Grantham mechanic returns from 10-week charity trip to Zimbabwe

Simon Hardingham meets youngsters in Zimbabwe.

Simon Hardingham meets youngsters in Zimbabwe.

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Mechanic Simon Hardingham has returned from a 10-week trip to Zimbabwe, working to help poor communities.

Simon, of Cecil Street, Grantham, worked in the Binga district in the north west of the country with a charity caled Ntengwe based in the region. He was part of a team of four UK volunteers and four Zimbabwean. The volunteers were involved in numerous activities helping poor communities.

Simon Hardingham helps build a chicken coop for an 'income generating support group'.

Simon Hardingham helps build a chicken coop for an 'income generating support group'.

Simon, 26, said: “Whilst having different activities each week we also had regular weekly commitments in place, such as community service at Binga District Hospital. During our weekly visits we were tasked with cleaning the wards, changing the bed linen and ‘slashing’ the grass around the outside areas. The hospital is nowhere near our standards in the UK, due to a lack of available funds so it took some adjusting.

“There is only one doctor for the whole hospital, however the nurses and staff do a great job with the resources available to them.

“Other activities included performing a poem to 1,500 people at ‘World AIDS Day’, organising and carrying out a talent show where around 900 people attended and we also arranged for HIV/AIDS testing to be available on the 
day.

“I was also able to put my own stamp on the trip by teaching drug abuse sessions utilising sports as part of the Youth Education through Sport (YES) programme. This was a great opportunity for me to teach something that I feel strongly about and is a current problem in Africa.

“I also introduced cricket to the area by teaching students and teachers how to play the sport while also donating cricket sets so they can continue to play now I have left. I had 65 students present for my first session which was a bit of a surprise! One of the schools (Manjolo High) is now setting up their own team.”

Many obstacles had to be overcome during Simon’s time in Zimbabwe. Being in such a remote part of the country meant there was often a lack of lack of fuel and Simon and his fellow volunteers would have to walk many miles to get across country.

Simon said: “The whole experience was a huge success and I can safely say we managed to change people’s lives for the better, whether it was their attitude towards HIV/AIDS or to introduce a new sport, We have definitely left a mark in Zimbabwe.”

Simon had to raise to £800 for charity Progressio to go on the trip. He added: “I am continuing to promote Progressio’s work now I am home by taking part in a ‘Spartan Race’ (5km assault course) on September 1. My training has already begun as there are two more stages of the race I can partake in afterwards, ending with a marathon assault course!”

Progressio are always recruiting new volunteers aged 18 to 25. For more details go to www.progressio.org.uk/ If anyone would like to contact Simon directly about the trip or fundraising for Progressio, he can be contacted at simonhardingham@hotmail.co.uk