About Kuda Kuziwa

Living life, loving it more, valuing it endlessly.

Conversation with…Gloves for Zimbabwe – UK

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In March 2019, a group of UK-based Zimbabweans started an initiative called ‘Gloves for Zimbabwe’ to supply hospitals in Zimbabwe with gloves by April this year. This was in response to a call from doctors taking strike action to bring attention to hospitals that have essentially crumbled under a non-functioning healthcare system. One of the many images from the strike that hit hard was a doctor holding up a placard saying ‘PLEASE GIVE US GLOVES’ – hundreds of doctors and nurses have been working without basic supplies and medicines, and in some hospitals, that means that even babies are being delivered without gloves.

Currently, 115 men and women make up Gloves for Zimbabwe-UK which is coordinated by Miriam Hakata and Conciliate Mukandatsama. Here’s a conversation with Miriam about the initiative.

Call for Gloves as doctors striked in Harare, Zimbabwe – March 2019

Can you believe how far our health system has fallen?

I cannot believe it. Even though it has been bad for a long time, it’s shocking to me that our hospitals have been stripped down to nothing.

How did Gloves for Zimbabwe start?

Back in March when the doctors in Zimbabwe went on strike, I read a Facebook post by the journalist Hopewell Chin’ono about how bad things had become. He made an appeal for all Zimbabweans to support where they could through the Save Our Hospitals Zimbabwe initiative that he started with all the major hospitals.

I really had to do something and so did a friend of mine, Conciliate Mukandatsama. We decided to start a group to answer the call for help. During the doctor’s strike there was a picture of a woman holding up a sign that read ‘PLEASE GIVE US GLOVES.’ It was hard to imagine that something so simple and cheap and necessary was not even available. When I am at work here, I not only have to change gloves between patients, but sometimes with one patient, I will change my gloves three, four times! I couldn’t imagine how nurses could work without gloves? How can operations be done without gloves? What if my sister or your mother was being operated on without gloves? So, we decided to focus on getting as many gloves as we could to ship back home.

The first thing I did was buy 30 boxes of gloves. Conciliate found a supplier, Brosch Direct Ltd, that would sell us boxes of 200 gloves at a good rate. We were going to fund this ourselves and then see who else in our circle would want to take part.

I then told Hopewell about our plan, he did a post on his Facebook page which spread like wildfire, and we have ended up with over 200 men and women donating gloves or money.

Doctors on strike, Harare Zimbabwe, March 2019

Tell us a little about how the group works.

It’s happened so fast and we have been inundated with so many offers that we have had to get organised fast! Anyone who wants to donate gloves or money to buy gloves can. They post the gloves to me or donate money via Conciliate.

I had several conversations with the Save Our Hospitals Zimbabwe initiative and contacted the Deputy CEO of Harare Hospitals to inform him of our plans. We wanted to make sure that the gloves would get to where they needed to.

How much have you raised so far?

The response has been overwhelming. In less than a month over 200 people have donated gloves or money – and these are not just people in the group. At the end of March (2019), we shipped 230 boxes of gloves with 200 gloves in each box. In total, we received over £1900 that allowed us to buy the gloves, get them shipped and still have money left over.

What help did you get with shipping?

One company had offered us free shipping when we first started but it turned out that it wasn’t quite free, and it also meant that the gloves would only arrive in Zimbabwe in May. That was too long for us to wait because for us, this was an urgent need – now that we knew how bad things were, we wanted to act fast. And, we also wanted to respect and honour all those that had been so generous to donate.

So, we had to search for another shipper and fortunately found Morden Freight Services in Tooting, London who offered a discounted rate when we told them why we were shipping all these gloves. The gloves arrived in the first week of April, just as we wanted!

And are the gloves at the hospitals now?

They are being used in the wards right now! As we worked with Save Our Hospitals Zimbabwe, the gloves were cleared this week by the Medicines Control Authority of Zimbabwe and officially handed over to the Clinical Director at Harare Hospital. They were then shared between Harare, Parirenyatwa, Mpilo, UBH and Chitungwiza Hospitals.

Gloves for Zimbabwe in Zimbabwe, April 2019

You’ve achieved the goal of Gloves for Zimbabwe by April. What’s next?

We definitely have to continue to answer the call. Right now, we have 200 boxes of gloves and donations are still coming. Our aim is to have 400 boxes at the end of April ready to ship and this time we want to ensure that gloves get to the smaller district hospitals too.

Even though the focus will remain on supplying gloves, we’ll think about including other essentials even though there are other groups out there. One group is focusing on donations for basic items such as painkillers, bandages and syringes. I was home just last week and was touched by the state of Kwekwe Hospital where I visited a friend. It was heart-breaking to see them without blankets and winter is coming soon so the need will be urgent. So, some of us have started an appeal for blankets for Kwekwe. There is so much to do but we want to try and remain focussed to make an impact.

If someone wants to donate, how can they do that?

They can contact any of us in the group and we’ll give them the information on how to donate or send gloves directly to us – £15 buys 3 boxes of gloves with 200 gloves per box. We have been contacted by people all over the world too – the US, Australia, Canada – and what we can say is do just what we did.

You have achieved so much in so little time!

It couldn’t have been done without everyone doing their part, dipping into their budgets to give and spreading the word. We’re so happy that the gloves have got to where they need to be and hope that donations keep coming in.

You can get more information on how to donate to Gloves for Zimbabwe-UK here:

Miriam Hakata: +44 (0) 07985 418603

Conciliate Mukandatsama: +44 (0) 7958 579193

For information on the Save Our Hospitals Zimbabwe initiative, go to: https://sohzim.com

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Conversation with…Tinashe Goronga, Junior Doctor in Zimbabwe

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Tinashe is a 29-year-old doctor at Binga District Hospital. He trained at the University of Zimbabwe and obtained his medical degree in 2016.

He has an interest in human rights including sexual rights and gender equality and serves on the board of The Sexual Rights Centre, a Bulawayo-based organisation that works with sex workers and sexual minorities. He is associated with the Social Medicine Consortium, a collective that fights for health equity with social medicine at its core. He serves on the global leadership of the SMC Global Campaign against racism.

Outside of the clinic, he is a member of the Wildlife and Environment Zimbabwe Matebeleland Branch. He’s also a member of East Africa Rising, a collective of young professionals interested in pan-Africanism and development of the continent.

You qualified nearly 3 years ago. Is medicine anything like you thought it would be?

To be honest I didn’t have very high expectations of life after medical school. I thought it would be much easier than it is though, with less pressure and a bit more respect. I thought there’d be less studying, you’d know everything and could solve all problems. I guess it depends on the context in which you work.

I realised I didn’t know as much as I thought I knew! It’s one thing passing an exam but another thing working on the ground and having to solve real problems, especially after being in a system where it was about cramming the knowledge in and not necessarily applying it. Few patients come in with textbook symptoms. You must apply the knowledge, search and work things out.

What was most surprising for you?

I was surprised at how much work I had to put in after graduation. I still had to read just as much as I did to keep up with what’s happening and trying to discover what I was passionate about now that I was in the big, wide world.

It was like starting all over again to be honest!

Tell us about your current job?  

I work as a general medical officer, which is like a general practitioner, at a district hospital in a rural part of the country. Basically, I see all the cases that come in and have to decide if someone needs specialist care or if I can manage them as a general practitioner. I also work in surrounding clinics and do some administrative work mostlyaround planning.

What’s a typical day for you?

I get to the hospital around 8am then do my ward round checking on my new and old patients. Then I go to theatre and do minor procedures and if there is an elective caesarean case then I would do that. After theatre, I go to the out-patients department to review patients who need check-ups. I then wait for emergencies after that.

So, because of the staffing issue at my hospital, usually most of the time I’m the only doctor around so I end up having to cover everything meaning I’m on duty 24/7.

There are no fixed hours really. Some days I can finish duties at lunchtime then it’s just emergencies after that. Other days I might finish my duties at 6pm before I can even start on emergencies.

You obviously love what you do? What else keeps you going?

That’s a difficult one. What keeps me going is my interest in public health and in understanding and learning from my community. The struggles that people in this part of the country face challenge me to find ways to solve them. Sometimes there are moments that are really rewarding – like when you attend to a patient and they get better and you forget about them. Then you bump into them at the shops and they come up to you and tell you how much you helped them. Those moments of gratification sort of keep you going when things are hard, or you are about to burn out.

How did you get involved in these social care initiatives that you’re a part of?

I’ve always had diverse interests but was a bit disappointed in medical school as I had to give some of them up. I was always interested in human rights and environmental conservation; I served on a committee for wild-life conservation before.

In my 4th year or med school, I went for an elective course on social medicine in Uganda where we looked beyond the biological basis of disease. That turned out to be the most exciting part of my educational career up to that point and I knew this was for me.

The following year the Social Medicine Consortium was formed and that allowed me to remain plugged in and find opportunities where I could make a difference. One was the opportunity to serve on the board of an organisation that worked with sex workers and sexual minorities and I took it up because of my interest in human rights. Now with the SMC we are doing a lot of projects one of which is the global campaign against racism. These are some of the things that have kept me going and allowed me to balance my interests in clinical and non-clinical things that indirectly affect health.

We don’t see African men get involved in such initiatives. Is it really that they’re not interested or that we don’t see enough of them. Is it a stereotype? Is it generational? Help us understand!

Phew! Well yes…that’s very true that when you go into some spaces you don’t see a lot of guys involved especially when it comes to gender issues. When you start talking about gender issues, one thing that I’ve noticed is that it annoys a lot of my friends, my male friends – and even environmental issues. So, I guess a lot of it stems from socialisation in terms of how we are brought up. I don’t blame them in a way because I have seen many situations where you hear people imply to someone that they can’t do this because that’s not what’s expected of men.

Even in medical school, guys will opt for the surgical specialities as opposed to community medicine and public health and I think that’s based in some ways on expectations. Then there are gender stereotypes. The moment you start talking about women’s rights, the men look at you, wondering why you are talking about women’s rights and even start questioning your sexuality.

More women are comfortable talking about sexual rights and I guess because women gave been affected a lot more by issues of sexuality and sexual rights and have been victims by social construction, they easily take up these issues. As men, we have always enjoyed male privilege, so we are reluctant to get into these issues as that would mean breaking down systems that benefit us. So that’s my take on it.

What do you least like about what you do ?

What I like most, to be honest, is the travelling. I love travelling! It has exposed me to so much. I love interacting with people who are different to me. It’s boring to constantly be with people like you. I love the conversations that I have with all these great minds no matter where.

I also love the fact that I am doing work that can impact a community rather than just the individual

What do you least like about what you do?

I don’t like that whole sense of helplessness – especially as I myself have struggled with mild depression which can come with that feeling. I internalise a lot of things, so I often find myself feeling helpless a lot of the time –  when I cannot deliver what I know I can because the system doesn’t allow it. You feel powerless without the resources.  I really hate that feeling and often you carry it away from work to your family and friends.

I also end up taking time away from my family which is unhealthy. What happens is that when you have leave you end up using it to attend meetings or conferences meaning that is time not spent with family.

What are some of your other passions?

Art, books and theatre!

Can you share what vision you have for YOU and healthcare in Zimbabwe?

My personal vision really is aligned to social medicine. I’m very passionate about it as it integrates a lot of things – aspects of public health, human rights, environmental issues – a lot – and it offers an opportunity for a more sustainable approach to healthcare. That’s because you are dealing with structural causes that affect healthcare access and outcomes. So, I hope to remain in this field, teaching, contributing to medical education, policy reform and establishing systems. I see myself involved not only locally but on a national, regional and global level because we need more African voices in global health and initiatives that are led by us.

For Zimbabwe, my vision is for healthcare that is equitable especially with what I have seen in the rural areas. There are a lot of structures that need to be dismantled – some of them were inherited during the colonial times and they don’t work anymore. I want to see someone in Binga get the same care that someone in The Avenues or other private hospital gets. And for free. I believe in preferential options for the poor, the needy and the marginalised because these are the people in need.

What’s the mood in the medical community with the current state of the health system?

I can’t say we’re optimistic as things seem to be taking a downward turn. A lot of people are disgruntled and it’s not just doctors. A lot of attention is put on doctors but it’s all healthcare professionals that are frustrated. All of us cannot render basic care. In the lab, they can’t do the essential tests. Nurses can’t give even basic care as amongst lots of other reasons, the nurse-to-patient ratios are not met. Yet we have unemployed nurses…

We feel unappreciated and sadly a lot have and will leave the country. Honestly, it’s stressful. A lot of people are fatigued. Everyone has seen the video of the consultant who broke down on camera. A lot of people are like that – at the edge of a cliff. Keeping sane is tough because you are faced with hopeless eyes and you look back at them with your own hopeless eyes which is not what we trained to do. Seeing lives lost that could have been saved is devastating.

How do you think the current strike will change things? What do you think it will achieve?

The current strike is different though the grievances are the same. This time it has started with the senior consultants whereas before it was the junior doctors that went on strike. It has taken us juniors by surprise to see our seniors strike – it’s usually us that starts them. The reaction has been faster, maybe because they command more respect and also if they withdraw their skills the system will collapse in a day.

We hope this time we achieve more sustainable solutions because we are tired of having to go on strike. We don’t enjoy it. It’s stressful because you’re battling with your conscience, the ethics of it and the backlash from the community. We are definitely not comfortable striking, so we hope something meaningful comes out of it.

However, the real issues to change are the economy, the deprioritisation of health, the policies and structural blocks. Anything that doesn’t tackle these is just dealing with the symptoms and not the cause.

Tinashe, thanks so much for sharing your heartfelt thoughts. We are in awe of you and all healthcare professionals who have soldiered on to this point and know that you are appreciated and are supported!

Thank you! It’s an honour to be featured.

Really, we have so many great minds and I hope we can engage the government to come up with measures to relieve the pain we’re all feeling right now.

Conversation With…Lesley Osei, Contracts Manager for Children and Adult Social Services, Southwark Council

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Lesley Osei studied Neurosciences at Baites College in Maine, USA, graduating in 2005 and is a Contracts Manager for Children and Adult Social Services with Southwark Council.

She is the eldest of 5 children born to Ghanaian refugees who moved to England in the 1980s, a mother of 2 and a Pastor’s wife.

Finally, we get to have this conversation! What does your work involve?

I’m responsible for ensuring contract and performance management of a range of services for children, adults and families. These include care at home, supported housing, nursing home care, advocacy services, fostering, children leaving care, hostels for the homeless, services for children with special educational needs and children’s speech and language services.

With that, I oversee a large portfolio of contracts with a spend of over £80 million. Through leading a team of Contract Monitoring Officers and Business Support Officers, I ensure that we carry out inspections and that services are quality assured and held accountable against service specifications. I also represent the council on matters such as press releases, coroner’s enquiries, complaints, members enquiries and MPs enquiries. 

How did you get into this role?

I’ve worked in Southwark Council for 13 years, starting as an Administrative Officer, moving up to a Project Support Officer, then a Contracts Monitoring Officer until I was promoted to Contracts Manager. For this role, I had to compete with people I had worked with for some years and it was a bit awkward! But I was encouraged to apply so I had to give it my best shot and I got it. In between all these roles, I’d also been seconded to others meaning I got to expand my skill set and widen my network.

How has the provision of social care changed in the time you’ve been in the field?

It’s changed dramatically. There is now the concept of ‘personalisation’ meaning a shift away from institutionalised care as we try to keep more people living in their own homes and in the community, and less in care and nursing homes. The focus is on more tailored care, choice and control which is a really good concept.  

The challenge is that this is all happening in an austere financial climate, where we have seen several cuts to our budgets, meaning that services that people have enjoyed for years have had to be decommissioned.  We’ve had to rationalise and run contracts a lot more efficiently than in the past.

In terms of trends in services, we’ve seen a rise in mental health needs across all services from children, adults and older adults and sadly, a shocking increase in sexual assaults amongst and against vulnerable groups. We all speculate that the internet and social media may be having an impact on these emerging trends as well as increased awareness meaning that people can report these issues. The latter is of course a good thing. 

What’s great about your job?

Definitely the people! I have a great team of some of the nicest people you could ever know. We are quite a stable group, so we’ve worked together for many years.  The people you work with make a huge difference to your job and I work with some pretty amazing human beings who genuinely care for others. 

I also feel fulfilled, as it feels as though I’m giving back to the community that I grew up in. You know, Southwark was the first borough that welcomed my family when we moved to the UK as refugees from Ghana. I attended nursery and primary in the borough so lived here for most of my childhood before moving to Surrey. So, in many ways the area has shaped who I am today. 

What’s not so great about your job?

It can be quite stressful. There are lots of deadlines and the pressure to get things right can be heavy. Then, as you move up in the organisation there are some quite strong personalities! I guess it comes with more responsibility.

It sounds like your job can be intense! How do you unwind?

I unwind with music mostly, especially Hillsong Worship or artists like Joe Mettle, Travis Greene, Mary Mary, Lauren Daigle and Tasha Cobbs.

To be honest, I couldn’t do without prayer in the morning. I like praying with Cindy Trimm’s recorded prayers and I take part in a prayer army called MOGPA – based in Ghana – that you can join by radio or by phone. I enjoy spending time with God before my husband and kids get up in the morning. It’s a refreshing time that sets me up for the day.

You are a faithful Christian and a Pastor’s wife. How do you reconcile what you witness or hear with God’s hands on this earth?

Working in social services means you sometimes see the worst of humanity. We come across incidents where people are severely abused and neglected whether financially, physically, sexually and mentally. It’s enough to break your heart.

However, I also see the best of humanity, and it’s important to remember that there are thousands and thousands of people who care for others for free, going out of their way to help their families or others in need. I believe such people are God’s hands on this earth and I feel privileged that I too get to partner with them in their acts of service.

When I’m conducting investigations, giving service users a voice and seeking the best for the residents of Southwark, I’m working with God to restore people’s sense of worth and dignity. To do that for people who feel forgotten or disadvantaged is a blessing. There is nothing more rewarding than that.

©MolahMedia, 2019

Zimbabwe: A Past and Present Future

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I am a pre-independence baby – 7 years old when Zimbabwe supposedly became independent. Yes, by that time my family, like thousands before and after had already left the country to roam as forever immigrants. And I haven’t spent more than four weeks at a time in my homeland on my trips over the years. But I’m not writing about life as an immigrant today…well not that aspect of immigrant life anyway.

This morning, I’m feeling pre-independence anxiety – PIA. Maybe it’s a kind of PTSD.  My medically-trained mind wants to classify it, to make sense of it. I honestly haven’t felt it for close to 40 years. Just that way back then, in the olden days as my child tells me, I couldn’t describe it – not in my native Shona, nor the little English I knew back then.

But I felt it then and I feel it now.

Let me try and describe it. Be my own therapist, because this $#yte in Zimbabwe looks like it’s about to get real. My cousin, my daughter in our Shona culture, now a grown and intuitive and super-smart woman – just told me to trust the body memory – so I will.

It’s a little lump in the chest and a subtle, low-grade churning in the tummy, masked, because on the outside life is pretty good.

I felt it then and I feel it now.

Then, it was a feeling that came with the carefree life of a 5-year-old in rural Zimbabwe that was punctuated with random invasions by unpredictable red-faced Rhodesian soldiers with big guns. A day of continuous play could randomly end with a night where guns were pointed at the heads and chests of those that were assigned to protect and care for me – the Mbuya and Sekuru who treasured their children’s children more than their own children; the maininis who stepped in for our mothers; the sekurus who entertained all of us wazukuru, in a way that no money could pay for today  – until would one day, they disappeared in the woods to fight ku hondo.

I feel this PIA, I suppose a kind of PTSD, as I follow the news feed coming out of our Zimbabwe.

I want to say beloved Zimbabwe but struggle to because a bunch of the worst kind of sociopaths have so disfigured the land, our hearts and our minds. Disfigured to the point where at times we hate our own country and perhaps ourselves so much that we have been known to declare ourselves as South African – when the South Africans themselves don’t even like us.

I tried it once, to be South African. I won’t lie. But it didn’t feel good. It was easy to pull it off though – my surname is classic Sotho as is my round face, fair complexion and solid butt. As I said ‘South…’ I immediately felt bad, really bad, like a traitor. Never did it again after that. Three years ago, I was reminded of how ridiculous my pathetic attempt at defection was when the security office at Oliver Thambo Airport in Jo’burg spoke to me in Sotho or Tswana – not sure which – for a good minute. I gave him a blank look, then he laughed, then I laughed as I proudly said I was Zimbabwean, after which he laughed even louder…with a twinkle in his eye though.

We have been so psychologically disfigured that we are locked in some sort of variant of Stockholm Syndrome. It’s a destructive variant too, because just over a year ago, many of us (not me though) celebrated the emergence of the masterminds behind 38 years of misery and misogyny who were supposedly freeing us from the dictator that was Robert Mugabe and his power-hungry wife. It’s twisted and warped and oh so messed up, but I digress.

Back to the newsfeed. Those of you following developments on ‘shosho’ media or Whatsapp or Al Jazeera will know what that feed looks like. The bitter icing on the cake is the now seventy-two-hour internet shutdown. Those of you who haven’t seen the newsfeed, go to Google and type in Zimbabwe.

I think the PIA stirred a day ago when I watched a video of state police, well let’s call them what they are: thugs, breaking into people’s homes, terrorising them and marching them out at gunpoint. A scene I remember so well. The only difference was back then, the thugs were big and white and very well fed instead of the skinny, black and very underfed brainwashed muppets of the military chiefs in that video. There’s another video circulating on Twitter, that of a boy, age unknown but probably about 9 or 10 years old:

I say age unknown as children in Zimbabwe, even from well-off homes, are small for their age because of malnutrition, plain and simple, after 38 years of misery and misogyny and let me add in ‘plunderation’ – just made that up – by the devils’ aides. Anyway, this boy vividly describes people he probably knows being humiliated and beaten by men with guns. The way he describes the beatings tells you that it’s vicious. I thought of how my young son was traumatised the other day when he saw our cat with its prey, and here you have a boy seeing another human being savaged…what does that do to him? Nothing good of course.

The stirred PIA then became anger and culminated in an overwhelming exhaustion. Later that day, at the office, I told my colleague how ‘mashed up’ I was. She replied, ‘In fact you do look really tired, a funny kind of tired, not like you at all.’ She didn’t know what was going on with the PIA, and quite frankly, neither did I, but it wasn’t right, so I was not like me at all. Or was I? Perhaps I was. Just the 7-year-old me in a 45-year old body.

This morning, PIA is in full swing. I am trying to get on with my day, in my comfortable, warm space tying up the straggly bits on my to do list and the emails that need some sort of closure before they spill into a new week. But the lump is clogging my throat and my tummy is doing backflips. There’s news of men and boys in rural areas being forced out of their homes to camp with soldiers. We can infer plenty when men and boys are taken from their homes; history clearly spells out what that means. The President is out of the country transported by multi-million-dollar jet, paid for with money meant to feed malnourished boys seeing their role models being violated. He’s consorting with Russia and China tweeting about this and that when the internet in his country has been shut down. Just before the 2017 coup that was not a coup the ‘leadership’ was also out and about consorting with other leaders of disrepute and look where we are now. Today, running the country in his absence is a military general who can barely string a sentence together because the only words he knows come out of the barrel of a gun. Then there comes word that these are all the ingredients for a heady cocktail…of war. And meanwhile, our Whatsapp groups, the preferred method of communication with family back home, remain silent.

No good for the PIA.

I wonder, if I feel like this, if we diasporeans feel like this, far away from the maddening crowd, how must those living it feel.

Let me just say it. Cry my beloved Zimbabwe.

Conversation with…Akua Ofosuhene, Co-founder of Hub and Culture

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Sisters Akua Ofosohene and Nana Evans founded the African and Caribbean cooperative of creatives, Hub and Culture, in 2018. Located on Peckham High Street, Hub and Culture is home to 20+ artisans of fine African products including home furnishing, clothes, jewellery, books, toys and body care products.

The shop is a treat for all, boasts celebrity visitors and was even visited by the Mayor of Lisbon. BBC Radio London’s The Vanessa Feltz Show featured the hub as an example of ‘Peckham Cool’. Hub and Culture also hosts dynamic workshops and events in their gallery event space that is also available for hire.

Nana Evans and Akua Ofosuhene

What is Hub and Culture?

You know we’re always trying to define it and I think we can say that it’s a cooperative that allows creatives to sell directly, from under one roof, to the public on the high street. The creatives can pay as little or as much rent as their business can afford. Some vendors pay nothing and those of us that make the most income pay the most. You can call it the quintessential home of all things African-centred.

What is the inspiration behind the concept?

I lived in Ghana for 5 years and whilst there, I was a member of a craftworkers’ association. It was such a positive experience – we received help from the government for example and were taken to America for a trade show; it was wonderful! I also had a shop and I would have some members trade in my shop. So, I formulated this idea for a space where crafters could support each other and where our businesses could thrive together. Having said that, I didn’t think I could make it work in this country, because when I came back to the UK, everyone was so Western and all about ‘me, myself and I’ and always mindful of competition. At the same time there was still a yearning for community and that made me think it was worth trying, so, with my sister I did.

What can we find in the Hub?

We have a wide range of products from books to fashion, jewellery, homeware, arts and crafts, well-being products and handmade lotions and creams. We also have a fashion designer based in Nigeria and a craftsman based in Ghana who both send their products over to us to sell. Then we have visiting visual artists who exhibit their work. There is also a space that anyone can hire to hold a workshop or event.

Now, Hub & Culture came up against a hurdle recently.

Yes, we did. Our landlord for most of this year was given an offer he could not refuse as a businessman and one we could not match, so we had to look for new premises. We needed to fundraise fast, so Nana set up a gofundme page. Fortunately, we were offered bigger, prime premises and were able to move in to where we are now on December 1st with part of the rental we needed. The landlord agreed a payment plan with us to meet the balance, and we still need to raise another £7, 000 to do this. We are of course working on other financial backing for the future, in addition to the rent we get from our creatives. However, the support and love we have received from so many people is incredible.

Who comes to the Hub?

We have a wide range of customers. A lot of customers know us from Facebook and Instagram and mostly come for the fashion. Our black customers are those that you can see have made a conscious decision to buy from a black business. Then our arts and crafts are mostly popular with passers-by and white people. Now that we are in a more prominent location on Peckham High Street, we hope to attract younger people because we do have a good flow of school children. But we’re not really engaging the 15-23-year olds and we are working on some activities that we can host for this age group.

What do you like about what you do?

I think it’s the great conversations that take place in the shop. The fact that it’s a safe space for people to say what they want to say, not just for black but also for white people. It is hard for conscious white people in particular to find a comfortable space where they can exchange and express their feelings about finding a solution to racial disparity and we are finding that they can do that in Hub and Culture.

What do you least like about what you do?

Maybe it’s the time away from my son.

I bet it can be intense because you don’t stop when the doors close right?

No, no! I was even sleeping in the shop one Sunday night because I was working late but needed to be in early the following morning. So, actually, I just locked up, spread a mat out on the floor, turned on the heater and just slept in there!

It’s a dilemma, right? There’s that feeling that you are building this thing for them but it’s taking you away from them.

Exactly. Then you’re not sure if you are making up an excuse that you’re doing things for them because if they’re not seeing you, are you really doing it for them?!

In a way, we are doing it for ourselves too right? We are ambitious and want to fulfil our own potential too, don’t we?

Exactly. There will come a time though when he’s doing his own thing and I will be the one chasing him down!

Where can we find Hub & Culture?

We are now at 27 Peckham High Street, so no more back corners!

In three words, describe Hub & Culture.

A vortex of love.

To support Hub and Culture’s fundraising campaign, go to:

https://www.gofundme.com/save-hub-and-culture?member=929464

Find Hub and Culture at:

27 Peckham High Street, SE15 3EB

Monday to Saturday: 1030am – 8pm

Sunday: 12-6pm

Follow Hub and Culture at:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/hubandculture/

Instagram: @hubandculture

Conversation with…Ken Gambura, Head Chef, Braai Flavours

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Ken Gambura, a former sales and business development manager, founded the Zimbabwean, Southern African and Vegetarian Kitchen, Braai Flavours in 2015. Braai Flavours delivers open fire, smoked and grilled meals in and around Nottinghamshire, UK; it also runs an online grocery store and caters at charity, corporate and private events.

Championed by the Michelin-starred chef Marco-Pierre White at the Nottingham Food Festival in 2015, Braai Flavours has gone on to win several awards including the 2018 Lux Life Magazine Food & Drink Award for Best African Cuisine Restaurant – UK and International Cuisine Food Brand of the Year – UK. In August 2018, Ken was featured in the Huffington Post UK article ‘How Chefs Get Inspiration From Around The World.’

 This Saturday December 15, 2018 Braai Flavours will launch their cook book ‘BraaiFlavours: Taste the Adventure’ – a collection of some of their most popular dishes.

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Ken Gambura, Head Chef, Braai Flavours

I guess let’s start at the beginning! What is the story behind Braai Flavours?

Around 2015, I worked with a charity. One of the things I did was cook food for their events to help generate revenue. I’ve always loved cooking, and this was one way I could support the charity and give back to the community as well as feed my passion. Believe it or not, that was where the idea for Braai Flavours was born. I started off with a series of street food stalls/pop-ups in and around Nottingham at markets and food festivals, and then we opened up a restaurant last year.

How did you learn to cook?

I grew up around food. My mum was a really good cook and most of what I know about cooking I learnt from her.

What was the inspiration behind the cook book?

The book was inevitable. When we opened Braai Flavours 3 years ago, it was immediately popular which took us by surprise. People were so open to trying the dishes – the vegetarian and vegan dishes in particular really took off. Customers soon started asking for the recipes and were curious about the flavours and spices we used, as well as the cultural significance of the dishes. They have continued to ask for 3 years so eventually we had no choice but to do this! For us, the cook book is a way of giving back to our community and customers and thanking them for their support.

What can we find in the book?

‘Taste the Adventure’ is a collection of some of our signature and most requested dishes since we started, including the sumu chicken, boerewoers and vegetarian braai. It also features vibrant photography, fast facts about the origins of some of the dishes and poetry penned by my sister, Isabel, who co-wrote and edited the book.

Sumu chicken sounds…hmmm…succulent! What is it made of?

It’s essentially grilled chicken glazed in our signature sumu sauce. The recipe was handed down by my father. If you want to know more, you need to get the book!

Taste the Adventure

Family seems to be central to Braai Flavours.

Family does play a big part. As well as Isabel editing the book, my son designed the back cover and my younger brother created the banners and logo. My son is autistic and an aspiring artist and another book cover design of his won a World Book Day competition at his school. He has also had work from a school project exhibited at the Nottingham Contemporary Art Centre.

The banners and logo were designed my young brother who is a musician based in Zimbabwe. My nephews and nieces are also part of Braai Flavours helping me out at events wherever they may be.

Many of the recipes in ‘Taste the Adventure’ can involve the whole family, including the kids, making creating flavoursome food a lot of fun.

What have the last 3 years been like for Braai Flavours?

We have grown tremendously and learnt more than we could have imagined. One of the things I was and am still big on is giving back to the community. Alongside our restaurant, we ran cooking workshops for the homeless and young offenders to help in their rehabilitation. This was supported by the local council. But things grew so fast that we actually had to rethink our model; we couldn’t do as much community work as we wanted as the restaurant was so busy. We closed the restaurant, so we could re-evaluate and find the right space to allow us to do what we really find to be fulfilling – creating tasty, healthy food and giving back to the community.

That’s commendable and refreshing! So, where can we find Braai Flavours now?

We are currently online, catering for events, delivering and selling our sauces and other Southern African condiments. We are looking forward to announcing a new space soon.

What has been a highlight for you?

It’s been wonderful to see some of the young people we have trained in our kitchen go on to achieve success. Two of them are now apprentice chefs, one is a beautician and another a photographer whose work has exhibited at The Crucible Theatre in Sheffield. This is why being able to work with young people as we create good food is so necessary.

Where will ‘Taste the Adventure’ be available?

This Saturday December 15th we’ll be at Sherwood Christmas Market, then on Sunday 16th at the Park Market, both in Nottingham. On the 21st of December, we’ll be at Heanor Foodie Friday Market in Derbyshire. Signed copies will be on sale and there will be recipe tasters too.

Braai Flavours Logo

Get the book here:

Sherwood Christmas Market, Saturday December 15, 2018 – 9am-3pm

Sherwood High Street Market, Mansfield Road, Nottingham NG5

 

The Park Christmas Market, Sunday December 16, 2018 – 10am-3pm

The Park Market, Newcastle Circus, The Park Estate, Nottingham NG1

 

Heanor Foodie Friday Market, Friday December 21, 2018 – 9am-2pm

Heanor Market Place, Derbyshire DE75 7AA

 

Kindle version: www.amazon.co.uk

Hard copies: https://www.braaiflavours.com/#menu

 

Website: www.braaiflavours.com

Telephone: 07544469680

Events email: events@braaiflavours.com

Chef’s email: ken@braaiflavours.com

Facebook: https://en-gb.facebook.com/BRAAIFLAVOURS/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/braaiflavours/?hl=en

Twitter: https://twitter.com/braaiflavours?lang=en

Conversation with…Elijah Frederick, Teenage Author

Elijah Frederick is the 13-year-old author of action-adventure book ‘Shifted Code’ launched in October 2018.

Before writing his book, Elijah was a junior blogger for the Obi & Titi series, a competition winner and contributor across a variety of publications.  His love for writing prompted him to ask the creator of Obi & Titi, Oyehmi Begho, for guidance on how to publish his first book; Oyehmi then mentored Elijah through the whole process.

‘Shifted Code’ is about Tadeo, a tormented genius who is isolated and excluded by everyone in his class. He is also bullied by the brawny Nathan, and his friends, and ends up being paired with him on a computing project. The victimized Tadeo must then deal with the misery of working with his nemesis.

Shifted Code Author Picture

Elijah Frederick, Author of Shifted Code

How old were you when you wrote your first story?

I was in Year 3, but my best memory of writing is from Year 4, when we literally had to write our own book. We had to design the front cover, write the blurb, everything, on our own. After that, my passion grew, and I started to read more.

What or who, or what and who, inspired you to write?

I think my Mum inspires me to write, because of her personality. She’s a very determined woman and is one of the main reasons why I kept on going and not drift away from writing my book. Writing a book can drag sometimes but with my Mum’s encouragement, I was determined to keep going.

She also took me to a lot of writing events and would show me videos of young authors, and we’d talk about them. I then thought, ‘if they can do it, then I can do it too.’

How do you fit in your writing with school and homework and all the things that a 13-year-old likes to do?

Well I have good time management skills, so I make time. My secondary school finishes quite early too, at 245pm, so I have time to get my homework done and relax then think about my stories.

 What other activities do you do?

Well I went to rugby club today and I quite enjoyed it! I really like to brainstorm ideas for stories. I like playing chess and draughts, and I like playing a little bit of blackjack – my Dad is a player. I like money games as well.

When you read, what kind of books do you like to read?

I like to read action and adventure mainly because of the characters and because there are so many plot twists. Anything can happen. The characters are unique too.

Shifted Code is an action and adventure novel, right? How did you come up the storyline?

The story started out with the main character getting sucked into a chess game but that was difficult to get around. So, because I like computer games, I thought why not create my own game that the character gets sucked into? Then I found that mixing action and adventure and my love for computer games worked.

How long did it take you to write the book?

It took me about 2-3 years, because I was still in primary school when I thought of the concept. The plot was altered a couple of times because we needed to make sure that it was right for the age group I was writing the book for.

Did anyone help you to write the book?

My Mum did as well as my mentor, one of the authors of Obi and Titi. I met him [Oyehmi Begho] at this book event that my Mum took me to and then I read the books. After that, I wrote a review on one of the books, we kept in touch and he became my mentor.

Have you got another book planned?

I’ve got ideas for a few books and I also have ideas for a sequel.

If a young boy came to you and said, ‘Elijah, I’m thinking about being a writer too,’ what are 3 pieces of advice you would give him?

I’d say to them – get in the environment of writing, never give up on writing, read books that you genuinely enjoy and use them to improve your vocabulary.

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Further Information:

Contact: Candice Bryan; Website: www.elijahfrederick.com; Email: info@elijahfrederick.com Phone: 07930 637 902

To order your copy, go to:

www.elijahfrederick.com

Conversation with…Donna Sinclair, Chief Executive Officer, Options4Change

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Options 4 Change (O4C) works with disadvantaged children and young people, their families and local statutory and voluntary organisations to change minds and lives for the better.

With young people, O4C uses one-on-one mentoring techniques and coaching to influence positive peer engagement, and community programmes designed to provide alternatives to dysfunctional lifestyles. The organisation also runs activities to help adults develop parenting skills and holds community seminars to raise awareness of the impact of exclusions on academic achievement.

O4C was founded over 13 years ago by Donna Sinclair. She is a regular media contributor and discussant on the issue of the disadvantaged in London.

options4changelogo_400x400

Why was O4C founded?

The organisation was founded 13 years ago in response to the failing social care system, particularly in Lambeth. Our primary purpose is to advocate for the marginalised in society.

For some, it’s difficult to understand that there are so many people in need in the capital. What’s the extent of deprivation in London?

The thing is there is a ‘hidden world’ that we just don’t see. You have a sub-population of individuals who are destitute with no recourse to any form of assistance. Often people with fixed-term leave to remain may or may not have recourse to public funds and as a result they live here without being able to afford their basic needs like accommodation and live a life of destitution.

They are often the ones that will do any kind of work to make ends meet too. This kind of situation makes people extremely vulnerable. For example, you will have those that have no legal status in this country; though they may take steps to change that, they simply cannot afford the astronomical sums they are charged for the process of legalizing their stay.

The question on everyone’s lips: what is the reason behind this crisis of violence in young people of colour?

There are so many factors. Children and young adults involved in gang-life  and dysfunctional lifestyles are often failed by multiple support systems including parenting, education, social care and housing.

What do we do?

As a community, we need to start seeing all of these young people as our children. When we do that – we develop a true sense of responsibility that drives us to take and demand action. We are paying taxes in this country so we have a right to ask that our needs are addressed.

Next, we must make children feel safe. We also need to bring people together, families together. We can put on family days. Get families out in a park so they just connect and enjoy each other.

The church must also be more visible. They could lead in making a public statement that we recognise what is happening, that we are hurting and that we acknowledge that hurt. After that, the church can start their own programmes to support the community.

We must all do something because enough is enough.

For more on Options4Change go to: http://www.options4change.org.uk/

Contact:

info@options4change.org.uk

55 Leigham Court Road

Streatham

SW16 2NJ

 

 

Conversation about Sexual Health: It Starts With Us, At Home

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Click the link below for an interview I did with the wonderful founder of http://www.bidii.co.uk, a web-based resource dedicated to increasing awareness about black health for the community.#

IMG-Bidii

 

 

 

https://www.bidii.co.uk/the-v-spot/

 

Conversation With… a humanitarian in South Sudan

 

This humanitarian and modern-day heroine works to educate on and attend to those who have been traumatized by gender-based violence (GBV) in South Sudan. She herself is a woman from another African country.

Salute to the many who sacrifice much and risk their lives to alleviate the trauma of those who suffer in areas of conflict.

 

What led you to take on this humanitarian role?

I took this role as part my of humanitarian obligation and ethical contribution towards addressing the needs of vulnerable women and girls during emergencies, as it’s known that in conflict and displacement, women and children, both boys and girls, suffer the most.

What was the biggest surprise for you when you started this work?

The biggest surprise was the high level of violence and suffering. In an acute situation, women often flee to safety with almost nothing as they must concentrate on ensuring that they have their children. Sadly, in the process many lose children. Both the parent and the child experience a lot of trauma when forcibly separated by war.

It is very unsafe to leave a protection site to track missing children or parents as there will be armed groups all over the place. There is practically no mobile communication with the outside world in the initial stages of displacement except through humanitarian agencies who focus on family tracing.

Another big surprise for me was the real extent of sexual violence experienced by women and girls. Rape is used as a weapon of war. Women are sometimes raped when they go to fetch firewood or collect water or even when they leave protected areas simply to work. Some women brew alcohol as a livelihood which puts them at high risk as most of the displaced males are idle, spend the day drinking and when drunk, perpetrate these acts of violence.  More than half of reported GBV incidents are of intimate partner violence indicating the high stress levels among couples; children are affected indirectly. Men and boys also experience sexual violence.

Unfortunately, few seek help as the violation of women and girls is perceived as acceptable due to cultural stereotyping. Permission is needed from a male to go to a clinic or there is a requirement to explain their condition to the whole family first. If they don’t accept or understand that a violation has taken place, then what’s the point. Then on top of that, the victims are ostracized. As such, there is a lot of under-reporting in seeking healthcare and psychosocial support.

 In a place like South Sudan where there are so many needs, where do you start?

Emergency responses are very well coordinated, and a lot of planning is put in place before responding. Each agency focuses on its area of expertise, but there are inter-agency efforts. The first step is to inform the community of the services available, where to access them and that they’re free.  Some community-based staff then assist in identifying people with special needs for further assistance but for the general population, it’s about giving them the information they need to make informed decisions without pressure.

 Can you share a moment which moved you?

There are so many moments that have and that also made me reflect on some of the things I take for granted. There was a 9-year-old child that shared his story of seeing his mother beheaded and his younger sister burnt. Yet this boy was still able to hope for a better future and became a team leader for his play group. The child has now relocated to another part of the country to join a foster family.

What progress have you seen in your time in the Sudan?

Tangible progress has been made. The level of awareness has increased; women and girls have started to realize their rights and are starting to raise their voices for redress. For example, there is now advocacy to end child marriage all over the country.

The reporting of GBV cases to clinics or other institutions has increased and indicates that the message has created an impact where women and girls are seeking help.

The services provided have been appreciated and acknowledged by the community, e.g., family tracing and reunification. More girls are being sent to school and they are participating in skills development activities set up especially for women and girls.

 You must be frightened at times. How do you deal with the fear?   

The training on safety you undergo as you enter this line of work helps you, but you get the greatest inspiration from the people you serve. If they are enduring this level of hardship day in day out, you then appreciate your position because you can opt out when the going gets tough. The interaction with the community helps you to create a positive and resilient coping mechanism. In addition, most agencies have staff counsellors to support you.

The presence of humanitarian agencies in an area is sometimes a deterrent to some attacks. Evacuation plans are activated when necessary to save lives of staff. The converse though is that some humanitarian workers have died because of attacks specifically targeting them.

In memory of St Josephine Bahkita, Patron Saint of victims of trafficking. She was born into a well-to-do family in Sudan in 1869 and abducted by Arab slave traders at the age of 7. She was sold and resold many times and was abused and tortured in her 12 years as a slave. She eventually was sold to an Italian Vice Consul who took her to Italy where she became a Canossian Religious Sister until her death on February 8th 1947.

Josephine Bakhita

Image courtesy of: https://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=5601