My kids are always excited to see what I bring home after I have traveled abroad. Since I really did not buy much the past two weeks, I entertained them with some 2 Rand coins and some Nando’s commercials (their holiday advert remains one of my favorite YouTube videos). It sparked conversations about conversion rates and how much does peri-peri chicken really cost. I pulled out a poster of history of Zimbabwe’s bank notes for the kids to inspect and translated the changes into ‘buying lunch’ terms.
Five years ago, I drove across the Vic Falls border after buying two shoeboxes of Zim currency at rate of $800,000 ZD : $1 USD. I dropped $1.3m ZD for a light lunch for five the following day. The stores were empty and carrying a camera into them could land you in jail because foreign press was not welcome. Petrol queues were as long as the growing public cemetery plots in the western suburbs. Things were very dark; hope was only a whisper.
Now, there is a renewed hope in the air. Restaurants and grocery stores are open (we frequented Pizza Inn and enjoyed their $6 USD medium pizzas). Life-prolonging drugs are becoming more available, and former bed-ridden uncles are now walking around. Families, estranged by the fear of AIDS, are beginning to reconcile. Electricity and water in the cities are much more reliable. Even the rural areas have 3G mobile services and information is flowing freely. I was amazed how things had changed.
On the surface dollarization appears to have changed the landscape significantly; however, many of the constants remain. Grandparents are still struggling to take care of their grandchildren. Pastors and church volunteers are still caring for their widows and orphans (see James 1:27). The need is still growing at a substantial rate. While dollarization has allowed for legal imports to resume, it has also increased the prices of nearly everything. Our partners are struggling to serve the growing demand with the same resource levels. They have some resourceful ways of addressing these issues, and are looking to kickstart income generating projects. Moreover, Forgotten Voices has over a [dozen] new churches prepared to expand their existing orphan care programs to help their communities. Would you consider helping us kickoff one of these new partnerships ($2000) or starting a goat herd ($250)? There are literally hundreds ready to volunteer their time to help these children, but they need us to take the first step of writing a check to take care of the food and school fees that they cannot absorb.
-Trevor Bunch, Forgotten Voices Board Member