This experience is divided into three sections: Bush Life, Conservation & Research and Village Life. These sections are geographically spread from the historic and mystical Matopos, to the great Hwange National Park.
Matopos Community Assistance:
This phase involves hands on assistance in villages in the Matobo Hills region of Zimbabwe, where our project partners are working on improving the quality of life of children, through better health and education facilities.
You will have the privilege of touching the lives of Africa’s children, in a wholly positive way, through building of school facilities and involvement in food programs aimed at nurturing self sufficiency.
Work here will include developing the building and infrastructure of the Matobo Hills primary school, where thanks to volunteer involvement and donations we have been able to expand the school significantly, adding an extra 2 classroom blocks and providing housing for the senior teaching staff. One of the classroom blocks requires the fitting of a roof and the whole school will require painting and fitting of glazed windows to prevent damage from ground hornbills. In addition Mother Africa has established a feeding program at the school, feeding on average 400 pupils every day.
Volunteers will be needed to prepare the food and distribute it to the kids. Funding has also meant we are able to sponsor over 100 pupils full fees per school term, a massive financial help to those children. This help is rotated amongst the children to ensure they all benefit equally.
At this stage you are offered a rare opportunity to experience life in Africa, as it is known by the vast majority of her people, being hosted by the Ndebele community in their rural village. Chop your own firewood, carry your own water, cook your dinner on an open fire beneath African skies and lay your weary head down to sleep in a traditional African mud hut. Roseana, a traditional herbalist/healer will be available at this stage to introduce you to various edible and medicinal shrubs, roots and berries. The village stay is the highlight of many of our volunteers stay.
Ethandweni Home for Orphans:
This facility was opened in 1997, and received initial funding from the Sai community, Danida and the Danish Red Cross. Mother Africa is working in conjunction with Ethandweni and we are hoping to become a major provider of funding and support for this organisation.
The facility can house 36 children at any one time and the ages of the children range from a few months old to 19 years of age.
Zimbabwe is home to over 1 million orphans, with latest estimates putting the percentage of the population being HIV positive as over 30%. This disease has particularly affected the workforce, and Zimbabwe is facing a social crisis, at risk of losing much of the development that has been achieved to date.
At present the medical/health system in Zimbabwe is severely depleted and service delivery in this sector is massively short of requirements. Likewise the Social Welfare Department is critically short of resources and simply can’t cope with the number of children that need help. Extended family systems, usually a buffer in times of social flux, have been greatly weakened by drought and poverty.
Admittedly homes like Ethandweni can’t hope to meet all these needs, however it does support activities which help strengthen existing social networks, such as education to empower people and villages to better cope with this demanding social crisis.
Volunteers will be required to help with the running of the home, including activities such as washing up dishes and cooking utensils, helping the children clean their rooms, feeding and changing the younger children…and simply to be there, to give care, friendship and love to children who have no one else to turn to.
Matopos Cultural Heritage Intiative:
The Matobo Hills has deep-rooted significance to the local communities of Zimbabwe; it is viewed as a sacred place where the spirits of ancestors dwell. Due to it’s cultural importance and natural beauty it has been declared a World Heritage site. You will have the opportunity to work amongst the massive granite boulders searching for San painting sites. About 80% of the Matobo Hills remain unexplored and there may well be sites of great archaeological importance that are waiting to be discovered.
Volunteers will be involved in exploring the Matobo Hills, searching for new San painting sites, as well as Kalanga grain bins. If new sites are found you will be tasked with recording its location using a GPS receiver, a brief sketch of the layout of the cave and artwork will be needed, and an inventory of what’s contained in the cave. No touching or taking souvenirs allowed! This information will be passed on to the Natural History Museum in Bulawayo, if a full archaeological dig is required you may be able to assist with this as well.
Research Components on the Combination Project:
Research at Mother Africa is an integral part of the volunteer experience, although the majority of research work will be conducted at Ivory Lodge, just outside the spectacular Hwange National Park.
Ground Hornbill Research:
The aim of this work is to piece together the local life history of the Ground Hornbill, where it lives, where it nests and what it eats. This knowledge can be used to inform developers and policy makers and will be used to safeguard areas where Ground Hornbill can persist.
Zimbabwe has one of the largest elephant populations of any country in Africa. These magnificent herbivores can bring in much needed foreign currency through tourism but can also wreak havoc on the local ecology. Confrontations between elephant and local farming communities are also common.
You will be working with independent researchers based at Hwange National Park as well as with Zimbabwe National Park’s personnel. Work will involve tracking the elephants to determine their movements and to highlight areas they are concentrated in, noting herd structure and behaviour as well as liaising with local communities to ascertain damage done by elephants and to try and develop solutions for these confrontations.