Since 1994 Rosi and I (Vic Voss) have been supporting Orphaned Children in their education in a Rural area of Zimbabwe through an unofficial charity. Through those years we must have helped hundreds of children by supporting them and paying their school fees, with the help of family and friends and colleagues at work, members of my church and the Freemasons. We still continue to do this and are supporting nine children at the present moment. For more than ten years I went out and stayed in the community, and eating and drinking the food that they ate.
We helped to fund Classrooms for the Secondary School, then known as Nechilibi Secondary School but now upgraded to a High School meaning they are enabled to teach up to “A” level.
As I would often stay in a “mud” hut in one of the six villages that make up this Community I became very aware of the problem of an inadequate supply of water, and witnessed how far some of the ladies had to go to get water and to carry it back in a large container on the head. Over the years I raised sufficient money to have 7 Boreholes drilled and fitted with Bushpumps. On another occasion I fed the whole Community of 10,000 with Mealie Meal and Salt sufficient for a week. But these are stories of their own.
I often receive letters or more usually, e-mails, from past students letting me know how they are getting on. However, this article a true story of an orphaned member of Mabale Ward and our Church Parish Link, who has been given the opportunity of coming to England on Business (involving Lush Cosmetics), and who made the effort to visit and stay with us and see the actual people who sponsored her through her education for many years to enable her to get where she is today.
Vic is a Past Master of Union Lodge No 127 in Margate. This was 1993, in 2013 he was promoted to Past Provincial Grand Registrar. Vic is currently very bust as the Area 8 Group Almoner Coordinator. He is also very active in the Local church of, St John’s Margate, helping to convert it to a Community Centre, he also fund raising for this work to be done.
Vic has also previously maintained contact with Freemasons Lodges in Zimbabwe, spending some of the spare time he has, visiting Africa.
The next part is Precious Phiri’s story and Vic’s.
Precious Phiri Her Story “The Moment my life was changed”.
22 years ago, seated in class at Nechilibi Secondary School (now High School); I was very young and a few months into my form 2 (I don’t know what that translates to in other countries) – I was 14 years old. My class teacher came into our classroom and told me I’m being called to the Admin Block, I was pretty quiet and of course being called by the headmaster was kind of scary (for me at least!). I was one of those very “unknown” kids in general, though when it came to exam time the teacher would look for me to see who’s this “smartie”! So back to my admin call – I got there and there was this shortish white man, with a pleasant smile. Remember this is rural Zimbabwe in 1996, I timidly smiled back. The teacher (Mr Nyathi) and headmaster (Mr Moyo) told him my name, Precious Dube. This white man said a few words that I didn’t quite understand as he sounded like he swallowed up the rest of what he said! The next thing I was told to pose for a photo – mmh! I did, and snap, snap and he shook my hands and off he went. The head said “Good, you now have a sponsor! That man’s name is Mr Voss from England and he is taking your name and pictures to his church and community friends in England”, said Mr Moyo. He continued saying, “These friends are pensioners and will be your sponsors for your education, if you do well they will take you through to A-level”. (This is me at Nechilibi School in 1996).
Imagine this, you’re a young girl, full of promise and dreams, walking barefoot, patched skirt (yes, I said it – isigamba), with a super star of a grannie who can’t really afford much materially, except give you lots of love and strong hiding when you act like your brains have gone away. Then all of a sudden you’re told your fees will be covered, your granny doesn’t have to worry anymore. You can continue selling baskets, cow peas and “nyimo” beans by the buses on the road at Cross Mabale for the other house needs, and not school fees! This is historical and quite dreamy!
I had started to Sponsor children at Nechilibi School in a small way in 1994 but by 1996 this had grown to around 12 to 15 orphans. By 1998 the number had grown to 19 and with friends and colleagues supporting this small charity it would grow to over 30 at its height in about 2,000.
Precious’s story now continues:
Fast forward, I got my first hand written letter from “The Richardson’s” (that’s how I’ve always referred to them) my actual Sponsors, and a couple of pictures. A beautifully dressed, honest – very elegant retired couple. (Actually, W. Bro. George Richardson of the Union Lodge). Next was registered mail, hey hey the beautiful Sweaters from England and my first ever gold watch (whatever happened to it??) they sent me a white night dress that I still remember wearing in broad daylight, who knew about night dresses though! Not me. Well, Mr Voss kept visiting from time to time. High school happened, granny passed away and we became a child headed household, that head being me. But at least my fees covered some of the house needs too.
I visited Precious in 1999 after her granny had died, and then had to look after the other children, as can be seen in the picture below. This was a difficult time for Precious as she was studying for her “O” levels and looking after children, doing the house-work, fetching water, cooking, etc., as well as doing her studies, is something that must be admired in a person with all these challenges. Precious moved to live with an aunt in Vic Falls and then attended Fatima High School, about 250 miles from Vic Falls where I visited during the next two years and eventually passing her “A” levels.
To the right Precious (in white) is seen with her friend Dorcas, who was also one of the sponsored students at the same time and succeeded in getting to Fatima High School to complete her studies. Both girls worked very hard to get where they are today under adverse circumstances.
I am going to add here that in 2007 Precious met and married a good man, his name is Shadreck Phiri, and to whom I have spoken via Skype these last few days. Unfortunately, because of medical problems, Precious is unable to have children. I will now let Precious get on with her story.
Fast forward again – today – 22nd May 2018 – I’m in Margate, England – I finally met the Richardson’s (George and Shirley) and their amazing daughter- Lisa McClure who’s really my laughing buddy. They already said we make noise! And if you ask me that’s a compliment. They’re 89 (turning 90 this year—George) and 83 (Shirley). Such pleasant people.
Mr Voss (Victor – I still Can’t call him by his first name and it probably won’t happen) and his wife Rosi are hosting me here and we are catching up on all the work he did in Mabale (clinic building, sinking boreholes and hundreds of kids connected to sponsors and many other needs met). I am really grateful I managed to come in person and say ‘Thank You’ to the absolute strangers that walked into my life and set me up for change forever! Thank you to my class teacher who felt I deserved the scholarship- if he hadn’t chosen me- well—…….!
After graduating with my university degree in South Africa, I went back home to Zimbabwe. I am currently based in Victoria Falls where I work with communities and other organizations on Regenerative agriculture. It’s been wonderful to see my helpers who are now family.
There are many people who have been agents of change and blessings to my life, all worth a whole book! I hope to write more!
By Precious Phiri and Vic Voss