After a serious brain injury, most would give up on trying to meet their most difficult goals. Susan Janetti, co-founder of charity Zimbabwe Gecko, is the exception to that rule.

A nasty fall down a flight of stairs while abroad resulted in bodily harm and memory loss for Janetti. As an ex-teacher and mental health counsellor, she was devastated by her impairments and soon decided that staying home and recovering was too dull for her liking. In response, Susan decided to direct her efforts towards changing and improving the lives of others.

At first, that meant raising funds for Childcare Worldwide, and while that was fulfilling, Susan had to admit that her heart’s work was in Zimbabwe. She had spent a large portion of her life there and witnessed the country’s hardship firsthand. Recalling a friend’s anecdote about starving Zimbabwean children forced to eat worms, Susan made the decision to start her own organization in 2008: Zimbabwe Gecko.

The organization began small, with the acceptance of donations for small beaded wire geckos made by orphaned Zimbabwean children. The name took after that initiative, which would later expand into offering several similar creations. But the Janetti’s had bigger dreams still. After joining the Evangelical Free Church of Canada Missions, they had earned the freedom and money to startup other programs under their name. Now, they run functional water, agriculture training, education, and health facilities. That includes the construction and operation of clinics, schools, wells, churches, community centres and more. From home, they hold fundraisers and oversee all of their business affairs. That’s a lot for a two-person (with a few volunteers) team, yet they’re still humble.

“We are not big. We just do big things,” says Susan. “Basically, we offer hope in many hopeless situations. We do not call it charity, but rather working together to build communities back to sustainability. We do not hand out. We build up. The people in the community have to work hard with us to become self-sustaining once again. For example, we provide the training and equipment needed to learn to farm. They dig the fields and plant the seeds.”

“In Zimbabwe, communities have collapsed under the weight of AIDS, children raising children, poverty, death from lack of medical attention, and lack of hope. There is 95% unemployment,” she adds.

To try and end the tragic epidemic, Susan and Frank Janetti are constantly working towards making Zimbabwe Gecko bigger and better. Below is a comprehensive outline of their current programs across the country.

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To donate to Zimbabwe Gecko or learn more about what they do, visit their website or contact Susan Janetti at
zimbabwegecko@gmail.com.