Tearfund has launched a new appeal to help impoverished Zimbabweans stave off the threat of extreme hunger.
The "Make a Meal of It" appeal asks Christians across the United Kingdom to hold barbecue fundraising events this summer to raise awareness of the food crisis plaguing millions of Zimbabweans.
The money raised will go to churches in Zimbabwe that are already working on the ground to help poor people overcome extreme poverty.
"Churches are at the heart of Zimbabwe's long term recovery – beyond aid relief – and they are now reaching out to more people than ever," said Tearfund International Director Peter Grant. "The need for help, hope and transformation is ongoing and urgent. We want churches in the UK to feel part of this, share in Zimbabwe's transformation, and have fun at the same time."
Part of the funds raised through the campaign will go towards Foundations for Farming, a church-linked initiative that trains up to 100 farmers at a time in Bulawayo and Harare. The farmers are equipped to train another 100 farmers in their communities and the scheme is helping families learn how to grow their own food in a sustainable way. It is hoped that as they become self-sufficient they will be able to produce additional food for the communities they live in, potentially feeding hundreds of thousands of people.
"We are excited about this project because we see such potential in Zimbabwe again being able to feed itself," said Grant. "People don't want to depend on relief aid. This sustainable farming will strengthen the poorest families that have had to rely on so little for far too long.
"After the desperate hardship that the country has suffered, it will help to build self-esteem and hope for the future."
Although a degree of stability has returned to Zimbabwe under the new power-sharing government, Tearfund said the "chronic deficiency" of public services and a shortage of food had contributed to widespread famine.
The relief and development agency warned that children are especially vulnerable as a result of the HIV crisis, which has left some 1.8 million children without one or both of their parents.
The fundraising appeal will also benefit partner agency Zimbabwe Orphans through Extended Hands (Zoe), an organization working with church volunteers to mentor children living in poverty. The aim is to give them a 'hand up' rather than a hand out.
ZOE founder Jean Webster said: "Today, with relative political stability, we have been blessed with a window of opportunity to reach even more vulnerable people in this way. Church volunteers can now reach children and people in remoter communities, without fear of violence."
A Make a Meal of It resource pack has been made available for churches. It includes recipe ideas, children's activities, a quiz, and an invitation to give to friends and family.
On the Web: www.tearfund.org/summer