For each of the six weeks of Lent, the Diocese of Parramatta is sharing one of Caritas Australia’s feature stories of lives changed through support and empowerment programs.
FIRST SUNDAY OF LENT – 10 March, 2019
Thandolwayo – Zimbabwe
The future does have a name… and its name is hope – Pope Francis
Life in her village in north-western Zimbabwe, wasn’t easy for 12 year old Thandolwayo. Every morning she’d walk seven kilometres and risk being attacked by crocodiles as she collected clean water for her grandparents and family. Exhausted from hours fetching and carrying water, she’d then start her day at school.
Thandolwayo’s hope to be a nurse seemed almost impossible to realise, until Caritas Hwange helped the village install a solar-powered water system. It’s bringing new opportunities, new hope – and a chance for Thandolwayo to concentrate on her education and her future.
Thandolwayo lives with her grandparents and other members of her family in a village of 500 people in the Hwange district of north-western Zimbabwe.
Her father left several years ago and her mother lives in a town 90 kilometres away where she works as a casual labourer. Her older sister also moved away to attend secondary school. Thandolwayo attends the local school which has just 35 students and two teachers.
Thandolwayo’s grandparents make a living by selling pearl millet bran to fishermen and farmers for animal feed. They also sell chickens – but the income it brings isn’t enough to support the family.
Around 72 percent of Zimbabwe’s population is living below the poverty line. Thandolwayo’s community is also plagued by ongoing droughts, food and water scarcity and poor sanitation.
Every morning before school, Thandolwayo used to walk 3.5 kilometres with the other women and girls to the Gwayi River and back again. Carrying a 5 litre container, she would traverse a rocky, mountainous path to collect water for her family and her teacher.
“Then when we got to the river, we were afraid of being attacked by crocodiles,” Thandolwayo says. “I went to school tired after collecting water and my performance at school was low.”
In 2017, Caritas Australia partnered with Caritas Hwange to help the community to install two solar-powered pumps to draw the water up from the river, as well as two 10,000 litre storage tanks.
Community participation in the project was overwhelming. Both men and women helped by digging and carrying stones, and water tanks. Thandolwayo’s grandmother also joined other villagers in participating in Caritas assisted training in health and hygiene skills.
Thanks to Caritas’ support, water is now on tap in the village – benefitting the whole community.
“Life has really changed as a result of the tap because now I can bathe every day,” says Thandolwayo. “We can wash our plates and clothes regularly. I now go to school feeling fresh. The distance to collect water for the family has been drastically reduced. We now drink clean, safe water and diseases are no longer affecting us”. Village health workers say that water-borne diseases have halved, and people in the village are living longer.
There is also a new feeling of hope and positive change in the village. The plentiful water supply has triggered a series of new ventures. Water is being used to mould bricks for building houses and to pound maize to sell. Plans are underway to establish a community garden and a fish pond, to generate an income to assist with school fees.
“I’m so proud that tap water has been brought to this community during my lifetime,” says Thandolwayo’s grandmother, Regina. “We now have enough time and energy to do other work to make life better. Thandolwayo can eat three meals a day and she can concentrate much better at school. We hope she will excel and get a good job and take care of her family.”
“Thandolwayo is one of the school’s most hardworking and intelligent students. She has a bright future,” her teacher, Marvellous, says. “We hope the children’s studies will improve and that they’ll achieve their goals. And we hope that more qualified teachers will be willing to teach at the school.”
There are also hopes that the new, reliable water source will draw more families back to the village. School attendance has already increased and there are plans for a secondary school.
“The dignity of the community has been restored,” says Super Dube, Caritas Hwange’s Diocesan Coordinator. “People no longer have to worry about collecting a basic thing like water which is a human right. The project has certainly brought hope to the village,” he says.
“Hope is important because it makes me work harder so that I achieve what I want to be when I grow up. I want to live a good life in the future,” Thandolwayo says.
“Thank you very much for saving our lives because water is life,” her grandmother says.
Your donation can help to transform the lives of children like Thandolwayo.
To donate to Project Compassion, visit Caritas Australia’s website, www.caritas.org.au/projectcompassion or call 1800 024 413.
With thanks to Caritas Australia.