United Methodists rain blessings on drought-ravaged community

In a parched land vulnerable to perennial drought, where villagers struggle to grow the hardy cotton crop they need to survive, The United Methodist Church has created an oasis, quenching the Gokwe people’s thirst for water and education.

The church continues to help expand a secondary school it established more than two decades ago in the small community about 400 kilometers (248 miles) west of Harare. Last year, its focus turned to providing clean water for the mission school.

Pastor Lloyd Gomba, the station chairperson of Nyamacheni Mission, said that prior to the entrance of the church, the community competed for the little available water in an open dam, where their cattle also were watered.

“The church, through funding from the Zimbabwe West Annual Conference and Western Pennsylvania Annual Conference, drilled a borehole to supply water to Nyamacheni UMC secondary school and the neighboring government-run Nyamacheni primary school,” Gomba said.

“Prior to the construction of the borehole, we experienced many cases of diarrheal diseases because we had no safe water for drinking. Availability of water from the dam was also seasonal, so pupils would miss lessons while searching for water, and school staff traveled up to 5 kilometers (3 miles) to get safe water for household consumption,” he said.

The Rev. Oswell Kaseke, Nyamacheni Mission board chairperson, said the borehole started operating in March of 2015, and its 7,500-liter tank supplies water through three points at the mission.

Development committee chairperson Joyce Sikochi is grateful to The United Methodist Church for establishing the secondary school and providing safe water.

 “I have two children attending school here. Before the UMC built this institution, our children would drop out after primary school, as the nearest secondary school is about 15 kilometers (9 miles) away, and we could not afford to enroll them at that school due to high transport costs,” she said.

Expansion work continues

The community molded bricks and supplied locally available building materials, such as stones, to assist the church in its efforts to provide adequate learning facilities at the school. There are currently four classrooms in use and a new block with two classrooms is almost complete.

Gomba said the classroom block under construction requires flooring, windows and paint. Western Pennsylvania contributed $8,000 toward the construction of the new classrooms and UMC Zimbabwe assisted with some of the material, worth $4,000.

Through assistance from the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries’ Hope for the Children of Africa Campaign, the school recently built and completed an administration block at a cost of $43,000. “The school head and his deputy used to share a small room in one of the classes, but (now) they each have a spacious office,” Gomba said, adding that the offices still lack furniture.

Harare Central District of the Zimbabwe West Annual Conference has played a major role in the development of the school, Kaseke said. Through the congregations’ offerings on Nyamacheni Sunday, a day set to raise funds for the mission school, the district has provided all of the school furniture.

“This year, the district bought 60 desks, valued at $2,000, because some of the pupils were learning while sitting on the floor,” he said.

Nyamacheni Mission still has no electricity; the estimated cost of installing it at the school is about $43,000. 

 “The remarkable developments at the school may probably attract government attention and we would then benefit from the Rural Electrification Programme,” Kaseke said. “Otherwise, installation of a solar system for power is essential in order to retain our trained personnel.”

He said the school aims to establish boarding facilities by 2024.

The Rev. Austern Chepiri, Zimbabwe Episcopal Area projects coordinator, said the mission also has provisional land for establishment of a clinic. “The government recommends there be a clinic at every mission school. Currently, the nearest clinic is 10 kilometers (6 miles) away,” he said.

Sandra Matoushaya, Zimbabwe Partnership Coordinator for Western Pennsylvania, said she is pleased with the progress at Nyamacheni.

“On my first trip, in 2012, there was no housing for teaching staff. I went down to the dam and saw children fetching and drinking unsafe water; it was a sad situation,” she said.

Currently, there are six houses that accommodate the nine teachers at the school. In 2013, the Western Pennsylvania Annual Conference assisted in the construction of the latest duplex under its District-to-District relationship program.

Gokwe lies in a low rainfall part of Zimbabwe. This year, even the traditionally drought-hardy cotton crop failed. That resulted in parents failing to pay school fees, which are $30 per term.

“Only nine pupils have managed to pay part of their fees,” said Lloyd December, the school’s deputy head. There are 250 pupils at the school.

Nyamacheni Mission was established following a 1986 Zimbabwe Annual Conference resolution to have a mission school in the country’s Midlands Province in an effort to evangelize a greater part of Zimbabwe, according to Chepiri. The first classrooms were built in 1996.

Chikwanah is a communicator of the Zimbabwe East Annual Conference. News media contact: Vicki Brown, news editor, newsdesk@umcom.org or 615-742-5469.

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