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A Distinctly Different Mission

November 9, 2011

by Paul Van Buren, 11/9/11

Ten person mission team to Tariro plus one client. Second trip for Gregory Gross and Debbie Gara and Corinne Van Buren

             No two mission trips are the same. This one was distinctly different. Ten of us met in Harare, overloaded with baggage full of sewing supplies, a sewing machine, items for health care kits, tools, a rabbit cage, enough bean seed to plant 20 gardens, and a lap top. Only Corinne’s bag with her clothes was missing.

Our welcome to Project Tariro was overwhelming. We were moved to tears by the warm greetings and songs of the clients. They
had prepared food, skits, and dances to show their appreciation for our support of the project. Over the next few days we found out why they felt so grateful.  Three members of our team, Debbie Gara (caravan 05), Gregory Gross (caravan 09), and Carly Fiske, interviewed more than 25 clients to record their personal stories and how Tariro was giving them hope. Some of these stories will be posted on the website here.             The next morning we were off early to tour the Imire Game Ranch on our way to LaRochelle B&B, Mutare, located in the Eastern Highlands of Zimbabwe. Simon Herring, manager, adopted us like royal guests and for the next 8 days we enjoyed Simon’s skills as an outstanding host and entertainer.

Concurrently, Darlene Robertson and Corinne Van Buren went in to Mutare to buy three hand operated sewing machines and fabric to accommodate the enlarged sewing classes. (The Project now has a total of 6 sewing machines.)  They set about teaching clients how to make diapers, handbags, sanitary napkins, and clothes.  It was a very rewarding experience for everyone.

             After waiting a year to provide the Tariro project with clean water, we cheered the hoisting of a 1,200 gallon water tank up on a 12 foot stand and then connected water to the kitchen and toilet facilities. For the first time, potable water flowed from the taps! Other projects accomplished through the team were: laying firebrick at the cooking shed, setting up drip irrigation kits, and putting together the rabbit hutch and distributing clothes.

Between classes, our group toured Africa University, the Hilltop UMC children’s feeding program, afternoon trip to the Vumba (mountains) and the New Hope Retirement Home near Gatsi in the Nyanga valley.  But best of all was the opportunity to visit five of the rural homes of Tariro clients and learn how they live and cope

Both Gregory and Dan Gara, board members of Friends of Project Tariro, attended the Tariro Board meeting with Paul and learned about the challenge of seeking funding in relation to the Old Mutare Hospital. We learned that the program of Tariro is on target with the needs of the country and is quickly gaining attention for making a difference for persons living with HIV. with the dire situation of a failed state, massive unemployment, and political violence.

Our group returned home filled with the Tariro ‘spirit’ from seeing lives being transformed.  We were inspired with renewed hope and commitment to find support to sustain the cutting edge ministry of Project Tariro.




Risk-taking ministry in Zimbabwe

September 23, 2011

Grace UMC 2011 Mission

Only one of the eight men had been to Africa but all felt called to leave work and take a risk in sharing their faith in a unique way. The call came through an invitation to help convert an old building on a mission station in Zimbabwe into an AIDS clinic. They begin with the commitment to buy their own tickets and to meet weekly for prayer and trip orientation for two months. Next, they set a goal of raising $4,000 by holding a church dinner, an auction, a bowling tournament, donation cans in businesses, and a matching gift from the Mt. Juliet UMC mission fund.  They also collected hand and garden tools, baskets of seeds, medicines, dental supplies, donations of clothes, several computers and other office supplies for their point of destination in Zimbabwe, Project Tariro.  By the date of departure they had nearly one half ton of supplies and raised $8,000 for construction projects.

 The purpose of the trip was primarily to bring hope to the HIV infected clients of Tariro (Shona word for Hope) and secondarily, to rehabilitate an old building at the Old Mutare Mission to serve as a clinic and training center for infected adults.  Bringing hope meant visiting with clients, going to their homes, eating with them, singing with them, sharing medical supplies, helping them plant garden seeds and hearing their stories. Gil Pollard described this experience of sharing as a positive spirit with lots of laughter and the clients responding to this caring with singing and happiness. It was truly a movement of resurrected Hope that came alive in their midst.  Easter had come in an unexpected way.

The construction projects at the clinic meant working with a local contractor to put up shelving for storing drugs, erecting a water tank, attaching rain gutters, laying stone for parking vehicles, and building an outdoor cooking shed.  The team stated that working in a different cultural setting, under hot weather, without ordinary mechanical tools to carry brick, move stone and cut wood proved to be a challenge. But the work projects were all completed on time allowing the team to visit and deliver clothing, even their own shoes, to needy persons in Gatsi, a remote community in the mountains.   Hector Benitez described the moment as “not a dry eye among us.  I have never felt closer to what I imagine it was like for Jesus to wash the feet of others.”

Upon returning home, Bobby Naylor, VIM team leader, reported to the congregation that the trip was a life changing experience for the team and an eye opener to life in a police state and the poor living conditions in the rural communities around Old Mutare. Speaking about his experience David Haskett commented, “I thought I was going to see people dying from AIDS.  Instead I saw people living with AIDS, and with hope.” Brett Karstens added, “And we hope they will continue living and their children will not become orphans.” One of every 4 children in Zimbabwe has lost parents due to AIDS and nearly one of every 5 adults is thought to be infected with HIV.  Larry Price, who worked mostly in the garden with the project horticulturist, was adopted as “Dad” and continues the relationship through email.

Footnote:  Project Tariro is an initiative of theUMCdiaconate in partnership with the Zimbabwe UMC and Africa University.  The members of the VIM team were: Bobby Naylor, David Haskett, Brett Karstens, Steve Toler, Larry Price, Jim Lamberson, Hector Benitez, and Gil Pollard.  The team members were trained by Rev. Paul Van Buren and anointed by Rev. Ron Brown.

On the Ground, June-July 2011

August 4, 2011

Project Tariro graduates its first class of clients, July 22. Pictured are some of the clients   harvesting and thrashing the sugar been crop under the direction of David Mandizvidzi, horticulturist for Project Tariro.

The six month training program for the clients has given them new skills in crafts, gardening, cooking  and sewing, as well as how to cope with the stigma of HIV and  AIDS, how to adhere to the schedule of medications, how to build up their immune systems with nutritious foods, and how to strengthen   their faith through support groups.  The program has given the clients hope of survival and training on how to live positively.

Several Tariro clients with 520 kilos of sugar beans

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World AIDS Day: Dec 1, 2011

August 1, 2011

 This World AIDS Day 

December 1 take action to tackle HIV prejudice and to protect yourself and others from HIV transmission.
Are you living with HIV? Why not make a suggestion of what you think other people can do to really make a difference?

For example you could ask I’d like to see newspapers write more positive stories about people with HIV

What other people living with HIV have asked…

  • Better media coverage from newspaper editors
  • More understanding from healthcare professionals
  • Better education for young people
  • Not being treated like I am a bad person
  • Less ignorance and more education
  • For people to act responsibly
  • Not to think of this as only a ‘Gay’ problem

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