Building on Colletta’s courage in Zimbabwe



Project Compassion 2012 News Story
Colletta, pictured left with her two sons, two nieces and her mother.
Photo: Caritas Gweru

It was with great sadness that Caritas Australia recently received news that Colletta - a Zimbabwean mother raising two sons in the face of illness, drought and conflict -had died due to complications with her medical treatment.

Colletta had shared her story with Caritas in support of Project Compassion 2012.

Colletta was integral in the delivery of clean water, nutritious food from a community garden, sanitation facilities and the raising of livestock for her community. Her courage in life means she has left a legacy which will live on in her community.

Colletta’s leadership is a shining example of how an integrated approach to development can transform lives and futures for many people. All of Colletta’s children are now living with their grandmother (Colletta’s mother). Because of Colletta’s work, they have food security through constant allocations from the community garden.

Zimbabwe was once known as the ‘breadbasket of Africa’, yet enduring conflict and prolonged drought has since reversed this prosperity.

By 2008, almost one-quarter of Zimbabwe’s population had fled the humanitarian crisis to neighbouring countries. Today, thousands of people remain displaced and debilitating poverty continues to threaten the nation’s fragile peace.

Colletta had lived in Chirumanzu, a district ravaged by Zimbabwe’s brutal conflict.

But seven years ago, Colletta was not caught up in the violent struggle for land: she was bed ridden with tuberculosis, found to be HIV positive and fighting for her life.

The sole breadwinner for her family, Colletta had struggled to support her elderly mother, two sons and two nieces in her care.

Colletta had told Caritas:

“I had nothing. I had lost hope in life. I couldn’t afford food. I didn’t have money to buy seeds. I found it difficult even to give my family one decent meal per day. Sometimes I sent my children to look for food from neighbours. We were labelled a family of beggars.

“The biggest challenge our community faced was due to conflict. People had no money, poor nutrition, no safe water or sanitation. Most kids were not going to school.”

“Caritas has taught us that these projects belong to us”

Project Compassion News Story
Providing families with animals such as goats provide them with both a source of food as well as an income which can be generated from selling food products. Photo: Caritas Gweru

At the height of Zimbabwe’s political and economic crisis, most of the international community’s aid and development efforts were suspended. But thanks to the strength of Caritas Australia’s local church partnerships, your support continued to provide food, temporary shelter, psychosocial support and peacebuilding workshops in Zimbabwe’s poorest communities.

As the humanitarian crisis continued to unfold, Caritas not only ensured the provision of life-saving aid but also worked across all eight dioceses to build resilience and foster lasting changes for the most vulnerable families.

Colletta’s family is just one of many to have benefited from your solidarity.

“I realised that the projects being talked about could really change my life for the better,” Colletta had said.

“I knew it was the only chance to again work for my family.”  

Together with its local partner, Caritas supplied the seedlings and equipment to create a village garden, enabling Colletta and her community to grow vegetables and medicinal herbs.

But like all of Caritas Australia’s holistic community development programs, its work in Colletta’s village extends beyond the provision of food security. Through its local partner, Caritas Gweru, the program sought to rehabilitate boreholes and wells destroyed by conflict and overuse, improve sanitation through hygiene training and household latrines, and rebuild livelihoods for the long-term protection of human dignity.

Colletta’s community now has safe water to drink and to replenish their gardens.

“I was involved in the rehabilitation of our village borehole and am in the water committee – we’ve been trained to make repairs to keep the borehole working,” Colletta had said.

“My household sanitation has greatly improved since I received a latrine, pot rack and refuse pit through the project. This has reduced diarrhoea among my family.

“Caritas has taught us that these projects belong to us. We care for them in the same way we take care of our household goods. The fact that we are owners of the projects ensures they’ll continue long after Caritas is gone.”

As healthcare remains beyond the reach of poor families, Caritas Gweru has also trained volunteers to provide home-based care for people, like Colletta, living with HIV/AIDS and other illnesses. Colletta was receiving Anti-Retroviral Therapy and had enough food to make the medication effective. 

“Physically, I’m now stronger and can work in the garden. My family’s nutrition has greatly improved. I produce and sell excess vegetables to pay school fees and other expenses,” Colletta had said.

“Actually, my social standing in the society has elevated, as others now respect my family. I believe there is life after infection after all.”

Slowly, attitudes in Colletta’s community have changed, livelihoods have improved and more children are going to school.

To donate, support or fundraise for Project Compassion 2012, please visit our website at or Ph: 1800 024 423


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