9 February 1996

NO AMENITIES BUT WHOS WORRIED?

A new home and very lively sale was uppermost in Judy Vowles mind when she wrote this letter from Zimbabwe. Judy and her husband John have joined the Outreach team to introduce small-stock rearing into a Christian Farm Village project

Such a lot has happened since I last wrote (Farmlife, July 7, 1995).

On the home front our house is nearly finished and we will be moving in very soon. It will be without electricity or running water (so whats new?) but that will come in time and we quite like paraffin lamps.

I also passed my learner driving licence. Having held a clean drivers licence for over 35 years I was a bit peeved about having to take both a learners test and a driven test, but since I failed it twice they may have had a point!

The horses are looking well, but sadly we lost the Arab. He is sorely missed and we are expecting the last of his foals any week now.

My little Fox-Russell, Porgie, has just killed his third rabid jackal this year. Each time he gets a booster vaccination and a tattoo in his ear – he is running out of space!

On the Outreach side we have had a very exciting time. We were donated one third of a container from Germany. The contents ranged from a babys potty (no one knew what it was) through clothes and shoes to sewing machines and bicycles. The money raised from this is to help build the Christian farm village.

The excitement when the boxes arrived was intense and about 40 people wanted the four bicycles. We decided that the best way would be to ask people to pay $1 to have their names in a hat, and then those four drawn would be able to buy a bicycle for $250. Normally they cost between $800-$1000.

The clothes we priced individually, nothing more than $30 and most things below $20 (average monthly wage is around $270) so that everyone would have a chance to buy. We chose five people to be sellers and they earned 10% of their sales which they could have in money or clothes. They deserved danger money.

I had this naive idea of the sellers setting up little pitches on the lawns around the farm yard and people choosing their purchases and paying the sellers – just like England.

Paswell, our first seller, went out carrying his box and quite simply disappeared below about 30 screaming people. The box was ripped open and shirts, trousers and sweaters appeared in various hands as the security guards waded in to try and save him.

In the confusion our other sellers made a dash for it and very sensibly climbed up onto the various farm trailers and lorries in the yard. This being the African way, none of them was unduly worried and solved the problem by holding up each item and taking the money from the ones shouting the loudest.

The following week I decided that we would be more organised and set up the sale boxes in the main farm office. We had a guard on the front door to let in about 15 people at a time and another to let them out the back door as they passed by me and gave me the money. That worked very well once the 15 were inside, but the several hundred outside leaned dangerously against the glass windows to see what the 15 inside were buying and were so bunched around the front door, determined to be next, that we couldnt open it. After that we quietly gave boxes to our sellers to take home and they conducted sales from their huts, which worked very well. Most in demand were shoes, trousers and cooking pots. I was amazed at how discerning they could be.

African women dont wear trousers and there were quite a number of ladies jeans and slacks available, but very few of the men would buy them because the zip did up the wrong way round.

We raised about $16,000 altogether. The people have been able to buy cheap, quality clothes and that money will go back to them to buy oxen and pay wages for help in clearing the village lands and planting.

In fact, our maize is now in and looking good and we had some nice rain to get it started.

We go to interview an African Pastor next week and hope to have our first enterprises going by June 1996. We are on our way.

A sale with a difference:Tension was high as people awaited the draw for a bargain bicycle and the lucky winners were quick to take their pick of the four on offer. Clothes and other goods sold quickly and the proceeds will go to establishing the Christian farm village.