Dear SOAP Friends and Supporters,
This newsletter serves as a catch-up, particularly as much has changed in the Zim scene since our last newsletter in June 2014.
With the Zimbabwe economy still being so constrained ZIMRA recently introduced new licencing requirements, on a wide range of imported food products, which Athol Evans cannot now fulfil. Exacerbating this disadvantage is the fact a couple of months later ZIMRA also cancelled the duty free import permit held by Athol Evans (as a Section 21 not-for-profit organisation). SOAP previously imported all the South African sourced goods under this duty free licence. These two significant changes mean that SOAP can no longer import the dry goods from South Africa. These goods now have to be sourced locally – from a smaller range of products available within Zimbabwe – at an increased cost of nearly 30%. This has placed strain on SOAP’s already stretched finances so the SOAP organising team have negotiated with local wholesalers for a small discount on bulk orders of dry goods (three month’s supply at a time).
From the inception of SOAP the packing and distribution function was conducted in various venues and facilities offered generously by different businesses at times when their own space utilization was not optimal. This has meant that SOAP was forced repeatedly to move venues for their packing operations. However, through Marion Futter of Home of Zimbabwe, SOAP has recently negotiated an arrangement with the Board of Trustees of Athol Evans for the long-term, free and secured access to a packing shed (which was built by British High Commission AID funds) on their premises. This now affords SOAP volunteers the convenience of a stable, central facility for receiving, storing, packing and distributing food packs in the same place every month.
One example of the kinds of challenges handled by SOAP volunteers was the first (and sadly the last) palletised bulk dry goods delivery to Athol Evans from South Africa. The articulated lorry was unable to enter the Athol Evans grounds. However, Zimbabweans’ famed innovation, networking and co-operation came to the fore. A sympathetic businessman himself drove his company forklift (at snail’s pace!) about 6kms to unload the pallets. Then it was realised that the forklift was not able to fit through the shed entrance so had to place the pallets outside the pack shed. It was therefore left to the merry band of average age 55-something, stiff-jointed, sore-limbed, crushed fingered, breathless volunteers to push heavy pallets from the back of the lorry to the edge where the forklift could access them and then unpack and personally carry heavy boxes from every pallet into the pack shed!! So SOAP volunteers pride
themselves on doing their bit to validate and honour the wonderful support given by you the donors.
SOAP policy on eligibility for support is that a pensioner has to be over the age of 65, have an income of less than US$200/month and have no financial support from family. SOAP also supports a maximum of 250 pensioners, so “newcomers” can be supported only when existing numbers dwindle through natural attrition.
SOAP management recently participated in a meeting of the Zimbabwe Charity Alliance where some twenty three organisations each made a 4-minute presentation sharing information, ideas and strategies with the aim of forming a strong networking platform. What that meeting highlighted was the harsh reality that more and more charities are competing for the same scarce funding resources. This underlined just how very privileged SOAP is to have the consistent, unstinting generosity of our overseas supporters
Notwithstanding any of this, SOAP on-the-ground management re-iterate the plea made in last year’s newsletter that “since the plight of pensioners has not changed, SOAP’s supporting role remains essential to their survival. We request, therefore, that our generous donors continue to support the critical role that SOAP fulfils” and we take this opportunity of thanking each and every supporter and donor for their commitment to this essential cause.
Sincerely, Deleen du Toit SOAP Distribution Cell: 077 235 4603 firstname.lastname@example.org