Ten weeks have gone by way too fast! Now it’s time for me to wrap up my work in Zimbabwe and head back to the U.S. Time flew by amongst challenges, accomplishments, learning new things, and building lifelong friendships. But before I leaving Zimbabwe, I wanted to make sure that WAP, I, and all the beneficiaries come together and celebrate the achievements this summer. We wanted a day to acknowledge the accomplishments and reward the efforts that went into establishing this new WAP soap facility. As a result, we organized a small opening ceremony. This gathering turned out so beautiful and exceeded all my expectations.
After we tackled all the priorities, such as wrapping up June’s soap production and ensuring that we had transport, electricity, and a functioning facility, we started prepping for the opening ceremony. A few WAP beneficiaries, Constance, and I, cleaned and organized the facility and planned the ceremony. Although I was super excited about the gathering, I was also concerned about the turnout. Because all the beneficiaries live atleast an hour away from the new facility, I wasn’t sure how many of them could join us for the function. So, we provided transport costs to ensure that many could be present at the gathering. On the day of the ceremony, I was so happy to see 57 beneficiaries who managed to come out of 68 total. This was incredible.
The WAP girls arrived in reserved minivans singing out loud. You could hear them from a mile away. The energy was so contagious, and the fun continued the whole day. During the ceremony, they danced, performed dramas, sang, and provided testimonies of how WAP has been helping them. We had a journalist that captured the event as well as a local public speaking leader who came to give some encouraging words to the girls. Constance took the stage to share the mission and vision of WAP. Dickson and I also joined in to give a few remarks. To make the program more fun, we organized a talent competition round where girls from all three different communities danced and performed dramas. Constance and Dickson were the judges who chose the winning community to be Chitungwiza. The winning group got a small gift which they were super happy to receive. The fun ended with cutting and eating a beautifully decorated cake and taking lots of pictures.
While trying to capture the event in pictures and videos, I realized something important. This ceremony meant more than a gathering for these girls. The excitement, joy, and laughter were not just about the cake, snacks, and the fun things happening at the ceremony. It was because they were feeling a sense of solidarity. Seeing the new facility where the soaps they sell are made, hearing testimonies from their peers, and sitting among 50-plus girls wearing WAP dust coats just like them meant they are part of something important. They are part of the change that the Women Advocacy Project has been working towards. Witnessing the growth of WAP from making the soaps in a garage till last year to now owning their production facility added validation for these beneficiaries. It validated that WAP is here to stay and help them for a long time to come. Hearing testimonies from different girls who talked about how WAP enabled them to get employment, go to university, help families, and resist early marriage was also very powerful. These testimonies made the girls realize that WAP’s work resonates with girls from all walks of life. Even with my best effort, I am sure I won’t be able to translate the energy and the morale boast I sensed in that gathering. All I can say is that this event was impactful in every measure.
This opening ceremony was a perfect way for me to end my summer as well. This gathering gave me the opportunity to say goodbye and give warm hugs to each one of them one last time. I was also lucky enough to receive some goodbye gifts from some girls. I know I will cherish these tokens of friendships for a lifetime. Lastly, I am leaving Zimbabwe with so much appreciation for WAP and its work. When I started this journey back in May, I had a little understanding of WAP and its impact. Today, I know what making soap means for these 60-plus girls and the change WAP is bringing in Zimbabwean communities one soap at a time. I started this ten-week journey by sharing a quote from one of my professors with Constance and Dickson: “Development work is not about becoming a world savior. It’s about adding your efforts to work that is bringing change.” And I like to believe that; this summer, I was fortunate enough to add to the efforts of WAP to provide income-generating opportunities for its beneficiaries and abolish early marriage.
Some more pictures from the ceremony:
Posted By Dawa Sherpa
Posted Aug 3rd, 2022