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Volunteers celebrate decade-long collaboration with school

6/27/2002 News media contact: Linda Green · (615) 742-5470 · Nashville, Tenn

NOTE: This report may be used as a sidebar to UMNS story #274. Photographs are available.

By Andra Stevens*

MUTARE, Zimbabwe (UMNS) - Hammers are swinging as United Methodist Volunteers in Mission push to finish 10 staff houses on the Africa University campus in time for the school's 10th anniversary.

Both the university and the United Methodist Volunteers in Mission organization want to celebrate with one house for every year the university has been in existence.

"Last time we were here, there was nothing," says team member Mary Stitt. " It was so exciting to drive in and see eight houses."

Stitt and fellow Illinois resident Carol Tredway worked on the first staff house on campus while on a Volunteers in Mission trip in 1995.

"There were only eight of us - three women and five men - and none of us had any experience in bricklaying," Tredway says. "We paid two local laborers to work alongside us and direct us."

The two women are pleased by the chance to visit with the couple living in the house they helped build - music lecturer Patrick Matsikenyiri and his wife, Avis. They also like the way the campus has developed over the years. "The architecture is still striking, with the buildings sitting at the foothills of the mountains and all the landscaping," Stitt says. "The care and grooming of the campus is excellent."

Stitt and Tredway are members of an Iowa Annual Conference Volunteer in Mission team that includes Bishop Gregory Palmer. They're working with local contractors to get the ninth and 10th houses ready for November.

"UM Volunteers in Mission are strong and unwavering supporters of Africa University, and they've touched every aspect of our work and mission with their gifts and energies," says James Salley, Africa University's associate vice chancellor for institutional advancement. "We're proud of their significant contributions to on-campus housing for staff with these 10 houses, but there is much more than that to celebrate."

VIM team members have taught classes and provided workshops for students, laypeople and clergy from the local churches. They've offered care and comfort to the sick and to orphans at the Old Mutare Mission across from the university. Many have donated scholarships that help needy students attend the university.

And even as this Iowa group joins in the excitement of preparing for celebration events in November, its members are mindful that the university and its students still need their support.

"There were empty shelves in the library in 1995, and it bothers me to see that there are still so many shelves empty in this new library," Tredway says. "They need current books."

Each year, between 11 and 14 VIM teams visit Africa University and Zimbabwe. The teams have an average of 16 members and come from United Methodist churches all over the United States. Members pay their own way and raise funds for construction materials for the houses and other needs. Team members live in the student dormitories and interact daily with students, staff and members of the local community.

Africa University is inviting United Methodist Volunteers in Mission to visit Zimbabwe for the official 10th anniversary celebration. The many events scheduled for Nov. 15-17 include a naming ceremony for the 10 staff houses that Volunteers in Mission will have built so far.
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*Stevens is coordinator for Africa University 10th anniversary celebration.

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