WHEELBARROW WONDERLAND          - 25/12/2008      <--Prev : Next-->

Living in Zimbabwe my entire life I have an inordinate fondness for the humble wheelbarrow.

This is undoubtedly the most useful implement in life in the Third World.

I mean look at its uses, apart from the obvious garden work, the humble wheelbarrow in Africa is used to move food, water, crops, fertilizer, one's earthly goods and chattels ...

Such a common sight, the sight of hundreds of people frantically pushing wheel barrows up and down the roads of Matabeleland North and South where food aid is so desperately needed. Empty barrows on the way to the growth points where food aid is distributed by Christian Care, World Vision, FAO, WHO and the many amazing people who bring hope to the starving.

The wheel barrow posture on the way to collect food, is desperate, hopeful, desperate, hopeful, will I need my party card ? Will they give me maize, will they recognize me as a member of the opposition party ?

And yet once the precious grain has been collected, the mood changes to elated, euphoric, ebullient and excited.

But that same wheel barrow is also a people carrier, a receptacle to actually move human beings !!

It was on the Beitbridge to Bulawayo road that I saw the most heart rending sight..... a woman, heavily pregnant, but obviously desperately ill, being ferried by means of a wheelbarrow, across the border to South Africa, for medical attention.

She was not a large woman, quite a small frame, she had her hand over her face so we could not see her age, but the young man who was pushing the barrow, was sweating profusely and in great distress both mentally and physically.

What was her plight ? Cholera perhaps ? In labour possibly ? Her thin legs were drawn up awkwardly beneath her to avoid their being dragged on the rough bare ground. Her clothing was drab and splashed with mud, a filthy cloth was clutched at her face and pain racked her emaciated shoulders with every revolution of the barrows wheels.

It was nearly Christmas in Beitbridge, Zimbabwe December 2008. The rest of the world had lights, carols, beautiful windows festooned with holly mistletoe and tinsel, Beitbridge 2008 was heaving with dysentery, cholera and squalid filth.

Mrs Wheelbarrow, name unknown , possibly just another statistic in the WHO records, babe in tum, was being ferried to an unknown destination just as Mary was ferried on her donkey so many years ago.

It is unusual to see a pregnant woman in Zimbabwe these days, babies do not come as easily as they did in days gone by for some reason known only to Mother Nature.

Was a new life beginning in a wheel barrow on the dusty Beitbridge Road ? Or was a precious life ending, due to lack of medical care, lack of any facilities at all, no drugs, no rehydration tablets even the simplest of life giving facilities, let alone the necessary sterile settings one gets afforded for a birth in the First World, the epidurals, the anesthetics, the blood transfusions etc.

My mind wandered off to a similar situation over 2000 years ago, but that time it was a slim patient donkey bearing The Pregnant Woman, not a rusty dusty wheelbarrow with a squeaky wheel.

When we eventually got home, I decided to try it out , the wheelbarrow I mean, HEEHOO refused point blank but I prevailed upon one loyal fellow called Sebastian who loyally and manfully indulged my idiosyncrasies by pushing me around the garden in our trusty rusty wheelbarrow.

Now there are two types of wheelbarrows, there is the flattish open one and the more narrow and deep variety which is possibly used to move cement or soil. We fortunately have the former because there is no way my ample derriere would fit into the latter !!

It was a nightmare, even with a blanket placed strategically to cushion the nuts and rivets and rusty bits. What does one do with one's legs for example, they dangle painfully in all directions. Within minutes the blood flow has stopped and pins and needles make their way rapidly up to the knees.

Elbows and arms are another obstacle and the head rattles and bashes against the lip of the barrow so badly that ones neck feels like it is being mashed by a thousand whips.

Any yet there is hope ... there must be hope for all of Mankind.

A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices, For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn. Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices! O night divine, the night when Christ was born; God Bless you all this Christmas, may Peace and Love and Happiness overwhelm you totally, and may there soon be an end to suffering and hopelessness and despair in Zimbabwe and indeed in all the world.