Shelagh Hetreed Tells Us why An Evening of Fun, Ice Cream and Knickers Helped Raise Awareness for Zimbabwe!
When Shelagh Hetreed and the St Alphege's Social Justice Group decided to hold a 'Knickers for Zimbabwe' event, they had no idea of its success!
Here, Shelagh tells us why mixing 'Knickerbocker Glorys' with knickers helped to not only provide for Zimbabwens but highlight the plight of the country - where currency is no longer effective.
Read all about this fun evening of ice cream and countless women paying for treats with knickers instead of cash!
(PICTURES: ZIMBABWEANS BOY, A KNICKERBOCKER GLORY!, ZIMBABWEANS AND SISTER PONTIANA)
The event was cheekily named 'Knickers For Zimbabwe: Knickerbocker Glory' because our aim was to raise awareness of the plight of children and women in Zimbabwe who are unable to buy any underwear. It was the name of the infamous ice cream that was the inspiration of having an evening raising money through selling old fashioned ice cream Sundaes (and cakes, teas, mulled wine and snacks).
It took place in the evening of 18th February, just at the start of half term. It was held at Our Lady and St Alpheges new church hall in Oldfield Park. We have close links with Zimbabwe through a current parishioner and her sister (a nun) who was in the parish during 2009.
The event was a huge success! About 100 people were served during the evening and people from way beyond the parish came, or sent donations as word spread. Comments were about the fantastic atmosphere all evening. Most importantly, we had hundreds of packs of knickers of every colour and size donated.
It was the ultimate mix of fun (how can you not laugh when you are paying for a caramel and chocolate sauce ice cream with 3 pairs of folded new knickers!) and an underlying strong empathy for the plight of the people of Zimbabwe. We just wanted to do something simple and practical to make a difference.
We introduced bartering to show how Zimbabwe no longer has currency so that any goods are bought by bargaining with whatever you have to offer in exchange.
So our ice creams were purchased not with cash but with numbers of knickers, exchanged at our 'Bureau de Knicker Change' bank as people arrived. There was laughter in the air all evening as everyone tried to get the hang of giving 3 pairs of knickers for a banana split and one pair for a children's scoop with sprinkles!
We were aware of some peoples discomfort of the subject matter but most people realised that this was a shocking situation and called for shocking action!
Our goal was to send knickers rather than cash and received hundreds of pairs of knickers which were boxed up and taken to a container bound for Harare (funded by Zimbabweans living in Bristol and Bath).
Sister Pontiana continues to communicate by text only (when the electricity stays on long enough for her to charge her phone that is). She has given up emailing at the internet is off more than it is on, making it hard to charge the laptop. She told us (among many other sad facts) that they could no longer get underwear as it is scarce and too expensive to buy.
This touched many hearts! We decided to focus on one thing and that was to send enough underwear for the area in which Sister Pontiana has her convent.
We are lucky that we have an amazing team including a trained chef and so the menu had 5 recipes of sumptuous sauces created, the local supermarket was raided and we were ready for action!
This container (the size of a garage) is full of second hand clothes, basic food (rice, grain, tins etc.) books, shoes, electrical equipment, solar panels and other important basics for life.
However, we have so far also made £600 in cash (donations are still arriving as people continue to talk about it). This is going out to Sr Pontiana to sustain the ever growing and desperate community.
The convent looks after orphans, disabled and abandoned children and HIV positive women. The people from the country around are now arriving with nowhere else to turn for food and help and many are reduced to one meal of porridge a day. This is a growing quiet humanitarian crisis!
We are so pleased that we were able to bring together our community to share our love of another community through a cheekily named evening where we just sold ice cream!