I arrived in Zimbabwe several days ago, my first visit this year. Since before Kufunda Learning Village was a glimmer in the heartmind of its founder, I have been journeying here. When people ask what I do at and with Kufunda it is often with a typical assumption of people in the global north that I am coming here to teach them something. I come here to learn. Of course, this dichotomy between learning and teaching is a false one. But mostly, I come to listen. To witness. To ask questions. To be present to the changes taking place at Kufunda and in Zimbabwe. I also come to connect Kufunda with others around the world — calling forth connections and relationships which help us all learn.
I first visited Zimbabwe in 2001 and have been witness to many years of things falling apart. Everything I’ve thought I knew or understood about collapse have been challenged. Each collapse is unique. Perhaps the only common thread is that times of collapse are a call for resilience. In some ways the country “hit bottom” last year. Some progress has been made since then, but for people who feel like they are at the end of their rope, it is slow and agonizing.
I came here aware of the pain and agony some were feeling. It wasn’t until I arrived that I also felt how strong the winds of shift are as well. So it is all present at the same time — agonizing stuckness, emerging creativity, willingness to change. When you’re stuck, what do you do? I was thinking this morning about cross country skiing on groomed trails (perhaps an odd thought since the daily temperatures here are in the 90s). When I’m skiing and see a crash coming, it is almost impossible for me to remember to simply lift my ski out of the track, and to take it from there. That first step, lifting out of the current track, can be so darn hard.
At Kufunda the need to do so is clear. The structure and processes which brought Kufunda to where it is today cannot continue. Among other things, the global economic crisis has shown up here in the form of fewer donor dollars. But even beyond that, it is clear that changes are needed. Kufundees have been able to spend a lot of time over the last five years learning how to host processes which help them develop deep relationships with each other. They have learned how to do permaculture. They have learned how to build with local materials and how to move towards zero-waste. They have learned how to use herbs for healing. They have learned how to share knowledge with surrounding communities and are beginning to learn how to help those communities reach out to others. Everything from bee-keeping to “arbor-loos” are part of the culture. There are many pieces in place and part of the work over the last several days has been looking at how to shift those pieces into a more productive overall pattern.
One of the questions I’ve had for years is about how Kufunda reaches out beyond the six communities it has ben working with since 2003. Even that is more clear. It does it through partnerships. For example, one of the friends of Kufunda founded something called “Tree of Life.” It is a process which works with victims of torture to help them heal. It is a powerful process led by the former victims themselves. Once people in villages are more healed, what next? Perhaps a partnership with Kufunda provides part of that answer — Kufunda can come in and help them remember ways of being a healthy village again.
Enough for now. Lot’s happening and I’ll be writing more!