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June 26, 2012   Comments Off

Change the World – One Book at a Time!

Change this↓↓

into this

March 21, 2011   Comments Off

CHANGE THE WORLD-ONE BOOK AT A TIME


DETAILS:

SALINE First United Methodist Church, Saline MI, has agreed to organize and send a container of Books to Africa.

These books will change children’s lives by starting school libraries in two new and poor United Methodist Primary Schools in rural Zimbabwe.  Additional books will add to earlier small libraries created in 2006.

Children must master English in primary school or remain unskilled.   Your books will help give them a future.

BACKGROUND:

• The language of instruction is English, but the children are surrounded by their mother tongue. Therefore mastering English is difficult.

• However, hours of exams written in English at the end of primary school determine their future hopes for education.

• We learned that our primary schools in Zimbabwe had never had libraries and that the children had almost no access to ordinary books to improve their language skills.

• In 1999 Ann started the Maramba Library at Hartzell Primary School, Old Mutare.

• The resulting improvement in the 7th grade pass rate was so impressive that other mission schools wanted libraries.  Americans responded enthusiastically when asked to donate children’s books.

• In 2006 we sent a container of books that started primary libraries in 4 more of our poor rural schools.

• Empty library rooms transformed into centers of reading and learning.

• Children’s futures are being changed

• A new sponsoring church was needed to keep this revolution in African education going.

• On March 12, 2011,  Rev. Laura Speiran caught the spirit of this and quickly organized Saline FUMC to make it their United Methodist “Change the World” project.

ACTION:               YOU WILL make a difference!

• Organize a collection of good condition children’s books, grades K-7 [not texts]. Both hardcover and soft cover are accepted.

• You can get them to Zimbabwe in one of three ways:

• If you’re near Saline, you may bring them to the church on the afternoon of Collecting Day, May 14.

• You may mail them to First UMC of Saline, 1200 N. Ann Arbor St. Saline, MI 48176 to arrive during May. Deadline – May 31st.   12x12x18 boxes much preferred.

• If neither of these work for people in Michigan –Arrangements are being made to receive books at the Detroit and West Michigan Annual Conferences. Check with Rev. Speiran for details.

BOOKS FOR ZIMBABWE

FIRST UMC OF SALINE

12OO N. ANN ARBOR ST.

SALINE, MI 48176

For more information contact:

Rev. Laura Speiran

laura@fumc-saline.org

734-429-4730



March 21, 2011   Comments Off

Happiness is a New Library!

Good News! YOU have a chance to change children’s lives in Zimbabwe – one book at a time. We are collaborating with Saline First United Methodist Church to send a new container of children’s books to Zimbabwe. We are hoping to have enough to start 2 new libraries at schools in Zimbabwe and add to the collection of the three schools that already have libraries. Collecting used children’s books is EASY! Almost everyone has some in their basement or someplace in their house. Books should be appropriate for Grades K-7, and in good condition.  ABC books, easy-to-read books, fiction, biographies, non fiction books are all wanted. However, NO TEXTBOOKS, please.

Collection will take place at the Saline First United Methodist Church. You can send books to the church during the month of May addressed: Books for Zimbabwe, Saline FUMC, 1200 N. Ann Arbor St, Saline, MI, 48176, or drop off books at the church on the afternoon of United Methodist “Change the World” Day, May 14. Deadline for sending books is May 31.

For questions or more information call or email: laura@fumc-saline.org, 734-429-4730, or morris@taber.net, 734-662-9880.

March 19, 2011   No Comments

Our October trip

Ann reading a story to 3rd graders at Hartzell

Our second Zimbabwe trip for 2010 was a good one! October is hot, dry, and windy, but the children were still in school and we accomplished a lot. Everybody seemed glad to see us and we felt grandly treated. Although the country’s political situation has not improved, the economy seems to be adjusting to working with the US$. The most obvious aspects were that the stores are well stocked and the formerly trademark dilapidated “chicken” buses have largely disappeared, replaced with newer and safer ones.

We spent most of our time at Old Mutare where we photographed the 35 Primary students for whom we have sponsors. The response to our initial request for sponsors was so strong that we added 10 more! Blessings to you all! The rate remains at $45 for each of the three terms for 2011. We hope that most of those who sponsored students in 2010 will do so again this coming year and that others will want to join in. We also met with our 19 High School students. This number will continue to drop as the annual $700 cost for each day student has forced us to focus even more on Primary children where the funds help so many more. Ann helped Danai in the library, but it needs a second full-time person to catch up and keep up with all the activity there. It is definitely being used! Many of the books are wearing out and need to be discarded and replaced. It has been 10 years of almost constant use. We got the breakfast feeding program going again on a limited basis and will continue in 2011 at $1000 per term.

We made two visits to Clare Mission School where we have been involved since 2005. The primary school has come a long way as it expanded from its original converted stable classrooms. Another two-room classroom block is about half built and will be finished when the money is found. At that time, the old stable block will be converted into a two-room library. At the time we visited the 7th graders had finished their exams and were gone, so they used those rooms to set up a temporary library and we were able to see a first grade class in there looking at books and hearing a story read by their teacher. They hope to get started on the library building renovations by the end of 2011. As always, money is a problem in a poor area where chickens and goats are offered in payment for the $20 per term fees. We have committed to pay for 30 needy children next year. The $300 “Ah-Ha” money that one supporter had sent with us paid the bills for 15 who hadn’t been able to do so this past term. Among others, this allowed one grandmother to keep the goats she was planning to use to pay for three of the six grandchildren she was caring for. A huge UNICEF truck unloaded a lot of supplies while we were there, a big help for the school.

We made a trip to Mt. Makomwe Primary School at Marange one Friday morning. It was the first time we had visited this United Methodist Mission, even though it had received over 80 boxes of books from our 2006 shipment. They were expecting us and proudly demonstrated their small and neat library and how they were using it. Once they get money for more shelves, they will be better able to arrange and use the books. This school is only a few miles from the new diamond mines which are providing much wealth for the government and military. However, educators at the school are working with fees of only $10 per term because the families simply cannot pay more. We were moved to give school officials $200 to pay for fees for students who had been unable to pay. A former colleague at Henry Ford CC, Glenn O’Kray, has been sending money every month since we began in 1999. Since his career work was in financial aid, his interest is in providing money to pay school fees to help children that otherwise wouldn’t be able to go to school. Because of his interest and wonderful support, we are establishing the Glenn O”Kray Scholarship Fund to support 30 of the neediest students at Mt. Makomwe Primary School.

Wednesday 8 am Chapel at Africa University is always a treat. One never knows what it will be. At the least, we hear the AU Choir perform and it might be a visiting bishop or a member of a volunteer team preaching. This time the Fairfield Childrens’ Home, at Old Mutare did the entire service. These young children did it all: Liturgist, Choir, Skits, Preaching with aplomb and skill. The 12 year old preacher gave a rousing 15 minute extempore sermon in full revival meeting style. We have never seen such polish from young children. They were extraordinary!!

We have always told people that we were not missionaries, simply volunteers and we proved it this time by going to western Zimbabwe and spent four days at a safari camp in Hwange National Park seeing lots and lots of birds and animals and visiting Mosi oaTunya “The Smoke that Thunders” [Victoria Falls] before flying home.

As always, we came away feeling blessed and refreshed from our stay in this beautiful country and its wonderful people; seeing old friends and making new ones; saying good bye to a dedicated supportive minister who was finishing his term as District Superintendent and taking greetings to the mother of a Zimbabwean member of our local church in Ypsilanti; thanking long term helpers and meeting dedicated staff at another school. God is Good!

December 4, 2010   Comments Off

Kids at Hartzell Primary School

Going back to Zimbabwe in 2 weeks! We will be there an month. Can’t wait to see all those smiling faces again!

October 5, 2010   No Comments

2010 February/March Visit to Zimbabwe

Ann and Morris on the veranda at La Rochelle, our hotel.

Ann and Morris on the veranda of our hotel, La Rochelle, in February, 2010.

In February, 2010, we headed for Zimbabwe once more to reconnect with people we know there, check on our projects, review monetary needs, take pictures of our students who are being sponsored, and review any changes that have happened over the past year. Morris’ niece, Norma Taber, went with us to become acquainted with the projects and the people in Zimbabwe who help us.

Increased costs – Since the country’s change to hard currency about a year ago our costs have risen dramatically.  Tuition for Primary School students now costs $135 for the year and for High School day students the cost is $210 for a term (3 terms).  We told Shadreck Mufute, headmaster at the Primary School, that we would have to cut back our sponsorship of the students to 25 (we had 400). We had enough response to our request for sponsors that we have been able to increase that number to 35. We are phasing out our H.S. sponsorships by not adding any new students and sponsoring students to “O” levels only.  We are presently down to 19 students in High School. Seven of them are taking their “O” Levels this year, so we will have 12 H.S. students in January, 2011.

Hartzell Primary School children using the library

Hartzell Primary School children using the library

Danai Noisi helping children check out books

Danai helping children check out books

Hartzell Primary School Library – The library is still in active use and Danai Noisi is into her 12th year of processing and mending books, helping students check books in and out, and keeping things orderly.  Many books are wearing out and getting shabby and new books are badly needed. We will help anyone who is interested in organizing and sending another container. Many people have told us they have books available, but they need to be collected, boxed, sorted, and sent – a lot of work, but very rewarding to see the children enjoying them so much!

Norma reading a story to Primary School children

Clare School – Clare School has become our new project. This is a very new United Methodist school in a very poor isolated area and there are so many needs. I was heartsick when I saw what had happened to the library there. The building being used for the library had to be used for housing for the staff, so the books were all piled on top of each other in a storeroom.

Storeroom where the books are now kept

I looked at housing possibilities for another library, but didn’t come up with much.  They said they would need a least $14,000 for a new library or to renovate a present building into one.

Looking for a new library

While at Clare, we were shown the new buildings that are being used for the High School students.  Because the rooms had only dusty dirt floors, we donated enough money to buy cement for the floors.  At a school-wide assembly we also presented textbooks, printers, and seeds that had been donated by folks in the US.

High School building with dirt floors

Presenting the new materials and equipment to the school

September 27, 2010   No Comments

Scholarships Top Priority for Africa University

377 090787 468

Africa University, a United Methodist-related institution, opened in

1993 in Mutare, Zimbabwe. A UMNS file photo by Mike DuBose.

By Kathy L. Gilbert*

Sept. 14, 2009 | NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS)

The hardest task for Africa University Vice Chancellor Fanuel Tagwira this fall semester has been facing crying mothers who don’t have the money to send their children back to school.

More than 300 students have not been able to register at Africa University for the 2009-2010 academic year. The school itself has seen its endowment drop $9 million as a result of the international economic downturn, Tagwira reported Sept. 12 at an advisory development committee meeting.

377 090788 234

Vice Chancellor Fanuel Tagwira says 300 continuing students have not been able

to afford to return to Africa University

for the 2009-2010 academic year.

A UMNS photo by Kathy L. Gilbert.

The university has been particularly hard hit by rampant inflation in Zimbabwe, where the school is located. Zimbabwe’s economy collapsed in 2008 when the government started printing dollars in the quintillions and inflation soared 500 million percent. Zimbabwean dollars are worthless, and the currency of choice is U.S. dollars.

This year, the university opened with its lowest enrollment in more than a decade. The university expected 1,200 students for the 2009-2010 academic year. As of Sept. 4, 865 students have registered

The stories behind the numbers are painful, Tagwira said.

“When a student is challenged because they cannot pay the fees, it is the parents who are most affected,” he said. “I have had mothers come to my office with their children trying to find a way to help their children continue their education. They break down crying.”

Martha Mutisi, a graduate of Africa University who will be returning as a lecturer in the Institute of Peace, Leadership and Governance, said the situation “breaks my heart.”

“It means some people have toiled for maybe two years or more. Years of labor and sacrifice by their parents and their communities will go to waste if they don’t finish their education,” Mutisi said. “As a student myself, I really empathize with those students because a lot of resources have already been spent.”

Dollars and rand

Prices have stabilized since the government began basing the currency on the U.S. dollar and South African rand.

However, the average Zimbabwean has no access to dollars or rand, school officials said.

The cost for sending a student to Africa University for one year is $5,400, while the average salary for a worker in Zimbabwe is $100 to $200 a month, Mutisi said.

377 090790 234

Africa University opened with its lowest enrollment in more than a decade.

A UMNS file photo by

Mike DuBose.

.

The university is trying to help parents keep their children in school by accepting in-kind goods like cattle, food and even fertilizer. Africa

University started a work-for-fees program that allows a few students to earn their fees by working on campus instead of hiring outside staff.

However, the “dollarization” of the economy has meant skyrocketing costs in the day-to-day running of the university. One example is the monthly cost of electricity that went from $500 to more than $10,000. Tagwira said the university may have to consider cutting staff.

Signs of hope

Despite the problems, there are signs of hope for Zimbabwe. For the first time in 10 years the International Monetary Fund is giving the country $500 million to boost its battered economy.

The formation of a unity government between two political powers is also helping the country gain the support of the international community, Tagwira said. Food has returned to the grocery stores, even though most of it is imported, he added.

Tagwira said the quality of life also has improved for students, with the provision of backup power for all the buildings on campus and Internet connections.

The United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry gave $133,000 to purchase four new servers and expand the bandwidth.

James Salley, vice chancellor for institutional advancement, reported that the university’s endowment lost $9 million as a result of the economic downturn in 2008 and early 2009. However, a gift of $500,000 and other contributions helped offset the loss. At the end of July, the endowment balance was $40 million.

United Methodist Communications also reported that giving to the university at 90 percent was the highest paid to any apportioned fund.

377 090789 234

Martha Mutisi, a graduate of Africa University who will be returning as a lecturer, said the situation “breaks my heart.” A UMNS photo by Kathy L. Gilbert.

Other bright spots include the North Texas Annual (regional) Conference’s campaign for a student health clinic and scholarships. The building has been completed, and 29 people from the conference attended the dedication in July.

The German Central Conference mission board provided $21,000 to purchase equipment and medicine for the clinic.

An orphan’s story

In his report to the committee, Tagwira told the story of an orphan who came to his office to collect his grades from last semester.

“He came long after everyone else had already come back,” Tagwira explained. He asked the young man why it had taken him so long to come get his results and why he hadn’t registered for the fall semester.

“He said he couldn’t afford the money for the bus fare until now and he could not afford to pay the fees. He said he was living with an uncle who told him he couldn’t help him anymore because he needed to help his own children,” Tagwira said.

At the end of the daylong meeting, committee members started writing checks and making pledges to help students enroll for the fall term.

Waving the checks, Salley told Tagwira, “Go and get that orphan. We have enough here for him to enroll in the fall.”

*Gilbert is a news writer for United Methodist News Service in Nashville, Tenn.

News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

September 17, 2009   No Comments

A New Beginning in Zimbabwe?

From The Guardian (UK), 10 August

David Smith

Harare – Schools and hospitals returning to life. Food in the supermarkets and queues at the tills. Investors flying in and refugees coming home. Independent newspapers due for launch and international media broadcasting openly. Book fairs, poetry slams and jazz festivals drawing crowds. A president and prime minister laughing together as they call for national healing. This is Zimbabwe in August 2009. Politically motivated beatings turning families against themselves. Villagers bartering chickens in the absence of a new currency. MPs, lawyers, journalists and students under arrest. Corruption rampant and another cholera outbreak predicted. A president rebuilding his tools of oppression and a prime minister said to be in danger of assassination. This, too, is Zimbabwe in August 2009.

Six months after Robert Mugabe and his arch-rival, Morgan Tsvangirai, publicly swallowed their enmity and tried to speak with one voice, southern Africa’s problem country is still a contradictory and confusing place. “We are at a fork [in the road],” said Tendai Biti, Tsvangirai’s most powerful lieutenant. “Going left could be going towards a new Zimbabwe. Going right could be doing a cul-de-sac and going back to square zero.” At the centre of the intrigue is the game of political chess between Mugabe and Tsvangirai, who describes it as “the only game in town” if Zimbabwe is to survive. The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader believes there is no alternative to the power sharing agreement salvaged from last year’s general election. Robbed of victory at the ballot box, Tsvangirai was sworn in as prime minister in February in a compromise that allowed Mugabe to extend his 29-year rule.

It has been trench warfare ever since between the MDC, which runs ministries such as education and health, and Mugabe’s Zanu PF, which still controls the army, police and judiciary. “It’s purely a marriage of convenience,” said one Harare residents’ activist. “Don’t expect any babies soon.” The results were summarised by a regional newspaper as the good, the bad and the ugly. Perversely, the unity government was blessed in inheriting a country at a nadir after eight years of degradation, meaning that almost anything it tried would represent improvement. Hyperinflation of 89,7-sextillion percent had killed the Zimbabwean dollar, but the adoption of the US dollar and some prudent policies have since helped stabilise the economy, forecast to grow 3,7% this year. An MDC official said that tax returns to the treasury had risen from $4-million a month in January to $60-70-million now, still some way short of the $120-million needed to run the country. Among foreign donors, Britain alone is providing $100-million of targeted aid this year.

Supermarket shelves that were once bare are stocked high again, though 94% unemployment means many people cannot afford to shop. About 2,8-million pupils are back at school as teachers finally receive a monthly wage, albeit just $100 to $165 to work in crumbling classrooms. Zimbabwe University came back to life last week after six months in darkness. Hospitals and clinics are functioning again, with doctors and nurses back at work. But the revival comes with caveats. About 70% of the population does not have access to clean water and the cholera outbreak that killed more than 4 000 people is widely predicted to return with the rainy season towards the end of the year. The decay of agriculture appears to be slowing but farm invasions continue. Some villagers are forced to barter to survive because the US dollar is so rare.

The law of unintended consequences has brought another threat to Zimbabwe’s streets. Residents of Harare speak of rising crime, particularly armed robberies and carjackings. They blame army deserters, who have training and weapons, or returning refugees who have “learned the tricks” from crime capitals such as Johannesburg. The malaise in the banking system – cash machines are defunct and credit cards useless – forces people to hoard US dollars in their homes. Raymond Majongwe, general secretary of the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe, said: “Every other day you hear of a robbery and a shoot-out. In South Africa, you can be sure that the victim has a gun and a lot will fire back. Here the victims are not psychologically prepared, so it is a walk in the park. We don’t want to see the violence in South Africa going on in Zimbabwe. We must deal with it decisively once and for all.”

A national “corruption pandemic” is also deepening, according to the watchdog Transparency International Zimbabwe. Mary-Jane Ncube, its executive director, said that bribery was widespread in the police and law courts, MPs of both sides were implicated in corrupt land deals, and payments intended for teachers and nurses were being rerouted via “ghost workers” to Zanu PF militias. “There is no one who is not on the take. The unity government is making no difference.” Nor should the headline victories in the economy and public sector be mistaken for political reform. Last month, Mugabe and Tsvangirai presented a harmonious façade as they called for a South African-style process of national healing and reconciliation. Behind the scenes, however, the fight is ugly and, in the words of one activist, “Mugabe still holds the reins to the right horses”.

Last year, an election year, there were 203 politically inspired murders, according to figures compiled for the MDC. The Zimbabwe Human Rights Forum gives the more conservative estimate of 107. In the first six months of this year, the MDC says, there have been 30 such deaths, most from injuries sustained last year. The forum puts this year’s death toll at one. And yet a steady flow of reports of assaults and intimidation continues. Zanu PF strongholds assert that MDC supporters are not welcome and that the unity government is a Harare phenomenon they do not recognise. There are conflicts within families: Ebba Katiyo, an MDC activist, said she survived an axe attack by a Zanu PF gang led by her own uncle.

Kennedy Mhuri (39) a teacher, was accused of denouncing Mugabe to his pupils at a primary school in the town of Kwekwe in Midlands province. He said that the local Zanu PF leadership planned to break down his door in the middle of the night and abduct him. He fled and has been on the run ever since. “At first I panicked,” he said. “I walked for 20km to avoid public transport so no one would see me. I am now dodging from city to city and constantly looking over my shoulder. I’m sure they won’t stop until they get me. Then I don’t know what they’d do. They’ll torture me until I accept I actually did what they say I did. These people can do anything, including taking people’s lives.” The leadership is not immune. Tendai Biti, the finance minister praised for choking off Zanu PF’s sources of funding, received a live bullet in the post and his gardener was beaten up outside his gate. Many Zimbabweans still find it hard to believe that the March car crash that hurt Tsvangirai and killed his wife was a mere accident, even though Tsvangirai himself has described it as such.

Media reform is also one step forward, one step back. The BBC and CNN have been allowed back into the country and there are slow moves to license two daily independent newspapers. But the state-owned Herald continues to pour bile on the MDC. Eddie Cross, policy co-ordinator for the MDC, said: “We never thought this would be anything but a fight. We’ve certainly not been disappointed.” He rejected the criticism, coming from the MDC’s own ranks, that Tsvangirai has been seduced by office and is firmly under Mugabe’s thumb. “This is an immensely strong man. The loss of his wife and grandson [also killed in an accident] hit him like a poleaxe but he’s picked up the pieces. He has incredible resilience.” But it is 85-year-old Mugabe who has recently taken to reminding the population that he is still “head of state and government”, “commander-in-chief of the Zimbabwe defence forces” and now “supreme leader” of Zanu PF. The hope that he will go quietly appears wishful thinking.

Raymond Majongwe said: “The most important thing Tsvangirai has realised is that Mugabe is part of the solution. Anyone who thinks that the problem can be resolved without Mugabe is a dreamer.” Some observers believe it is in the interests of both protagonists to delay the Constitution making process, and therefore the next election, for as long as possible. Another divisive ballot could plunge the country back into anarchy and reverse the unity government’s fragile gains. “If you were to have an election in the near future, it would be the same disaster as last time,” said one diplomat. “This is bigger than Mugabe now. Zanu PF and the MDC have a common interest in rebuilding the economy. And there’s a lot to be said for the view that there are worse figures than Mugabe in Zanu PF.” Few would dare to predict a winner in the elaborate chess game between Zimbabwe’s rival kings. For now, it seems, the best anyone can hope for is a stalemate.

September 16, 2009   No Comments

Dr. R. Edward Dodge comments on the situation in Zimbabwe and the Importance of Hope

An on-line wellness letter that is published by Dr. R. Edward Dodge, Jr., the son of the late Bishop Ralph E. Dodge and Mrs. Eunice Dodge. Dr. Dodge is a medical doctor and spent a portion of his formative years in Zimbabwe, then Southern Rhodesia.

He recently had occasion to return to Zimbabwe as a member of a VIM team and to be present for the memorial services held for Bishop Dodge by the Zimbabwe Annual Conference. Dr. Dodge has written an informative, insightful and thoughtful reflection about his recent visit to Zimbabwe that we think you will enjoy.



BE WELL

“Enjoy Vibrant Life and Health”

August 22, 2009

Wellness Letter , Vol.1, No.8


I have just returned from Zimbabwe, and am making it the focus of my letter this month. The first part of the letter is a summary of what our team did and saw in Zimbabwe. The latter part will conclude with some observations about an unexpected, but vitally important lesson about life and health!

Zimbabwe is a country full of contrasts and paradoxes. We visited it in July and August as members of a Volunteer-in-Mission team to help establish a Skills Training Center in a village twelve miles south of Mutare. Being in Zimbabwe was wonderful, even though it made me acutely aware of the many serious problems people face there today.



Our mission was successful in that we helped erect a brick classroom building that is the nucleus of the center. Consisting of four large classrooms and a kitchen/cafeteria, it will offer a good venue for teaching. Roofing was completed on the last workday – a cause for major celebration! That’s not an over-statement, though it is a simple roof.



The difficulties encountered in the building process say a lot about problems confronting Zimbabwe. The foundation was poured two years ago. The walls were also partially raised, but then the entire project floundered because of the disintegrating economy.



Zimbabwe’s economy began unraveling after the government imposed “Land Reform” on the country’s farmland a few years ago, turning farms over to politically affiliated people who knew little about farming. Agricultural production, once the mainstay of the economy, fell dramatically as the economy spiraled out of control.



With economic chaos prevailing throughout 2007 and 2008, most businesses came to a virtual halt. Basic staples became almost unobtainable and the country’s infrastructure, once among the best in Africa, deteriorated severely. The political situation also became more untenable. Many people fled to neighboring countries to find work, or as refugees.



So, what’s to celebrate in such an environment? The answer is that, in spite of it’s great problems and challenges, hope is still alive in Zimbabwe. Fragile though it is, the unity government established in February has generated cautious optimism. The economy, although still very weak, has stabilized, and runaway inflation is no longer a problem. Business is slowly growing as people are able to actually plan project costs and profits.



However, it’s in the faces of people, especially in rural areas and schools, that one can best see hope personified. We visited a primary school with over one thousand students in a rural area, and the joyous singing with which they greeted us was heart-warming. Similar scenarios took place in various churches that we visited. In spite of poverty and limited opportunities, hope and joy are beautifully expressed through their vibrant songs.



There is reason for cautious hope in Zimbabwe. When the tenuous political situation is eventually resolved, there is good potential for Zimbabwe. Its forested mountains, water resources, and mineral deposits are great natural resources. Its farmlands have been very productive, and can become so again. Above all, its people are talented and hard-working, and if given the chance, will take good advantage of appropriate opportunities.



Clearly, in offering villagers a variety of training skills, the Skills Training Center will be offering a valuable service. Yet, it is more than a place to teach skills, for it has already become a symbol of hope. In a place where great poverty and hardship reign, Zimbabwe taught me this year how powerful hope is as a force for good. That we were welcomed as agents of hope was both humbling and exhilarating!



Is hope really that potent? The answer is an unequivocal “Yes!” Hope is powerful. Zimbabwe itself provides strong evidence of this. In spite of a history of oppression, as well as more recent political and economic devastation, hope is emerging across the land like tender new grass after extensive wildfires.



However, it is not only in a sociological or psychological sense that hope is important. It has also been found to have a major impact on physical health. A number of books by top experts have been written on this subject in recent years. Scientist Dr. Candace Pert has explained most clearly how emotions like hope cause physical change in the body.



“Virtually every cell in the body is studded with thousands of tiny structures called receptors. Like the sense organs, the job of receptors is to pick up signals coming at them… Once the receptors receive a signal, the information is transferred deep within the cell’s interior, where tiny engines roar into action and initiate key processes.



“The signal comes from other cells and is carried by a juice that we call an informational substance… You know these juices as hormones, neurotransmitters, and peptides, and we scientists refer to all three with one word: ligand. This term is from ligare, a Latin word meaning “to bind,” and is used because of the way that the substances latch on so tightly to the cell’s surface receptors.



“Information-carrying ligands are responsible for ninety-eight percent of all data transfer in body and brain. The remaining two percent of communication takes place in the synapse, between brain cells firing and releasing neurotransmitters across a gap to hit receptors on the other side.



“Emotions are the link between the physical and nonphysical states of consciousness, and the receptors on every cell are where this happens! The attracting vibration is the emotion, and the connection – peptide to receptor – is the manifestation of the feeling in the physical world… Our physical bodies [are] changed by the emotions we experience.”





I will conclude this letter with two brief commentaries. First, notice what a small percent of overall communication takes place in the brain: only two percent! That’s a critical two percent, to be sure, but an overwhelming amount of data is handled by the rest of the body. That is why, in fact, trillions of vital ongoing processes can operate in our bodies simultaneously without our conscious awareness or management. If our lives depended on managing all this with our brains consciously, we would not survive. That is also why Candace Pert asserts, “Your body is your subconscious mind.”



Secondly, none of this is conjecture, even though it is not yet fully integrated into our standard medical model. As another scientist has stated: “We don’t just believe, we know that thoughts and emotions have a tremendous impact on our health, probably greater than anything else, and that the biochemistry of hope and joy is the biochemistry of health.”



So, dear friends, it is immensely worthwhile to nourish hope in our lives and our communities. For the sake of others, and also for your own well-being, be an agent of hope whenever possible. St. Paul wrote: “Now abides faith, hope, and love, but the greatest of these is love.” True, but hope comes a very close second!



Be Well,

Ed Dodge, MD



September 2, 2009   No Comments