Today we did a walk around the Hotel Rio, a Bulawayo institution which the Sandra Jones Memorial Village will move into from 1 September. Hotel Rio is a place my parents used to take me to on Sunday afternoons on our way back out to boarding school at Falcon College. We would have a final milkshake together in the salubrious grounds, a last luxury before returning to the rigors of Form One out Esigodini way.
Within a couple of months the Hotel Rio will trade its status as one of Bulawayo’s most infamous watering holes and will trill to the sounds of the seventy kids from the SJMV. It’s a magnificent venue and it will be a wonderful home for the girls.
The main ‘business’ of SJMV is to house and rehabilitate girls who have been victims of terrible sexual abuse. SJMV is the only home of its type in the country, and the majority of girls staying there represent tragic and horrifying stories of abuse. Yet spending time with them is inspirational, as they have come into a home of mercy and compassion. Girls with so little, coming off such tragic backgrounds, yet they are so exuberant.
Hotel Rio will bring the girls into the Bulawayo city limits. Currently they’re housed 30km out of town. One of the really visionary plans for Hotel Rio is to bring the girls closer to the city and have more opportunities to integrate them with wider society. The Hotel has a large hall with a stage and Bulawayo’s only sprung dance floor – ideal for concerts and presentations.
The other aspect Hotel Rio offers (apart from magnificent accommodation, school rooms and dining and play areas for the girls) is opportunities for some commercial ventures which will help generate some of the funds required for the running costs of SJMV. There is a large space for a large vegetable garden which will keep the kitchen stocked with greens, and excess vegetables sold in Bulawayo.
At the back of the hotel is a large area of chicken and peacock cages. There are plans to grow chickens for meat in this area, as well as some layers to keep the Village well supplied. Beyond this area is ten acres of watered paddock fronting a creek which can be used for meat cattle.
The Hotel Rio is bristling with opportunity. Seeing the vision of the people running it, coupled with their diligence and love, it’s hard to not think that SJMV has the potential to become not just a unique facility, but a stand-out.