Rays of Hope in Hopley

The presence of Silveira House in Hopley over the past three years left a mark, a hive of activity. Training programmes, clean-up campaigns, construction of an SME Site, and sports tournaments occupied the people of Hopley, direct beneficiaries and by-standers alike, week-in week-out. The purpose of such interventions is to shape a culture of responsibility, active participation and self-reliance by engaging the youth in sustainable livelihoods projects and the whole community in advocacy and peace building activities. Each dollar produced, every song sung, each brick laid, each head plated, every pass completed, and each tiny piece of litter collected and bagged contributed to the total impact. The project came to an end in August this year, 2018. We look back with gratitude to everyone who made this work possible. Together we made a difference.

Hopely, formerly a farm settlement, was developed into a urban area whose occupants are mostly displaced former farm workers, those who lost their homes owing to the 2005 clean up exercise popularly known as Murambatsvina or Operation Restore order and many other less fortunate migrants who found a safer haven in this peri-urban settlement. The Settlement lies along two major roads, one leading to the fourth largest city in Zimbabwe, Masvingo, and another leading to Chitungwiza, home to most of the capital’s low income earners. Adjacent to it, Hopley is neighbor to farms to the west, Boka Tobacco Auction Floors to the North, a medium density suburb called Waterfalls to the East and some partially functional and disused industrial factories to the south. Hopley is a high density suburb, comprising mostly the young and the poorest of urbanites. As an “accidental” or unplanned settlement, utilities such as running water and electricity are not within the reach of many. Even the ownership of the land has been disputed as residents have often been discouraged from building permanent structures. More can be said to fashion the context, but for our purposes, this background should suffice for an analysis of the socio-economic and political dilemma.

Our Response as Silveira House centered on the economic deterministic nature of the problems facing the youth in the Area. Their situation was, and still is complicated since, not only does the general unemployment in the country affect them but employability shortfalls as most could not attain average education. They had lost their livelihoods, be they farm employment or the informal enterprises for those who dwelt in the demolished “Illegal structures” and lost property while migrating. Therefore, building their capacity for employability was the most urgent of their needs.

Their challenges we tackled to our best ability through technical and vocational skills training, enterprise development, lobby and advocacy. Silveira House went about assisting the youth in small groups to generate some business ideas, concretize them into business plans, mobilize financial and human resources, create links with markets and networks with relevant stakeholders. Many of the beneficiaries graduated with certificates in trades such as carpentry, welding, dressmaking, electrification, interior décor, hairdressing, upholstery, vehicle mechanics and many other practical disciplines.

This however proved to be inadequate from the onset as group dynamics often proved bumpy with conflicts emerging sporadically. Thus we infused in our target beneficiaries’ training and engagement of the larger population various aspects of conflict management and community building activities. These took the form of awareness campaigns, sports tournaments and focus group discussions under themes such as environmental awareness, peace campaign, among others. The offices of the District Administrator, the Councilor, Environment Management Authority, Ministry of Youth, Indigenization and Economic Development, Home Affairs Ministry among other government and non-government stakeholders played a crucial part in the successful implementation of such activities.

Starting a business is not an easy thing. It demands a lot of patience, commitment and hard work. Despite the promise of future pay-off, some opportunities that presented themselves often enticed our desperate beneficiaries, pulling them away from their training programmes, enterprises and associations in search for quick returns. These opportunities included working in the fields, tending gardens and households in the nearby medium density suburbs such as Waterfalls, selling foodstuffs and other items to farmers during tobacco auction seasons and transportation. Worst scenarios involve young ladies prostituting themselves, young men engaging in criminal activities such as burglary (which the enterprises fell prey to several times) and political violence whenever conflicting views were expressed. It was such a dangerous mission. We count our losses numbering from the several dropouts, loss of property and wasted resources in form of unfinished activities. There is so much more to be done to make considerable progress in transforming Hopley into a normal society.

As we exit with the end of the three year cycle, we celebrate the establishment of the Small-to-Medium Enterprise shelter that has already been completed and commissioned. A number of those who successfully completed their training and established their enterprises off the programme, individual cases can be cited as success stories of the project. This is cause for our joy and continued eagerness to work with vulnerable groups in our country. Our mark remains on the ground in Hopley, in the hearts of those we touched and an indelible print in the History of Silveira House and Zimbabwe.