Ruvarashe Trust serves Zimbabweans with disabilities and in a state of destitution. The Trust has the Head of the Archdiocese of Harare as its President. The St. Bakhita Centre in Makumbi operates under the umbrella of the Trust. This Centre began its activity in 2010. At present, it offers the courses in sewing, rosary-making and shoe-making. Ruvarashe means “flower of God” in Shona.
Ruvarashe Trust was started as Zimbabwe Self-Reliance Leprosy Trust (ZSRLT) at Mutemwa in 1985 by Caterina Savini. An Italian lay Catholic missionary, Ms Savini has been caring for the disabled poor Zimbabweans since 1963. She is affectionately called by her colleagues and students “sister.”
Tony Bex SJ, who has lived in Zimbabwe for many years, asked several people to share their stories about the Leprosy Trust (ZSRLT).
Going to Church in a Wheelbarrow – the story of MARIA MUKAHI
When the ZSRLT – in the person of Sr Savini and Mrs Callaghan – visited Maria in the Bikita area she was sitting inside her hut. She welcomed the visitors with a big smile. However, as she tried to moved her paralysed arms and legs we realised that any effort was in vain. In the hut were a few wooden plates, a cup, a bucket of water and a small container with mealie-meal food. She is entirely dependent on others to help her with the smallest of tasks.
Maria’s eyes quickly moved from the visitors to her painting; she was proud to show us the beautiful work done by her mouth. Painting is the only thing she can do and she enjoys it, but in this rural area no one admires her talent and there is no market – this makes her sad.
After her parents’ death some years ago, her brother sent his daughter Chipo to stay with her. The name Chipo means ‘gift’. She is 15 years old and still at school. After lessons she has all the work to do at home – fetch the water and firewood, prepare the food, till the field. In fact they survive thanks to their little field and last year they harvested 100kg of maize. However, vegetables cannot be grown because of water shortages. Maria wanted some goats as they could provide fertiliser and some could be sold when they multiply.
Maria, who is now 30, loves to go to church and is grateful to a neighbour who takes her each week by wheelbarrow. There she can pray with others, feel part of a larger community and have a little social life.
After Sr Savini and Mrs Callaghan listened to Maria they agreed to buy her two goats, some maize seeds and a few vegetable seeds, which she could grow by using the washing-up water. A further gift of food and clothing added to Maria’s joy and gratitude.
Wise is suffering from Downs Syndrome, but is happy and very active. He enjoys watering his garden, feeds the chickens and readily runs after the goats of his neighbours. He dearly wanted some chickens of his own, but as an orphan, he lives with his grandmother and three small brothers and they are poor.
Once again ZSRLT’s Sr Savini and Mrs Callaghan got wind of Wise’s plight and went along to visit him. They were welcomed with a big smile and jumps of joy.
When they told Wise that they had some money that he could use to buy chickens, he ran from village to village asking if anyone had any for sale. Eventually the chickens were bought and are now happily ensconced in the chicken-run that Wise has made.
The grandmother continually thanks the Lord for her good fortune and continues to lavish her family with love and protection.
Juliana Marara walked for two hours carrying her six year old grandson Kelvin on her back to meet the ZSRLT team at Mbirashawa School near Silveira Mission. Kelvin has cerebral palsy and was abandoned by his parents.
Juliana is caring for six further orphans and gives them her love, along with a feeling that they belong to a family – apart from this she has nothing else to offer. Her little field produces hardly enough maize for them to survive for more than a few months, and leaves no seed for her to sow for the following year. She regularly begs for food to feed her little family.
When Sr Savini and Mrs Callaghan, the wonder-workers from the ZSRLT, met Juliana they were reluctant to give her a bag of maize because she already had Kelvin to carry. However, Juliana only danced for joy and took the seeds – along with Kelvin and some food and clothing – and started on her way home. She had also asked for a few chickens to breed, so that they could be sold to buy salt, sugar and soap. She could also buy enough food to ensure that she didn’t need to beg any longer.
At that time the ZSRLT didn’t have enough money to buy the chickens, but finally some kind benefactors helped solve the problem.
Mrs Callaghan and Sr Savini had spent a long day at the Silveira Mission (Nyika) when they were asked to visit Sikumi Miriro. Unfortunately, she lived far away and it was getting dark.
Sikumi heard about the visitors and the following day pleaded with her sister to bring her by wheelbarrow to the Mission. It was a two and a half hour journey over some very rough terrain and on arrival they sat under a tree hoping to meet the two visitors. After a few hours they turned up.
Miriro told them of her plight. Recently her hut, containing all her property and her essential wheelchair, burned down. She is 19 and has cerebral palsy and has seriously paralysed upper and lower limbs. Coupled with this, her sister is about to get married and her ageing parents are too busy cultivating their field to give her enough attention. Her seven year old nephew could at least push her out of the hut into the shade, but only in a wheelchair, not a wheelbarrow! There she could keep an eye on a few small animals.
Sr Savini and Mrs Callaghan could only promise a new wheelchair and a couple of goats, but also gave her some food and clothes.
They all prayed together and left Miriro with a big smile on her face. Another happy person, thanks to their benefactors.
Incidentally, Miriro means: what are you waiting for?
Contact information for Ruvarashe Trust: 117 Fife Ave, Harare, Caterina Savini 0772241451,
Roger 0772345677, Chris 0772240873.