June 2013 Trip Report – Linda Schultz
After a few delays with Hannes (Dad) ending up full of flu and so on we finally left at 4am on Thursday the 20th of June. We were lucky and had a fairly uneventful trip to the border. Once there we went through the SA side quite easily and it looked like we were going to have the same luck on the Zims side. However this was not meant to be as their systems were off line. So after a long delay we finally got through the Zims side after about 1.5 – 2 hours delay.
So there I was back in Zimbabwe after not being home for over 20years. We left the border and headed straight for Bulawayo, arriving there just after 5.30pm. We first stopped off by Ann from the Verity Amm Soup Kitchen to double check the arrangements for Saturdays Mothers / Father’s day function. This done we finally got to Corronation Cottages where we were going to be staying while in Bulawayo (A big Thank you to Enid and Co.)
Friday morning we were up at 6am and left just before 7am for the storage facility. Once there we loaded up stock and went to where I was going to be packing the boxes. So after a few trips up and down I had most of the stock there needed as well as enough empty boxes. The first load of 108 boxes were set out and we started packing while Hannes went to sort out the final goodies for the function the next day and see where we could get maize meal in large quantities of 2kg’s. Bearing in mind I only had 3.5 days to pack all the boxes for the individuals and kitchens. Luckily I had mentally prepared myself for this challenge of note and managed to pack and label over 200 boxes on Friday with the aid of 4 helpers.
After packing the boxes on Friday we left for Food Lovers Market where we were planning on purchasing the veggies for the potjie being done the next day. We were lucky to meet Mr Paul Kruger there who donated most of the lovely veggies. While I had been packing boxes Hannes had been to Chris Andrilakas from Heads and Hooves who was supplying the 10kg short rib. We also had Sheralee and Dave Tayler who donated through contacts of their own, 10kg Oxtail and a ton of fresh veggies and some cool drink. There are also lots of other sponsors who I would like to say THANKS to, you all know who you are.
Saturday morning the alarm went off way too early and we were up and rearing to go just after 5am. Soon after we had the fire going and the no. 20 potjie pot on top of it warming up. Trust me cutting up meat and so on just after 5 was no small challenge, but a warm cup of coffee always helps to put things in perspective. Finally after 6 we started to see some life and I had the privilege of meeting Geoff Kolbe who maintains the newly planted Verity Amm orchard. I am not sure how old he is but at his age to be carrying around buckets of water for the plants is not on. So after speaking Hannes we decided to make a quick call to SA and to ask Johan (My other half) who would be coming up on the truck with Boet to purchase a hosepipe and some fertilizer and bring it up with them. As you can imagine this was well received.
So back to the potjie, after cooking from literally 5.30am we finally had everything ready to eat just after 1.30pm. This was after splitting the meat into a second pot so we could add the veggies. By this time the hall was already full with the 120 plus pensioners. The Verity Amm staff had once again gone full out and made sure the hall was looking lovely, there was also a small present for each of the Golden Oldies for the Mothers / Father’s Day function. And trust me our Golden Oldies did justice to the hall, they were dressed in their best for the occasion. By the time the lunch was finished I had already shed more than my share of tears for the day, to see such gratitude and thanks over something that many of us take for granted was heart wrenching. But at least by the end of the day we had a lot of happy smiling pensioners.
Sunday morning we were up at about 6.30am and left just after 7 for the packing site. Again we had to transport stock up and down as well as boxes, but again we managed to pack almost 300 boxes. As they say no rest for the wicked and I had serious deadlines to meet. Here I must say a big Thanks to P.J Bakkes who lent us his bakkie, having the use of 2 bakkies made things a lot easier. Sunday Hannes managed to drop off the boxes at Masonic Lodge already.
By Monday morning we were starting to crack and stressing out, getting some of the basic goods was proving to be a real challenge, not to even mention the cost. It totally sent my mind into a flat spin. The using of US$ is definitely a costly one. A normal small bottle of Hand Cream is $7.99 which at that stage was basically the equivalent of R79.90 and here I moan when pay R27 for a bottle. Rice, maize all the basics had some really scary price tags. Fresh veggies I don’t even want to go there. The one thing that has always stuck in my mind was the Cheese you get there, so of course I went looking for local cheese. For a small block of cheese it was $4.79, converted to rands is R47.90.
By Monday evening all the individual boxes were packed and all I had left to do were the kitchen, frail care and additional help parcels for those in Railstein. By this time we were also anxiously awaiting the truck with the additional stock it was carrying as well as the desperately needed empty apple boxes we use to put the goodies in. We had also managed to drop off the boxes by Kingshaven Moths in Esigodini.
Tuesday morning dawned and once again we were up early and getting the final items ready for the trucks arrival. From what I understand they flew through the border in record time and finally got to us in Bulawayo just after 1pm. Then the work really started. We offloaded stock we were short as well as empty boxes. Once the truck left to go drop the stock off at our storage facility me and my team of helpers got busy putting the stock into the boxes labeling them and doing a final name list check. Then we got the boxes in order ready to load when the truck returned. This we managed to do with reasonable ease considering I did not have my usual team I use in SA who are old hats at loading the trucks with me. We finished this off just after 6.30pm.
Wednesday we were up at the crack of dawn to get all the last minute goodies done and loaded onto the truck. Hannes and Boet managed to leave for Gweru their first stop just after 11am. Once they had left we then proceeded to deliver the boxes to the kitchens in Bulawayo as well as all the outsiders. Here we managed to surprise a lot of our Golden Oldies with and addition bucket hamper (Donated by Pick n Pay Malelane). One of our Golden Oldies almost burst into tears when we told her that she could keep the Bucket as well as its contents. She was over the moon as the water had come on an hour earlier than usual and she now had an extra container to store water in before it was switched off again. The amount of hugs and kisses and words of extreme gratitude brought me to tears more than once during the afternoon. I work to raise the funds and do the office admin, being on the ground like this was tearing me emotionally apart. Seeing for the first time what the funds I beg from all of you mean to our Golden Oldies in their food parcels. A box of oats to warm them up for their breakfast brings tears of Thanks!!
Thursday and Friday were also hectic days. Saturday we decided to chill a bit and we went to the Motopus Hills and Worlds View. Although there was a decided lack of animals this was a special day for my little family as they got to see a bit of my history. We ended the day at the old Rhodesian Train Museum. I literally took hundreds of photos and will be posting some of them on my FB page for those who would like to have a look.
Sunday saw us waiting for Hannes and Boet to get back from doing the deliveries all over the rest of Zimbabwe. While they were tired we ended the day with a lovely braai.
Monday and Tuesday we did the last of the deliveries around Bulawayo. This included the additional help parcels to Railstein. These Pensioners are really on the bottom of the food chain and the conditions they live in are terrible. A lot of them rely on the Verity Amm Soup Kitchen for their daily meal. For my son (Frans 14) who was with us on this trip this was a real eye opener and a lesson in that you never take anything for granted.
Wednesday saw Johan and Boet up at 3am and leaving in the truck just before 4am. We were up just before 6am to also get on the road. However things never go as planned and we finally managed to leave Bulawayo just before 10am. The border passing went a lot quicker on the way out and soon we really were on the road home. We finally arrived back in Malelane just after 8pm the truck arriving about 10mins before us.
To all our supporters out there I cannot explain seeing what these food hampers mean to our Golden Oldies, for so many of them they are the difference between surviving and not surviving. The one thing I will say is most of our Golden Oldies still have that wonderful strong spirit of “never die / never give up”. I can truly tell you first hand that YOU make a WORLD of DIFFERENCE in THEIR LIVES!!!
For me going home after so many years, it was a challenge. Zimbabwe is still a beautiful country with amazing possibilities. I however will never complain about the roads in SA again. But overall it was once again a successful trip and even more so as it was the first one where we have packed the boxes in Bulawayo.
Thank you for enabling us, you are the true heroes here!!!