The United Church of Christ in Zimbabwe (UCCZ) was founded in 1893 by the American Board of Foreign Missions, the predecessor mission body of Global Ministries. Global Ministries works closely with this partner church in the many facets of its ministry in Zimbabwe. The denominational membership today is approximately 30,000 people in 47 churches and several preaching points and worship groups. The UCCZ has worked ecumenically on important efforts in Zimbabwe and is responsible for many schools and several health institutions in the country.
The UCCZ seeks to have a long-term, sustainable farming/food security program at its mission at Mt. Selinda. The program, although housed at Mt. Selinda, will encompass much of the Eastern Highlands area. This project will assist in combating hunger in the communities surrounding Mt. Selinda and the low veld area served by the Eastern Conference of the UCCZ.
There is a need for security for the animals, equipment, tools, and crops. Maize (corn) harvested in the last cycle was stored in a building at the hospital, but that building will be too small for the next year’s crop and the building will be needed for a new program at the hospital soon.
The chickens and pigs live in unfenced buildings that are spread around the mission. Because of this lack of security, losses due to theft have occurred and constant vigilance is necessary to prevent further loss. Even though the chickens are near the children’s home, 21 out of the last batch of 102 were lost due to theft.
The goal is to build a farmstead with buildings for the various farming operations surrounded by a fence. The immediate goal is to be able to build the maize storage building, a house for the guard, and the fence by May 2013, with the entire project being completed by November 2013. Plans for the farmstead have been drawn. The site for the farmstead has been chosen and permissions have been granted to use the land. The sooner a safe home for the animals is available the better.
The sustainability of the food security program will be enhanced by the presence of a permanent farmstead. Having a center of activity will guarantee that the program will continue. Two years ago only about two acres of sugar beans were raised. Last year more than 39 acres of corn and two acres of sugar beans were produced. This year the proposal is to add Irish potatoes to the crop rotation. There are now about 40 pigs and 100 chickens.
The result of the food security program is that patients at the hospital, the children at the orphanage, and people in the surrounding townships are eating better. Products are sold at below market rate to make food affordable to the people that really need it. Products are priced low enough to keep the program viable, but high enough to be able to afford such a building project. The estimated cost of the project is about $30,000 USD.
Mt. Selinda Hospital
Mt. Selinda Hospital is one of the first ministries set up through the United Church of Christ in Zimbabwe. Mt. Selinda Hospital offers a variety of healthcare services and procedures for those living in the region.
Mt. Selinda Hospital continues to face a critical shortage of medical doctors to serve in its different hospital departments. Through seeking ways to incentivize young physicians, Mt. Selinda Hospital and other UCCZ hospitals offer additional pay for physicans, which would provide an increased salary from what the Zimbabwean government provides. The UCCZ continues to welcome support to offer better salaries for physicians at Mt. Selinda Hospital in order to retain doctors and to attract new doctors.
In addition to physician salaries, the hospital is raising funds for a new ambulance. The hospital’s ambulance can no longer be used since the vehicle does not change gears correctly and could put patients in danger. The church has determined it best to replace the vehicle, due to the age of the vehicle, and to search for a new ambulance.
The third priority of the hospital is to improve accommodations for medical staff on the hospital grounds. Currently, the hospital cannot provide accommodations for all staff members, and now several staff members are renting homes in Chako, the nearby village. The church has made plans to refurbish current accommodations and construct new homes for Mt. Selinda medical staff.
Update on Farmstead Food Security Project: February 2017
The United Church of Christ in Zimbabwe continues to run the Farmstead Food Security program to provide nutritious food items to children at the Daisy Dube Children’s Home, elderly residents near the farmstead, and for communities affected by the recent droughts in Zimbabwe. Prior to the program many could not afford nutritious foods, and the drought has placed an additional toll on nutritious food items. Two farms, the Mt. Selinda Farm and the St. Calvin are growing maize and beans, which have grown abundantly. With these foods, the UCCZ has not only provided foods for the Daisy Dube Children’s Home, elderly residents near the two farms, and children at Big Tree Primary School in Chikore. In addition, the UCCZ sold beans and corn in drought-stricken areas of Chibuwe, Rimbi and around the Chipinge distrct. The profits made from these sales are being used to continue to invest and grow the Farmstead Food Security Program. With the funds provided by gifts through Global Ministries, the UCCZ purchased the seeds for the corn and beans, fertilizers, fuel for the tractor and maintenance for the tractor, and paying wages for additional farm help.
As the food security program continues, the Daisy Dube Children’s home administration is beginning to oversee and work on the Mt. Selinda farmstead, to ensure the continued growth of crops on the farm. In addition, much of the work and oversight of the St. Calvin farm will be provided by Gazaland University. This will help the farm to continue growing crops throughout the year, and the Gazaland University will receive a portion of the proceeds of produce sales in order to pay for a new construction they are beginning.
UCCZ Update: April 2020
The ministries of the UCCZ have been adversely affected by the COVID-19 global pandemic, as many activities have come to a standstill and all energy has been channeled toward mitigating the effects of the pandemic. In order to support the communities of Zimbabwe at this time, with specific attention to the Chipinge District bordering Zimbabwe, the UCCZ has identified the following priorities:
- To raise awareness of the pandemic and how to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
- To encourage social distancing through school closures, suspension of church services, funerals, and meetings.
- To begin conducting school lessons and church services online.
- To assist in the reporting and healthcare for suspected COVID-19 patients.
- To promote increased hygiene practices: hand washing, avoid touching the face, wearing masks.
Through these activities, the UCCZ expects to interact with over 30,000 people directly in the upcoming weeks. This includes all students at UCCZ schools, church members, and health institution staff members and patients. A group of ten full-time staff members will be managing this project in coordination with church governance members and school leadership. In order to implement this project fully within the identified rural communities of the Chipinge district, the UCCZ is raising approximately $100,000. This will include the purchase of necessary medical supplies for UCCZ hospitals, transitions to internet-based school lessons and church services, and public health awareness campaigns.
Update: September 2020
Response to COVID-19
The UCCZ is working hard with other organizations in mitigating the spread of the coronavirus pandemic in Zimbabwe. The Church began a robust awareness campaign program in March 2020 and continues to raise awareness on the spread of coronavirus. At the local level, UCCZ volunteers coordinated, purchased, and distributed food baskets, and provided stipends who were employed through informal settings and have been without an income during the national restrictions on movement. The distribution of food and stipends continues to be a priority for the UCCZ, as concerns over food security for marginalized communities in the country persist.
Another initiative in response to the pandemic has been to provide support for pastors. In some areas, pastors were without an income during the period of nationwide lockdown, and the UCCZ helped provide support for pastors when churches were not meeting in person. The UCCZ distributed personal protection equipment for medical professionals, both handmade and purchased, to medical staff, as well as in schools, and churches. Cleaning supplies and thermometers were also provided to UCCZ institutions.
The UCCZ continues to prioritize the Doctor Salary Top-Up Program, which offers an additional stipend to medical doctors who are working at Mt. Selinda Hospital. Many medical doctor have gone on strike in Zimbabwe due to the heightened risks in the workplace and low salaries; however, with the UCCZ Doctor Salary Top-Up Program and the UCCZ’s priority provision of personal protection equipment, doctors at Mt. Selinda Hospital continue to stay and provide medical care.
As coronavirus cases are on the rise in rural communities in Zimbabwe, the UCCZ has been renovating of clinics, hospitals, and schools in the Beacon and Shekwa communities. Due to the damage caused by the 2019 cyclones in Zimbabwe to infrastructures of bridges, water wells, clinics, schools, and other structures, the UCCZ continues to reconstruct these facilities. Because of this damage, the UCCZ health clinics in Beacon and Shekwa are not open, and Beacon community residents are traveling 16 miles to Mt. Selinda Hospital, and Shekwa community residents are traveling 18 miles to the Chikore Hospital. These increased distances are additional barriers to seek medical treatment, presenting more severe health hazards to the vulnerable in these rural communities.