About 15 years ago we started to get involved with a community at Lake Chivero, about 50 kilometres outside of Harare. The community was formed after a police enforced clear out from Harare CBD in an operation called Murambatsvina which means ‘clear out the rubbish’.
The community is very poor and characterised by general illiteracy that spans generations. The community’s members are very much on the fringes of society. Few of them have ID documentation or birth certificates, and hence struggle to get jobs, register to vote or participate in normal society.
The community is marked by levels of prostitution, criminality and substance abuse.
Our approach in all our dealing with the community is based on the premise that if we want change we must first start with ourselves. We realise that every community is filled with leaders and the community not only understands their own problems but often has the answers to the problems. We believe that miracles happen when different people interact based on respect, curiosity and generosity.
During an early meeting with the community when we were discussing the primary school, an old grandmother (Gogo) quietly instigated the formation of a parent development committee. We watched in admiration as the community then organised themselves, with encouragement from a young 20 year old woman. An excellent example of both young and old women working in tandem to create an innovative, sustainable model of community engagement.
The community is defined by a generalised suspicion of government and officialdom, as these institutions have often been used against them, rather than to help them. The community are suspicious of external help or support, preferring their own independence to a dependence on others.
We are also strong believers in the idea that self reliance is a virtue. However self reliance and interdependence work together, to bring about synergistic outcomes.
We did not start out with a detailed plan of what we wanted, but with a principle of helping the community become less poor. With this generalised direction, we then took one step and then another, proceeding one step at a time - making the path by walking it.
The community now has the following projects:
- a credit union microlending for cash farming in pigs and chickens
- a practical skills programme in sewing
- a primary school from ecd through to grade 7