Link is a lifesaver

AN ORGANISATION which has built links with a town in Africa has collected almost two tonnes of goods for its underprivileged community. Members of the Stevenage Kadoma Link Association (SKLA), a friendship link which was set up between Stevenage and the c

AN ORGANISATION which has built links with a town in Africa has collected almost two tonnes of goods for its underprivileged community.

Members of the Stevenage Kadoma Link Association (SKLA), a friendship link which was set up between Stevenage and the central Zimbabwean town of Kadoma in 1989, has flown out the first shipment of essentials including dried food, children's toys and games, wheelchairs, computer paper and sets of school books.

Jan Addison, chairman of SKLA said: "The container weighing half a tonne was a gift from the people of Stevenage to Kadoma at a time when Zimbabwe is really going through it.

"We have been storing goods donated by Stevenage individuals, schools and churches, to ship to Kadoma, since February.


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"And with the help of an international charity called Hope for Children, and the goodwill of both British Airways and Air Zimbabwe, the first part of the shipment arrived in time for Christmas."

SKLA initially sent out copies of a gift catalogue to the local churches and schools, full of ideas of what people in Kadoma would need, and in February Stevenage Borough Council gave them a garage in which to store the goods.

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"It took a lot of hard work to store, catalogue, pack, weigh and label the boxes for shipment," said Mrs Addison.

The people of Kadoma still have one-and-a-half tonnes of goods to look forward to in the New Year and SKLA is hoping that 'Hope' can take out another half tonne between February and Easter.

Following receipt of the first container last month, a spokesman for Kadoma City Council thanked SKLA saying: "The dream has come true! We eventually received the consignment and we received 33 boxes.

"The food hampers will be very helpful to the underprivileged during the time of the festive season."

The towns officially linked in August 1989 when the two mayors in post signed a Declaration of Friendship. The twinning was begun on the basis that it would be a link between the ordinary people of the towns, sharing respect, and culture.

Mrs Addison said: "Since then, people have visited each other for many different reasons. Civic linking of council officials is the usual, but the 'people's link' as I like to call it, has blossomed and come into its own, at this very difficult time in Zimbabwe's history.

"But Kadoma have helped us. They sent a performing arts group to join us during the Millennium celebrations, they produced a crochet for us and their take on life is stunning - it's their sense of love - they will give you what they haven't got."

To help with its cholera epidemic Kadoma has received £4,000 via the reciprocal Kadoma-Stevenage Link, to the Kadoma City Council and since then the council has bought medicines, intravenous drips and rehydration salts, gum boots and rubber gloves for the men clearing rubbish from the streets, and disinfectant for cleaning toilet blocks. The City Council has also set up a cholera centre, separate from the hospital, and is using two four-wheel-drive vehicles to transport patients to the centre, disinfecting them each time, between trips.

Mrs Addison said: "We get regular updates from the health manager of the city council. They are managing the outbreak better than most areas, with only six known deaths among the several hundred victims in Kadoma. However, like most of Zimbabwe, many people are malnourished, and recovery is much slower from having been infected with cholera, because the body's own capacity to heal is so undermined."

SKLA has a quarterly newsletter. To get a copy or for more information about the association visit www.skla.org

Examples of how SKLA works:

* Fire services: A fire watch team at Stevenage took a reconditioned fire engine to Kadoma and trained fire officers to use the engine. Kadoma built a permanent fire station and called it Stevenage House.

* Stevenage library service: The library service has donated books to the library in Kadoma. The building of the library in Kadoma was supported by donations from Stevenage.

* Performing arts groups: A Stevenage group called Allsorts took short excerpts of Shakespeare to Kadoma, among other dramatic presentations, and the Kadoma-based group BASH performed at the Gordon Craig Theatre as part of the Millennium celebrations in Stevenage.

* Clinical aromatherapy: A visit by Kadoma's church leaders led to a request to help with the care of people suffering with HIV and AIDs.

* Fair trade crochet: Throws, children's and adults' clothes, tablecloths, placemats and table napkins made in Kadoma are sold as fair trade crochet items in and around Stevenage each year

* Cross-church youth groups: Stevenage group Cornerstone and a similarly large cross-church youth group in Kadoma, Sungano, which means 'unity', have been twinned since 1997.

* School partnerships: Seventeen schools in Stevenage partner 17 schools in Kadoma, supported by funding from the Department for International Development, providing cultural learning and friendships.

* School fees scheme: Children in Zimbabwe have to pay school fees. The link runs a scheme for the poorest primary and secondary school children.

* Old people's home: Funding from Stevenage has meant elderly people in Kadoma, with no other means of support, have an old people's home to stay at.

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