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U.S. diplomats to continue volunteer mission started on September 11

September 14, 2010 | Harare
US Embassy diplomats cultivating a vegetable garden (Photo: PAS, Harare)

US Embassy diplomats and their families cultivate a garden at Tose Respite Center on September 11, 2010

In remembrance of those who perished on 9/11 and their families, diplomats from the United States Embassy in Harare spent the morning on Saturday, September 11 at Tose Respite Center in Harare.  The diplomats, including U.S. Ambassador Charles Ray, tended to the home’s garden, assisted with grinding mill operations, and cooked for and played with children onsite.  The September 11 volunteer day marked the beginning of a 2-month volunteerism program that will end on November 11, which marks Veterans Day in the U.S.

“We are doing this to show that Americans, be they veterans or not, live all over the world, and wherever we are, we bring to the communities where we live the sense of volunteerism that is an important part of American culture.  We are a people willing to donate our time and resources to help the communities where we live, particularly to help people who are less fortunate than we are,” said U. S Ambassador Charles Ray, who served 20 years in the U.S. Army, including active duty in Vietnam.

Ray works with a veteran’s organization, The Mission Continues, which is coordinating a series of activities around the U.S. to demonstrate how veterans contribute to their communities through volunteer services and to encourage disabled and wounded veterans to continue to serve.  He felt that a project as worthy as this was also appropriate for official U.S. communities overseas to undertake.

“As Americans, we are fortunate but we also understand that unless you share what you have, it is of little value. My talent is playing with children; I spent some time with them,” said Ambassador Ray who also donated decorated bed linen donated by a relative of a U.S. Embassy staff member.  

Tose Respite Care Home is a home for the handicapped and currently has 40 residents, mostly orphans or children from marginalized families. The Center has a garden which provides income and supplies food to its residents.

In June this year, Ambassador Ray officially donated a grinding mill to the Center funded by the U.S. Ambassador’s Special Self-Help Grants Program.  The Ambassador’s Special Self-Help Program in Zimbabwe, created in 1980, was designed to improve basic economic or social conditions at the grassroots level in local communities or villages, and to support high impact, quick implementation activities that benefit the community at large. In 2010, the Self-Help Program, with funding from the Africa Development Foundation, awarded $200,000 to small community groups in Zimbabwe.

The Self-Help Program identifies and funds projects in all ten (10) provinces, including Harare and Bulawayo.  Examples of currently funded projects include construction of a workshop in Harare; purchase of garden tools/seeds and payment for the construction of a borehole in the Midlands; and purchase of peanut butter processing equipment in Manicaland.

Back at the Tose Respite Center, some of the diplomats and their children assisted with various chores including cleaning and ironing, while others tended the gardens.

“We often think diplomats can’t do anything with gardens except water flowers, but the way they are digging tells you a different story,” said Stella Faranisi, Director at Tose Respite Care Center.

“I did not think they would come back,” said Faranisi. “They were here before to donate the grinding mill; today they donated some bed linen, toys, books, and clothes for the children, which in itself is going to say a story about America for a long time.” 

“Words cannot express our gratitude because they have done us good,” she said.

But for the U.S. Ambassador and his staff, the mission continues.

“We will be doing this every week until November 11 for communities that need these services. It’s an opportunity for my staff to get to know the communities in which we live much better than they would if they only went to the Embassy every day,” said the U.S. Ambassador.

Future volunteer projects include holding a party for 300 children in an impoverished neighborhood of Harare, building bricks by hand for a local community group to build homes for its members, assisting a woman’s group make decorative paper out of scrap fabrics and trash, and working with a woman’s shelter.   

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This report was produced and distributed by the U.S. Embassy Public Affairs Section. Queries and comments should be submitted to Sharon Hudson Dean, Public Affairs Officer.

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