Looking Back… A Very Personal Story

Written by Chris Walker.


Well, after a very moving and emotional funeral service for my Dad, my two brothers & I began the task of clearing out our parents home. We found plenty of evidence of their separate main passions – the local church for Mum, and music for my Dad. What we also found were the passions they shared, namely travel, and more importantly, family – namely us: Terry, Chris & Martin.

We found it in letters, in old school books, in documents, but most of all, in boxes & boxes of photographs! The treasure trove contained our own individual histories growing up, our weddings & children, lots of family photos of holidays stretching back to 1959. There were mementos too – guide books, coffee table books, souvenirs and so on.

Not surprisingly, for me, the key part of my life is without question my time as a VSO volunteer in Zimbabwe between 1989 & 1991, and it is clear to me that our parents 2 visits to Zimbabwe were significant to them also. No doubt my brothers will have their own important memories to cherish, but this blog is about my own personal memories. Here is the story from my perspective, thanks to my parents willingness to come & see what I was up to in Zimbabwe!

The picture above shows me aged 9, 11 & about 23. The picture below of me graduating where I was 31.

What I did next I think surprised many who knew me…I didn’t seem to have much sense of adventure! All the same, one of my friends said she thought I hadn’t really tried that hard to get a job in Bradford. She may have been right…

I applied to Voluntary Service Overseas, and after being interviewed & accepted in September 1988, eventually I was posted to Zimbabwe in January 1989. Specifically, to Pakati Secondary school, where my teaching career began on 16th January. 

I settled in fairly quickly, after a shaky start, and got to know my new colleagues in the picture below

I also settled in my new home at the school…

…and took to travelling around Zimbabwe during school holidays, where there is much to see. When Mum & Dad came, I took them around the country both times. We have many pictures from Hwange National Park, Victoria Falls, Great Zimbabwe, Eastern Highlands & other places. Some of these pictures are below.

Here is the passport page with stamps showing when they came to Zimbabwe both times……and the diary entries from my Mum in her Zimbabwe 1990 diary.

At the end of 1990 I went home for Christmas & New Year to visit family and friends. During this visit I organised the first visit to Zimbabwe for Mum and Dad. While in the UK I went to see my local newspaper in what has become my home, Bradford, the Telegraph & Argus. I had been interviewed by them before I first went to Zimbabwe, and wanted an update. So, I agreed, but they just printed a short piece which I have added below:

After this difficult time for me and my family, looking back on this period has been therapeutic, knowing how much our parents enjoyed their visits. Also, the sheer amount of pictures, letters, documents and memorabilia shows me that they were also quite proud of my achievements during that time


By the time I returned to Pakati in 2018, Mum was already in the last 6 months of her life, suffering with Dementia, while Dad was her main carer. He has supported Friends of Pakati throughout. Like my brothers, and so many others who knew both our parents, I already miss them both every day.

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