Foreign correspondent Neely Tucker and his wife, Vita,
arrived in Zimbabwe in 1997. After witnessing firsthand the devastating
consequences of AIDS on the population, especially the children, the couple
started volunteering at an orphanage that was desperately underfunded and
short-staffed. One afternoon, a critically ill infant was brought to the
orphanage from a village outside the city. She’d been left to die in a field on
the day she was born, abandoned in the tall brown grass that covers the
highlands of Zimbabwe in the dry season. After a near-death hospital stay, and
under strict doctor’s orders, the ailing child was entrusted to the care of
Tucker and Vita. Within weeks Chipo, the girl-child whose name means gift,
would come to mean everything to them.
Still an active correspondent, Tucker crisscrossed the
continent, filing stories about the uprisings in the Congo, the civil war in
Sierra Leone, and the post-genocidal conflict in Rwanda. He witnessed
heartbreaking scenes of devastation and violence, steeling him further to take
a personal role in helping anywhere he could. At home in Harare, Vita was
nursing Chipo back to health. Soon she and Tucker decided to alter their lives
forever—they would adopt Chipo. That decision challenged an unspoken social
norm—that foreigners should never adopt Zimbabwean children.
Raised in rural Mississippi in the sixties and seventies,
Tucker was familiar with the mores associated with and dictated by race. His
wife, a savvy black woman whose father escaped the Jim Crow South for a new
life in the industrial North, would not be deterred in her resolve to welcome Chipo
into their loving family.
As if their situation wasn’t tenuous enough, Zimbabwe
President Robert Mugabe was stirring up national fervor against foreigners,
especially journalists, abroad and at home. At its peak, his antagonizing
branded all foreign journalists personae non grata. For Tucker, the only
full-time American correspondent in Zimbabwe, the declaration was a direct
threat to his life and his wife’s safety, and an ultimatum to their decision to
adopt the child who had already become their only daughter.
Against a background of war, terrorism, disease, and
unbearable uncertainty about the future, Chipo’s story emerges as an inspiring
testament to the miracles that love—and dogged determination—can sometimes
achieve. Gripping, heartbreaking, and triumphant, this family memoir will
resonate throughout the ages. Download and start listening now!