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Bhekimpilo Moyo is from Zimbabwe and spending a year in Stouffville, Ontario through MCC’s International Volunteer Exchange Program. (MCC Photo/Nina Linton)

Bhekimpilo Moyo is from Zimbabwe and spending a year in Stouffville, Ontario through MCC’s International Volunteer Exchange Program. (MCC Photo/Nina Linton)

Volunteer opportunity in Ontario community a ‘perfect placement’ for Zimbabwean

Gladys Terichow
June 30, 2011


STOUFFVILLE, Ont. -- Memories of his near-death experience during the 2002 political unrest in Zimbabwe are never far from Bhekimpilo Moyo’s mind.

Captured by a group of men who wanted to kill him, Moyo felt his best chance for survival would be to tell them that they had captured the wrong man and that his name was James.

The men didn’t believe him. They tied his hands behind his back, beat him up and started to take him to the house where they were staying.

“I was making my last prayers,” he said. “Then unexpectedly, a lady came out of the mangroves and said, ‘Hello James, how are you doing’.”

Convinced that there had been a mistaken identity, the men apologized and released him. “I’ve never seen that lady before or since,” he said. “I could see that God was watching over me that day—if it wasn’t for God, maybe I would have died that day.”

Today, he is 24 years old and among 55 young adults from 24 countries participating in Mennonite Central Committee’s (MCC) International Volunteer Exchange Program. IVEP is a one year vocational and cultural exchange program that connects international young adults with host families and volunteer placements in Canada and the U.S.

Moyo said he wanted to be part of this program because he wanted to learn more about MCC and the Anabaptist values of peace and reconciliation.

As a recent graduate of a human resources management university program in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, Moyo was invited to serve as an administrative assistant at the Willowgrove primary school, outdoor education centre and recreation centre in Stouffville.

This placement, he said, has been a perfect match for him because Willowgrove offers a variety of interesting programs, including a peace education program.

Beginning in kindergarten, students learn practical skills in conflict resolution. Topics of study include active listening, inclusion, diversity, cooperation and peer mediation. At recess, teachers assist students in putting these skills into practice when conflicts arise on the playground.

“What the teachers talk about, they are living,” said Moyo. “I think every school should teach peace education. If you teach children the right principles and the right values when they are young, it can change nations and the world.”

He enjoys stimulating discussions with staff, his host family and friends from the church and community about peace-related issues.

“If we want peace to prevail in this world, we have to change our mind-set that everything can be solved through war,” he said. “The only way to solve conflict is to understand each other.”

Another experience that helped him learn more about the Anabaptist values of peace and reconciliation was portraying the character of Jesus in a drama titled: Who do you say that I am?.

The drama, written by John Wideman, coordinator of the school’s peace education program, celebrated the diversity of cultures and experiences of 12 Mennonite congregations in the Greater Toronto Area.

The stories of people finding healing, love and hope were interspersed with the biblical account of words spoken by Jesus. Wideman said he and the audience were touched by Moyo’s contributions to the play. “Moyo spoke with clarity and sincerity—he brought calmness to the play through portraying a soft-spoken, peaceful Jesus,” said Wideman.

As Moyo heard the stories of the Ontario congregations and spoke the words that had been spoken by Jesus, his mind went back to memories of his near death experience in 2002 when he was 17 years old.

“Revenge was never on my mind—I knew from the beginning that I wanted to forgive,” he said. “But the play refreshed my memory on the importance of forgiveness. God is a loving and forgiving God. If God has forgiven us, who are we not to forgive?”

To host an IVEP participant or provide a job placement contact your nearest MCC office at 888-622-6337 in Canada or 888-563-4676 in the U.S. For more information about the IVEP program visit ivep.mcc.org.