Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Cathy's latest letter

Dear Family and Friends,


On Friday afternoon the long, hot dry spell which had lasted for five weeks in Marondera, finally broke in true African fashion with the most ferocious storm. In the middle of the day it grew very dark, a fierce wind arrived from nowhere and lightning streaked down the blackening sky every few minutes. The power went off almost as soon as the rain started and while my son and his friend played cards at the table I surveyed all the bounty on the floor around me.

For almost three months I had been tracking a donation which had been left on the other side of the country. Three boxes, one suitcase and one bucket was the description of the donation and at last, thanks to the kindness of a whole string of people, it had finally arrived in Marondera.

On the side of an 8 kg bucket in big print it said "Old Fashioned Blueberry: Frozen gourmet muffin batter." Inside the bucket there was something far more valuable than muffin mix though and I pried open the lid to see scissors, tweezers and toothbrushes. While the storm outside raged, the piles of treasure for the Christopher Campaign grew - soap,
disinfectant, linen savers and antiseptic - whatever could be used to give some comfort and dignity to desperately poor people living with HIV and AIDS in Marondera.

There are over 700 unemployed and virtually destitute people with HIV and AIDS in Marondera. In addition there are over 900 orphans in the town and 21 child headed households. In all cases these men, women and children are almost entirely dependant on the goodwill of strangers, on food and clothing handouts and charitable donations from NGO's (Non Governmental Organizations) like The Red Cross or The Rotary Club under whose umbrella our little Christopher Campaign operates in Marondera town.

There are thought to be in excess of 3000 NGO's in Zimbabweemploying over 20 000 people who in turn help literally millions of people in need in Zimbabwe. There are NGO's working to help the very young and the very old, the sick, the hungry and the downtrodden. There are NGO's working in the cities, towns and remotest of villages. This may well be the last week that a large number of these NGO's continue to operate in the country. This week parliament began forcing the NGO Bill through the required stages. Despite an adverse report by the parliamentary legal committee which said the Bill contradicted the constitution on 12 counts, it now seems inevitable that the NGO Bill is about to become law. NGO's are frantically making preparations as I write. Some say they will go underground, others will relocate to neighbouring countries and many more will simply cease to exist. Welshman Ncube, the Chairman of the parliamentary legal committee described the NGO Bill as a "pervasive attempt to curtail and extinguish the fundamental freedoms of the people of Zimbabwe". He said the Bill "does not seek to regulate but to control, to silence, to render ineffective and ultimately shut down non-governmental organisations."

These are the darkest of days in Zimbabwe. So many people get from one day to the next thanks to the kindness of strangers and the goodness of charitable organisations. How they will survive once these organizations are outlawed lies only in God's hands. Please remember Zimbabwe in your prayers. Until next week, love cathy Copyright cathy buckle 20 Nov 2004

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