended spotlight use with engine off. This was a truly wonderful sighting of which I enjoyed every second!
After this very exciting evening, I only got to bed at midnight, so decided to skip an early morning walk, instead, using my time to chat to the staff, take photos of all accommodations in the camp, and hear about the Lodge's community assistance which is part and parcel of what happens here. As any good conservationist knows, the buy-in of the local people is vital to the success of any managed game area, not to mention that such people often have very limited resources and hence, will often turn to poaching wildlife for survival.

In addition, they can often be in conflict with the wildlife, which, especially in drought conditions, can break fences and raid crops. Conservation education is thus vitally important for people living close to wildlife areas. A fuller understanding of all the issues goes a long way towards ensuring some commitment by local people, in turn, helping to conserve both the landscapes and the animals. Turgwe River Lodge has an excellent programme in its efforts to achieve these important goals and maintain good relationships with local people. Parties of school children from six surrounding schools are brought in using estate transport for a day's adventure trip each year. They are taken out into the park by Turgwe guides and learn much about wildlife and conservation. They receive donated text books and thoroughly enjoy their visits. They love their picnic and braai lunch out in the bush, and go away with greater knowledge of wildlife and conservation, which in turn they share with parents and community.

In addition, Turgwe has a strong relationship with the Interact Club at St John's College in Harare. Three times a year, groups of boys come down for a visit. They go to work at the nearby Humani school and enjoy soccer matches with the children there. They plant trees, go on bush walks, learn about conservation and anti-poaching and enjoy lots of exciting activities, day and night. They donate hundreds of text books and other items to local schools in the area.
Turgwe also offers an overseas volunteer programme. This is a growing global trend. People in the richer countries of the world travel to developing countries and do useful voluntary work. They pay for this privilege, receiving just their food and accommodation free. Working in conservation and wildlife is a very popular pursuit for such people. Turgwe welcomes guests and volunteers from all over the world. Most recently, a party of no less than 40 students in their late teens, with 5 teachers came to Turgwe from Singapore, under the auspices of the organisation Africa and You, whose two representatives also came with them. The party stayed in the campsite by the river and the Lodge catered for them. They enjoyed all the activities on offer at Turgwe and the trip was a great success, with Africa and You stating their intention to bring more young people here next year, as it fitted their requirements perfectly.

The resident staff at Turgwe comprise waitresses who assist in the kitchen, serve food, and look after the rooms, trackers, and cook Leadmore Dengu, who has worked here for 10 years. Tsikirayi Rowayi, the tracker who kept me well entertained with activities, was born and grew up at Humani, his father, a tracker before him, and has worked here since 2000. Lucia Matonzi, the waitress on duty for my visit, has worked on the estate since 1994, as did her parents before her. She has been employed at the Lodge since 2004. From 2013 to 2015, she worked at Miri Miri Lodge in Mozambique. Kenneth Marime, tracker and handyman who was spotter during our night game drive, has worked here since 1982 – his whole adult life. The excellent professional guide Lyman Chitamela, whom I met on my last visit, is called in when pre-booked by guests. So – if you are keen to see lion, elephant, leopard, buffalo, rhino, wild dog and a vast number of other exciting animals and birds, enjoy some beautiful, varied landscapes, and are looking for an inexpensive option, Turgwe River Lodge comes highly recommended; especially if you like to be cooked for while on a bush holiday, without having to spend heaps of money!
Animals species I saw between 1pm Wednesday when I entered the Save Valley Conservancy and 2pm Friday when I left it – a mere 49 hours – were; elephant, buffalo, black rhino, leopard, giraffe, zebra, wildebeest, eland, kudu, nyala, waterbuck, impala (truly prolific!), bushbuck, duiker, warthog, dwarf mongoose, slender mongoose, civet, genet, black backed jackal, ground squirrel, vervet monkey, baboon (also prolific and great fun to watch from the lodge), hippo, crocodile, Sharpe’s grysbok and leopard tortoise. Lion were heard rather than seen, wild dog made themselves scarce on this occasion but in this area are abundant and frequently seen, especially if you stay a bit longer than I did and go tracking. Allow at least seven and a half hours for the drive from Harare. There is a lot of livestock, plus plenty of people and school children on the road when driving through the Gutu, Nyika and Bikita areas, so drive carefully and be cautious. Then comes the opportunity to enjoy some game viewing once inside the Conservancy, and take your time over it, as you head for Turgwe; you’ll not be disappointed! It is a lovely drive all told, with only one toll gate, and featuring, as one gets into the Masvingo area, plenty of the massive granite whaleback mountains, outcrops and kopjes, that are so quint-essentially Zimbabwean. VIEW PHOTOS HERE

2016 Eco Schools Enviro Challenge and Awards

Several hundred school children, students, teachers, VIPs and others descended on Mukuvisi Woodlands on 21 October for the annual Eco Schools Challenge and Awards event, which ran 9am to 3pm.  Well organised and well attended, the theme was ‘My Environment, My Future, My Responsibility’, encompassing all natural resources and the environmental projects being implemented by Eco Schools Member Clubs, whose members seek to improve people’s lives, whilst ensuring national environmental sustainability, and caring for the Earth.  Guest of Honour was the Honourable Doctor Lazarus Dokora, Minister of Primary and Secondary Education. 

The Eco Schools Enviro Challenge was again sponsored by the Delegation of the European Union to Zimbabwe and the French Embassy in Zimbabwe generously sponsored various prizes, while UNICEF, Total Zimbabwe and Castrol also provided kind assistance.  VIP representatives from the Embassy of France, the European Union Delegation to Zimbabwe, UNICEF and Total Zimbabwe attended the event and several gave speeches.  The event included an exhibition of competition entries and stands hosted by organisations relevant to conservation, held outdoors near the Mukuvisi Woodlands Education Centre. Outside organisations exhibited under the following broad themes: Trees and herbs, Wildlife, Water, Waste and Climate Change.

         

Schools countrywide participate in various categories in the Enviro Challenge competition which is held annually as a tool for evaluating environmental stewardship and awareness among primary and secondary schools involved in the Eco-Schools Programme in Zimbabwe, run by the Mukuvisi Woodlands Environmental Education Centre in collaboration with the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education. Themes covered by the competition include Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation, Waste Management, Water, Soil and Energy Use, Nature and Biodiversity, and Global and Local Issues.

This year’s event was held against the backdrop of the COP 21 Paris agreement, and as a follow up to the Walk-to-Paris Zimbabwe Cop 21 campaign launched last year by the French Embassy in Harare and the EU in collaboration with UNICEF and the Mukuvisi Woodlands Eco-Schools Programme. The 2016 Enviro-Challenge also reflected on the Clean Energy Workshops for School Clubs Leaders which were supported by UNICEF as part of the Eco-Schools capacity-building projects conducted in three provinces of Zimbabwe. The event gave participating schools the opportunity to showcase their talent and their contribution to education for sustainable development in our country through conservation and protection of the environment.

In the Art Category, Primary Schools entered a drawing competition. Through art, the children demonstrated their understanding of: Climate Change, Wetland Life, Forest Life, Waste Management and Threats to Birds of Prey. The Secondary Schools competed in Model Design, to illustrate for exhibit: Climate Change, a CAMPFIRE Village, Land Degradation, Recycling, Renewable and Non-Renewable Energy.

Both Primary and Secondary Schools competed in the other Categories, which were Practical Survival Skills and Treasure Hunt in the Woodlands, Song and Dance plus Drama and Poetry about environmental issues, and the Quiz.

Lunch was provided for participants through the generosity of the sponsors.  Afterwards, the VIPS toured the exhibition, and the speeches, prize-giving and performances by some of the prize winners in the song and dance and poetry and drama categories followed.

This was a festive, uplifting event which was thoroughly enjoyed by everyone who attended.  The Eco Schools Programme run by Mukuvisi Woodlands is playing a pivotal role in our country’s important environmental education.  As more and more children come right up through our school system from the age of five upwards to when they leave school, so efforts like this programme and the school curricula which focus on environmental issues, are helping to create a future in which all people in Zimbabwe have a fuller understanding of the burning issues of our day which constantly threaten our natural resources.

Children and young people engaging in the Eco Schools Programme clearly demonstrate a deep respect for their natural environment and a good grasp of how to use their natural resources in a more sustainable manner.  The knowledge and skills they acquire through this Programme spread through them and their enthusiasm to their wider communities.  They help shape a brighter future, with less mismanagement and degradation of the environment, less waste and better waste management, better conservation and care of wetlands, forests, wildlife and the landscape in general, and an awareness that so much of what we do has an adverse effect on the environment and contributes to climate change - now an observable, tangible reality here and all over the globe. 

There is no more powerful tool in the constant fight to save the world’s natural environment and wildlife of every kind from continued destruction and extinction, than continuous education about all the issues, from the youngest age possible.  Mukuvisi Woodland’s Eco School Programme is a flagship for such education, which is combined with fun, enjoyment and hands-on experience every step of the way, cementing all that is learned in the most memorable way, which the children then carry with them for life.
For more click HERE

Umfurudzi Trail Run

Inaugurated last year through the efforts of ultra runner Ben Burr, this year’s Umfurudzi Trail Run was expanded to include a 50km ultra marathon.  In addition, instead of offering the 25km route as both an individual and relay race, this distance remained, but as an individual challenge, along with a 7.5km and 12.5km trail run.  Ben’s goal is to establish trail running as a better-known genre in Zimbabwe.  It is all the rage in South Africa and globally, but in its infancy here. I for one am delighted.  This is my favourite type of running and I do most of my training on trail in any case!  Our country boasts so many scenic areas and so much wildlife that the potential for superb trail running events is vast.  The next on the calendar is the 53km Sky Run in Nyanga, organised by Far and Wide, also in its second year and using their Turaco Trail which includes running along the top of Mount Inyangani!  

As last year, the primary sponsor of the Umfurudzi event was Unifreight, which went into a joint venture with National Parks here in 2010.  Since then an extremely well-equipped rest camp has been built and the game park well re-stocked, following the tragic loss of vast numbers of animals to poaching.  Fences have been refurbished and visitor numbers have much increased.  The lovely Rest Camp boasts a swimming pool, bar and restaurant.  This beautiful game park encompasses 760 square kilometres of pristine bush in undulating landscape which includes mountainous terrain.  In addition to the National Parks Rest Camp, Hippo Pools Camp about 12 kilometres away built by conservationist Iain Jarvis 34 years ago continues to this day, with his network of marked hiking trails which combined, incorporate a distance of almost 300km, through some truly gorgeous landscapes.  Less than 3 hours’ drive from Harare, Umfurudzi is well worth a visit, whether for a day, a weekend or much longer.

Last year’s event drew a sizeable crowd of runners keen to experience the adventure of the trail, many of them trying out this type of running for the first time.  As regularly happens in trail races worldwide, a fair number of those tackling the 25km race went astray, adding extra mileage.  It is easy to miss a trail marker when one is very hot and tired, and the temperature, both last year and this, was extreme – reaching 39°C.  Accordingly the 25km route was very well marked this year!  The four events attracted an even bigger crowd, including most who were at last year’s event, and plenty more besides!  It was a great excuse for a weekend away in a beautiful game park.

A small group of runners decided to tackle the 50km ultra marathon, a very challenging distance on road, even more so on trail.  Whilst trail running is a bit gentler on joints and muscles in terms of impact, it is much more strenuous and demanding in terms of strength and endurance.  In addition this race has the added challenge of extremely high temperature which inevitably makes a race harder.  Some of us got together for some training runs prior to the event and had a lot of fun, practising using the compulsory GPS to navigate, and getting some experience of running off road and carrying hydration packs.  I enjoyed sharing my regular trails with this group – most of whom train on tar and had not known such scenic places were so close to home! 

At the race briefing we were assured the route was very well-marked and the GPS merely a precaution, with all junctions clearly marked by several red ribbons.  Most of us took this literally and did not even turn our devices on at race start. This proved to be a tactical blunder!  All but two runners – the fastest, who left the rest of us for dust – missed the somewhat obscure single marker for probably the most important junction in the 50 kay race – a sharp right turn into the bush!  This left 90% of the field erroneously following the 25km route with its extremely prominently marked sharp left turn about 3 km from there!  Convinced this was the correct route, several of us added over 7km to our race at this early point in the proceedings, and by race end, some had increased that to almost 13km!  Those who self-corrected earlier added 3.  No matter – because really, this race was more about the experience than about winning!  Several of us who added a lot of extra distance eventually bailed, succumbing to heat exhaustion.  We had a fine time, most of the time, nonetheless, enjoying the camaraderie for which this sport is well known!  And the moral if this story is – we will rely 100% on our GPS track next year - forget the markers! 

We made a lovely Umfurudzi weekend of it again, staying in one of the superb chalets in the rest camp, and our niece Carly, aged 11, ran the 12.5km route for a second year - what an achievement, especially in such extreme heat.  Sarah Nott and Rob Swinton enjoyed the 7.5km run, then pitched in to record the times and prepare the results.  Congratulations are due to all runners for tackling these races in extreme heat and to Ben and the rest of the crew for organising this super event.

Over 1000 people gathered at lovely Haka Game Park in Harare on 18 September to fly Kites for Peace and celebrate the United Nations International Day of Peace.

The large and diverse crowd of people from across the spectrum of backgrounds and ages came out with their children, picnic baskets and kites to unite for Peace; peace within themselves, within our community and across the globe. They celebrated our beautiful country, its diversity, its beautiful environment and each other, by unifying to fly their kites simultaneously with Peace in mind.

Haka Game Park was the perfect Zimbabwean backdrop for the bright kites that filled the sky above it. Wildlife wandered peacefully close by, as children squealed with delight and adults rediscovered their youth.  People's hearts soared as their kites did the same!

25 charities participated in this year's event. Representatives from different causes fund-raised and raised awareness of their respective causes. Selling items such as kites, drinks and ice lollies, each contributed to the day with their lively presence and we all learnt so much about the good that is being done in our communities.

Superb musicians shared their talents and uplifted the crowd and everyone did their bit to share the message of Peace. This was a beautiful, perfect day, which inspired us all to appreciate the best of what our country has to offer: Magical landscapes and peace-loving people.

All who attended of every age embraced the spirit of the day with peace, love and compassion, creating a beautiful atmosphere.

‘He who kisses the joy as it flies, lives in eternity's sunrise,’ said Joshua Warren, who came to enjoy the event. ‘On Sunday I felt that the experience was a physical manifestation of my own dreams too. To rise above the earth with all its lines of separation. There are NO borders in the air!  I so needed to fly kites today. As I arrived at Cleveland Dam on the outskirts of Harare and saw the sky teeming with them, my inner child LEAPT out and could barely wait to be on the flying field!  To see Zimbabweans of all races, creeds and age-groups mingling in support of community projects and conservation was heart-warming.  To run amok on a field in a nature and wildlife park, surrounded by children and families engaging in the sheer thrill of flying kites, is tonic for the soul. I loved it!  I really, really LOVED IT!  Thank you to everybody involved in ‘Kites for Peace Zimbabwe.  Uplifting, magical, fun, inspirational and encouraging.’

There is always entertainment laid on for children, and food and drink on sale, and lots of people bring their braais and make a lovely sunny day's outing of it. The track at Donnybrook has been totally resurfaced this year and looks amazing, and the unspoilt natural surrounds at this raceway are really beautiful, with many large shady indigenous trees and at this time of year, lovely golden grass. Enjoy Zimtrader's photos of the most recent edition!

goofa and  Uncle Fat Cat

The grand finale in the Telecel Drag Racing Series takes place Sunday 2 October at Donnybrook. Gates open at 10.30am and the event runs through to 5pm. It's bound to be exciting, and remember that this sport is open to the public to enter, too. There are 13 Classes open to all makes and models of cars and motor cycles, from standard road vehicles to highly modified performance vehicles. Prizes and trophies are awarded to the Top Three in each Class, and driver and rider registration closes at 2.30pm. Admission $5, children under 12 free.

The 'Own Your Rubbish' Project is the ingenious brainchild of photographer and creative director Laurie Macpherson. Working with four community groups, namely The Zee-Bag Project, Shingirirai Trust, Happy Organisation and Hope Group, plus 12 individual local artists, all of whom work with rubbish and found objects, Laurie has set out to make all of us far more aware of all the rubbish we create and then discard. Her project is successfully demonstrating to a wide audience, just how we can put much of our rubbish to much better use.
'Own Your Rubbish' is helping to promote artists and craftspeople who work with this medium, by showcasing their creations, uplifting and increasing their skills, and providing training on new product lines, more visibility and greater economic security. The project is also educating the public about our personal responsibility for all the rubbish we generate, and helping to improve attitudes and behaviour around this important local and global environmental issue.
The exhibition has been and is going up at several venues. Each time it moves, while the core of the show remains the same, new pieces go on display and for sale. Opportunities are offered to additional exhibitors, whether artists, environmental groups or others who wish to feature something they do or have created around the issue of rubbish. They demonstrate how livelihoods can be made from rubbish or highlight relevant environmental and ecological issues which urgently need to be voiced and addressed. The project has received funding from the European Union through the Culture Fund of Zimbabwe and highlights how citizens can and do take responsibility for their own consumerism and hence, their rubbish.
'Own Your Rubbish'
The Own Your Rubbish Roving Exhibition comprises several key components; a Symbolic Installation Walkway representing and made from the primary categories of rubbish - plastic, glass, tin, aluminium and paper; a Photo Exhibition challenging our personal involvement with the waste we create; an Artist's Chair Zone, showing how waste can be used to make functional up-cycled art; a Posters and Infographics section with 'Photograph Me' icons which invite the public to photograph them to provide them with instant take-home information about rubbish and other global environmental issues; A TV Zone with TV showing environmental clips, viewed from upcycled 'viewing pods' with recycled seats; and a range of works of art by prominent local artists and crafts made by the community groups, all using rubbish. Laurie hopes the exhibition will open the public's eye to how humanity is destroying the planet in myriad ways, both locally and globally, as they move through each of its zones. These zones show how our lives are affected by our consumerism and what we do with our rubbish; how everyone contributes daily to garbage levels; the solutions for managing rubbish that exist via its use in arts and crafts; that sustainable livelihoods can be carved from this constant source of materials tossed aside as unwanted; and what we can all do to lessen our polluting impact on the planet.
'Own Your Rubbish'
In the pipeline is assisting in the setting up of web and social media presences for involved community groups and artists, photographing their crafts and art professionally to enhance self-sustainability in marketing themselves to a wider audience within Zimbabwe and beyond. The Own Your Rubbish Project will also soon have its own website and Facebook page with links to relevant environmental organisations such as Environment Africa, the Environmental Management Agency, Conservation Society of Monavale and so forth, plus to community groups, artists and crafters working with rubbish, and topical information regarding the environment.
So far the exhibition, which has been designed for easy mobility and transfer between different venues, has been shown at the National Gallery and the Tsoko Gallery. Next stops are the Harare Agricultural Show, 24 to 29 August and the Shoko Festival, 23 to 25 September.
'Own Your Rubbish'

Spurwing Island The 'Own Your Rubbish' Project is the ingenious brainchild of photographer and creative director Laurie Macpherson

Comrades Marathon Feature

I ran my first Comrades Marathon last year. After crossing the Finish line following a gruelling average 11 to 12 hours pounding the tarmac, through terrain that is anything but flat, runners are often heard to utter in agonised tone, 'Never again!' Some stick to that. They continue running, but take on less extreme distances. For others, the sentiment lasts a few minutes to a few hours, or possibly till the following morning. Whichever it is, their minds rapidly change. The plan to repeat the experience is soon announced to fellow runners, friends and family. Runners who witness this swift mind-changing are never very surprised. Family and friends, more often than not, roll their eyes, shake their heads in disbelief at such madness, and groan out loud!
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Memories of pain fade fast, it seems. What remain are the other memories – and as a life experience, running the Comrades and finishing it is very hard to beat - if you are the kind of person who actively seeks out seemingly insurmountable challenges to test yourself beyond your normal limits, and discover if you can triumph over self-doubt and surpass them. And that's not everyone! There's a certain amount of masochism involved in endurance sports! Why would anyone willingly choose the undeniable pain and suffering of taking on the Comrades challenge? Why repeat it, year after year? Evidently, the type of person who considers such an undertaking is willing to push past the physical pain for the greater rewards they experience – which may not be obvious to the (clearly more sane and sensible) observer! Call it madness, call it masochism, but there must surely be some reason why so many people come back to the Comrades, year after year after year!
I finished my first Comrades with 7 minutes to spare before the 12 hour cut-off. It was tight, thus nerve-wracking towards the end - so I was thrilled beyond description to make it in the allotted time – putting me in the good company of the annual average 60% of the entire field of entrants who finish this daunting race in its last hour. We are the plodders, the novices, and the ordinary, average recreational runners, across all adult age groups from our 20s to our 70s, who for thousands of individual reasons, at some stage, for some reason, in some mad moment, or by some spark of sudden inspiration, stop looking at the Comrades as a goal beyond our capability. This year over a third of the field (7000 runners) were novices – a Comrades record. Comrades is increasingly famous, more and more sought after as the pinnacle of achievement towards which runners across the globe aspire. And a fair number of entrants go from literally zero running, to successfully running the Comrades, in the space of just one year. This actually can be done, with the right training, necessary discipline and focus. I started running in 2004 and entering races in 2008 in my late 40s. I loved the whole experience: The training and preparation, excitement of the Start, collective energy and camaraderie amongst runners, support along the route, the satisfaction and joy of successfully finishing a race. For 6 years, as I built up my experience of half marathons (21km), 21 to 25 km Trail Runs, 'Twenty Miler' (32km) road races and ultimately, Marathons (42km), my answer to 'When will you run the Comrades?' remained 'Never. It's just too far, too hard, and would take too much time to train for'. When I discovered Comrades 2015 would be the 90th Anniversary of this iconic 90km race, however, I paused. I went to the website. I cruised around. I opened my mind. Curious as to whether the training load would be entirely impractical as I'd always assumed, I downloaded the novice Finisher's (sub 12 hours) and Bronze (sub 11 hours) Training Programmes prepared by official Comrades coach Lindsey Parry. Studying these, I was pleasantly surprised! Time-based rather than mileage-based programmes, the requisite running hours were not significantly more than my current, much enjoyed, load. I've never found training a chore. I run mostly in the bush. It's an altogether pleasurable experience. The scenery is great, the landscapes constantly changing. It's never dull or repetitive. The runners I'd previously chatted to about Comrades had often described gruelling amounts of necessary mileage, and not 'having a life' beyond working and training! But most were fast runners who finish in 9 hours or less. If you want a Silver medal (sub 7½ hours), or a Bill Rowan medal (sub 9, named after the first Comrades winner in 1921) you really must put in huge mileage and have almost no life, if you are working, not retired or a professional runner. If you are an ordinary runner as I am, and would be thrilled simply to finish by 12 hour cut-off, or with a sub 11 hour Bronze, it appeared not to be so, after all…
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I began to mull it over. It didn't take long. Suddenly, it no longer seemed mad or beyond my ability. What was the worst that could happen? Not finishing in 12 hours. Sure, that would be disappointing, but not the end of the world. At least I would have tried! My stomach fluttering with excitement, I registered online. The deed done, I was committed! In the same year, in April and May, I would take on my first two ultra marathons – the famous Two Oceans in Cape Town (56km, and launched 47 years ago as a training run for Comrades) and the Comrades 'Up Run' (90km from Durban to Pietermaritzburg). Did I know I could finish either race? I did not. I followed the online training programme that originally persuaded me this was something I could try. Having seen that the preparation could indeed be squeezed into an already super-full, hectic lifestyle (challenging, not impossible), I stepped into the unknown world of ultra-running, embracing easily accessible, free information resources to complement the programme; the short, frequent, super-useful 'Ask Coach Parry' and 'Old Mutual Live' podcasts broadcast out of South Africa via the web; 'Runners Connect' podcasts via the USA, with an enchanting young British host, Tina Muir, now resident in Kentucky, a modest, self-effacing elite runner. I entered the requisite local races to get my qualifying marathon time and build more long distance experience. I upped my training hours by the necessary amount, and did not find it too taxing. I enjoyed it all – the training, the racing and the podcasts through which I learned a great deal about running and training. I enjoyed the build up to the famous races and the friendships formed through the two running clubs to which I belong (Run/Walk for Life and Harare Athletics Club HAC).
I could never have imagined how hard the Comrades was. No one can. You have to do it, to know what determination is involved and how much pain you have to tolerate; yet I was one of those who announced my decision to 'do it again next year' within 20 minutes of finishing Comrades 2015. There is something very special indeed about this race. There is its incredibly long history; its birth in 1921 as a deliberately gruelling race in memory of those who fell in the First World War, that their suffering and sacrifice might never be forgotten; its evolution into the phenomenal event it is today, with around 20 000 entrants annually from all corners of the earth; its reputation as a race with the most amazing level of spectator support and a true sense of bonding and fellowship amongst the runners; there is the moving, emotional start, as excitement, anticipation and not a little fear build up to the climactic starter's canon, with its historical sequence of SA national anthem, Ndebele song Shosholoza ('go forward'!), the stirring Chariots of Fire film theme tune, the iconic recording of Max Trimbourne's famous cockerel crow imitation, then 'boom' the canon fires, and the race has begun; the indescribable elation crossing the Finish, and the immense pride, in knowing just what an achievement that really is, because only by running it can you possibly know how much this race taxes your body and mind. In the end, it is mind power that gets you to the end. Your body has spent at least 40 km sending signals which translate to, 'are you entirely mad?' and, over and over, 'STOP already'! There is the confidence, empowerment and kudos that come with having pushed through all that pain to finish; the enhanced physical strength and endurance that are the legacy of the training and race; the memories to be carried forever of the whole experience as a composite; the hard-earned, cherished medal, badge, shirt, plus other memorabilia acquired at the pre-race Expo, used and worn with so much pride. It's an all-round, 'feel good' for supporters and runners alike, extreme pain and difficulty notwithstanding! All things considered, it's not so surprising, after all, that people keep repeating it! So, to my first Down Run. I set my sights on the 'Back to Back' medal, introduced in 2005, for those who run their first and second Comrades consecutively, and on a Bronze, for finishing in under 11 hours. By late 2015, I'd acquired a few great books by authors who'd been interviewed on the running podcasts I was following to prepare for Comrades. I'd learned a lot more about training smarter, not just accumulating mileage. When the Coach Parry Online Community launched in January this year, I signed up right away. For a small monthly fee this provided privileged access to webinars, Q and A sessions, and to the coach, who answers members’ questions directly, plus a private Facebook group where members, coach, and podcast interviewer interact, compare notes and share information, stories and humour. This all proved very helpful and informative indeed. My confidence that I could achieve a Bronze grew, as I put into practice so many tips and concepts I'd picked up via these resources and my books. I improved my qualifying marathon time, putting myself into G seeding for Comrades, shaved 43 minutes off my Two Oceans ultra, and was fully psyched for Comrades Number 2! I'd been warned by experienced Comrades runners to expect the Down Run to be harder than the Up, which sounds counter-intuitive. So I wasn't sure what to expect. This year, I joined in with the Comrades International Fun Run three days prior to race day, an easy 5 km trot along the beach front in Durban and a chance to meet others from all over the globe. It was fun, social and interesting. From there, it was off to Registration and the Expo and a reminder of just how well-oiled a machine the Comrades Marathon really is. With the volumes of runners from South Africa, around our continent and the rest of the world who enter annually these days - it would have to be! Organising this event is a year-round job for a hard-working team of people and by race day, thousands of volunteers too.
The Expo at huge events like Two Oceans and Comrades is always exciting and fun, with stands offering the latest of everything, from gear to footwear to race food and more, that a runner or outdoor enthusiast could ever want, plus a bunch of other interesting stands besides, less runner-orientated, remembering that most runners are accompanied by their families. As at the Two Oceans Expo, I went in search of Brad Brown, the South Africa radio presenter and online podcast interviewer on the South African podcasts I'd been following, plus Lindsey Parry the Comrades online coach, who'd encouraged members of the Online Community to come and meet them.
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I'd successfully met Lindsey at Two Oceans, but failed to find Brad, who'd been out of the Old Mutual Live Radio booth at the time. This time, I tracked them both down. I enjoyed an animated chat with Brad in the booth from where the Old Mutual Live Digital Radio team were broadcasting live online and around the Expo (and later, throughout the race), while they took a short break. Shortly afterwards one of their team came and found me, and asked if I would be interviewed on Old Mutual Live. This really tickled me as I'd been listening to their podcasts (all of which are interviews with runners and others of interest in the running world, from the very famous, to the unknown recreational into which category I fell) for the past 18 months. I thoroughly enjoyed my 11 minutes being streamed live round the Expo and on the internet, chatting about Comrades and my love of running! This new experience added another dimension to my enjoyment of registration and Expo day, and my interview is there for posterity online, too! We popped along that evening to the 'International Meet and Greet'. We were shown an inspiring documentary, recently made, about the race and its history: If the international runners weren't already fully psyched up for the race, they certainly were afterwards! Amongst well-known speakers at the event was Bruce Fordyce, the famous 9 times winner of this race (8 of those, consecutive!), always an excellent, amusing presenter.
We spent the two nights before race day in a lovely self-catering cottage 25 minutes' drive outside Pietermaritzburg near Howick, wishing we had longer to explore this beautiful area. We visited the Race Start by City Hall, and Comrades House, home of the Comrades Museum about which I'd heard on an Old Mutual Live podcast. Registrations were also taking place here, though the vast majority of runners register at the Expo in Durban. The Museum was well worth the visit, with displays taking visitors through the entire history of the race in a 30 to 45 minute visit, in an interesting, accessible way. We drove the half of the race route we had not driven the year previously, finishing at the Comrades Wall of Honour, set in the hillside roughly half way, displaying shields commemorating many famous Comrades winners and runners across the decades. You don't have to be famous to have a shield here however; any runner who completes the race can buy a spot if they wish! At last, Race Day came. Sarah, the Ultimate Supporter of 'The Ultimate Human Race', with the apt tag line, 'It will Humble You' (it assuredly does!) cooked porridge at 3am, while I donned my carefully laid out kit, after what inevitably is a sleepless night! Race jitters take their toll, and the alarming Reality that you have been preparing for, for 6 to 9 months, is upon you! Can you actually run 90km? Only time beating up on your legs, relentlessly pounding tar, and determination, will tell! Thankfully the traffic from that side of Pietermaritzburg was kind, and we were at the Start the recommended hour early. Already the spotlit area was a bustling hive of activity and excited, nervous anticipation, runners streaming into starting pens, from A (elite runners, including potential winners and Gold (top 10), Wally Hayward (sub 6 hours, named for the 7 time medallist with five wins, three of them record breaking, and still the oldest person ever to finish the race) and Silver medalists (sub 7½ hours), to H (recreational runners and novices with marathon qualifying times between 4 hours 40 mins and 4 hours 59 mins 59 secs). Pens B to D and F to G comprise runners with progressively slower specified qualifying times. Pen E comprises the hallowed permanent 'Green Number' holders in recognition of completing ten Comrades Marathons. There are significant numbers of runners with Double and Triple Green Numbers for completing twenty and thirty! And this year, one man got his Quadruple Green Number, completing his fortieth! Pen CC is for those running for an official Comrades Charity. You can actually 'buy' a place here by contributing at least the specified minimum amount to one of these – or by raising it (and more, one hopes!) from donations. Sarah managed to bag herself a place right on the side-line barrier beyond the Start, and could see, hear and enjoy all the drama and excitement, a truly magnificent and emotional experience for runners and spectator alike. It was really cold – way colder than the Durban start – and primary Comrades sponsor Bonitas had donated branded 'body warmers' made of disposable biodegradable material, as bin liners with holes cut for the arms to keep warm at a cold early morning race start were banned this year for safety and environmental reasons (these sometimes trip runners up at the Start of a very big race when discarded). I qualified for G batch this year, so was a bit nearer the Start. I loved the fanfare, music, exciting vibe and atmosphere just as much as last year; and more, as I discovered after the canon fired, that not only did a G seeding mean I started to shuffle sooner, but I had actually begun to jog, upon reaching the Start line, which took 6 minutes, and I was moving faster, sooner, too. Comrades is a 'gun to gun' race so this lost time is never regained. I even spotted and hailed Ultimate Supporter Sarah, who waved me off on this long, challenging journey! When one starts running races, the buzz and excitement often lead to going out too fast and burning out too soon. Pacing correctly is probably never as important in any race as it is in Comrades, so notoriously hard, all run on tar and undulating a great deal throughout. Down Run or not, there were plenty of tough hills to climb up, too! In fact the first half of the Down Run is a lot more Up than Down! By the time the long downhill sections come, one is already extremely tired. The legs have taken a hell of a pounding. The trick is to conserve some energy for that second half. I managed this far better than ever before in my Comrades number two, and enjoyed the race experience a great deal, extreme pain notwithstanding. Pain in the legs is inevitable. It is a matter of remaining determined to keep running and finish and distracting oneself from it, as it increases, with every step, in the second half! Support along the way from tens of thousands of stalwart spectators lining the route is fantastic, and Sarah managed to find me twice. Supporting this race is a huge feat in itself as road closures cause traffic jams and places you can access to try to spot loved ones are few and far between. As a runner, such support lifts ones spirits phenomenally, and can even make the difference between finishing this gruelling race, or not. The kindness of strangers can also be immensely uplifting. In the last third of my race, when I really felt broken and pain was taking a heavy toll on my morale, I was suddenly overcome with extreme thirst. It would be a while before the next water point. I dazedly took in the presence of a family, out for the day to cheer the runners, on my left, and noticed their little girl offering exhausted runners a drink. Manna from heaven! 'Apple for you!' she said chirpily. The first gulp of this ice cold apple juice in a cup filled with ice cubes was the best thing I ever drank! As I crossed each of the six cut-off mats, to be reached by a specified time or be removed from the race, I was thrilled to find myself an hour or more ahead of that time. My confidence grew that I might actually achieve my wish; a Bronze. But the final ten kilometres were torturous, and three kays from the Finish, I grew anxious. Those kays were monumentally painful and difficult and included, after we'd been pounding down so many hills, annihilating our legs, some steep up-hills! However – I'd boldly declared my intent on broadcast radio to get that Bronze! Get it, I must, the pain be damned! At last, I saw the metal race barriers lining the road ahead, signifying we were now really close to the stadium, and heard cheering Durban crowds lining the route. I forgot the pain, put on a fast sprint, and suddenly, was running round the stadium in the finishing chute with its flags and banners and thousands of cheering supporters – a truly wonderful moment that along the way in this race, especially in the last 30 km or so, seems like it will never come! I made my Bronze with 57 seconds to spare, was handed my medal and embroidered Comrades badge (to be proudly sewn onto running gear), then received my Back to Back medal and limped my way to the International Tent.
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I now concur with those who say the Down Run is harder. It is way, way more painful! Last year I hardly sat down after my race. I flitted around socialising. This year, as soon as I could, I lay down, oblivious of passers-by, my legs on fire with pain. Getting to the car involved climbing down a staircase. It was funny watching runners, myself included, attempting this! It was so excruciating it could only be achieved backwards or sideways, with much wincing and groaning! Going down stairs remained painful for a couple more days for me, but by day three I was pain free, and aside from the two toenails I will soon lose, I was remarkably unscathed! In the last 3 kays, I recall thinking I could not possibly put myself through this again. That sentiment remained awhile in the International Tent. But by the time I was gingerly tottering my way to the car, I was already committed to Comrades number 3! That's what this incredibly special race does. It gets into your system and the good memories so thoroughly outweigh the memories of pain and struggle that you want to do it again – and again. And let's face it, part of what makes Comrades great, is that it IS such a struggle. Overcoming the inevitable desire to quit when it gets really, really hard out there - is why one feels so very proud to finish.