In 1993 CCIVS, the Co-ordination Committee of International Volunteer Service, ran a special workcamp and training in Namibia. One of the participants was Innocent Katsiga from Zimbabwe. He was so inspired by the idea that he went home and very quickly set up Zimbabwe Workcamps Association - AJUDE in Mozambique grew out of the same training.
I attended one of ZWA’s first camps, building teachers’ homes near Harare and running a stall at the annual agricultural show. ZWA grew strong and made special links with Germany – and each year a group from the Social Democratic youth come to a workcamp in Zimbabwe. I also attended the celebration of ZWA’s ten years in 2003. This was at their own farm where the maize crop raises funds for the association and half the crop is donated to poor villagers. More recently when Zimbabwe’s political crisis deepened it became harder to recruit volunteers, and the government also began to try to restrict foreign funding of local associations, but the farm and workcamps went on.
A worse blow struck ZWA early in 2011 when the dynamic Innocent unexpectedly died. His widow, Beverly, and the committee decided to carry on. Beverly was already working for ZWA and was joined by the former project officer, Ratherford Mwaruta who had just returned from studying in the Netherlands.
So ZWA is back on track - and the situation in the country has also improved a lot. The US dollar has replaced the crazily inflated Zim dollar, the economy is picking up a bit and security was never really a problem. Having previously just run workcamps, Ratherford has just been in Kenya, learning from KVDA’s long experience of Medium Term Volunteers, ZWA therefore now offers an attractive list of workcamps and medium and long term placements in community centres, schools, educational institutions and national parks as well as on ZWA’s farm. They plan to have a workcamp to paint their hostel which is near to the airport and where volunteers will first arrive. Check the database and you will find a project to suit you!
Nigel Watt, VAP’s chairperson