In the turbulent turmoil that is Africa today, there can be few havens of peace as tranquil as the Jairos Jiri Centre in Nguboyenja African Township, near Bulawayo, Southern Rhodesia.
In the turbulent turmoil that is Africa today, there can be few havens of peace as tranquil as the Jairos Jiri Centre in Nguboyenja African Township, near Bulawayo, Southern Rhodesia. It is the headquarters of the "African Society for the Blind and Handicapped", and a monument to one man's herculean endeavours to relieve the suffering of his fellow Africans.
The rehabilitation centre resulted from Jairos Jiri's experiences in world war two, in which he served as a stretcher bearer. On taking his discharge, he moved to the Bulawayo african Townships, collected a motley collection of blind and crippled Africans about him, and set out to give them a home, regular meals, and work, Where once they were outcasts because of their disabilities, Jiri gave them an incentive to live.
To finance his scheme, during the day he worked as a delivery messenger for a firm of grocers. In his spare time he recruited assistants, and begged and borrowed food and clothing. At this stage he was scoffed at and treated as a mentally deficient. Eventually, his almost superhuman perseverance forced people, black and white, to take him seriously. He was offered a large plot of land in Nguboyenja Township by the Municipality, and the Southern Rhodesian government erected buildings to house the unfortunates. From charities and Government grants came GBP20,000 to finance his scheme.
Now, local industry takes much of the Centre's produce of baskets, matresses, clothing, and leather work. It is staffed and run almost entirely by Africans. Its buildings include separate dormitories for men, women, and children; a Physiotherapy department; three classrooms, in which nine grades are taught; a kitchen and combined recreation and dining block; workshops for basketmaking, leatherwork and shoe repairs; a sewing circle for blind women; and a school for the deaf and dumb.
In recognition of his selfless activities, Mr Jiri was awarded the M.B.E., But one cannot help feeling his greatest reward is to watch the attitude of his wards change from hopelessness to happiness.