Thursday, May 12, 2011

Hard work in the name of Zimbabwe

So, I have obviously been on a long hiatus from blogging, but that will hopefully soon change. I have successfully completed my first whole year at Rutgers University Graduate School of Social Work (what a mouth full!!). I am thoroughly exhausted, but satisfied with what I have been learning and the work that I have completed.

Now that I will have almost 4 months of school free time on my hands (let's be honest, it will still be crazy busy considering I cannot handle too much down time), my goal is to get massive amounts of wedding planning done, to take up antiquing/garage sale hunting to start planning for the apartment, looking at apartments towards the end of the summer,...and hopefully I will also start learning to cook more. Before I get to that long list of things I hope I have time to do in addition to seeing friends I rarely have time to see, scrapbooking, and spending ample time at the beach...all while working at my new job (I know, I'm crazy), I'd love to share two important things with you all.

This past semester I took a class called International Social Work. Basically it was a class designed to require loads of independent study. We only met as a class for 4 class days 9am-4pm on 2 weekends during the semester. The rest of the work was up to us: doing all the readings, researching our little butts off, and daydreaming about our country of choice. We had to select an underdeveloped country that interested us.

Then, for the first project, we had to research like crazy and write a paper about the entire country: the history, politics, economy, agriculture, culture, religion, current state, nature of the underdevelopment, and then we had to discuss some vulnerable populations we identified in our country.

For the second project, we had to use all this research and information we gained in our 4 classes about social work practice and we had to dream up and develop (hypothetically) an intervention for one of the vulnerable populations in our country. Crazy right?? When I first realized how much work this would be my reaction was something like, "who am I to try to attempt to solve a country's problem as a student thousands of miles away??" Then I realized, an intervention is far from solving a problem. It's implementing some sort of change, often very small, in order to help people feel empowered, encouraged, and to give them a push in the right direction, because they CAN and DO have the ABILITY to solve problems, but they are unfortunately often trapped in a cycle of corruption that is scary and debilitating.

Ofcourse I chose Zimbabwe.

Through this process of diving deeper into the history and culture of Zimbabwe, I learned SO much more about the innerworkings, the politics that literally trap people, and the plummeting economy that binds people. It broke my heart several times reading the statistics and wondering if there was some sort of mistake. I mean...we complain in the US about a 12% unemployment rate and even a 30% unemployment rate would be crazy. Zimbabwe is currently in a 90% unemployment state. That is right. You read 90%. Only 10% of the people in Zimbabwe are currently employed. And the sad part is, this statistic is probably a tad bit low considering this statistic is not even current. The economy has gotten worse since. This statistic alone reminded me about the severity of circumstances that some must endure and often edure with a surprisingly good attitude. I'm pretty sure I would not be that brave and optimistic.

The more that I realized the overwhelming cycle of circumstances involving politics which affected the economy (which was once one of the best in Africa), which affect healthcare, AIDs, orphans, and extreme poverty including food and energy shortages, I was dumbfounded. This country is going through alot more than was apparent when I was visiting smiling beautiful children, families of missionaries, beautiful loving churches, and gorgeous green countrysides. Zimbabwe is the most beautiful place I have ever seen, landscapes, animals, people and communities included. How could God let such a beautiful place suffer so much?

As you can probably tell, my heart felt pierced plenty of times as I was learning and researching and as I went on to my second project.

At first, I put it off for weeks because I was terrified to even begin to brainstorm an intervention. How intimidating!! Finally, when I started to think and brainstorm, everything I thought of seemed so inadequate. Then, I began to develop an intervention that touched multiple populations and attempted to solve too many problems at once and then I needed to sit down with my professor. She encouraged me and assured me that the crisis I was having was normal, and in fact, was revealing to her how much I truly cared about and loved this country. She helped me and pushed me along. And in the end, thanks to help from my professor and from a dear friend from Zimbabwe, I was able to come up with a small intervention that I admit is nothing big. But, I wanted to share it with you all since many of you have already read about my trip to Zimbabwe in January. If you are interested, I will posting blogs with my projects--piece by piece since they are far too long to post all at once.

I hope you enjoy it and I figure if I wrote all this I might as well share it with whoever wants to know about this amazing country that stole my heart back in January and still maintains tight hold on my heart today.