Gillian Marshall was born and raised in Rhodesia, now known as Zimbabwe. Her family was part of the European elite that colonized Rhodesia after the second World War. Colonizers brought with them high-level occupations, technology and trades and many took over land and agricultural practices from the aboriginals. Shortly after, Rhodesia became a profitable, self-sufficient country under the governance of Ian Smith. Some aboriginals remained within their own groups, but many ended up providing services to white people. Even though there was little choice given to the aboriginal community about these changes, Ms. Marshall’s memory of this time was a land of plenty where aboriginals and newcomers were amicable. Apparently some aboriginal groups did not share Ms. Marshall’s views and amicability vanished shortly after Robert Mugabe came into power in 1980, changed Rhodesia to Zimbabwe and encouraged black aboriginals to reclaim the land that had been taken over by white farmers. By 1989, the violence had escalated to the point that Ms. Marshall was forced to leave her house, land and belongings behind and flee to Canada with her husband and children. Zimbabwe had become short on food, gas and supplies, a dangerous place for white people and not much better for many of the aboriginal population (personal communication, March 28, 2014).
Almost 25 years later, Zimbabwe is still struggling under the dictatorship of Mugabe. Poverty, lack of education and unsafe conditions are a way of life for most Zimbabweans. In nearly every human development category Zimbabwe is ranked last by the United Nations (Hear Africa, 2012). Ms. Marshall still feels a strong tie to her birth country and supports the Hear Africa Foundation in an effort to improve conditions for those still living there. Hear Africa is a non-profit organization founded by Dr. Vivier, a native Zimbabwean, family physician in British Columbia and acquaintance of Ms. Marshalls. The foundation began with Dr. Vivier sending clothes to Zimbabwe in 2007 and has rapidly expanded to support Zimbabwean women through “sustainable solutions to poverty, social support, heath care, education & infrastructure development” (“home page”, 2014). Hear Africa works to empower women by providing sustainable economic opportunities through vocational training, farming techniques, micro loans, and development of marketable skills (“foundation overview”, 2012). Hear Africa also considers education to be an essential focus and, in addition to working with several schools providing classroom supplies and training for teachers, connects Zimbabwe elementary students with Canadian elementary students. This has resulted in a school in Langley, B.C. raising enough funds to build a school and a library in Zimbabwe (“foundation overview”, 2012). Hear Africa is based on empowerment, and aptly named in order to highlight how its members will not tell Zimbabweans how to improve their lives, but will listen first and then respond to the challenges in a collaborative and sustainable way. Hear Africa is paying attention to the social aspect of sustainable development by striving to build the country that Zimbabweans want, without a Canadian agenda.
This video and article gives Voice readers a real-life example of someone who is participating in an organization that began with one concerned individual and is now affecting vast positive changes in the lives of many.
Hear Africa. (2012). Foundation Overview. Retrieved April 2, 2014, from http://hearafrica.com/?portfolio=videos
Hear Africa. (2014). Home Page. Retrieved April 2, 2014, from http://hearafrica.powweb.com/