Updated: Jan 22
This year has not been easy in Zimbabwe: We have faced political violence, hunger on the trail of a drought, lack of basic services (no doctors in the public hospitals, very erratic or no municipal water and electricity supplies), hyper-inflation, desperation, anger, despair. This all describes Zimbabwe today. We seem to be back to the dark days of 2007-9, then in the throes of the highest inflation ever to have been recorded on this planet. Although we are not quite there, it is clear that we are in the middle of another collapse. Another round of heart-break and agony.
The times of darkness are often also times where the new is forged, where resilience and innovation build and show themselves.
Not always. For many it is just too much. And where there is no inner resource to innovate and respond creatively, the response becomes one of survival in which the beauty of the human capacity is instead turned to its most desperate expression: prostitution for a loaf of bread, turning to drugs to numb the pain, petty crime, hustling - anything to survive this day.
We are blessed at Kufunda to have been together now for 17 years - the dream of Kufunda came through 18 years ago and stepped into material form 17 years ago. We have been through ups and downs. We have journeyed through the landscape of Zimbabwean wasteland and have found our way to the strength and the beauty and the magic of the Zimbabwean people, her psyche and her commitment to life, to community, to always taking the next step.
This year has been one of the brightest for Kufunda. As though the times we are in are calling on us to bring forth more of what we have cultivated and learnt.
It is in part due to a collaboration with two other organizations (ORAP and Trust Africa) where together we have created a program vehicle called Gateway Zimbabwe, which aims to build and sustain healthy communities in order to reweave and enliven the social fabric of Zimbabwe. The Gateway works to awaken personal and collective agency in communities, using processes that foster healing, new connections and innovative leadership; and processes that enable people to discover their inherent skills and wisdom. Going forward we seek to support communities and people to use these learnings, connections and skills to generate initiatives for sustainable transformation.
This is all deeply resonant with Kufunda’s own mission and purpose. Through the Gateway we have been able to use our skill and expertise in participatory community processes, that work both with the inner and outer, on a much wider scale than we have been able to in the past.
To give a taste of the scope of our spread and reach, this year we have:
Hosted two Art of Hosting workshops in new places - one in Mutare, for the eastern region of Zimbabwe and one in Lupane to the west, a rural community deeply affected by the Zimbabwean genocide in the early 1980s.
Hosted a Harvest Festival in Harare with several hundred people from across the country to reflect on, harvest and celebrate the resilience of communities. In the midst of breakdown taking time to celebrate together is critical.
Launched a Gateway Fellowship with fellows from 5 place based communities - to support them in their leadership to deepen their personal leadership and their capacity to support community responses and initiatives to the challenges we are in. Meg Wheatley offered a 'Warriors of the Human Spirit’ launch module for the fellows which was profound.
Recently we hosted the second fellowship module in Chimanimani - an area which was hit by cyclone Idai last year. It was a module exploring innovative approaches to Community Engagement, using a process and game called Go Deep. Fellows from across Zimbabwe were immersed in deep learning together with the fellows from Chikukwa village and community of Chimanimani.
We were the lead-designers and facilitators of the National Citizen’s Convention hosted by the Citizen’s Manifesto (of which Gateway Zimbabwe is a partner). Almost 300 Zimbabwean citizens from all walks of life – progressive citizens, civil society organizations, informal workers, students, women’s groups, artists, faith groups, and business leaders met to reiterate a shared vision of a better Zimbabwe for all. Far from ‘your usual meeting’, the process was a deep response to a profound existential crisis in Zimbabwe.
We hosted the biggest gathering yet at Kufunda - a seven day conference: The All Africa Anthroposophic Training with 115 participants from all over Africa to be in deeper learning about self as well as developing competence in applied anthroposophical practices (Waldorf education, biodynamic farming, anthroposophical nursing, medicine, and more).
Our new school block is recently completed with the school itself growing more fully into the community. A parent school development committee is now working actively, meaning it is no longer school as Kufunda initiative but increasingly school as community owned.
This year we also began practicing biodynamic farming - transforming our vegetable garden, truly transforming it, and with the rains just beginning, are bringing the practice to the whole farm. Parents from the school who cannot afford to pay fees are joining in to help with the work on the land, and also learning so much in the process - being reminded of more natural ways to grow our food. Ways they mostly know, but have been removed from. We are working with two wonderful biodynamic mentors and advisors from Germany.
Our work with women is continuing with another year of successfully hosting our transformative Young Women are Medicine Program and expanding into work with the men also.
We hosted a Go Deep community engagement in neighboring Epworth, the largest informal settlement in Zimbabwe. Epworth is quite close to Kufunda and it is wonderful to be alongside leaders from this community as they seek to build community collaboration and capacity.
In the midst of collapse it feels like we are actually thriving. Our work is strong and needed and growing.
We will continue this work.
Over these last years our Kufunda facilitators have grown in their own capacity and are now needed in Zimbabwe to ignite a different way of working together, a way that is
collaborative, co-creative and based on a deeper relationship with ourselves and each other. We will continue with the Gateway Collaboration in which much of our work is coming together in synergy enabling the spread of our reach and impact - being of full service at this critical time in our country’s history. Through this, we will continue building the foundations for conversation and healing - bringing women together, bringing men together, bringing communities together. In all of this, Kufunda - in a sense as a torch bearer - is also stepping into our own. We are recognizing that our own continued inner work happening in community, and with practices that enable continual coming together as Kufunda community, are core to our ability to keep doing this work.
In response to the overwhelming acknowledgement and support for the National Citizen’s Convention we are developing a process to build capacity of diverse citizens’ organizations to support them in developing community assemblies in their own places. We are continuing with the Gateway Fellowship, which is an 18 month journey that will continue for the duration of 2020. The fellows and their place based communities are where we can prototype, and test and learn more deeply about how to cultivate community resilience at this time. Already emerging from this work is an exploration of furthering the community assembly model - as well as how to bring deeper community dialogues; developing community currency, and strengthening and supporting organic agriculture in part as a way to build community health.
At Kufunda we look forward to continuing to build ourselves as a biodynamic farming initiative. We are also putting more energy behind growing our Waldorf school as a resource for the Ruwa community and involving parents and neighbors in our own place-based learning at Kufunda.
We are saying yes to our purpose with gratitude to be able to bring what we can to a country that is so desperately needing more and more grassroots community conversation, collaboration and co- creation.