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Mercy tour of Zimbabwe

Travelers keen to make a difference and experience some of the humanitarian aid projects currently running in Zimbabwe, can now join an escourted tour specifically designed for them in an off-the-beaten-track area of the country.

To make a positive impact on struggling communities, be it financial or hands-on in nature, is so much more rewarding than the traditional wildlife watching experience, according to Simon Herring, organizer of the concept and manager of La Rochelle Hotel just outside Mutare.

The Zimbabwean Mercy Tour is an 11-day escourted tour to remote areas of the Eastern Highlands region for groups of from 8 to 12 people. For every group hosted, explains Herring, up to US$3,000 will be donated to a selected project or projects – this donation is included in the tour price.

After visiting and interacting with the projects, the group chooses which they would like to give the funds to, although they can opt for various alternatives including donations in kind, continued assistance for a specific group of individuals, or may prefer to donate to a project not visited but one that must be in Zimbabwe.

Projects to be visited in this specific tour are the Nzeve Centre for the Deaf, Simukai Street Children Project, St. Augustine’s Mission Clinic, Robert Mugabe Orphanage, Family Aids Caring Trust, Lighthouse Church Children of Hope Orphan Home Care Project, Chengetai Centre for Mentally Handicapped, Sport 4 Socialization Trust Zimbabwe, Fairfield Orphanage, and Old Mutare Mission Hospital.

Based at La Rochelle Hotel, a small, worn-out but spotlessly clean privately run hotel situated in a picturesque botanical garden, the tours will also include scenic day excursions to Nyanga, Vumba, Hot Springs, and Imire Game Park.

Herring emphasised that this is not a tour for glory seekers. “Anyone who takes part in such a tour will be helping those less fortunate than themselves, and for this we are grateful. However, it is important for us that donations and other assistance is maintained discreetly for the dignity of the receivers, so there will be no formal ceremonies, no official ‘handing over’ of funds. This is generally carried out at a later stage,” Herring said.

The cost of the tour includes sharing of accommodation and meals, soft drinks, bottled water, entry fees, and transport within Zimbabwe. All groups will be met at the Bronte Hotel in Harare on the 1st, 11th or 21st of the month, and will be returned to the same hotel after the 11-day tour.

The Mercy Tour itinerary is flexible but generally includes four days of excursions to scenic destinations of the Eastern Highlands and three days spent with at least five humanitarian aid projects. Tour participants will interact with orphans, street children, mentally and physically disadvantaged children, and deaf children, even learning a little sign language on the day.

“The tour is geared towards people aged between 50 to 70, but not exclusively. There are opportunities for fishing and golfing to bear in mind, which suits this age bracket,” said Herring.

“The most important thing is to get together a group of like-minded people that have a sense of humor – it helps in Zimbabwe these days – then start making a plan.”

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