By Jackie Campbell
Two United Methodist college students from the Pittsburgh area have launched an online campaign to raise $30,000 to help rebuild the rural Nyahuku health clinic in northeastern Zimbabwe. Natalie Geer, a junior at Ohio Wesleyan College, and Jessi Mazzoni, a senior at Allegheny College, said that if they reach their goal, they’ll take the 2014 Pittsburgh Polar Bear Plunge into the frigid waters of the Allegheny River in December.
Jessi, a member of Dutilh UMC in Cranberry Twp., and Natalie, a member of St. Paul’s UMC in Allison Park, served as interns this summer at The Nyadire United Methodist Mission through The Nyadire Connection (TNC), a Western PA group that partners with the mission in a variety of ways.
The young women spent a lot of time in the community learning about day-to-day life. Jessi was exposed to Zimbabwe’s health care system daily shadowing doctors and nurses at the Nyadire hospital. Natalie, who spent time teaching at the primary school, experienced the hospital first-hand as a malaria patient.
“I think Natalie and I can both safely say that our favorite part of the entire trip was getting to know all of the wonderful people in Nyadire," said Jessi. “We spent a lot of time at the orphanage, the Home of Hope, and became very close with the children who live there. We also enjoyed exploring our corner of Zimbabwe and learning as much about Zimbabwean culture as possible.
“Between my experiences at the hospital, our trips to some of the rural health clinics, and getting to know community members, it was more than obvious to us just how much people were suffering from a lack of adequate care," she added. “I think what hurt Natalie and I most was that everyone we formed relationships with had a relative or loved one who had been seriously impacted by Zimbabwe's lack of proper health care and health resources. I know that for myself one of the biggest reminders was the kids at the Home of Hope, many of whom had lost parents due to a lack of quality care.”
On their Indigogo project page the young women added: “People die from easily treatable diseases and go without care for any complicated illness due to a lack of health care facilities and the cost of treatment. Life-threatening diseases such as HIV, malaria, and tuberculosis are common in Zimbabwe and these illnesses are seen constantly at Nyadire Hospital and its clinics.”
TNC is helping Nyadire Hospital to renovate its six rural clinics, which are all far from the hospital and provide basic, life-saving care to thousands of people.
Renovation of the Chikwizo clinic, established in 1945, was the first to be completed through a partnership that included TNC, the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), the Pittsburgh District, Zimbabwe Episcopal Area and other supporters. Local residents came to make bricks and carry materials. The newly renovated clinic was rededicated this past summer by Bishop Eben Nhiwatiwa, with members of a TNC mission team present.
Natalie and Jessi were so dismayed by the current, dilapidated state of the clinics that they decided to have their own fundraiser to boost efforts to renovate them. They said they know the rebuilding process works because of what they observed at Chikwizo.
Nyahuku clinic is the most remote of all six of Nyadire Hospital's clinics. It’s about 110 miles from the hospital and three miles from the Mozambique border. "In addition to lacking power, running water, and reliable means of communication, Nyahuku is located in an area bordered by land mines, according to Jessi and Natalie.
The young women said they believe that crowdfunding is the future of fundraising, and that any campaign needs to have a “fun” factor.
To make it fun, and show they’re prepared to go to any length to demonstrate their passion for the Nyadire community, Jessi and Natalie said, “We will do the Pittsburgh Marathon if we raise $100,000, and if we reach the cost of renovating an entire clinic --$300,000 -- we will bungee jump off of Victoria Falls [in Zimbabwe]!”
Their indiegogo.com campaign began September 8 and will end on October 24. Read more and donate at indiegogo.com/projects/the-adventure-for-clinics/
Read about the Chikwizo Clinic “facelift” on Zimbabwe Episcopal Area website.
Visit The Nyadire Connection's Facebook page.