Springtime In Zimbabwe

Making friends at Wild Is Life

I spent a week in Zimbabwe in August.  I really didn't want go. I'm so grateful I got on the plane anyway.

Before I left, I was feeling frustrated about the recent elections in Zim and how the results would affect the citizens.  I was also frustrated because House of Loveness needs a new car (the kids are taking buses and hitching rides to school).  I was frustrated because I desire to move the children to a better home but we don’t have enough money to make it possible.  I was frustrated because we are having problems getting birth certificates for the (abandoned) kids and they need these to go to boarding school.  I also felt pressure to stay in the US for the release of my new film so I could pay my own bills. 

The trip ended up being filled with deep connection to the children, the animals, the people, the land and the sunsets.  My frustrations turned to gratitude.

My walk with Tatenda
My first morning in Zimbabwe, I woke up early for a walk with three rhinos in Imirie safari park as the sun was rising.  That afternoon, I spent time with a beloved shaman who gives healing and hope to Zimbabweans while taking care of many local children who otherwise would go without.  
In the following days, I enjoyed time with locals Ann Hamilton-King and her husband Roger.  Ann has been a mentor, sister and inspiration to me in Zimbabwe.  Roger, an interior designer originally from England, has Alzheimer’s and I’m always grateful when he remembers me on my return trips to Zim.  During an afternoon tea in a local restaurant, I even met a couple who knew a person I met on a ship two years ago.  The world is indeed small. 

Tariro's report card
It was fun to see the recent report cards of the children.  Tariro was one of the sickest children we took in four years ago.  She is now number #1 in her class.  Her report card is glowing.  Primrose’s report card was not as good.  Her teacher writes she needs improvement.  In everything.  What her report card doesn’t reflect is the happiness in her smile and the dance in her step.  

A highlight of my trip was a visit to the Wild is Life animal sanctuary founded by Zimbabwean Roxy Danckwerts.  This is a woman truly living her passion.  Roxy’s home sits at the base of the property that has been taking over by a collection of animals brought to her who were abandoned, orphaned, abused or very sick.  One by one, Roxy nurtures each animal back to life and gives them a place to live out their lives.  Roxy is as remarkable as the animals she cares for.  Please support her work.  Or even better, make time to visit the Wild Is Life animal sanctuary when you come to Zimbabwe.

Roger, Ann, Betsy, Roxy with Matthew and Marimba at Wild Is Life Animal Sandtuary

Roxy Danckwerts with Joe
The sanctuary is open five days a week for small groups to visit the animals.  A highlight was watching the lions being fed and meeting a sweet pangolin, a nearly extinct species that dates back 50 million years.  Marimba had just lost its mate the week before and it was beautiful to see the bond between this mammal and caretaker.

After a tour of the lions and cheetas housed by Wild Is Life, we enjoyed an afternoon tea on the property with visits from Mirabelle, a young giraffe, and other animals who were happy to share their space with our group of visitors.  Our evening ended with rose champagne and savory appetizers as the deep orange sun was setting.  In the background, we heard a chorus of lions roaring in the nearby cages, reminding us of the sacredness of Africa.  I felt privileged to be sharing the same space with these beautiful animals.  

By the time I left Zimbabwe on August 22 to head to NYC for the release of my new film, I knew the right Helpers would show up at the perfect time to buy a car for children's safe travel,  I knew we would eventually find a house in Zimbabwe and money to buy it so the children have a better place to sleep and I knew Primrose would eventually focus in school and get grades that reflected her abilities.

The Zimbabweans were filled with so much hope, it reminded me to do the same.

I will return to Zimbabwe in November with seventeen people for a Giving Thanks Service & Safari retreat with Qoya founder Rochelle Schieck.  The trip is sold-out but please email me at mybetsy@mac.com if you would like to be on a mailing list for future trips.  We have plans for Service & Safari trip in March/April and a two week summer program for ages 17-22.

With love from Zimbabwe,

Special Thanks to Carole Dean and From The Heart Productions. FTHP, a 501c3 serves as a fiscal sponsor for House of Loveness, Zimbabwe


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