When we walked into Dorothy’s small flat in the Avenues in Harare our senses were assailed by the hopelessness which hung in the very air. We had been called by a concerned neighbor who was worried that he hadn’t seen her for several days and she had not responded to his vigorous knocking.
We stood at the door discussing whether we should try and break in when Joan* suddenly realized that the door wasn’t even locked so we pushed it open and called – there was not a sound to be heard so we hesitantly walked in and on through the one bedroom flat. Lying in bed, so still that we thought she might have died, was little Dorothy*.
She opened her eyes when she realized we were there and looked at us dully. Joan sat on her bed and spoke gently to her and she said she had had a fall a few days before – she had tried to get to the door but nobody had heard her calls for help and her telephone had been turned off months before because she hadn’t been able to pay her bill.
Joan is a nurse and she quickly checked to see that there was nothing broken and I had a look round the flat – unsurprisingly there was not a morsel of food in the cupboard or in the fridge – not even a tea bag or a slice of bread.
We made a few phone calls and by the afternoon had her safely tucked into bed at a local frail care unit. She was so malnourished that she had to have a special diet that increased the protein slowly so that her body would not be overwhelmed. Gradually Dorothy regained her strength and started to tell her story.
After serving in the WAAF in the Second World War, Dorothy had married her childhood sweetheart after he was de-mobbed and the couple had two boys. Sadly her husband died young and Dorothy’s brother, who had moved to then Rhodesia, persuaded her to join him there with her two sons. Dorothy moved and soon got a good job as a book keeper in Sanders Department Store.
Then tragedy struck again when her elder son died during an asthma attack and her younger son, aged 14, was killed a year later in a hit and run driving accident.
Suddenly Dorothy found herself alone apart from her brother, but undaunted she carried on with her job until she retired and bought her small flat.
Then everything started to go wrong in Zimbabwe. Her brother moved with his children to Australia but she had nowhere to go – no family in Zimbabwe, no family in England and all her savings and pensions eroded to nothing.
She always says that ZANE saved her life, which is probably true, but I think ZANE did more than that – we gave her back her dignity and something to keep living for.
ZANE still pays her fees at the care home, but far more importantly, ZANE has become the family she lost. The last time I visited her, she was playing Bingo with some of the other folk in the home.
She has made such a good recovery that she has moved into her own bedroom and walks undaided to the dining room for meals – meals that are wholesome and nourishing – meals she can share with the friends she has made there.
How long can ZANE continue to help Dorothy and others like her? As long as generous donors continue to give.
Please donate and make a difference!
* Names have been changed on grounds of security