Kieron, former Castlerigg team member and now CAFOD Step into the Gap volunteer, Blackpool, writes about his recent trip to Zimbabwe.

Kieron, I don't think this is going to work!

Kieron, I don't think this is going to work!

It’s difficult to write an article at the end of my African adventure; I’m not sure the words will do justice to the experience, but I’ll give it a go. At the start of the trip I was curious – Zimbabwe was the last place I expected to end up, the thought had never before crossed my mind. However I can safely say I have truly undergone a remarkable experience.

During my time in the beautiful landlocked country of Zimbabwe, we met many inspiring communities, as we learnt about their culture and how they go about their day-to-day lives. We visited many projects along the long dirt roads of Binga, in the capital Harare and in Chinhoyi where many crossing cows, goats and baboons kindly caused us moments of panic… Oh, and driving through a river – that was certainly a highlight!

There is however a harsh and cruel reality that swooped over me. There is a saying that you have to witness certain things just to begin to understand what some people go through, a statement that has stayed with me especially within the past few weeks.

The projects I have seen have opened my eyes to a world I thought I understood – HIV and AIDS is a hugely challenging issue here in Zimbabwe and a word that is still said in hushed voices. The level of stigma and discrimination surrounding HIV and AIDS is part of the root cause. Denial and fear of what others may think prevents people from coming forward for testing or from receiving the correct medication to keep them well.

Despite the challenges there is hope, and hope is a word which is strong within the people of Zimbabwe. And what makes me able to walk away with hope, is the fact that the people and those who help them will never give up, and even if others do, they will still be here fighting for a community free of HIV and AIDS, a community that can strive and a community which will succeed.

This trip has truly moved me in a way I only hope I can pass on to others on my return home. I am eagerly awaiting to share the stories of the communities and CAFOD partners I have met and all I have experienced. The joy on the faces of the people, and the many smiles is enough to get anyone motivated. Inspired by their determination, and the light in the world I have witnessed, I am more determined than ever to support the amazing work of CAFOD partners and all those involved. Although I have only seen a small fraction of the work that CAFOD does, it’s enough for me to know that you should tell your friends, your family, even your best mate’s grandma about it!