Category Archives: Giving Back to My City

Volunteering: Ideas, opportunities and finding a fit

Earth Right Now…

Earth Right Now...

Today the world over celebrates Earth Day! NASA has come up with an exciting world wide campaign to promote Earth Day! The campaign involves individuals world over posting pictures of their current location with the hashtag #GlobalSelfie. Not to be one to miss out on the global campaign, I took a selfie at the Hillside Dams in Bulawayo today!

“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.”
― Rachel Carson,


Big Clean up!

This past weekend Bulawayo came alive with the big clean up held in the city centre. It is a great step in the positive direction to see our fellow country men take responsibility for our country’s cleanliness. Litter causes pollution and most of the rubbish we leave lying around can take up to 100years to fully decompose.

The day started off with addresses by both the Mayor of Bulawayo Thaba Moyo and the Minister of Environment and Natural resources Francis Nhema. They both touched on the importance of taking responsibility for keeping our city clean and raising awareness of reducing litter and recycling!


Many residents of the city came out to clean the CBD of Bulawayo. Amongst them were school children, local councillors, corporates and organizations involved with Environmental awareness. One of the key issues being addressed was that of separation at source of waste. It is no longer enough to just pick up litter. The rubbish needs to be separated; plastic, paper, cans and bottles, and biodegradable waste. This allows for efficient recycling and proper disposal of waste.

We were spilt up into teams that went into the city with different bins to sweep the streets, pick litter and ensure the public is made aware of the importance of separating waste.


It was interesting to see the response of bystanders to our cleaning. Some wanted to know why we were doing it and what purpose it achieved. Some exclaimed that this was only a temporary fix and the streets would soon be filled with litter. However the important aspect of the clean up is raising awareness. The more people see others taking responsibility for the cleanliness of our city the sooner we will be able to achieve individual responsibility to keep our city clean!

The theme of the clean up was “My City, My Responsibility, My Pride”. Initiatives like street clean ups will eventually lead to dynamic change on the overall landscape of Bulawayo. Congratulations to the people of Bulawayo who took the responsibility to restore the dignity of our city! A job well done!


Ditch the Plastic…

5 Good reasons why you need to stop using plastic shopping bags:

1. Environmental Damage
Plastic bags have been known to cause a lot of environmental damage. A single plastic bag can take up to 1000 years, to decay completely. This makes the bags stay in environments longer, in turn leading to great build-up on the natural landscape (much more than degradable materials like paper). In other words, the more plastic bags you use, the greater the chances of environmental damage.

2. Pollution

Plastic bags are a common type of litter all over the world. In South Africa, plastic bags once were known as the national flower because they were so commonly seen along roadsides. Because plastic bags are so lightweight they are easily swept away by the wind, ending up as roadside litter, or even in trees. Of course, many bags do make it into landfills—Americans throw away 100 billion polyethylene plastic bags every year, says the Worldwatch Institute.

Since plastic bags are not bio-degradable, the only way to get rid of them is to burn them up. Though lighting a match to them is easy, it has more than its fair share of disadvantages. The biggest of them is that smoldering plastics can release toxic fumes into the environment, in turn taking the air pollution to much higher levels.

4. Non-renewable
One of the main disadvantages of plastic bags is that they are not renewable. The reason behind this is that they are made of petrochemicals, a non-renewable source of energy. They can be recycled, but not as easily as paper bags. Plastic bags can last for as much as hundred of years. In other words, long after you are no more, the plastic bag used by you will be in existence.

5. Suffocation

Plastic bags not only have adverse effects on our natural habitats, but have also been found to be responsible for the death of many animals, mainly on account of the suffocation encountered on eating them. Not only animals, infants and young children have also been reported to have lost their life, on account of plastic bags. Since plastic bags are thin and airtight as well, children often end up blocking their mouths and nostrils with them. In case they are not being monitored by an adult, this leads to suffocation and, in some cases, even death.


Thandi with a "reusable green bag"

A  reusable shopping bag, sometimes called bag for life is a type of shopping bag which can be reused several times: this is an alternative of single use paper or plastic bags. It is often made from fabric such as canvas, woven synthetic fibers, or a thick plastic that is more durable than disposable plastic bags, allowing multiple use.

Get your own “Green Bag” and reduce pollution and preserve the environment.

“I’m not an environmentalist.  I’m an Earth warrior”.  ~Darryl Cherney


Ever had a crazy idea? Not quite sure how you would accomplish what you envisioned, but you were so determined to see it through regardless of the challenges along the way? This roughly describes how my Tree Planting Challenge began.

Seedlings at Chesa Forest Burnside

I have spent past months talking about the importance of planting trees, creating awareness and encouraging tree planting. I had planted trees in different places but I wanted to do something that would get more people talking about the importance of tree planting and involved in environmental preservation! I decided I would plant 2000trees (indigenous, exotic and fruit trees) at 50schools over a 5day period. This would equal 40trees a school.

With the students of Manondwane Primary School

The Forestry Commission was extremely helpful in the sourcing of seedlings. We received seedlings from Lupane, Tsholotsho, Gweru and some from local nurseries. All the trees we donated by well wishers which made the process less arduous. The Bulawayo City Council assisted in coordinating the digging of holes for the tree planting and transporting me to each school participating in the exercise.

This has by far been the most life changing experience of my life. The children were excited to be planting trees, the school heads welcomed us with much joy as we provided something they desperately needed; TREES. I visited places in Bulawayo I most likely would have never seen, I met over 2000 children during the week, whose smiles and youthful chuckles remain embedded on my heart. I came to realize to a greater extent the disparities that exist between schools in low density suburbs and high density suburbs. But most importantly I managed to achieve my goal of planting 2000trees and managed to even exceed the target.

Thanks to the media coverage of the tree planting, more people in Bulawayo are talking about going green, the importance of trees and what role they too can play.

Cameraman from Zimbabwe TV recording the treeplanting

Something as simple as planting a tree brought me in contact with so many people i would have otherwise never met. If in a week, I and school children could plant 2000trees what more can be done by the Zimbabwean people as a whole? December 3rd 2011 marks the National Tree Planting Day. You too can leave your mark on Mother Earth by planting a tree. If each person in Zimbabwe plants a tree on December 3rd, we can plant over 13million trees.

Charles Mashingaidze explaining tree species to the children

I would like to thank The Forestry Commission Bulawayo for their assistance with sourcing trees and especially Charles Mashingaidze who went to each school with me and taught children on the importance of trees. I would also like to thank the Bulawayo City Council especially the Parks department as well as the Education office. Most importantly I would like to thank the schools we received us with such warmth. For allowing us to disturb their schedules to plant trees. All the children that sang for me, recited poems and all the food I was fed. I did not expect such a great reception and I am forever grateful.

Students of Nketa Primary waving goodbye to us!

What will you be doing December 3rd?

We have come far…

Msitheli High School

Charity begins at home. This statement has resonated with me throughout the past  11months I have spent in Zimbabwe. Unbeknown to me one of the schools selected for the tree planting was Msitheli High School. The school has so much significance in my life! It is where my father attended High School over 35years ago!

My Dad Ricky N. Muringa

When we arrived at the school, I was taken aback by the little form one boys carrying shovels and watering cans rushing to site where we were planting trees.  I couldn’t help but imagine those zealous faces as being my father many years ago. I struggled to hold back the tears as I thought how far my father has come along. From a young man from Matshobana to a proud father of three who has provided his children with the best of education and all the wonderful things one could ever ask for. The son of a Railway Worker now accomplished came from this very school I was planting trees at.

A view of the classroom block from the field

Form one Boys gathered to observe the tree planting

When I told the Headmaster about my brief history he was delighted and made the announcement to all the children. After planting the trees he asked for me to share about my father’s life. I am convinced that the short talk about how my father grew up where they did, attended the same school they went to and has become the man he is today, motivated some and has given them the drive to reach for the stars.

Planting a Peach Tree in the orchard

In all my years I had never been to the school that my father attended however this tree planting exercise allowed seeing and walking through the school that shaped my father into the man he is today. I have so much appreciation for Msitheli High School. The values and lessons taught to my father at that school have determined the path his life took and inevitabily influenced mine too.

With the Principal and Students of Msitheli



A forest in a school…

Mganwini Primary School

We visited Mganwini Primary School on Monday. This was by far my favourite school of all the ones we visited. The school which looks like a forest is green and has trees and grass everywhere. I was well impressed because they have done a great job in caring for their school and observing sustainable methods of permaculture.

Sixth Grade Students

We were welcomed by the Deputy Headmistress and the Grade Six students. The teacher in charge of the Environmental Club gave us a tour of school and described to me some of the herbs they were growing on their school grounds.

Herbs growing in the school

I planted the Jatropha Tree also known as the Diesel Plant tree. Also planted at the school were the Moringa tree (Not to be confused with my last name Muringa lol), the Snot Apple Tree (uxakuxaku), the Kigalia Africana (National Tree for 2011) and various species of fruit trees.

Planting the Jatropha Plant
A student watering the Duranta Ripens plant

After the tree planting the students expressed they had questions to ask.  I assumed the questions would be about the environment and tree planting, however it was not so. The children wanted to know my favourite color, where I went to school. On girl asked what my favourite food was, my response: Sushi. After explaining that sushi was raw fish they all looked slightly bothered. However my favourite question of all was: When are you getting married? I laughed for about 2minutes, to which I responded, before I can think of marriage I should have someone to get married too.

Question & Answer Session

The children of Mganwini were truly a delight and as a send off they performed a dance for me. I attempted to dance along; needless to say I failed terribly. However Rome was not built in a day and I continue to press on.

Thank you Mganwini school for such a great reception but especially for leading by such a great example and loving your school by keeping  it GREEN!

Trees for the people

This weekend I participated in a field day at Igusi (Nyamandlovu Area). The day involved a dispaly of cattle and a newly constructed dip tank, a tree planting exercise and a prize giving ceremony for farmers who have excelled in that area.

The drive out to Nyamandlovu was smooth and quick, however the journey to Igusi was not as comfortable. The dirt roads have not harden and driving through the loose soil is like attempting to drive through desert sands. Although arduous we made it to our final destination.

We received a warm welcome from the locals. I had such a euphoric feeling being in Igusi, the constant sound of cattle mooing, the smell of the soil and the cowbells all reminded me of the times I used to visit my village home of Gwanda.

Cattle in Igusi

The area like many places in Matabeleland faces a lot of challenges when it comes to water. For this reason most of the cattle are not as big and healthy in comparison to cattle bred in other areas. With the limited water supply and sporadic patches of grass the communal farmers do their best to breed the cattle. Another challenge the water shortage causes is difficulty in sustaining the dip tank. The tank needs to be at full capacity for the cows to be fully dipped. Women in the area sited they had to walk quite a distance with buckets of water in an attempt to fill the tank.

A local pumping water for cows to drink

From the diptank we proceeded to Igusi Secondary School for Tree Planting. The school has 172 students and 5teachers. It is a small school but has been serving the community for a number of years.

Students of Igusi welcoming us with a song

The Headmistresses started the Orchard Project a few years ago but some of the trees have since withered due to water shortages. We planted fruit trees as well as the Moringa Oliefera Tree. This tree is noted for its nutritional value. It helps to boost the human immune system and helps curb High Blood Pressure.

Thandi planting a tree

The aim of maintaining orchards at schools is to teach children the benefit and value of trees. When trees are in the fruit bearing season, children can enjoy the fruits and then encourage their parents to plant trees as well. It has been mandated in Zimbabwe that each school in Zimbabwe should plant trees yearly and establish large orchards and eventually forests.

Permaculture Statement of Purpose

Every pronvince in Zimbabwe is expected to plant a million trees by the end of the planting season which ends in February. This totals 10 million trees to be planted in all of Zimbabwe. Our population has over 13milliion people that means if each person in Zimbabwe plants a tree we will exceed the required minimum.

I encourage you today to plant a tree. Whether its in your backyard, at your school, in your local park, help preserve the environment by planting trees…

“A seed hidden in the heart of an apple is an orchard invisible”.  ~Welsh Proverb

Plant, Grow…Sustain

I recently had the opportunity to assist the Forestry Commission with their tree planting workshops in Ward 16 in the Khami Area. In an effort to encourage reforestation in an area with sparse vegetation, the Forestry Commission has started workshops with communal farmers to teach them how to grow trees for sale as well as for personal use.

The early morning drive out to Khami was bumpy and yet I managed to fall asleep along the way!!! After a short drive we arrived to a homestead with farmers anxiously awaiting our arrival. Besides the nursery, Agritex workers and those from the Forestry Commission have launched a small scale mushroom farming project in the area.

Inside a Mushroom Hut

As soon as we got there, we got right to business. The initial step was discussing the processes that go into tree planting, pests to avoid and how to deal with an outbreak of pests. The farmers all had notebooks and were mostly recapping on previously discussed techniques.

Discussing Farming Techniques

The next step in the planting process is to carefully remove excess grass, twigs and stones from the soil used for planting.

Carefully clearing soil for planting

The ground where the trees are grown needs to be level and so we used a long plank to level out the soil to ensure the ground is even.

Planters are readily available at stores however in the absence of planters the farmers use recycled mahewu containers and put holes in them.

Mahewu Container

After carefully clearing the soil of all unwanted components we began to fill the planters with soil. The planters must be placed in straight lines. This helps in the watering process and if the seeds are planted at different times it makes it easier to determine the growth of the seedlings.

The planters need to be well watered before the seeds are put into the planter. Traditionally one would use a watering can however in the absence of one; you can use a regular tin with perforations at the bottom. It works as efficiently as a watering can.

Watering the planters

When the planters were well saturated with water, we began adding the seeds. The depth by which the seeds should be inserted can be determined by the index finger. Generally half the length of the index finger is a good depth to insert the seed however it can vary depending on the type of seed.

As an initial project the farmers planted fruit trees as well as a few indigenous trees found in the area. As time progresses and they monitor the growth of the seedlings they will decide collectively what other trees they will plant especially the ones they will sell.

I enjoyed the day I spent out in the Khami area and especially enjoyed the food the farmers shared with us. Every day is a brand new opportunity to learn something new and as I continue to learn more I hope to be able to share my knowledge with others and help them improve their lives.

Farmers preparing food

Play your part today in preserving Mother Earth!!!

Service Above Self…

I recently had the pleasure of attending the induction of Rotaract President Vusumuzi Tshuma. The event that was held at a restaurant at the Bulawayo Athletic Club was well attended and proved to be a lovely night.

Incoming President Vusumuzi after being inducted


Speaking at the event was Rotary Club of Bulawayo South President Sandy Whitehead who highlighted the various areas of service within Rotary targeted to young people. The first of these is the Rotary Youth Exchange program which I was a part of five years ago. The program is exceptional and allows youths between the ages of 15 and 18 to travel to a foreign nation and spend a year living with a host family and attending high school in the region. I lived in Schaumburg, IL and attended James B. Conant High School. It was a great experience I would never trade for anything. I owe many of my achievements to this experience and attribute my growth to it as well.

The second of the programs targeted towards youths is the RYLA (Rotary Youth Leadership Awards).  I also participated in RYLA which is a camp style leadership course open to high school aged children. There is also the Interact club which is highly popular amongst high school aged children in Zimbabwe.

Sharing a laugh with Rotaract President and a friend

Additionally there is the Rotaract which is open to individuals between the ages of 18 and 30. The Rotaract Clubs of Belmont and Matopos are active clubs in the city. The clubs are involved in community development, community service and have held social fundraisers in aid of charity. The clubs also have Leadership Retreats for young adults. Rotaract is a great stepping stone to the highly esteemed Rotary Clubs.  Members of Rotaract can participate in Professional Group Study Exchanges Abroad which is a great cultural exchange as well as career development opportunity.

With Rotaract Members of Matopos Club

The guest of honor at the event was Rotarian Esat who spoke about the Indian Culture in general. He highlighted some of the stereotypes associated locally and internationally with people of Indian decent. He shared many jokes and left us well entertained. He also touched on his own personal experiences as an Indian gentleman both within the Rotary Club and the Bulawayo Community. Mr Esat has been a judge in several pageants and we naturally struck up a conversation about the modelling industry in Zimbabwe.

Chatting with Rotarian Esat

I would encourage all people to be a part of Rotary in one form or another. There are several opportunities and people of different ages can find an appropriate fit. To find a rotary club near you visit the Rotary International Site for more information.

“We can teach children to love. We can teach them to respect themselves and
others. We can teach them to set goals and work toward them. And in return, they
can pass on these life-affirming values to the next generations.” – Rotarian Hebert G. Brown


Crushing the Stigma

Davies Granite is a Premier Stone crusher with operations in four locations in the country namely Harare, Gweru, Marondera, Hwange and the Head Office in Bulawayo.  In 2008 one of the company’s employees Veronica Stanley a registered nurse in Zimbabwe started an AIDS Campaign to raise awareness among the Quarry workers. Many of the men who work blasting stone and crushing it in the quarries had little to no knowledge on the dangers of HIV and the long term effect it has.

"Employees of Davis Granite"

In partnership with the Matabeleland AIDS Council Davis Granite started giving educational seminars to all the staff of Davis Granite as well as free HIV/AIDS testing and counselling. Men living with HIV spoke to the female staff and women living with HIV spoke to the men. The company was awarded, “Best HIV/AIDS Awareness Program” in the Matabeleland region in 2009 and 2010 by the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce ZNCC.

Davis Granite last year had their first Sports Day Fundraiser held at Sizane High School which is close to the Bulawayo quarry. The day involves teams competing in Netball, Soccer as well as a tug of war. The company has a team that participates in all three disciplines. Staff members, who are not participating in the sports, volunteer in different capacities throughout the day.   The funds raised from the day go to aiding HIV Orphans from the area.

One of the shields at the Sports Day

The event which has become an annual event was held again recently here in Bulawayo. I had the opportunity to volunteer alongside the staff of Davis Granite. The day was fun filled, with music, good food and great entertainment from the various games going on.

Thandi & Monde with one of the Soccer Teams

Also in attendance were Cuban doctors who have been in the country for two years working in areas of AIDS related work. They gave a quick tutorial of Spanish and I am sure everyone in attendance can at least say hello and how are you in Spanish. They were very keen to learn some of the dance moves being done by the kids and by the end of the day they had mastered the “Bumper Side-to-Side” (a popular House music dance)

The Cuban Doctors enjoying a laugh with some of the children
Some of the staff members children dancing

The event brought together people from all walks of life, all in aid of HIV/AIDS awareness. To become a sponsor, volunteer or a participant in next year’s event call: Veronica Stanley at Davis Granite on +2639406343

“A rock pile ceases to be a rock pile the moment a single man contemplates it, bearing within him the image of a cathedral.” -Antoine de Saint-Exupery