Pimai B Community (Honde Valley), Zimbabwe
Written by Alicia Ralph (International Volunteer, Canada)
Today I met Sarra*. A mother of three, who lost her husband sixteen years ago. Left as a widow, her husband’s brother came in and “claimed her”. He used her solely for sex, and she bore two of his children in the subsequent years. He took no responsibility for her or her children, and has now completely abandoned them.
Now as I sit across from this woman who has no reason to smile, but is, my heart both breaks and swells at the same time. She radiates hope and exhibits resilience like no one else I have met. Sarra is a similar age as me, but her life could not be any more different than mine. I can’t stop complaining about my weight, about how I miss my friends and family, about how I don’t know how to deal with Hayden’s temper tantrums – I think my problems are big. How humbled I am as I look into Sarra’s eyes and hear her story. Her second youngest daughter sits on the grass mat beside me, clutching the hem of my skirt as Sarra directs my attention to the pitiful pile of maize drying in the sun behind me.
“That is my harvest,” she says.
I ask her, “How long it will last?”
She responds quietly, “Maybe until July, if I am lucky. Because of the drought, most of my maize didn’t survive and so instead of having a harvest that would last me until December or January next year, I only have enough to last me a few months.”
I look over her shoulder to the hills that surround her hut. It’s so hard to believe that there is a drought in Honde Valley. I see trees ripe with bunches of bananas and hills covered in green, but after hearing story after story from our Care Workers and caregivers, I know Honde Valley has hidden the crisis well under the mask of this lush green facade. A crisis that has been caused by a deadly combination of last year’s poor harvest and the absence of rains this year. This has resulted in young maize plants to be scorched under the intense summer heat, deeming them pretty much useless. You may be asking yourself why this is such a huge deal. Well, there are many detrimental effects of this drought, such as the doubling of food costs due to the shortage of maize available, but what is hitting women like Sarra and thousands of extremely poor and vulnerable people living in Honde Valley and other similar rural areas, is the damage caused to their own personal maize gardens. With no work available for most, and therefore no income coming in to buy their staple food of ground maize, many are completely dependent on the maize they grow to feed them and their families. When the harvest fails, they face starvation.
I look back again at the maize cobs behind me and then at Sarra; I have no words to say. What will she do when July comes and the maize bag has run dry? There will be nothing. Honestly, nothing. I know Sarra does all she can to find piecework to make a few dollars a week, but that will barely cover the costs she needs to buy cooking oil and tomatoes.
My face must have showed my distress and pain for Sarra as she spoke, because she reached for my hand to reassure me it was not hopeless. “I love Jesus,” she told me. “I trust in him and so should you.”
I began to understand that her joy does not reside in what she has; it resides in her faith in her Father in Heaven.
We prayed for Sarra before we left, and I will continue to pray for her. And I urge all of those who read this to also pray for her and for the Care Workers who visit her. Pray that the Care Workers, in their own struggles, continue to bring encouragement, compassion and support. Pray the community will come together and care for one another. Pray the world will open their eyes to what is happening in Southern Africa and also extend their hands to women like Sarra.
Join us in lifting the burden of the widespread drought and food crisis on Africa’s most vulnerable. Visit our Drought Relief page, and learn more about how you can play your part.
*name has been changed