“Greenline Africa (GA) is all about building community,” says Charlene (Charlie) Hewat, a Trustee of GA. Renedian guests who travel to Victoria Falls on either the Victoria Falls to Cape Town or Waterfalls and Wildlife safaris can take an optional excursion to visit the Trust.
About Greenline Africa
GA is a Trust that manages small and focused projects in Zimbabwe, within a forty-kilometre radius of Victoria Falls. Born and bred on a farm in Zimbabwe, Charlie is “passionate about community development and conservation.”
Nearly thirty years ago, she rode a bicycle from the UK to Zimbabwe to raise funds for rhino conservation. After the ride, she co-founded Environment Africa (EA), leading it for twenty-nine years. She stepped down and turned her focus to GA. “EA got too big and I was in the office behind a desk. I don’t want that sort of life. I love to be involved in projects on the ground.”
Charlie’s been in Victoria Falls for six years and consults to companies on corporate social responsibility. She volunteers her time with GA.
Most Renedian guests take the optional excursion from Victoria Falls, which starts at the Community Centre, twenty-four kilometres away.
“It’s very dry here,” says Charlie, “and availability of water is one of our most critical issues. Access to water changes people’s lives. We’ve introduced drip irrigation and have trained the communities to grow vegetable crops that can be sold to hotels and lodges in Victoria Falls.”
“We’re starting a soap-making project with a women’s group, as well as a sewing project at the Centre.”
The next stop is at one of the three pre-schools GA supports; they built two and renovated the third. The visit is highly interactive. “While it’s quite amazing to watch people’s faces light up when the children sing, the little kids love it too!”
GA has a sponsor-a-child program with funding going not only to the child but to the school and surrounding community.
From there, visitors meet a Gogo, an old grandmother, in her homestead. “We have many Gogos who care for orphans (from AIDS), as well as child-headed households. We deliver a food pack and you can see a traditional homstead, like the kitchen and sleeping area. The reality of how people live really hits visitors.”
The tour concludes with tea, coffee, and biscuits on a boma, a small thatched veranda overlooking the gorge. “Along the way, either Charlie or Mike January talk about the culture. It’s a very interactive, gentle tour, not contrived. People can see things for themselves.”
How You Can Help
- Make a direct donation. There’s no charge for the tour, but GA asks for a minimum $40 USD donation. Those funds have been used to buy a water pump for one of the community groups for agricultural farming and educational supplies for the schools. Someone from GA takes a group photo and sends it back to Rene, along with an account of funds received and how they were spent.
- Sponsor a Gogo for $50USD/month or a child for $30USD/month. A GA representative delivers food packs to the Gogo every month and helps with blankets and other necessities.
- Volunteer. The Centre has started to accept placements for volunteers from anywhere in the world, who pay for the opportunity. That money is put back into operating the Centre on a sustainable basis. People stay for an average of one to two weeks. “It’s not fancy, but it’s comfortable and clean,” says Charlie.
- Buy a solar lamp. Many homesteads to not have electricity so lighting make a significant difference. GA knows exactly what works best and is most durable given the conditions, so it’s best to have GA purchase the solar lamp and reimburse them. The price is the same, $35USD, and it saves lugging a solar lamp around the world.
- Leave clothes. If you’re near the end of your travels, leave old clothes and shoes for GA to distribute to community members.
- Purchase school supplies. While pencils, books, and crayons are always needed, many people bring them. It’s good to diversify and fill other priorities too.
The Renedian Bag of Shame
In the early years, when folks did something stupid, they had to pay for a round at the bar that night.
This got a little messy.
So we borrowed an idea from a California guest who used this model at their waterskiing camps.
Every time something dumb is done, they have to contribute to the Bag of Shame at the evening dinner. At the end of the tour, we donate that money to the Greenline Trust.
Spouses are encouraged to rat on each other. It’s a fine if they don’t.
You cannot fine yourself. That’s a fine.
The rules are completely flexible and forever changing, but basically, anything can be fined. The common ones are: dropped helmet, discovering your last night’s hotel key in your pocket, being late for dinner, sleeping in, spilling fuel at the gas station, remembering you forgot to put earplugs in as the whole group is ready to take off, trying to pay with the wrong currency, forgotten bar bill, tip overs and crashes (as long as there are no injuries), …..
The fine is the same as a beer, about $2. Either CAD or USD.
When someone screws up, the rest of the group learns to yell “Two dollars!” and that is the notice that they were busted. When riding in front of someone who has left their signal light on for the last 10 kms, I (Rene) hold up two fingers. They get it.