A society working to improve conditions in Zimbabwe is expanding its efforts once again, launching a program to teach carpentry in a converted shipping container.
Sue Janetti, a founder of the Zimbabwe Gecko Society, said a fully equipped workshop is expected to be ready for its first intake of students within four months.
“This is a brand-new program,” Janetti said.
The carpentry workshop will be established in Chegutu. Once complete, the compound it is part of will include a preschool and a sewing centre – all within converted shipping containers – as well as a farming program with a sample agriculture lot for students to practise.
Space between two of the converted containers – 20 feet – will be roofed to create a training/community centre.
“Basically, we’re a tiny, little society doing some big things,” Janetti said, of work underway by the society in the poverty-stricken country she was born in.
“We’ve done a lot.”
Janetti founded the charitable organization Zimbabwe Gecko Society with her husband, Frank, in 2008, to increase support to those hardest-hit by the financial turmoil in Zimbabwe.
Their first project in the struggling country was more than two decades ago, when they built an orphanage to bring relief to families caring for children whose parents had passed away.
In the years since the society formed, the Janettis have helped bring clean water and sanitation to communities in Zimbabwe, as well as the farming program Foundations for Farming, which teaches sustainable farming methods.
In more recent years, they’ve been shipping containers of medical, school and other equipment, along with various supplies, then converting the containers for permanent use.
Each conversion takes five to six weeks.
Janetti said the story behind one container that left for the Karunda Mission Hospital in Zimbabwe on Friday (Sept. 23) has “a bit of a twist” to it.
At a conference in Fort Langley last month, Janetti was offered various medical equipment for Zimbabwe, but when she reached out to organize picking it up, she learned it was in Toronto. After the donor arranged for it to be trucked out west, Janetti contacted a doctor the society works with in Zimbabwe to see about sharing shipping costs of the container. He initially said yes, then soon after had to renege due to lack of funds.
Then, Janetti learned of a free container available in Toronto.
“Basically, it presented itself to me,” Janetti said. “I never actually look for containers. It’s always a different story about why it comes about.
“Our goods, after all, turned out exactly where they’re supposed to be.”
The next container of supplies – collected locally and estimated worth more than $500,000 – is to leave the Compassionate Resource Warehouse in Victoria on Oct. 12.
Janetti hopes the balance of that $21,000 shipping cost – another $8,000 is needed – can be raised by then, but said it will ship out regardless.
It leaves the same day as the society’s annual fundraiser dinner, a sold-out affair taking place at the White Rock Baptist Church. Proceeds from the dinner will help purchase such supplies as Tylenol.
Janetti said her passion for the work in Zimbabwe hasn’t faded over the years, but the fundraising is getting tougher.
Handmade beaded wire geckos that she used to bring home from Zimbabwe to sell have become too heavy a cargo to transport, and will make their final local appearance at an art and craft show set for Nov. 5 and 6 at Ocean Park Community Hall (1577 128 St.), along with other artwork and unique items.
She is heartened by efforts of local children to pitch in, including those of two young boys who collect and package candy to sell for the cause.
“It’s not the money for me from the kids, it’s the promotion of caring for people,” Janetti said. “It’s developing empty, caring and all sorts of stuff.
“It’s nice to see.”
For Janetti, the work has always been about seeing a need and chipping in to help.
“And we do make a difference,” she said.
For others wanting to pitch in, Janetti still needs items for the container conversions, including metal windows and doors; deck screws and self-tapping screws; 12-, 16- and eight-foot two-by-fours; solar panels; and trusses; as well as woodworking tools, fabric, sewing machines and school supplies.
To donate, contact Janetti at email@example.com or 604-531-3654.
For more information on the society, visit www.zimbabwegecko.com