Ezekiel Mafusire, age 33, is now the Director of the Masiye Camp. "I've been working here since 1999, with Mr. Germann, until 2001. Then I took over the Directorship of the program. Before that, I was working locally, doing Camps for high schools, with an organization called Scripture Union."
He's worked overseas, for 2 summers in the US, at a Salvation Army-owned camp near Deer Lake, Washington, where in 1998, he was Lead Male Counselor and in 2000 he was Program Assistant.
"I did my schooling here in Zimbabwe," he says, "but about every 2 years I go overseas, to do studies in Youth leadership skills, leading and facilitation of youth groups, Camp programming and administration, and counseling. I've been to New Zealand, Canada, Australia, the United States, Europe."
Ezekiel's wife, Rumbidzai, has also studied Adventure-based learning overseas, and is currently the Head Instructor of the Adventure program.
The Masiye Camp program, as described on their website, www.masiye.com, is a mix of outdoor activities, like canoeing, abseiling and rafting, cousellor-led activities like arts and crafts, and camp-wide activities like scavenger hunts, tug-of-war, and performing arts. But underneath the fun and games is a very serious purpose: attending to the psychological trauma of a child losing his parents. The counselors lead groups where the children talk about their feelings and fears, and there is a constant focus on providing an outlet for the children's feelings.
Describing the staff at the Masiye Camp, he says, "The counselors in our Camps are Africans, but occasionally we have visitors come to us from all over the world. In July, we had visitors from New Zealand, and the Republic of Ireland. And then we expect some Australians in December." Asked about the role thses visitors play, he said, "[They] come as volunteers who help in many ways, for example as professionals like IT, kitchen staff, etc. Some help with leading groups of children in camp set-ups as Camp counselors. Others donate stuff and then some just come to observe the program."
Describing the set-up of Masiye Camp, Mafusire says, "We have two sides: In the Bulawayo city center we have a big office, we run an internet cafe, and we have some orphan projects that are funded by various aid organizations like Unicef, and the Zimbabwe Work Foundation. We also run workshops for conferences or people to bring their families."
The 8-10 day Camps are held twice a month, with about 80 boys and girls attending, along with 30 volunteers.
The core Masiye camp counselors (10 of them) get a small allowance. The volunteer camp counselors basically have free food and accommodations while they are at the Camp. Sometimes they are given an incentive, like soap, which they can bring home. Many of them are adolescents who are out of school, who normally would do some small, informal trading, and parents don't want to let them go unless they bring something home
The children come to the Masiye Camps through non-governmental aid organizations like Farm Orphan Support Trust, Girl Child Network, and Child Protection Society, which are local organizations, funded by local people, although they also work wtih Unicef and Save the Children Norway. Mafusire explains, "We are working with many other organizations in the country, so we provide the Camping program for these organizations. They bring the children into the Camps, and then [after the Camp] they go back to the organizations."
It's estimated that there are close to a million AIDS orphans in Zimbabwe, a terrible burden to be shouldered by relatives and older siblings barely able to fend for themselves in a country with an inflation rate of 250% per year [see the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe], no jobs and approaching famine. Mafusire describes the mood of the country, "Most of the people are quite down, because most of our people are not working, so it's very difficult.
"Most of the orphans in the country are taken care of by their extended families. But because of the stress put on the families, with the economic situation... it is very difficult. That is why organizations like churches and other organizations are trying to help take care of these children."