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Hannah O’Riordan

Hannah O’Riordan Site Visit 2019 Blog

I was lucky enough to visit Zimbabwe for the second time at the end of 2019, to visit our partners and see some of the amazing work they are doing to support young people in their communities.

After twenty-seven hours and several airport lounges, our leadership team touched down in Bulawayo and drove back through the beautiful surroundings to get started.

When I first visited Zimbabwe eighteen months before, the country had erupted with hope for the future and all our partners had big plans. It was fantastic to be back and see these plans in action and to get to meet some of the young women and men that ZET has been supporting, which kicked off with our visit to Trinity Project.

Trinity Project is a Bulawayo-based organisation which champions child rights and child protection, best known for its ground-breaking work on birth registration locally and nationally. Our trip began working on upcoming fundraising, project management and other administration. We were able to find out about their successes, such as lobbying the First Lady on birth registration and passing a parliamentary motion.

The Kids Club

After struggling through power cuts and lack of water and electricity for the first couple of days in the office, we spent the rest of our time in Bulawayo out in the field meeting local communities. We visited some girlchild empowerment organisations, called ‘kids clubs’, where we heard first-hand the impact Trinity had in teaching these young girls and women about their rights and transforming their circumstances.

No one exemplified this better than Brenda, a teenage girl who was kind enough to share her story. Brenda was born HIV+, due to her single mother’s positive status. She grew up very poor, unable to go to school or afford proper medication. She resented her mother for her situation and ran away from home when she was very young. Life on the streets was tough and left her vulnerable, so fearing for her safety she returned home. This is when she was introduced to the Trinity Project Kids Clubs. She began to attend these and was taught various sports, games and arts and crafts to participate in.

Brenda outside her home

This became her lifeline – she had other children to socialise with who understood, an incredible support-network of adults around her to counsel her, and new creative outlets. Brenda now writes beautiful and impactful poetry, which we were lucky enough to hear her perform. Brenda is an inspiring person, but she represents dozens of young people who Trinity has empowered in this way, and it was a privilege to meet these young girls and boys, learn from them, and continue to support them.

The next stop on our visit was Rafiki Girls Centre, an education and vocational training centre for vulnerable young women in Harare. This visit began with working through the project management and logistics of our ongoing project funded with UK aid from the British people, and it was wonderful to hear that this year’s programme was going well and the rapid expansion of students had been a success.

During our time at the centre, we met many students during various classes. The director, Hildah, has an almost encyclopaedic knowledge of her students past and present; their backgrounds, their work, and what they went on to do; so it has always been so inspiring to hear what a life-changing difference the centre makes in the lives of these women, and it was a blessing to get to see this first-hand.

We saw students working on their new UK Aid Direct funded laptops and sewing machines and were treated to a delicious three-course lunch from the hotel and catering students. I was gifted a gorgeous kitchen set from the design students, which now sits proudly next to the wall-hanging I was given at my last visit, back here in the UK.

We also travelled round Harare in torrential rain to see students at their vocational trainings, including tutorials at a hair salon and Nurse Aid students learning CPR at a Red Cross centre. The young women on this course are a testament to the project – Rafiki provides first-class training to its students and is vital in boosting their confidence, social skills and employability; forging a lifeline for marginalised young women in Zimbabwe.

I flew home alone as the rest of our team travelled onto our final wonderful partner, Foundations for farming, and was able to reflect on our visit. It feels like the start of an exciting new period for ZET and our partners, with a new leadership team in place at home, stronger than ever organisations in Zimbabwe, and fantastic plans for the next couple of years. All of our partners are doing incredible work supporting the most vulnerable in society and have a transformational effect on those they reach. We have strong projects in place to champion our existing work and are expanding into new areas – I really look forward to seeing what we can do next.

Hannah O’Riordan

ZET Trustee