ZANE Blog

Penniless Zimbabwe Pensioner's Only Possession - WW2 Service Medals

Penniless Zimbabwe Pensioner’s Only Possession – WW2 Service Medals

The first time we met Richard* he was living in appalling conditions in a little shack at the back of a property in Braeside.

We were called in by the people who lived in the main house though, if truth be told, their living conditions were hardly better than his, but at least they were making a subsistence by growing tomatoes and other vegetables in the back yard and selling them outside on the road.

They had taken Richard in and helped him out by charging a very low rental but now Richard was unable to pay even that small amount and finding food and medicine had become impossible.

We went round to visit and inevitably found him malnourished and ill.

A local doctor, one of the many who help ZANE out by seeing patients for no fee at all, examined Richard and found he had desperately high blood pressure and a number of other ailments most of which due to his diet which consisted of not much more than bread and black tea.

As an emergency, we asked a local care home to take him in and we looked around to see how we might cover the fees.

Richard had no living family, had never married but had served in the British Army as an engineer.

After the war he moved to Zimbabwe where he worked on the railways for many years until retirement and then lived quite comfortably on his railway pension until the collapse of the economy when his pension stopped and the railway medical aid scheme stopped functioning.

We immediately applied for a grant for him and soon a small monthly amount was coming but it did not cover his fees so Richard had to go onto the ZANE aid books.

We visited him at the care home and found his health much improved – the matron had found him some clothes and put him on a high protein diet. He had a warm bed, regular meals and was taking part in some of the activities on offer.

Sitting there chatting to him, he started to open up to us and got up from his bed to open his locker and pulled out a little bundle wrapped in an old handkerchief – proudly he unwrapped his treasure for us to see and there lay his World War II service medals.

Through all his desperate struggles when he had sold everything to stay alive, he had held on to these precious mementos.

Richard died at the age of 94 last December.

It was a great comfort to all of us who knew him that he spent his last few years without having to worry about where his next meal was coming from.

He served others in his life and at the end of it, ZANE was able to look after him thanks to our wonderful donors.

If you think you can help others like Richard, please donate to ZANE.

* Names and images have been changed for security reasons.

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