Marcia B-G

Zimbabwe | January 2015

Discussing world issues with a rhino

I am a 60 year-old retired attorney who decided it was time to do something worthwhile. I had been searching for a volunteer project in which to participate. I have always loved animals, maintaining homes for such creatures as llamas, a blind deer, and tortoises, to name a few. Another retired attorney and friend had participated in various volunteer projects in Africa and unearthed the Imire program. She asked me if I would like to go along. When we stumbled upon the video, “There’s a Rhino in my House,” we were both hooked.

We spent two weeks at Imire, performing various tasks such as repairing wash-outs in the road, pulling down unsafe watchtowers, removing old fencing, and painting and constructing new elephant mounting platforms.  I am an avid gardener from Wisconsin, which is currently a frozen tundra with all the gardens asleep, so I worked in a flower garden behind the Volunteer house (I think I hauled more than fifty wheelbarrows of buffalo manure to improve the soil).

I was totally taken by the black rhino, Tatenda, the star of “There’s a Rhino in my House” and whose “boma” is located next to the volunteer house. He clearly loves human company, so I would pull up a chair next to his boma at night and we would discuss world issues and perhaps he would get an ear massage.

I also spent a lot of time with the four elephants, usually cleaning their “nests” in the morning and trundling countless wheelbarrows of elephant manure each day. One of the highlights of my stay was walking Tatenda home one evening with his handler/guard, Brighton, and looking behind me to see the elephants, casually ridden by their handlers, coming up behind us to be put to bed. I never tired of seeing the elephants. Even glimpsing them across the dammed river from the volunteer house was magical, since they are such stately creatures and move so gracefully.

However, I was most impressed by a group of women who worked for the Imire school.  One woman, Dorothy, who was probably older than me, taught a group of seventy pre-schoolers English sitting under a tree, because she had no classroom. Dorothy then volunteered sewing school uniforms in the afternoon to raise money for the students who could not afford uniforms.  She ended her day by returning home to care for I don’t know how many children whose parents had died. Apparently, the lack of nuclear families in Zimbabwe is common, with grandmothers and aunts caring for extended relatives (children) due to the death of the children’s parents. One had to admire Dorothy’s devotion to the children at the school as well as the children she cared for at home.  Another remarkable woman, Mrs. Matsika, regularly purchased and prepared a nutritious sort of milkshake for the children to have before they went home, since some of the children’s families did not have enough food to bring a lunch to school.

All these women devoted untiring and herculean efforts to maintain their school, where the children appeared to be happy, even though some were living in overwhelming poverty. It made me feel ashamed of my own personal “wealth” after this experience.

Finally, I neglected to mention that I have suffered from Parkinson’s for about fifteen years.  My protective husband thought that I might be a target because of my sometimes visible disability (I hope that he did not mean that I am as big as a rhino and might be set upon by poachers mistaking me for one).  Exactly the opposite occurred.  Often I was targeted by the kindness of the people around me, who rushed to help me if I fell, or assisted me if I was slowing down because of a medication meltdown.

Back to testimonials

Stay Informed

Sign up for our newsletter to receive the latest news.