Sr. Toni Temporiti (MPA Founder), Linda Hall and Paul Piechowski (both MPA board members), and Maire MacMaster (Saint Louis University grad student), departed St. Louis for Dallas on July 4th at 5:30 pm. They arrived in London where they met MPA friends Brent Sobol and Amara Walker.
After a 7-hour layover in Heathrow, they flew to Johannesburg on July 5th at 9:30 PM and arrived in South Africa in the morning of July 6th. After collecting their luggage and moving through the airport, they boarded the plane for Harare, Zimbabwe, arriving in the early evening. Sr. Mary Paul Wamatu arrived from Nairobi, Kenya. They were met by the Precious Blood Sisters and drove for about two hours for their first mission destination in Macheke, Zimbabwe.
Here is the first report from the travelers.
Day 1: – Posted by Mara Walker
After a long journey from the US, we arrived late in the evening hours to Macheke, (pronounced Me-shake-e), Zimbabwe, Africa, home of the Sisters of the Precious Blood. Team ZimZam 2023 (short for Zimbabwe and Zambia) was honored and privileged to be hosted by the sisters as they opened their convent home to us all.
An education center for future sisters in training, the well-appointed gardens and bright exotic flowers set the tone for a day filled with great things to come.
Our morning started out with prayer and breakfast, soon to be followed by an Annual Meeting Report to debrief the team on their Microfinancing progress for the year.
1. The extremely successful bore hole project is fully functional and operational, producing the most amazing seasonal fruits and vegetables for their personal use and for sale.
2. Personal achievement mentoring programs continue to surprise the sisters and reach new heights as they help young teens achieve their goals while striving for personal and academic excellence.
Sister Becky wrapped up her meeting by mentioning two new initiatives or “dreams” that were important to the sisters and their community:
- Triple the size of the chicken coop to meet local demand of egg sales.
- Expand the farm and its irrigation system to help sustain the convent and feed the surrounding communities, especially in troubling economic times.
Farm and Garden Tour: Water tanks and Drip system connects to newly irrigated farmland.
Chickens: Sr. Becky invites Amara, to oversee the farm’s baby chicks.
Phase 2 is next! The sisters have many acres to continue expanding their farmland but need irrigation materials and supplies. The program has been a huge success thus far!
The morning temperatures quickly warmed up as we got on the road to start our afternoon visits.
Our first stop was to Mother Paula’s obstetrics and gynecology clinic. There we learned the needs of the clinic and said goodbye to our very ambitious intern, Maire. Maire will be interning with this new convent-turned-medical practice to better understand the needs of the women and female health needs.
The second visit was a trip to the local orphanage with fourteen children, eight of whom were below school age and home at the time of our visit. The children performed an impromptu play for us, sang and shared a bit about themselves. They were gracious and kind and brought so much joy to the group.
Lastly, we met Nombulelo and Perfect, some of our scholarship students. This photo includes their mentors. (Nombulelo was featured in our 2021 challenge match letter)
Day 2 – Posted by Prim
We are living “The Worth of Water.” I’m sure when we read the book last year, while it certainly made an impact, we didn’t really get it. We woke up at 2 am (if at all some of us slept) and flew to Bulawayo, Zimbabwe’s 2nd largest city. The area is known to have severe water problems. So tired and ready to shower and rest, we went into our rooms and found there was no running water! The buckets in the rooms were not for laundry. Being from Zim, it wasn’t my first rodeo, but it also wasn’t something I was expecting! I say it lightly, but it was hard to swallow. Our gracious hosts made sure we had hot water to bathe and cold water to flush, all delivered at the door with army efficiency. I am grateful. Water changes everything!
As I get ready for new adventures and insights, waiting for my bucket of water, my glass is half full, not half empty. I’m part of the change. I’m motivated and reminded of why I chose this track and hung up my shoe. I hope for my colleagues in St. Louis, my update gives you, too, the encouragement to keep on keeping on. We are making changes.
Brent and Amara (Friends of MPA) really brought the boys out of their shell. Laughing and making jokes, the boys are definitely introverts, but are a long way from the shabby little kids with no shoes who were among the 1st to receive the MPA scholarships. Then when little Nombulelo walked into the room all smiles and confident, my heart did a small dance! Just thinking, if the sisters hadn’t intervened maybe she might have been a street beggar with her grandparents. Seeing her articulate so well her plan to go to Harvard and eventually be a neurosurgeon-it just made my day! It’s so energizing to see, in reality, what we see on paper and say: “Hey, I know that kid”: or “Wow, the St. Pius widows are now mentors, too”! Then you hear their big plans and realize in a small way you helped connect the dots. Truly worth all the pain.
Day 3 – Sr. Fidelia
The day was filled with trainings and seeing how our team members on the ground in Africa work to share about microfinance and see it to be successful! The training began with an open prayer from a participant. The participants were asked to share about their understanding of Microfinancing. Each participant shared their knowledge and understanding. At the end the trainer introduced to the participants the MPA way of microfinancing. Among the participants were new members, therefore the trainer talked at length about MPA activities in Africa to the new participants. Participants were engaged in group work and were also given some questions to discuss in their groups. They were asked to deliver their findings and answers through presentations. Participants successfully delivered the presentations which were followed by a detailed discussion for further clarity of the subject. After the presentations detailed explanations were shared by the trainer, and participants’ efforts were appreciated. Participants also provided feedback on training contents; they appreciated that the contents were in line with their project activities, and they are not far from MPA way. At the end of the training, one member gave a vote of thanks representing the group at large. She expressed her sincere gratitude and said that the training was very helpful, and the content and exercises used in training helped them understand MPA at length. Simple and easy terminologies were used and interpretation in local languages also helped them understand.
Day 4 & 5 – Posted by Prim and Paul
Day 4 started off with a lively Mass at the sisters’ convent where we are staying. Afterwards, we headed off to visit and speak to two new groups, one called the Golden Girls, which, even though it has been in existence for only 4 months, is promising to be very successful. They make peanut butter and aim to all eventually have individual projects. They even hope to pay for some members to get some formal skills training to enable them to open successful businesses. The second group was at Minder Kinder where we helped to fund a water project in the past. This group has been in existence since 2022 and the members have been keeping chickens. These ladies have amazing teamwork and while all are employed on the side, they take turns to do what it takes to raise day-old chic’s and sell them.
The second group appeared a little less organized, but the head person couldn’t meet with us due to our travel delays. This group wants to raise boiler chickens and sell them at the local school and market. This group has not decided if they want to come with MPA/ We know of them because we have funded the construction of 2 water towers for the preschool, pre covid. The project never met expectations because of serious unforeseen plumbing issues at the school.
Both projects appeared acceptable, and I hope they go forward. I know with Sandals on the Ground, with Sister Mary Paul, the right decision will be made.
We spent the night at Sikhethimpilo where the motto is “If No One Goes I Will Go.”
Day 6 – Posted by Linda Hall
We started our day at 6:00 A.M. While driving to Plumtree we see children walking to school with their colorful uniforms of many shades of blue and bright white socks. Some walk miles to attend. I heard up to 6 miles or more one way. All people and cows, goats, donkeys, cars, and trucks share the roads to their destination and the day ahead.
We drove 3 hours to St. Francis Tshitshi Vocational Training College. The students dressed in their red and pink uniforms brightened and welcomed us with their warmth and kindness.
Our first group was the Dream Girls with 8 young women that have learned to sew and shared their designs with the group as well as their desire to each own a sewing machine. We made a commitment to purchase 5 unique designs from each student to be delivered in January 2024. Sizes for infants and toddlers. We are confident each will soon own her own sewing machine.
The second group was The Environmental Council. The goal is to improve the environment or life at the college. They have been selling French Fries and rented an ice cream machine to raise money to buy their ice cream maker! They now would like to invest in a freezer to store the ingredients and a printer to make school ID’s. We suggested a generator to preserve the product during power outages. Also, they will need a laminator for making badges.
The Poultry Group, aka, Baking Group: We met with several members of the group and learned about their challenges related to their project. We hope they will learn from their bump in the road to great success. There are several members of the group that are successful with their individual projects. Sr. Toni and Prim will review their 6-month review when it is received.
We met the last 4 groups at Tshitshi. I was part of the group that met with 2 groups of women. The first group, LET US TRY, is well on their way. They have a storefront and pay for a license monthly. They began by selling perishables and then moved to non-perishable items in their store. They have been profitable, and members have borrowed and repaid all loans with 10% interest. Sr. Toni explained in detail the MPA way and we will soon receive their constitution. LET US TRY will become WE ARE SUCCESSFUL.
The MILLIONAIRES is a group of 15 women, not all in attendance as some were attending a funeral. They also bought and sold oranges and bananas at the market as well as cook and sell their food. They collected funds that day and proudly showed us their money.