In 2010, 2 members of the WEFA team, Ronan and Lorcan, visited an Oblate mission in Zimbabwe. During their time there, they visited a rural hospital, deep in the bush. During their brief time in the overcrowded paediatric ward, filled to overflowing with babies and toddlers ravaged by malnutrition. Immediately, they knew they had to do something to help.
Baby Sizini, March 2010 (Her name means, ‘Who are we?’)
This visit sparked an annual missionary trip, with a small number of volunteers from Britain and Ireland travelling out for a month each year to work in a number of projects in Zimbabwe.
In 2011 Dr Brendan joined the missionary team, and was similarly moved by the plight of the children he saw in the hospital. And, due to his background as a GP and anaesthetist, he was in a unique position to help. In 2012 and 2013 he spent a few weeks working in the hospital, seeing patients, treating tuberculosis, AIDS, and snakebites.
But what he found most difficult to cope with was the steady stream of children being brought to the hospital severely malnourished. He saw babies and toddlers die of diarrhoea caused by dirty water- almost unimaginable in our Western culture.
Dr Brendan and Ronan quickly came to realise that a preventative approach would be much more effective than continuing to treat the effects of malnutrition. And so, during the summers of 2014 and 2015, Dr Brendan embarked upon an outreach program to the outstations (villages) surrounding the hospital. There are around 17 small villages in the bush around the hospital, home to no more than a couple of hundred people. Many are extremely remote, accessible only by rugged 4×4, or scotch cart (donkey and cart). This program, delivered in association with the local Oblate priests, and local nurses, focussed on educating the people there about nutrition, and the risks of using dirty water, and was extremely gratefully received.
During this time, however, the drought in Zimbabwe worsened, and continues to do so. Crops failed annually. Hunger got worse. Water, even the dirty, disease-ridden water many people were forced to rely on, became even more scarce. And so, once again, we changed our focus. Seeing the devastation caused by the annual failure of the crops, and listening to the people of the villages, we could not help but hear their cry. Regular access to clean water would solve many of the issues being faced by the people. A borehole in each village would immeasurably change the lives of the people there. No longer having to rely on rains for the survival of their crops, the ability to feed and water animals, and most importantly, access to clean drinking water.
Mealie crop dying in the field, March 2015
In 2015 we oversaw the drilling of our first borehole in Bhomela, one of the rural villages. Working closely with a local team, we saw huge success, striking water at only 40m deep! A bush pump was fitted, the borehole was fenced off to protect the water supply from local wildlife (and the risk of water contamination), and the people of the village celebrated. And now that we know it can be done, we are determined to bring the gift of water to as many people as possible. Before 2020, and with your help, we aim to bring a minimum of 10 boreholes to the people in the area.