The team, consisting of six men and six women, first met at the Orientation Course at Oak Hill, London, five days prior to our departure. Everyone found the course helped, as it tried to prepare people physically, mentally and spiritually for the experience of working and witnessing in a ThirdWorld country. We knew that the project was to involve building of some kind, so opportunity was taken, during the course, to gain some basic knowledge of building technique and theory. Everyone participated in building corners and a small wall, and were taught how to set out and ensure level in a basic building.
We arrivedat Harare on theSaturday morning, and were welcomedby John Valentine, who then drove us to Chegutu and on to the school at Ameva. Our accommodation was two dormitory rooms, and a flat with two bedrooms. I had the smallest one, and Charlie and Ruth the other. We did all our own cooking, for the team, in the little kitchen and ate together, sharing our duties on a rota basis. On Sunday most ofthe team attended the three meetings, in the town, school and compound, and others, including myself, were recovering from the D & V which we had contracted almost immediately. On Monday we all turned out to discuss the project with John Valentine. Accommodation was required for couples attending the Bible School, but no firm plans were as yet fonned. A similar size building to a recently erected one, consisting of eight single rooms, was decided upon. The existing building was measured, profiles made, the foundationsset out, and excavation commenced the same day. Initially, tools were scarce, so we made post hole diggers in theworkshops, and over the next few days extra picks and hoes were provided. There was only one wheelbarrow, so I decided to fund extra wheelbarrows from the TEAR Fund float, as these were crucial to the work.
Over the next few days we’ve presented a plan that was acceptable, comprising four apartments, each having two bedrooms, kitchenette, dining room, toilet and shower room. The overall size was 87' x 18'6". Itwas impossible to complete the building in the time allotted, but we thought it might bepossible to raise the buildingto lintel height, above the doors and windows on the outside walls. Everyone entered into the work with vigour. The girls’ hands had blisters with digging, but they continued, andwe had the excavation complete within the first week. The students and fam1 workers were most impressed.
At the weekendseveral of the team led services around the town. Onthe Saturday we had morning devotions, acup of tea, a short meeting until I 1.30 am, then off on aCrusade round the village, beating drums and singing hymns all the way round. Eight miles later we had an evangelisticmeeting, where the team preached and gave testimonies. One man responded, and we all went to his home topray for him and his family. Then it was back to the compound, with more singing, stopping only for a Coca Cola for everyone, and to pray for a sick family along the way. At 4.30 pm wearrived back at the compound for Sadza (ground maize meal) and stew, and preparations for the evening meeting. Our little hut was just over 12' diameter and lit by a singleflame from an oil lamp- butsomehow 65 people pushed in for a meeting lasting over three hours. Over the three days all the guys preached, and everyone gave their testimony and sang as a group. We learned one chorus in Shona andtranslated two other choruses we knew into Shona. This delighted the people greatly as we playedthem on the guitar. One weekend we were asked to minister at Moleli school. We were told to prepare as much as possible, and they particularly liked plays or drama. So, we did a sketch based on 'the man who built his house on a rock'. The audience provided the sound effects for the wind, rain and thunder, and the guys built a human pyramid,which fell down when the stom1 beat upon it - much to the delight of the audience!
Charlie and Alice, the vets on the team, were immensely useful with the cows. Many had full horns and were injuring themselves, breaking the stalls and making handlingby the dairymen hazardous, to say the least. Charlie had anaesthetized 50 cattle and had started cutting the horns off, cauterizing with hot pokers and treating with antiseptic and fly repellent. Cutting the horns off was exhausting work, done manually with a wire saw - so we set up a production line with three others of the team, alternatingbetween cutting, roping,and operating the crush on the stockade. We were finished in more ways than one at lunchtime! Charlie did the rest of the herd (over 100 cows and steers), 10 at a time,over the following weeks. They also sorted out eight none-productive dairy cows, and by using artificial insemination got eleven out of twelve cows pregnant. They treated assorted animals and took the opportunity to teach the resident dairymen how to do pregnancy testing, so that barren cows could be culled in the future. Alice also assisted the goat unit for feed input and productivity.
Kirsty and Willie took opportunity to teach in the school, giving the teachers a break. Barry, with his experience in banking, was able to make recommendations regarding finance. Ruth assessed the economics of both the dairy and the poultry units, all providing useful information for John Valentine.
By the end of the first week,John Valentine had been able to borrow a concrete mixer, which was a tremendous help. By this time, we haddaily targets, with a weekly goal. to aim for:
Week I Dig footings.
Week 2 Lay concrete and build footingsto floor level (approximately 6000 bricks).
Week 3 Pour floor slab (this we did, and also built two gable ends).
Week 4 Build in door frames and assemblewindow frames.
Week 5 Take external walls to lintel height (this we did, and also managed to make formwork and pre-cast all the concrete lintels and fit them in place. Some weighed 100 kgms).
We also fitted all internal door frames and party walls.
Our work has been intense, some monotonous and strenuous,but on the whole rewarding and fruitful. Everyone on the team entered into every task with real spirit. No one was a 'passenger' and each supported one anotherwith genuine love and affection. Peter,our only grandad on the team, stated that he never felt any age gap,or considered he was being left out on any occasion. Charlie and Ruth were our two romantics,whom everyone loves. As well as doing an excellent work in the dairy unit, they never lacked enthusiasm in digging the foundation trenches, and I'm sure other members of the team were encouraged by their efforts. One of the most memorable testimonies was given by the girls. The Bible students had never seen white girls dig trenches before - and all because they loved them! Most had blistered hands, but still carried on, covered in antiseptic and 'band-aid'.
The days that we spent sharing a blanket and hard floorin the tribal trust lands will be treasured by everyone. To sleep in a mud hut and cook on open fires was a novel experience, but it gave real insight into the life and problems faced by the African brethren. It’s had carrying 1K from a borehole, but to sit quietly round the embers of a fire, feeling no pressure to say anything was strangely refreshing.
At the end of the project the team spent two nights at Victoria Falls. Which everyone enjoyed. I think everyone felt a sense of achievement on the last day, looking at the building ready to receive roof trusses. We all wanted to stay another 4 weeks and finish it completely! I’ve been back in the UK now for some weeks, and all the letters I’ve had from team members had positive comments. It has been a very lovely time, which we will all treasure in our hearts for years to come.