Colletta's Story

It was with great sadness that we recently received news that Colletta had died due to complications with her medical treatment.

Colletta was integral in the delivery of clean water, nutritious food from a community garden, sanitation facilities and the raising of livestock for her community. Her courage in life means she has left a legacy which will live on in her community for a long time to come. Colletta’s leadership is a shining example of how an integrated approach to development can transform lives and futures for many people. All of Colletta’s children are now living with their grandmother (Colletta’s mother). Because of Colletta’s work, they have food security through constant allocations from the community garden. Colletta's inspiring story featured in Project Compassion 2012.

Colletta and her family

Zimbabwe was once known as the ‘breadbasket of Africa’, yet enduring conflict and prolonged drought has since reversed this prosperity. By 2008, almost one-quarter of Zimbabwe’s population had fled the humanitarian crisis to neighbouring countries. Today, thousands of people remain displaced and debilitating poverty continues to threaten the nation’s fragile peace.

Colletta lives in Chirumanzu, a district ravaged by Zimbabwe’s brutal conflict. But seven years ago, Colletta was not caught up in the violent struggle for land, she was bed ridden with tuberculosis, found to be HIV positive and fighting for her life.

The sole breadwinner for her family, Colletta struggled to support her elderly mother, two sons and two nieces in her care. Colletta recalls that time with sorrow:

The people of Zimbabwe deserve to live in peace after a decade of political and economic destabilisation. Your contributions have returned smiles on the faces of distressed families. Lives have changed. Hope has returned.”
Brother Blazio, Caritas Gweru

“I had nothing. I had lost hope in life. I couldn’t afford food. I didn’t have money to buy seeds. I found it difficult even to give my family one decent meal per day. Sometimes I sent my children to look for food from neighbours. We were labelled a family of beggars.”

“The biggest challenge our community faced was due to conflict. People had no money, poor nutrition, no safe water or sanitation. Most kids were not going to school.”

At the height of Zimbabwe’s political and economic crisis, most of the international community’s aid and development efforts were suspended. But thanks to the strength of Caritas Australia’s local church partnerships, your support continued to provide food, temporary shelter, psychosocial support and peacebuilding workshops in Zimbabwe’s poorest communities.

As the humanitarian crisis continued to unfold, Caritas not only ensured the provision of life-saving aid but also worked across all eight dioceses to build resilience and foster lasting changes for the most vulnerable families.

Colletta’s family is just one of many to have benefited from your solidarity. “I realised that the projects being talked about could really change my life for the better. I knew it was the only chance to again work for my family,” she said.  

Together with our local partner, Caritas supplied the seedlings and equipment to create a village garden, enabling Colletta and her community to grow vegetables and medicinal herbs. Slowly, her health has improved.

But like all of Caritas Australia’s holistic community development programs, our work in Colletta’s village extends beyond the provision of food security. Through our local partner, Caritas Gweru, the program sought to rehabilitate boreholes and wells destroyed by conflict and overuse, improve sanitation through hygiene training and household latrines, and rebuild livelihoods for the long-term protection of human dignity.

Colletta’s community now has safe water to drink and to replenish their gardens. “I was involved in the rehabilitation of our village borehole and am in the water committee – we’ve been trained to make repairs to keep the borehole working.

“My household sanitation has greatly improved since I received a latrine, pot rack and refuse pit through the project. This has reduced diarrhoea among my family.

Home visit nurse

“Caritas has taught us that these projects belong to us. We care for them in the same way we take care of our household goods. The fact that we are owners of the projects ensures they’ll continue long after Caritas is gone,” said Colletta.

As healthcare remains beyond the reach of poor families, Caritas Gweru has also trained volunteers to provide home-based care for people, like Colletta, living with HIV/AIDS and other illnesses. Colletta is on Anti-Retroviral Therapy and has enough food to make the medication effective. 

“Physically, I’m now stronger and can work in the garden. My family’s nutrition has greatly improved. I produce and sell excess vegetables to pay school fees and other expenses.

“Actually, my social standing in the society has elevated, as others now respect my family. I believe there is life after infection after all.”

Slowly, attitudes in Colletta’s community have changed, livelihoods have improved and more children are going to school.

Peace gives us the opportunity to work freely without fear. Families have more time to work in the gardens and their fields and squabbles have reduced. I’d like to thank Australians and request they assist more people so that more lives improve.