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Category: News

Inspiration from SVP Zimbabwe

“Giddy” is a combination of excitement and delight. That is my sense after seeing the marvellous work done by the SVP Zimbabwe National Council and Chinoyhi Conference, and Caritas Zimbabwe in renovating and restoring Nazareth Shelter over the last four years as part of the SVP Twinning programme.

Nazareth Shelter in Chinoyhi, a bustling market town 90 minutes by road North West of Harare, Zimbabwe, is a home for destitute older people who have no one to care for them in old age. This is relatively unusual in Southern African culture as families always care for their older folk. However, every so often, an older person becomes orphaned from their family and, in a very poor society with no social protection, they fall on very hard times. Like Vincentians, SVP Zimbabwe and Caritas in the Diocese of Chinoyhi responded. Over the years the 40 bed Nazareth Shelter had fallen into disrepair and Diocese of Chinoyhi did not have the resources for renovation.

The situation was brought to the attention of Mary Toole, St Oliver's SVP Conference Navan member and Twinning officer for the North East and Midlands (NE&M) Region, and Michael O’Keefe, Regional chairperson and Kells Conference member. As part of the NE&M twinning programme response, and in conjunction with the SVP Zimbabwe National Council and the Chinoyhi SVP Conference, a plan was prepared, costed and implemented. The National Twinning Committee, Chaired by Rose McGowan, co-funded the project from the national twinning budget.

Undertaking such a project in a developing country with a collapsing economy was a mammoth task. When I visited in January last Ms Tendai Kusembedzera, SVP Zimbabwe National President, and Mary-Carmel Mudiwa, Administration Officer, Caritas Zimbabwe-Diocese of Chinhoy, organised a dedication ceremony on January 19th of the renovated building. I was giddy with excitement when I saw:

  • The re-built boundary wallThe re-erected entry gate
  • The brightly painted building – outside and inside
  • The new facia and soffit boards and the repaired roof
  • The solar water heaters which mean older people can now wash in warm water
  • The gas cooker – no need to collect firewood to cook
  • An industrial washing machine
  • Built-in wardrobes in each room
  • Comfortable beds
  • A rebuilt ablution block and toilets
  • A new clothes iron and board

(Fr Martin says Mass with us all at the rededication of Nazareth Shelter, Chinoyhi, January 19, 2019.)

(Ms Tendai Kusembedzera, SVP Zimbabwe National President reads)

The residents were so happy, and now they were proud of their home for life. The staff of five, three of whom were full-time volunteers who were there when I last visited three years ago, were also so happy. It was a great day.
A beautiful plaque to honour Mary Toole and Michael O’Keefe, who both died in 2013, was unveiled
by the SVP Zimbabwe National President. A beautiful remembrance.

(Dedication plaque in black granite with hand inscribed images and text in Shona, Irish and English on a plinth inside the gate of Nazareth Shelter.)


SVP members in the North East and Midlands Region can be very proud of the impact of their twinning levy ring-fenced for SVP twinning work. This project and the inspiration of Mary and Michael is having life changing impact.

For more details on the Nazareth Shelter Project see pages 22 and 23, Spring issue of the SVP Bulletin at

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