L’Arche Zimbabwe work hand in glove with gender mainstreaming as it promotes gender equality between female and male counterparts . Women are given the chance to learn and they are proficient as men when it comes to manifesting their own creative ideas .

A green flag has been raised in the L’Arche Zimbabwe environment as a female-oriented carpenter has firmly risen up to speed on basic carpentry skills including working with wood, planning, designing, using hand power tools safely and effectively.
There is no force more powerful than a woman determined to rise. Amongst the L’Arche family, we have our very own hardworking mother. Everyone calls her Amai Cheza. Her work is her pride. She believes in herself.

At L’Arche, she works together with core members and assistants to produce furniture that includes the following; kitchen chairs and tables, cupboards, curtain rails and rods, assistive devices and so many other wood products.
Mai Cheza is a good teacher, she thrives to see core members engaging in the mighty and great carpentry works. Hence, it is with high hopes within the L’Arche family that, one day we will also stand firm with both female and male core members reaching greater heights in carpentry.

On the 1st of October, the Therapy team went to St. Peter Claver in Mbare for their outreach. The team consisted of Amos Zavare (OT), Talent Makumbe (RT), Rudo Kwashiwa (OT intern) and Gibson Nyika (Sector leader). L’Arche Zimbabwe is a small community that cannot cater for a large number of people hence the main thrust has been to grow outwards and do more within the society and extended community as opposed to within our small L’Arche community. We get to reach out to a larger population as witnessed by this visit to Mbare. The team of 3 therapists was able to provide services to 30 people with varying conditions such as cerebral palsy, hydrocephalus, intellectual disability and autism.

Our outreaches aim to be different. The focus is not only on the individual with the disability but also the immediate family they live with. Physical therapy sessions are coupled with counselling services as the focus on rehabilitation of the family unit is implemented. Instead of focusing on one element within an environment, our prerogative is to look at the whole ecosystem and find out how each individual component affects another and how it can be altered to improve the quality of life and functional independence for all parties involved.

St. Peter Claver Church was a hive of activity from 10 am to 3 pm. Quantity and quality met and married at this center which was befitting given that this was a church. Efficiency was the offspring of this couple as everybody left the outreach team pleased with the services they received.

By Nyasha ………… – Volunteer Assistant

Picture this. I’ve begrudgingly been sent to the grinding mill by my grandfather because I’m the one available and my brother is nowhere to be found. I pick up the maize meal and trudge along to the nearest grinding mill which is at L’ARCHE to perform my errand. You probably have no trouble imagining that because it is a situation that most of us have gone through. What follows next however is where your imagination really has to kick in. I get to the grinding mill and as my mealie meal is being grinded, this young man comes over to engage me in a conversation. His name is Bobby. He greets me with such warmth which I can never imagine and shows a genuine interest in my well-being and situation. He is my introduction to L’Arche and the family that has welcomed me with open arms for the last couple of months. In Shona they say “hukama unozadzikiswa nekudya” “relations are cemented by food” and Bobby stayed true to this adage by offering me a bottle of water. No doubt having seen my parched lips and the blazing sun.

Bobby was just a piece of the cake, I am now experiencing a whole cake and icing on the top at the community. All I can say is that my big heart is full. In a short space of time I have learnt that you can love and be loved unconditionally. I have learnt that a smile is the best gift you can give anyone. I have also learnt that just one positive affirmation can change a whole mood. Above all, my biggest lesson being, “You don’t have to say anything to be heard”. All these lessons came from my encounter with core members. I really feel that L’Arche community is my calling and where I was meant to be. L’Arche has become not only a part of me but my second home. Pursuant to this realization, I would like to think happiness is where your heart is, and mine happens to be at L’Arche.

A kitchen is a beautiful place that nourishes us. For some of us, it’s a scary platform that draws from us skills that are not so inherent but for others, this place is home. They find comfort in the art of preparing food and it brings out the genius in them. One of these people is Concillia. A very humble and cheerful member of our kitchen staff. What is unique about her which invites me to write this small piece is her giftedness and mastery in the kitchen.

Every day she works her hands carefully around sharp blades slicing vegetables and other ingredients. The knives seem to culm their lethality under her touch. Working slowly and methodically cutting pieces, small and identical as if sliced by a mechanically or electrically dedicated tool. For some reason, even the heat from the stove become just right to the perfect degree.

The sight of these vegetables being prepared is just enough to make one look forward to the meal. They speak to you of how the one preparing them is in conversation with them. How they understand their role as they respond to Concillia’s touch, bringing their own glimmer and freshness to the equation. They seem to understand how they transcend their own life into human life. Surely in her mastery, Concillia must be a Food Whisperer. Perhaps beyond that, she is a Kitchen Whisperer. How everything in the kitchen seems to support and bring the best of her is incredible. It’s something that I desire and personally hope to have one day. Perhaps if I keep observing her magical work, one day I will be able to have a conversation with vegetables, plates and pots too in a way that brings mouth-watering dishes.

Some people say that love makes the world go round, some people believe it is money that does that but the multitude of football fans worldwide will tell you that it is football. The community of L’Arche Zimbabwe joined that part of the population as we recently established our own football team which strutted its stuff competitively for the first time on Wednesday against Homefields.

It was the perfect culmination of all the intensive football practice the crew had undergone for the past 3 weeks and once they stepped onto that football field clad in shimmering blue kit, you could just tell that an atmospheric shift had just occurred. The confidence of the team as it strode out onto the pitch was bordering on arrogance which was well placed as the team thoroughly thrashed the Homefields team 5-2.

The scores could have been so much more worse had the team not suddenly developed empathy and compassion for their opponents. The way the ball was pinged across the field by the midfielders, the composure and steadiness of the defenders and the guile and trickery of the forwards would have had spectators thinking the world eleven had graced the humble surroundings of Mount Hampden. The pandemic however stopped such a performance from being witnessed by a crowd of people, however the flora and fauna in attendance were left ruminating on the greatest day of their existence.

By Fr David Harold Barry SJ

Alice left us on Christmas day. She had been ill for some months and had alerted me when she found herself in Belvedere Hospital where I visited her on 15 October. She was cheerful but told me her condition was serious. She was peaceful and ready for whatever would happen. She did not want an operation as she knew it would not help and would drain the family finances. I visited her at home on the 27th with Chipo Chagweda and anointed her and gave her Holy Communion. She was deeply grateful and I felt there was some sort of finality in my visit. Again I sensed a spirit of readiness on her part for her last journey. But it was hard for her family and she knew it and perhaps held on so as to help them come gradually to accept what would happen.

I was able to celebrate the Eucharist at her home the day after she died as I had to leave the next morning for a planned trip. Shine, David, Fadzi and many relatives and friends including members of l’Arche were there and Joseph was in attendance from Canada. I tried, in a rather hurried way as it was getting late, to speak of her life and mission.

I met her around 1980 when, as a young applicant to the LCBL sisters’ community, she was searching for her vocation in life. She was not sure being a sister was what she was called to and my task was to accompany her in her search. I was involved at the time in the founding of Faith and Light and l’Arche and I felt her being involved might help her reach clarity about her life. She threw herself into both movements with generosity and imagination and spent time in the l’Arche community in Lambeth in the UK. She immediately understood what l’Arche was all about.

At the same time it became clear to her that being a sister was not what she was called to and she left the sisters and trained as teacher. She rose rapidly in the service becoming a head teacher in Musami and eventually held a senior post in the Ministry. Meanwhile she met Shine and I had the joy of celebrating their wedding in 1991 or thereabouts. The arrival of her three children gave her immense joy and she seemed set for a wonderful married and professional life.

But she did not forget l’Arche and when we eventually established a community in 1997, she followed our progress with interest. We had a crisis in 2002 when our first director, Colletta Dalikeni, had to leave as her husband was going abroad, and Alice came to hear of it. She must have thought long and hard – the job would mean a substantial drop in salary – but eventually applied. The Board held interviews and chose her.

She immediately brought her own blend of infectious confidence, initiative and humour to the task. At one point, members of the City Council, threatening all sorts of sanctions because of some supposed unpaid bill, visited the house demanding to see the owner. Alice introduced them to Moses then aged about eight who had severe mental and physical disabilities. He was, she said, the owner but he did not even deign to look at them! They decided to leave their mission unaccomplished. Alice’s ability to face all sorts of crises with humour astonished and inspired us. She was also a hard-headed planner and got things done sometimes crossing the boundary line of prudence. She went ahead with the purchase of the second house at a time when those who were responsible for the final decision were hesitating. She made other decisions too, some more successful than others, and gradually put the community on a solid basis so that it was able to weather storms that arose in the second decade of the present century.

It would give a false picture to say everything she did turned out well. Some of her decisions were ill-advised and there were members of the board and assistants in the community who differed with her. But her heart was always solidly founded in the community and the welfare of the assistants and the core members. So much was she appreciated that when the l’Arche International was looking for and international co-ordinator, or ‘envoy’ as they called her, in 2012, their choice fell on Alice.
She began to travel widely and to reflect a great deal about what it means to be l’Arche in Africa. She struggled to express her conclusions and I, for one, never quite understood what she really wanted in practice though I knew she was passionate in wanting a l’Arche ‘brewed in an African pot’.

Her parting with l’Arche came in December 2016 and it was a painful moment based, as far as I could see, on misunderstandings on every side, including mine. During the past four years she has been quietly, courageously and prayerfully coming to terms with a situation which was very unfortunate and the last way in which we would have wanted her to leave l’Arche. It is hard to understand what exactly went wrong but I have known other long-term assistants at l’Arche whose parting was also in some ways unhappy. They, like her, also came to terms with their situation and moved, through forgiveness, into a new space. ‘Fragility’ is a word we often associate with l’Arche and perhaps it is not only the core members but the assistants and maybe the whole federation which experiences it.

Alice worked through it all: the joys and sorrows, the hopes and griefs of a human community. She died in peace and, together with many people, I rejoice that I knew her and will always be grateful that she animated the growth and the confidence that the community now enjoys.

May she now rejoice with God in the eternal community on which her eyes were always focused.