At a young age, Dr. Hester Vivier became aware of the devastating conditions facing her local Zimbabwe neighbors and the cruel cycle of poverty that so many were stuck in. Dr. Vivier realized that for the poor, “it doesn’t matter who is in power. If you don’t have an education, you don’t have options. If you don’t have any resources, education or money, you don’t have any choices. You are kind of stuck in this vicious cycle. So, I always felt I wanted to do something and wanted to get involved, but I wasn’t sure what.”
Now in her early 50s, Dr. Vivier is on the board of the Hear Africa Organization that helps “create sustainable solutions to the issues of poverty, social support, health care, education and infrastructure development in Zimbabwe.” Dr. Vivier is a family physician in Fort Langley, British Columbia and manages her philanthropic efforts with raising 5 children.
Being raised in Zimbabwe, Dr. Vivier was all too familiar with the difficulties facing the country. She easily recalls the struggle her father had growing crops on the family farm when the rains didn’t show. She and her family were among some of the white homesteaders in Zimbabwe who farmed the land, only to later on have it expropriated by the government.
Although no longer living in Zimbabwae at the time the farm was expropriated, Dr. Vivier sympathizes with the struggle her mother faced when it was all taken away. “My mother who was still on the farm was affected the most. My parents moved to the farm 3 weeks after their wedding, and my father spent the rest of his life there (he died in 1986). It just saddens me that my mom had to walk away from everything my father and she had built up on the farm over a period of 50 years.”
After getting married, Hester and her husband decided they wanted to travel. “After my husband and I finished our studies, we decided we wanted to travel and the best way to do that was to work overseas.” Together they worked in Newfoundland for two years before moving to Manitoba and starting a family.
In 1998, they decided to go back to South Africa while her husband completed a Masters in Business Administration. However, during their time there, they soon realized that South Africa was not an environment they wanted to raise their children in. “During that year there was a bomb in the Hard Rock café in Cape Town, which was across the street from the campus, and another a mile from where we were living. There was also a few other incidences that made us feel unsafe, and overall we felt that it was not an environment in which we wanted to raise our children. That is when we finally decided to immigrate (to Canada).”
While living in Fort Langley, BC, Dr Vivier got connected with fellow Zimbabwean Bediam Zimbiti through a local church. She was inspired by his passion to help the people of Zimbabwe through the drought in 2008, and began to support his mission. The group started off by collecting clothing donations, and sending them to communities in need. Later on they began to send food rations, seeds and fertilizer to 120 families. She joined the board of what eventually became the Hear Africa Organization.
The Projects of Hear Africa
Since the start of Hear Africa, Dr. Vivier has been back to Zimbabwe twice to meet with the people in the communities they support. One of the other board members visited a local school in Gandidzanwa and her description of the conditions compelled Hester and Hear Africa to do something about it.
Back home in BC, Hear Africa teamed up with students from Langley Fundamental School to help raise funds for the school. The students were able to raise $20,000 as well as buy some desks and other supplies for the school.
Hear Africa believes that the key to sustainable development in Zimbabwe is in education. They hope that through their support, they will aid in the development of future transformational leaders.
During her second visit to Zimbabwe, Dr. Vivier noticed a group of local women, who were struggling to start businesses and earn income by crushing rocks with crude tools. Some of these women had taken in children orphaned by their relatives and were trying desperately to generate income.
Although Dr. Vivier never anticipated doing this, she launched a project in the spring of 2011 providing small loans to about ten of these women. Several of these women used the loans to start a chicken selling business. Dr. Vivier explains, “this is where the name Hear Africa came from. We don’t want to go and do what we think needs to be done. We want to go and listen to the people, and hear what they need and see how we can come alongside them, and empower them and help improve their lives.”
Along with providing aid towards educational programs, and starting up local businesses, Hear Africa also aims to support sustainable agriculture, humanitarian aid, and help the orphans in need. Zimbabwe was once proud to be called the “Bread basket of Africa,” exporting food to other countries but now they can no longer feed their own people.
Hear Africa focuses on providing seed and fertilizer to various communities during planting season. They also want to work with local leadership to develop management models that will later sustain agricultural practices.
With a high incidence of HIV/AIDS in Zimbabwe, many children and youth are left without their parents. A recent report by Zimbabwe’s senate claims that there are 1.6 million orphans in the country. Hear Africa recognizes the great need for support in this area and works to help the grandmothers, aunts and siblings who are left to care for these orphans.
Along with her involvement with Hear Africa, Dr. Vivier and Zimbiti have also started another business venture, selling the work of Zimbabwean artists. Mukiwa Art donates 100 percent of profits to the foundation. Dr. Vivier noted that, “a lot of people in Africa don’t have money, but they have time, and with that time they can make some beautiful things. Its amazing what those artists can do.”
Current Condition of Zimbabwe
Since the beginning of the rule of Robert Mugable in 1980, Zimbabwe has been hit with one catastrophe after another. The country suffered internal discord when the government forced land redistributions in the early 2000s. Before that, 70 percent of the fertile land was owned by the whites in Zimbabwe, when they only made up 1 percent of the population. These redistributions caused huge outrage, and allowed for agriculture production to suffer, which was also partly due to consecutive droughts.
Another crisis this country faced was severe hyper-inflation, which occurred near the middle to end of the decade. This put even the most basic food staples out of reach for many civilians. Life expectancy plunged from age 60 in 1990 to age 42, and infant mortality increased.
Many people are living with AIDS and need treatment, however health care is not free. Often times, clinics won’t let you through the door unless you show them cash upfront. Due to the terrible conditions in Zimbabwe, an estimated 3.4 million people have fled the country, and gone to neighboring countries. Life there remains difficult, as many people are still only surviving on less then two dollars a day.
When asked if she is overwhelmed by the scope of the problem in Zimbabwe, Dr. Vivier responded, “I do feel overwhelmed, but I overcome it by knowing that for me it is better to be doing something, as opposed to doing nothing. For many years I wanted to do something to help and found it very frustrating not knowing what to do, and where to start. At least we are doing something now.”
How You Can Help
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on how you can help. You can also donate online to this registered charity.