He’s working at the Super 8 right now, but a few months ago, Umesh Anghnoo was volunteering with children in Zimbabwe, and almost getting in trouble with his camera. He’s documented his trip with the Markham family and the Zimbabwe Gecko Society on a blog, and he hopes he may get a chance to go back to the community outside Harare, maybe as a medical student, in the clinic that Dr. Ray Markham is hoping to start.

“I didn’t know what we’d be doing,” says Anghnoo. “When we got there, Susan said they’d gotten some computers.”

Susan Janetti and her husband Frank founded the Zimbabwe Gecko Society, a Canadian charity, from their home in South Surrey BC. After years of trying to help the poor and often orphaned children of Zimbabwe, she got the idea for the society when her brother sent her a beaded wire gecko. The beaded figures were traditionally sold by street children, and Janetti got idea to buy them, and bring them to Canada where she could collect donations for them here.

Alison Markham says she and her husband Ray met up with Janetti because of a connection in the E-Free church. She says her family wanted to help the people of their homeland, and last year they helped raise funds to send a shipping container filled with computers, sewing machines, and other supplies to Zimbabwe. This winter, the Markhams had the opportunity to join Janetti in Zimbabwe – their first time home since 1999 – and brought their daughters Alex and Rachel, Alison’s mom, Irene Langford, and Anghnoo with them.

Anghnoo says he’s been trying to do some volunteering each summer for a few years, like helping with Valemount’s Meals on Wheels program. He has also volunteered at the Valemount Clinic, and Dr. Markham knew he wanted to do more volunteering. Dr. Markham had asked him before if he’d be interested in a trip to volunteer, and he had said sure, if he had time the time between school and work. This winter it happened to work out.

Anghnoo finished a four-year degree in biochemistry at UNBC this past September. So in mid February, when he hadn’t yet heard back about some jobs he’d applied for and the Markhams asked if he could join them on their month-long trip to Zimbabwe, he quickly decided this was his opportunity. Anghnoo had only two weeks to prepare, including getting his passport.

The Zimbabwe Gecko Society’s aim is to help widows and orphans in Zimbabwe to become self-supporting members of their society, one community at a time. Janetti has been working in a small community outside the capital Harare, and the goods from the shipping container – including computers, sewing machines, school supplies and stuffed bears – were brought to Kintyre Primary School. Anghnoo says the computers were mostly ok, but very dusty, so their first project was to clean out the school room and put a sealant on the floor to help keep the dust down. Once that was done, Anghnoo says it took a couple days to clean out the computers and get them set up on tables the Society had brought. He says he doesn’t really know that much about computers, and after getting them set up, he mostly just helped Tino, the computer teacher who was actually younger than Anghnoo, by helping answer some of the students’ questions. But the students were happy to give up their school room for the computer lab, and they held their class under a tree in the yard.

Meanwhile, Alison says she and her mom Irene were setting up the sewing machines, and their first project was teaching the girls to sew reusable menstrual pads, so they can continue to go to school during their monthly cycles.

Dr. Markham spent some of his time meeting with the Minister of Health and the Deans of the medical schools in Harare and Bulawayo, in hopes of starting a clinic. Anghnoo says he went with Dr. Markham and Janetti to the Ministry of Health building, which is undergoing some renovations. After leaving the building, they were asked to come back, and an official wanted to check Anghnoo’s camera. He thinks they were worried he’d taken pictures of a washroom they found, filled with garbage, but Anghnoo had already deleted the photos.

After about three weeks working and traveling with the Markhams, Anghnoo took a three day trip on his own to see Victoria Falls (where he worried his camera would get wet) and a trip to South Africa to see a friend working there. He says blogging about his trip seemed like a good way to share his photos and adventures with family and friends back home. He’s never blogged before, and he doesn’t think he’s doing anything interesting enough now to keep it up, but he does admit having his camera – a Canon Rebel T3i, given to him as a graduation present – has given him reason to go further and more often on some local hikes.

Anghnoo is hoping to get into medical school, but if he doesn’t, he hopes he can do research and laboratory work. If he does get into medical school, he hopes he can be one of the students Dr. Markham brings to the clinic in Zimbabwe once it is set up.

Alison says they are currently trying to raise money to send another container filled with medical supplies. She and Dr. Markham will be hosting a fundraising dinner at their house on June 14. Tickets are $30 for adults, $5 for children under 10, and you can contact Alison for more information.

You can check out Anghnoo’s blog with stories about his trip and more of his photos at http://awayfromcanada.tumblr.com/. Check out more about the Zimbabwe Gecko Society at www.zimbabwegecko.com.

By: Korie Marshall