St. Stephen – Jeff and Carole Way and their two daughters are getting ready once again to leave for Zimbabwe, Africa to volunteer at the Eden Children’s Village. The family, known to many as “the ZimbabWays”, has been volunteering in Zimbabwe for several years, and are hoping to eventually gain permanent resident status there. When not in Africa, they are busy collecting items that will be used at the orphanage, including heavy equipment for construction. How do they get all these items to Zimbabwe? They are sending a shipping container, which left St. Stephen Tuesday after being at the Border Arena parking lot for about the last year and a half.
“It’s going to leave from Halifax, down to Durban, South Africa,” said Jeff Way. “From there it’s a long truck ride to Zimbabwe. It has to go through customs first, then it’s up to Dorma where the orphanage is. That journey is going to be something. I’m sure the boat ride will be the easy part.”
One might be surprised at the various items inside the container. You would expect certain donated items, such as clothing, medical supplies, and non-perishable food. But this container holds much more. There is a truck, and an international harvester which was donated by a friend of the Ways who lives in Kansas.
“We have a 1987 Toyota Land Cruiser from Japan that went to British Columbia and came to New Brunswick and is now going to Africa,” said Way. “It was brought up here and fixed up. There is lots of used clothing, medical supplies, and more. Extra-Mural, Lincourt Manor, and the hospital have been great in donating expired bandages and other supplies. A friend in Calais donated medical supplies. My mother’s church in Ontario has donated stuff.”
Other items in the shipping container include playground slides, sporting equipment, and bicycles. Way said he even backed up his truck and loaded all of his tools into the container. So, in order to work while in St. Stephen, he has been borrowing tools from friends.
“Our whole thing is, you just have to be all in,” said Way.
Under normal circumstances, it would be safe to say the container holds everything but the kitchen sink. But, in this case, there is even a kitchen sink headed to Zimbabwe. Way said his eldest daughter, Lia (an acronym for Love in Action), who just turned 18, will be interning at the orphanage, and wants to have her own home. So, there are items that will be used to convert the shipping container into her home, including a couple of doors and a kitchen sink.
“She wants to have her own house, so when we get there, we’re turning this container into her house,” said Way. “She wants her own place, and I said okay, but it’s going to be within eyesight of my house. Our 14-year-old, Naomi, will be in high school. They’re starting a new program using the distance education for high school from Cambridge University in the UK. That was nice to hear that she’ll be getting a great education.”
Way, a carpenter by trade, is in charge of construction and renovations when the family is there. This includes general maintenance, and building homes for the orphans and orphanage staff. Way’s next job will be to start construction on a vocational school, which he said is much-needed in the area.
Way said, “The unemployment rate in Zimbabwe hovers at around 90 per cent. We’ve got all these kids who are going to be leaving the orphanage, and they’ll be needing skills of some sort. I’ll be teaching them all that I know. We’re going to have others teach whatever they know, and just kind of share skills. The facility is not just for the kids, but people in the community if they want to come and learn skills.”
Filling the container and sending it to Zimbabwe has been what Way calls a “huge undertaking”. The container has been in St. Stephen for about a year and a half, and the family has been filling it with donations as they were received. Way said he and his family want to thank the Town of St. Stephen for allowing them to keep the container at the arena parking lot all this time.
“We didn’t think it would be here this long. The town has been fantastic. The community has been donating stuff like crazy. It really does feel like a community helping a community.”