Manchester man works to improve lives of Zimbabwean people

George Boone is on a mission: The Manchester resident wants to help save as many Zimbabwean people as he can from the hardships that have assailed their region.\r\n

The country, home to Victoria Falls, the great Zambezi and the Chimanimani mountains, was once home to a skilled and educated people efficient in their ability to grow their own food and manufacture their own goods. Now, Zimbabwe has roughly 95 percent unemployment and many public health issues.

Boone, retired from the Army Corps of Engineers, went to Zimbabwe with friends of the United Theological College in Harare to evaluate some of its buildings for repair. There, he met Nhlanganiso Moyo, a theology student who changed his outlook on life.

“I met him and looked into the status of the people. They were much worse off than the status of the building,” he said. He began to think about how to help the Zimbabweans and journeyed back in 2003 when he taught a leadership course at UTC.

He took another look at the status of the people, and began to realize what he was up against. So he started a grassroots non-profit organization called Global Ecumenical Ministries-UTC Zimbabwe, Inc., in 2003 to support interdenominational ministries in Zimbabwe. The group supplies families with food and other items.

In 2004, he went back to Zimbabwe and took a good, hard look at the country. When he returned in 2008, he and his wife Carol decided to make a video and showed their findings whenever they had a fundraising event. They visited communities like the one Moyo, now a full-fledged minister, is now helping through his mission work.

Rural communities in Zimbabwe, Boone said, are now made up of mainly the elderly, from 65 to 100 years of age, and their grand- and great-grandchildren, sometimes orphans from AIDS, aged 12 years and under. Those who are old enough and able to work have left the village for other cities and countries because there is no work in Zimbabwe, not even in subsistence farming.

“We’re going through some rough patches,” said Moyo, who recently visited Boone in Manchester for a month to see several area churches, among them Manchester’s United Methodist Church, and to help Boone raise money for his fund. Moyo said that lack of rain, followed by too much rain during the rainy season, has resulted in poor crops in Zimbabwe for the past several years. With no government food aid programs, many families go without food for several days at a time.

“We are an industrious nation with lots of skills. We can work all day in the fields when blessed with good rains, and we will not talk about starvation again,” said Moyo.

“You can go for miles without seeing anything growing,” said Boone. Boone said that he had asked many organizations what children and the elderly can do to become self-supporting. No one has given him an answer. “But this is typical of the rural areas,” he said.

Moyo has identified 50 families in dire need, Boone said. For about $50 per month, each family can be adequately supplied with food. So far, Boone said, he and Moyo have raised only a tenth of what he needs to support them families for a year.

“Whether we get one dollar a month from fifty families, or $50 a month from one family, that is what we need,” said Boone. They’ve raised about $3,500, but need $30,000. He said he is still looking for a deep-pocketed industrialist who wants to help make a difference in somebody’s life.

“We’re making a difference in the quality of their lives,” said Boone.

Among those whose life he is helping to make a difference in is Moyo’s: Moyo has a family back home – wife Beauty, and children, Alice, 5, and George, 2. While he misses his family, he said he will be home again shortly.

“We’re going to send him back ten pounds heavier,” said Boone.

To donate to the GEM-UTC Zimbabwe, Inc., fund, contact Boone at 734-428-7378. He said that 100 percent of funds received go to support Moyo’s mission, and all contributions are completely tax-deductible. – Annarbor