Chidamoyo, Zimbabwe

Every once in a while you read or see something that truly inspires you for me this happened most recently in December when I read an article in the NYT about the Chidamoyo Christian Hospital in Zimbabwe

In 2008 inflation in Zimbabwe peaked at 5,000,000,000% wiping out most people’s life savings. The situation has stabilized with the coalition government (of sorts) and the currency has been disbanded in favor of the US Dollar which has stabilized inflation. Even still, Zimbabwe is one of only three countries which is worse of in terms of health, education and income than it was 40 years ago.

Even with the economic stabilization, cash is so scarce that the Chidamoyo Christian Hospital has been forced to start accepting barter goods in exchange for their services. People arrive with chickens, goats and maize but in particular with sacks of peanuts. The hospital makes their piles of peanuts into peanut butter that is mixed into patients’ breakfast porridge, spread on afternoon snacks and melted into vegetables for dinner.

Its two doctors and 15 nurses see about 6,000 patients a month and have put 2,000 people with AIDS on life-saving antiretroviral medicines.

The hospital was founded over forty years ago by American missionaries, from the Christian Church and Churches of Christ, and receives limited support from a government. Britsh and American churches send $10,000 a month from their parishioners which allows the hospital to charge less for their services than the government-run institutions. A visit to the doctor costs $1 (or a quarter bucket of peanuts) while the government hospitals charge $4 in cash.

Short of cash like the people it serves, the hospital practices a level of thrift unheard of in the United States. Workers and volunteers steam latex gloves to sterilize them for reuse, filling the fingers with water to ensure against leaks. They remove the cotton balls from thousands of pill bottles to swab patients’ arms before injections. And they collect the tissue-thin pages of instructions from the same bottles for use as toilet paper.

As an atheist I am not one to usually support charities that are linked to religion but this story so moved me that I recently made a donation. Zimbabwe which was once known as the bread basket of Africa has sunk so far under Mugabe that I find it hard to read about the situation because it is such a tragedy. It was nice to read a story which was such a ray of sunshine in a country facing such bleak darkness and repression.

I hope this story inspires you as much as it has inspired me.

Chidamoyo Trust

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