One amazing part of our life in Zimbabwe has been getting to know, working with and spending time with Lorraine and her lovely family. I recently asked her a few questions about her life. I was so inspired by her I just had to get her permission to share it with the rest of you.

Lorraine grew up in Zvimba which is a Zimbabwean rural area about an hour and half drive from the capital city, Harare. She grew up in a small house without running water or electricity. She lived with her Grandmother and her early life was filled with many tragedies. Her parents passed on when she was in grade 7 (aged 13) and her two younger sisters have also passed on more recently. Her Grandmother brought them up but it was often a struggle. Zimbabwean rural schools are fee paying and often she would be sent home from school due to not paying fees. Lorraine’s values on education are so huge so this would upset her but I’d have been more annoyed about the 10km walk back home. I told Lorraine that must be about 2 hours to walk but she laughed and replied that she’d run and it would take an hour. When Lorraine could attend school she’d attend a building with no more resources than a pencil and book and she says the odd text book to study from. She described school to me as ‘samey’ but a privilege. On the days she did go to school she was aware she had to work to pay for the next terms fees rather than play out with friends.

However education is not all Lorraine and her Grandmother would worry about, the children wouldn’t eat before school and they’d eat just once a day before bed. Lorraine chuckled through a story to me about days when they would take the maize from the side of the road to roast and then share the bits between each other for something to eat. After all this hard work I was expecting Lorraine to then tell me about passing grade 7 and continuing to secondary school. But despite her hard work Lorraine could not pass grade 7. Not because of lack of fees this time but because of a divorce between her parents. When Lorraine was only 2 they got a divorce and that meant she had no birth certificate, therefore an inability to prove her age. Unfortunately the school story doesn’t finish with something extrinsic either. Despite going to school as often as she could until the end Lorraine could not find the funds to take the examinations and therefore was unable to finish school. This would be equivalent to dropping out a week before taking your GCSE’s in England.

These days Lorraine lives in Mabelreign, Harare with her husband and 4 daughters aged between 12 and 1. Before working with us she did a number of jobs locally such as a seamstress, cook, administrator and nursery teacher before coming to work for us. She still supports her Grandmother who lives in the rural area who has 5 to look after including Lorraine’s cousin’s sister who is HIV positive and 2 babies, one of which who is also HIV positive. At 86 years old the grandmother still works in the fields to feed and school these young children with help from Lorraine.

Lorraine’s 4 children (Martha, Makanaka, Zvidozvashe and baby) are absolutely beautiful, they are polite, kind and have been incredibly supportive of Sophie and me. I asked her about what ambitions she has for the future and she passionately tells me how she wants to commit to a project to work or run an orphanage. She says she wants to “realise the potential of those forgotten children”. She wants to see orphans have the same love, care and education that God would want for them. On the other hand she says that it is hard to imagine that such dreams could occur in her life when they live in a two room house where the only place her children can play is on the bed they all share.

Despite all of this Lorraine thanks God for what she has. She is such a challenge to me. She’s had a life I cannot easily comprehend. Yet she praises God, I feel so humbled. How often in my life and the societies we grew up do we blame God for the troubles we have? Yet in Lorraine’s life she says the upbringing she had from her Grandma taught her that God is the centre of everything good. Brought up a Christian Lorraine is a passionate member of our church and despite the tragedies she has seen in her life. It’s not easy for me to understand that she is less than 5 years older than me. Lorraine believes that the reason she’s still alive is because God has some amazing things planned for her and her family. I think that she’s so hard working that she’s capable of doing anything she puts her mind to.

A few years back I watched an Oxfam advert with a phrase “people in Africa don’t want hand outs, they just want a chance to do it themselves” and with that in mind and thanks to some incredibly generous funding we are sending Lorraine back to school. She’ll be going to college for the next 6 months of weekends as well as working for us Monday-Friday. At the end she’ll have a certificate in education which she hopes to extend to a diploma afterwards. For Sophie and I, the education of adults is hugely important in the future of our project and to be honest despite everything we have done in opening the school supporting this wonderful, inspiring woman in this way is my highlight of what this project has achieved.

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