Sometimes something happens to make us realize that there are many great people out there. This is one of those stories. The way so many people, from so many countries, cared about one man is astounding.
In July Tom* from Musina, a small border town in South Africa, contacted ZANE Australia through their Facebook page. He told us about a Zimbabwean called Ben*, 59, who had lived in South Africa for five years after he was granted temporary asylum. He lived in a squatter camp, and recently graduated to a tent, thanks to well-wishers Tom had appealed to. They also helped with food and clothing.
But the asylum would expire in November. When it did Ben would be detained for three months and then deported. Being both epileptic and simple minded, Tom’s concern was that Ben would not cope with the conditions in the detention camp. Could we help, he asked?
At first it did not seem like there was much we could do. Ben was too young to qualify for help from ZANE. However Tom had been at work on social media pages, including the Fort Victoria High School page and enquiries from the public kept coming in, so we gathered this interest into concrete financial commitments, some one-offs, some regular; some large, some small. People in Zimbabwe and in the diaspora reached out to this man from as far as Australia and Canada. We needed $200 a month for him to stay at the Salvation Army home, Ralstein House; $170 was pledged and with other donations we were ready to make a commitment that Ben could at last have a place he could call home.
Tom on the South African side and Sally* in Zimbabwe worked tirelessly, for weeks, organizing Ben’s repatriation. The Ministries of Home Affairs, the International Organization for Migration and UNHCR were consulted, and concerned parties were kept up to date through Whatsapp.
At last the day came. Ben, in new clothes and a fresh haircut, arrived at Tom’s house well before 6am. By midday he was through both borders and was collected by Sally, who hosted him before he set off to Bulawayo.
The day came and Ben was up early, again, and excited to be taking his last journey. We finally had news that he had arrived. A photo of Ben sitting on his own bed in his very own room said it all: Ben is no longer homeless.
While Ben was with Sally she put a call through to his mother who is at Strickland Lodge, Mutare (formerly Umtali). Sally writes:
She and Ben had not spoken to each other in over seven years. It was very emotional listening to them talking to one another! Each one thought the other had died. But, in reality, Ben’s only brother, Brian*, had died suddenly, of a heart attack in June. Through goodwill from friends. Ben’s mom managed to go to Harare to attend Brian’s* funeral. It would be truly amazing if we could somehow get Bob to Mutare to see his mom before time runs out.
So as I said at the beginning this is a story about people working together to rescue a helpless person. Our organization salutes all who came forward. We also realize that those who are helping now might find their circumstances changing so we do not expect such donors to be able to help forever.
If anyone else would like to get involved with helping Ben with other needs, or helping others like him, ZANE Australia would welcome your participation.
Please donate and make a difference!
* Names have been changed for security & privacy reasons.