Charity Begins at Home…

It seems like yesterday when my dad woke us all up at the ghastly hour of 5am to get ready to take a road-trip to Gwanda my grandmother’s village home. It has been two years since I was home and while there my father insisted we travelled to the village to see my grandmother. I had taken this journey many times in my two decades of living however this particular journey was different. It was a nostalgic journey, it evoked so many emotions, gave me a true sense of who I am and where I come from.

To this day am not sure if I was more humbled by the three huts in my grandma’s homestead or the pride which she took in showing me the developments she had made in the year I had been gone. Matabeleland South the Province in which Gwanda is located is highly impoverished and experiences severe droughts. Made up of stretches of dry arid land the inhabitants hardly yield any harvests from the subsistence farming they engage in. Geographically Matabeleland South falls under Zimbabwe’s region 5 farming district which is not good for any form of farming except cattle ranching. Although this is so the people of the area still grow crops because they too need to feed themselves. The dry lands, coupled with minimal rainfall have all contributed to the lag in development in the area. This cuts across the board all the way through to education and the health sector.

It was a pleasant surprise when my friend informed me of the fundraiser being held for Hope for Mtshabezi, Mtshabezi is in the same geographical area as Gwanda! Hope for Mtshabezi was started by Lindani H. Mlotshwa a medical professional in San Diego. Mlotshwa speaking of her motivation on starting the organization said:

“The inequalities in the health care system between Zimbabwe and the USA blew my mind. It was then that I decided that I should use my knowledge and expertise to help. I was determined to do something. So I looked at the hospital closest to my village; Mtshabezi Mission Hospital. I talked to some trusted friends and family, and in April 2005  Hope for Mtshabezi was born to serve the community of Mtshabezi.”

The mission of Hope for Mtshabezi is to provide the people of Mtshabezi area access to health-care by equipping the local hospital, and having mobile clinics to reach the under-served. Since its inception HFM has constructed indoor toilets for patients a better alternative to pit-latrines. HFM has sponsored a doctor to travel from Bulawayo (the second largest city in Zimbabwe) to Mtshabezi for residency on a monthly basis. The organization has remodeled and furnished the doctor’s residence and purchased a vehicle for the doctor’s use. They have assisted in staffing of 2doctors and 26 nurses in the hospital. HFM has sponsored medical students from the National University of Science and Technology for a week-long outreach at the hospital. These are amongst the many key achievements of this organization. For more details on HFM visit their website at hopeformtshabezi.org

The fundraiser I attended this past weekend was hosted by Dr Ernst Simela and his wife in New York. Themed “An Out of Africa” experience this dinner party had a wide selection of Southern African food and great music. Dr Simela is a soft-spoken gentleman who during the evening gave me further insight into the organization, highlighting some the organizations partners such as Matabeleland AIDS Council, the Zimbabwe Medical Association and the Rotary Club of La Jolla, California.

Thandi and Dr. E Simela

Amongst some of the people in attendance was Busi Mlambo, current Miss Zimbabwe USA. Mlambo is an attorney in the city and is the President of Konzeni Foundation which provides scholarships for African students studying in the US.

Thandi and Busi Mlambo (Miss Zimbabwe USA 2009)

The dinner party attracted a diverse group of attendees who not only enjoyed the delicious Southern African food but also danced the night away to the likes of Brenda Fassie, Yvonne Chaka Chaka, Miriam Makeba and many others.

The wonderful selection of dishes available in abundance had been provided by the lovely ladies below who cooked and prepared it! I got to eat Isitshwala and inyama lombhida (Sadza with meat and vegetables). All dishes that reminded me of my grandmother in Gwanda.

The wonderful cooks

Each day I am inspired by the sheer determination of people to alleviate the plight of the poor. So often we think we have to wait to become billionaires like Bill Gates to begin impacting lives of people. At times all it takes is attending a dinner party and dancing the night away and making a small contribution. It may be walking to the local soup kitchen to volunteer for a few hours, or starting a community basketball team for the troubled teens in your neighborhood. In whatever way you have been gifted and wherever you see the need, take the time out and play your part! We need not take excursions to poor countries to feel we have made a huge impact! Charity begins at home…WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO TODAY?

“Let us not be satisfied with just giving money. Money is not enough, money can be got, but they need your hearts to love them. So, spread your love everywhere you go. ”     Mother Teresa

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