The birthday boy is not making a big deal of the day. He’s now a year older, but everything would be okay without a party or even a cake. Actually, it would be best. Method Ndlovu, Nkayi’s community manager, prefers personal understatement. Some of his best jokes are a slight change in the expression on his face. His birthday happens to also be my last day in Nkayi
, after spending a week with him and his team. Method and I are talking about what was coming for the community. When we’re done, he’ll drive my photographer, Paul, and me back to Bulawayo.
We’re inside a meeting room in the Nkayi community office. Outside, clouds warn of an approaching storm. The rains before I arrived were the hardest Method had seen in Zimbabwe in many years. The expression “We need the rain” is true for the community, which has long suffered from drought. “We have big plans,” Method tells me. And the rain won’t hamper them.
World Vision came to Nkayi in 2011, which is when Method’s team began speaking to community leaders and residents on how they could help. From their conversations, which included talking with children, women and those who suffer from HIV and AIDS, the staff created micro-plans to address each village’s needs. The micro-plans were synthesized into a macro-plan, covering the whole community—like an umbrella. “We invested so much time to get a good product,” which is how Method de- scribes the strategy to fix the problems in Nkayi.
The community and staff started using the “product” in October 2012. Method says the strategy will help children and families in everything from education to health and hygiene to farming. The most vulnerable, such as children with disabilities, long neglected, will receive the assistance they need. Also, children will be encouraged to share their thoughts and ideas in a new community newsletter. (When I check back with Method a few months later, he tells me that progress and success have been encouraging and the community is expanding its first projects to help more villages.)
“One of the biggest successes is not in the form of a project, but seeing the com- munity taking the lead in these projects,” Method tells me. “In terms of sustainability, this gives us hope.”
Though we’ve gone past the time we’re supposed to end our interview, it hasn’t started to rain yet and I take this as a signal to ask another question: What would make Nkayi a success? The answer has to include the man sitting across from me. But Method is much too modest. Instead, he tells me about three elements.
The first two are related: “Continued funding from sponsors and the commitment from the community to execute our plans,” Method says. He tells me he’s already seen the latter. As for the funding—and the many children in Nkayi still looking for sponsors—this is something Canadians can continue to help with.
The third element isn’t Method being critical of himself and his team—they deserve credit. But he says, “We have to be there to support the community so they’re able to solve problems.” Everyone has a part in the success of Nkayi—Canadian sponsors, community members and World Vision staff. That’s the plan; it’s big and Method believes in it.
Still no rain, we pack up anyway and start on the road back to Bulawayo. Along the way, Paul says the clouds resemble a tornado’s. Is this a regular storm approaching? Method may have raised an eyebrow. But soon it’s pouring. The wind- shield wipers can’t keep up. Eventually the rain stops and eventually we arrive safely in Bulawayo. Everything is okay, of course; Method has got us there.