A Different Story This Year

I was just reading the post about the rains coming…

this last year they didn’t.

Crops failed. Livestock died and people are struggling to survive.

Jam Pots and Purls has launched a new fundraising campaign to get help to where it is needed. We will be going live on Fundraiser any day now.

Jam Pots And Purls Fundraising for Children of the Soil

Jam Pots And Purls was set up in 2013 to respond to a need expressed by Vanavevhu-Children of the Soil, a charity working with young people orphaned by AIDS in Zimbabwe. These young people have taken on responsibilities far beyond their years, providing for the financial, practical and emotional needs of their siblings and extended families. With the help of Vanavevhu, they are reaching beyond their losses and hardships to a future of hope and expectation. Vanavevhu has stepped in to help meet the need for education, food availability, budgeting on a low income, training and skill development. Through the work at Vanavevhu these amazing young people are learning market gardening, bee keeping and candle making, equipping them with skills to make their way in life.

Current need

At the end of 2015, the climate dealt a heavy blow. The long awaited rains between October- March didn’t happen. Crops failed and livestock died. President Mugabe declared a state of disaster and food aid began to arrive but this has been focused on rural areas. The youth at Vanavevhu live in the slums on the edge of Bulawayo and have received no aid. The work on the permaculture market garden came to a halt because the water table dropped below the depth of their bore hole. Many of the youth have additional jobs known as “piece work” but these are mainly in harvesting maize and taking in laundry, both of which have been curtailed by the drought. The youth are unable to grow their own food or raise money to buy food and Zimbabwe is now entering the dry season. Families are surviving on maize meal with little nutritional value, in homes where sanitation, hygiene and health have been compromised by the lack of water. Children are too weak to walk the long distances to school and attendance has dropped.


In the first instance, in response to this crisis I am raising money to alleviate the pressing nutritional needs and provide for health emergencies that arise. This will be a very practical way of getting help to where it is needed. I can transfer money directly to Lizz Mhangami the director of the charity in Zimbabwe and she can buy and distribute the food to the Children of the Soil. She will also be able to monitor health needs at the same time. . Another contact I have in Bulawayo supplies E’Pap, a highly nutritious porridge with all the minerals and vitamins required in one daily helping. This can be bought at low cost and distributed to supplement the diets of those in need.

It costs as little as £6 to supply a person with a daily portion of E’Pap for a month. Life is not cheap, but the solution is. I am aiming to provide assistance with buying food until the end of September or until the situation eases. I am in regular contact with the team at Vanavevhu and have regular updates about the current situation.

Once this pressing need has been met I am looking into returning in October when the rains come, to assist in getting the permaculture up and running again. In addition I have been asked to teach soap-making to run alongside the candle-making business and to link this into Global Handwashing Day on 15th October.  They have new outlets for the candles in the tourist industry and the soap will fit perfectly into this same market, establishing the business on a more solid footing offering a greater financial security with the potential for growth. The success of Vanavevhu to date has shown the need for someone to believe in the power of youth, to believe enough to invest time and energy and love.
What’s needed?

I am aiming to raise £2500

  • Finance for food and medical costs £1600
  • Living costs and transport once in Zimbabwe £600
  • Materials and equipment for launching the soap-making production £300

There will be a lot of physical work on the ground to get the market garden ready for planting once the rains come and training the youth in the new skills of soap-making. At the same time I shall be continuing to help provide the emotional and spiritual support needed to bring these youngsters into a place of healing. There is the need for the sharing of knowledge, skills and dreams, and to give words of encouragement and heartfelt congratulations when goals have been realised. These young people need adults to fill the gap where their parents would have stood.
Further information about Jam Pots And Purls can be found at www.facebook.com/JamPotsAndPurls/

The website for Vanavehu-Children of the Soil is www.vanavevhu.org

Please get in touch if you have any questions, would like to host a fundraising coffee morning, garden party, curry night etc


Donations can be made to me directly if you are local, online at  www.jampotsandpurls.wordpress.com

Or by cheque made payable to Jam Pots And Purls. Please contact me for postal address


That heart-stopping moment

31.The sandbar

Less than three weeks until we arrive at our destination. I decided to print off our flight itinerary, check the details for the nth time and put it all together with the passports and vaccination records. I had checked our passports months ago and knew that they were both valid even though Rowan was a young baby-face in his photo. He did look young and yes he has changed a lot in the last two years, but he looked very  young.

He was. He was ten which means that his passport expires this year! Oh August. That’s OK, ages off. And then a thought permeated into my consciousness: had I not read somewhere about passports needing 6 months left  on them. Was that 6 months before leaving or before returning. Slight feeling of panic now as I scan the internet for information. Passports must be valid for at least 6 months from the date of leaving. A quick count on the fingers…February, March…July, August…..6 months and 5 days! Phew!

But that doesn’t help with Baby-face.

A quick to call to Greg the Helpful at Wimbledon Flight Centre and I am reassured that, despite the angles, the braces and the stubble, there will be no problems on arrival in Zimbabwe. Not with the passport anyway….the sewing machine? Now that’s a different story!

The rain comes down

Four weeks today and we will be at Heathrow waiting for our flight to Amsterdam on the first leg of the journey to Harare. Four weeks feels like a long time to wait but there are still a number of things to finalise and preparations to make so I guess that it will fly by.

I had a lovely message from one of the young people this morning. The 7.30am Bulawayo-time greeting landed on my phone at 5.30. Everyone’s fine. No exciting news. Looking forward to our arrival. It’s raining.

I didn’t have to open the curtain to know that the rain was lashing down here too. But there the similarity ends. Cornish rain cannot compare with the warm, vertical, plump rain of Zimbabwe. Straightforward rain that drops, unlike Cornish rain that comes in at unexpected angles, sharp as needles, finding gaps around necks and cuffs. By contrast Zimbabwean rain left me laughing in the warm sunshine that followed the shower. The rainy season. So vital to life. The previous rains that I had encountered in January last year were better than usual: good news for the water table.

So it was with some fondness that I heard the news about rain….flip flops here I come!


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Skill sharing comes to life


The tomato harvest this year was bumper!

There are several reasons for this. New polyhouses means that tender seedlings can be protected through he cold nights of the winter, thus extending the growing season. The fully operational bore hole allows for year-round irrigation which was previously impossible with jojo water storage drums and drip irrigation. The third factor is the hard work of the youth and staff at Vanavevhu who have worked to make the dream into a reality.


The skill sharing that Jam Pots And Purls was involved with earlier this year has come into its own and it is wonderful to see how the youth have developed the preserving skills into producing and marketing their own Tomato Jam. They are excited by their success and are now looking forward to harvesting their other crops and preserving their excess in a similar way.

Well done Team!


The Zimbabwean Article

The Zimbabwean ran this article this week. Great coverage of the lives and work of the young people at Vanavevhu.



New hope for child-headed households

Since the deaths of her parents, life has not been rosy for 21 year old Siphamandla Nyoni and her two siblings. Her father died in 2001 and her mother in 2006 when Nyoni was completing her primary education.

Some of the youths working in the permaculture garden.
“Food for the family and payment of schools fees are the most pressing challenges for us. It is only with the amazing grace of God that I have managed to complete my O levels and keep the family intact,” she said in a recent interview.

In Bulawayo, many orphaned and child-headed families sharing Nyoni’s predicament were not receiving any meaningful social assistance or training in entrepreneurship skills, either from government or from non-government organisations – until the formation of Vanavevhu Trust in January 2010.

The Trust provides psycho-social support and develops functional literacy and vocational skills for participants. It was founded by Elizabeth Mhangami, who quit her lucrative job and comfortable life in the United States, where she and her family had been living since 1999.

Always hungry

“While still in the USA, I assigned a friend of mine to commission a feasibility study on the status of child-headed families in Bulawayo. The outcome clearly revealed that these children were neglected and forgotten. What also glaringly emerged was that most of these youths missed out on various youth programmes because they were always busy trying to fend for their families” said Mhangami, who is a gender activist and a Rotarian.

She started fund raising for the Trust in Chicago, where she was based. With the assistance of the Chicago Rotary and other organisations, she had been actively involved in securing and shipping scarce medical supplies to public health institutions in Bulawayo for some time.

Since its inception, Vanavevhu Trust has supported child-headed households through self- sufficiency programmes in some of the city’s poorest high density suburbs. These are designed to give the beneficiaries opportunities to acquire essential life skills through a mix of basic and technical training.


“Our programmes are designed to provide resources such as food, education and health care that a parent would have provided. We are dedicated to the financial self–sufficiency of child-headed families and the development of at-risk youths by providing training and job opportunities,” explained Mhangami.

The Trust runs a successful training centre in Douglasdale on the outskirts of Bulawayo where the youths undergo a three-year intensive course under tutored by qualified and experienced personnel.

“When the youths speak about their experiences as child-heads of households, food is their major concern. Every one of our participants has described going several days every week with no food” said Mhangami.

Because of the severe food shortages which the youths face, the organisation includes food security in all its programmes. The students are taught skills in Permaculture farming, which includes composting, building a rainwater catchment system, and learning how to grow food organically. They are also taught how to build and run small bucket irrigation schemes and make and service drip irrigation kits for a small fee.

The farming techniques taught include methods of harvesting heirloom seeds and how to make value-added products from the excess vegetables they harvest.

Resilience plot

At the end of the course, the youths graduate with a “resilience plot”. This is a small home garden which ensures that they will be able to feed themselves and their siblings and sell excess vegetables or any value-added products to their neighbours. They are also able to sell their expertise to others in the community.

The centre also trains participants in mushroom production, beehive keeping and beeswax candle-making.

In order to hone the youths’ job readiness and entrepreneurial skills, the Trust in partnership with the youths has formed a co-operative named V2 Enterprises. This cottage industry makes candles, does apiculture and permaculture.

“Vanavenhu graduates buy shares in the company. All proceeds are shared equally and the surplus is re-invested into the programme. This arrangement gives the participants the opportunity to get hands-on job experience,” explained Mhangami.

“Although economically things are still very difficult in the country, I am now able to take care of my siblings thanks to Vanavenhu’s courses. I am able to make and sell candles and other products such as lip balms,” said Nyoni.

Shrinking funding

Gugulethu Moyo, 20, paid tribute to the organisation for changing her life and that of her dependants. “Since my parents passed away, I have been taking care of my three siblings and grandmother through vending. My family had been a laughing stock in my neighbourhood but I am happy that I have acquired various skills that have improved my life and the lives of my family members,” said Moyo, who is now an employee of V2 Enterprises.

Brighton Ncube, from Sizinda, has also benefited. “I am now one of the staff members at the centre. I teach other students in mushroom production and permaculture. With the skills I have acquired here, I am hoping to start my own business one day,” he said.

Currently the centre is home to 13 boys and 12 girls. Mhangami, who has a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Women and Gender Studies, said she was worried by the increasing number of girl students who are dropping out due to pregnancy. She also expressed concern about shrinking funding from partners. The Trust relies on private donations to finance its operations


Opportunities from Obstacles

The telephone blinked “new message” at me.

So far so good.

The voice introduced himself as my friend Greg from the Flight Centre. As I was recognising the voice, my mind was jumping ahead to what he might be ringing for. Could I call back to discuss some changes to the flight times.

Less good by this time.

I spoke with a colleague of Greg who was up to date on the situation. KLM had cancelled the Amsterdam to Harare direct service and it now flies via Nairobi. I began scrabbling through my geographical bearings to work out what this would mean in real terms: further west but not a huge distance. Certainly not like flying via Cairo or waiting for 23 hours in Johannesburg for connecting flights.

One thing that I had been looking forward to was flying in daylight so that I could see our passage over Europe, across the Mediterranean, onwards over the Sahara and onwards some more, and some more until we landed in Harare. Now I was hearing that the flight leaves Heathrow at 5pm on 31st Jan…cold,dark and wet are the first thoughts I have. Probably cold, dark and wet when we reach Amsterdam too. I was so excited, when the flights were first booked, that I would be able to watch Africa unfolding below me, that I wouldn’t have to spend the night trying to sleep semi-upright, amidst snorers anonymous with someone’s knees in my back.


how exciting to be landing in Harare in the late morning with a 5 hour journey ahead. Travelling overland in the bright African sun, maybe a lightning storm, a torrential downpour, accompanied by Lizz’s wonderfully random playlist, much laughter and the catching up and chatter that we have missed. Details! They can restrict and limit us so much whilst seeming to provide a certain amount of order and structure, but throw them aside with carefree abandon and we are open to adventure and discovery. However the final journey looks will be fine by me as I believe that it is part of God’s wonderful plan and I don’t want to miss out on the wonder by sticking strictly to a schedule. I won’t really know the details of the journey until we arrive in Bulawayo and then they will join the other landmarks on the big journey of life.