It is with a grateful heart and a lifted spirit that I am once again putting pen to paper to let all you great folk who have been so faithful in supporting us so that we could get the job done well in this past year.
2009 was a good year in which we grew our pensioner base to include three homes in Mutare, being the Eastern Highlands Trust, Murambi Cottages and Park cottages and SOAP, run by Des Becker and his wife Sally. Also added was Rest Haven in Rusape, Mazoe trust in Bindura and Waterfalls home in Harare. Adding these homes now have us helping sustain around 1700 pensioners and destitute folk who are all in desperate need as they have little or no income or source to draw from. The chasing of farmers off their land is ongoing as I pen this letter and some of these folk who were once wealthy, today sit in absolute despair having lost all they ever worked for. It drives one to tears as you hear the stories they tell.
During 2009 we used all three the trucks moving more than twenty tons of food, clothes, sometimes medicines, wheel chairs and walking aids amongst other things on each trip.
We managed to do some trips with the full fleet of three and a few with the two bigger Nissan trucks. The last two trips had us abandoning the trailer as we have had a tag axle fitted to the 10ton Nissan UD 90 upgrading it to a 16 ton payload vehicle. We are now looking to do the same to the UD 80 and our fuel costs will be cut considerably more.
This trip was done by Hannes and me and we were accompanied by Otto Doman from Roodeport. Otto and I did the longer Harare trip and Hannes the shorter Bulawayo trip. He had met up with Mr M.C. Eloff and Mr Frik du Preez from Orkney who did some stops with him so as to see exactly what the dynamics of our Fund is all about. Needless to say they gave a good report on their return.
It was on this trip that we saw the wheels coming off the Zim economy. Notes for $100,000, 000,000,000:00, that's a hundred trillion dollars were being printed, as inflation was a rampant at well over a million %. But it was all in vain. One of our lady pensioners, a railway workers widow had a pension of $18,011 632,500:00, which in December 2008 was a handy sum, around R380.00. When she went to cash her cheque in January, the government had just devalued the currency by removing a further twelve numerals from before the decimal point, leaving her to live on NOTHING, in fact, her savings were now in ARREARS. We came across many similar cases and headed back south heart broken after seeing these peoples shattered lives. We also had good feedback from our pensioners thanking us for the Christmas cake and crackers amongst the other useful things they got in their goody parcels in December.
Trip was the 1st one with all three trucks and the trailer and we were 5 drivers sharing the driving duties. Hannes, Daniel and Neels Koekemoer, KC Schuuring and I. It was good to see the fleet of three standing at the border knowing that the cargo we carried was priceless to those waiting for it. For the first time since we started this operation, we parted company at the junction separating the Harare and Bulawayo routes. A milestone had been reached. We stood heads bowed in prayer thanking our Great God for His goodness, Love, Mercy, Provision and Protection. We thank you our donors and supporters for enabling us to carry out this "life saving operation".
It was on this trip that Mutare, Rusape and Bindura were added to the list of homes.
Bob Daniels and I undertook the Harare trip and the Mobile Clinic belonging to Hannes Snyman once again accompanied us. His team do a sterling job as they treat the folk and take prescriptions, fill them in SA and arrange for us to convey the meds up at the earliest convenience. These ladies, Elbe and Adri had a rough trip as they treated folk who were literally rotting because of lack of medical facilities and medicines.
The folk have little or no access to medicines or doctors and often their pride stands in the way. All those who travel with us have this experience, because no matter how eloquently I write the report, nothing prepares you for the shock of the reality of the situation there. This was Bob's first trip and he was able to meet up with a long lost aunt of his. Hannes & Marx Gertenbach did the Bulawayo trip.
Every home we stopped at had stories to tell and each visit required extra hampers as the numbers grow from visit to visit. This was my first trip on the Mutare route and a real eye opener for me. Here we have Des and Sally Becker and Gideon Mostert who sadly lost his wife this year. These folk with their helpers do a wonderful job keeping the homes ship shape and the residents happy. We took many photos and on our return added some to trip reports. We have had many calls to say that they have seen someone they know and we have been able to put them in touch.
Had us moving the normal goods as each trip. Hannes also moved 20 tons of mealies to Masvingo where Gerhard Burger was to organise the milling and distribution of the milled product. We also had one of the trailers wheel bearings collapse en route to Musina and God kept the wheel in place until we stopped for the night. As we jacked up the trailer to take the wheel off, it just fell to the ground!! We truly serve a Faithful God! The axle was damaged but a "Good Samaritan" known only as Carlo from Musina Engineering came to the rescue and repaired it after hours for us for a minimal fee. Norman Nimmo and Brannie van Niekerk did the short trip.
Bob and I once again left on the Mutare route and Daniel Koekemoer and His wife Elza did the Bulawayo route. This was her first and she thoroughly enjoyed it apart from many tearful moments she also had to deal with. She says she will do the trip again as it makes you appreciate what you have and brings one back to earth again. One observation everyone makes is that these pensioners never complain about their circumstances. They have learnt about being contented in riches and in poverty knowing God rules Supreme. We also received our first donation of fresh venison that we were able to hand to Verity Amm Kitchen in Bulawayo. This was a blessing to them as fresh meat is very pricey and difficult to come by in Zimbabwe at the moment. A special "thank you" to our supplier. We trust that we will get an on-going supply from them.
I was accompanied by Boet Holmes on his first sortie and he too had a wake up call to the desperation of the situation. A lady came tearfully up to him in Mutare and said these words. "I am 80 years old and no matter how old I live to be, I will never have time enough to thank you people for what you do for me and my friends." Friends, remember she was in fact addressing you because as I say in all correspondence, without you we cannot do this, and we get these messages all the time. In January I will be sending out a communiqué with the letters we receive. Where ever we go we are invited for tea and if we decline, it is brought out on trays to where we are busy.
On this journey I was accompanied by the love of my life, Miss World 1970, my wife Liz. This is always the best and yet also the worst trip of the year. The best in that the trucks are heavy laden, not only with food but with Christmas gifts as well. This year we were able to give better gifts as we had more money available from our "Gift donor base" and more ladies groups responded to our appeal. We have also been able to separate the gift donations from the rest of the fund, which makes keeping tabs on spending much easier. The worst in that we hear of oldies that never hear from their children, family or friends. The only friends they have left are the almost unknown ones, you, the donor who is prepared to open your heart to them. What sheer JOY to see the faces the next day when we collect the empty boxes.
We are quick to remind them that we are only the transporters of the gifts and that you, the donors are the STARS, who form a galaxy of kind hearted and loving spirited people get the thanks. They may never see you, but rest assured, they love you. It was also the beginning of people taking advantage of the British repatriation scheme where the pensioners of British heritage were able to go back to the UK and a better quality of life. We had copious amounts of rain throughout the journey and at some places had to wait for the rain to stop before we could off load. Norman Nimmo and Bob Daniels did the Short Bulawayo trip and as he stated in his report, was driving Santa's sledge as all gathered around to convey their thanks for the food and goodies received.
A good year to say the least. This year saw much less money spent on breakdowns, as we did no longer have to be over loaded. The trailer ran wheel bearings twice, but because of regular maintenance, that and replacing a battery or two was about the sum of expenses in that area. The tarp over the Dyna was cut a few times while we stood at the border on the Zimbabwe side but nothing was stolen as I believe the thieves were disturbed by security.
Our trips in today's terms taking in the fluctuating fuel costs run between R200,000.00 and R225,000.00. These figures include the border fees, permits, diesel and sustenance for the crews en route.
We travel an average of 6550 kms using 2170 litres of fuel costing approximately R16,500.00.
We are appealing to someone out there to please sponsor some or even one tyre for the UD80 as they are now getting threadbare. We actually need six but two are desperately needed. The size is 1000 x R20 tube type. We have been given a long range tank for the UD 80 and will be fit and ready for our next trip in April.
To all our faithful supporters, donors and kind friends we thank you for your loyalty in giving to this worthy cause in the way you do and also thankyou to all who have prayed for us for safe hassle free trips. At this point I want to say we cannot do this without your faithful support, and trust that 2010 will be a blessed year for all.
We can be contacted on any of the following numbers and email addresses.
Hannes Botha. (Director)
Tel : or Cell .
Pastor Attie Botha Limpopo Co-ordinator/driver
Tel : or
Branie van Niekerk Zululand Co-ordinator
Tel : or Cell .
Daniel Koekemoer Natal Co-ordinator/driver
Tel : or Cell : .
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