Thursday, August 25, 2016

A Trip of a Lifetime

It is now 25th August how time flies!

I have been in very regular contact with my friends from Zambia.

On 11th August the Zambian nation went to the polls to elect another president. Edgar Lungu the incumbant president was declared the winner, but the opposition party has gone to court challenging the result. We are currently awaiting the court verdict. Durings the weeks immediately around the elections there has been a lot of political violence. This is not the usual way for Zambia and the signs are worrying. A newspaper, a TV station and two radio stations have been shut down. It might be coincidence that all of these media outlets have been critical of the government – but it is worrying! A lot of prayers are needed at this time to conteract the violence and bring calm and peace back to the country.

Jennipher continues to be busy. She attended a conference in Namibia and is planning to go to a similar one in Zimbabwe where she will again be asked to speak. The third conference will be hosted by Jennipher in Zambia.

Best has also been out of the Country researching laws in Namibia compared with Zambia. He is due to sit his final exams in September.

The violence has hit Monze and shops have been damaged. Diven was doing ok keeping away from trouble, but last week when he was moving goods for safe-keeping he was arrested, because the police thought he was looting. He was freed after a night in jail – for which they charged him 50 kwacha! His goods however have not yet been released and he is struggling to do any business.

I am busy trying to find funds for PIZZ School. I realised this year just what a wonderful project we have, but also the size of the challenge. We need to ensure that the children reach their potential and are not given hope, only to have it dashed.

I have sent letters to all of those who sponsor children at the school and felt that I should provide a few more details about the background for the school and what I have learnt. I think it is worth repeating those notes here:

PIZZ School update and background

In the past year a new classroom block has been erected for PIZZ School and the younger children hope to move in September - the beginning of the next term.Mrs. Sianga intends to create a pre-school in the original building. However PIZZ is not just a school. I think it is worth reflecting on the history.

When Mrs. Sianga started PIZZ School her main concern was the safety the children she had come to know from her work. She worked as a nurse caring for people dying from HIV/AIDS. At that time AntiRetroViral drugs were not available. All her patients died - Mrs. Sianga could only provide a few paracetemol tablets and some words of comfort. Many children were left without parents. These children are very vulnerable. In Zambia relatives will usually take the children into their homes, but pressures on the families often result in the children being sent onto the streets to try to raise some money for food for the family, with all the dangers associated with this activity.

The school was therefore born to keep the children off the streets. However, much more than a school is needed to enable these children to gain an education. Most of the children would very soon leave school without constant care and attention. Children at PIZZ School are regularly monitored, in a caring and non-judgemental way. If they miss lessons, or their performance deteriorates, care-givers will visit the homes and check whether there are particular issues. Sometimes the guardian are found to be ill – on occasions the school will arrange to take the guardian to hospital for treatment. This is all part of the work undertaken by the school.

The school has become a community formed from the children, their parents and guardians, the care-givers, the teachers and other staff at PIZZ School. It works because this community works together and every child is treated individually and their needs addressed.

Hands Around the World was invited to participate in this community in the relatively early stages. We were able to enable the school to develop. It was recognised that, although buildings were important, without quailfied teachers and funds to cover electricity, water and such mundane things as photocopying and buying chalk, the school would be inadequate.

I have just spent two months in Zambia and now appreciate what a wonderful job has been done by Mrs. Sianga and her staff – with our assistance. We now have a school in which we can be justly proud.

I have had the privilege of meeting a lot of children this year. Some I recognise from previous years. It is the children's development that impresses me most. When some of the children come to the school they are very quiet and timid. A few years later these children have developed a marvellous spark of life – they seem happy and some will be confident to perform in front of the school. Many come up to me in town greeting me with smiles and laughter.

Between us we have a school that not only keeps the children safe but also has an excellent academic record – much better than most schools in Monze. Hands Around the World tries to support the children throughout their education. We currently pay the school fees for about 60 children who have progressed to secondary school and one young woman who is in her second year at university. It is important that the children can see that there really is hope for them to escape from a life of poverty. It is essential that we continue to play our part in the complex process which makes the project work so well.

We have enormous challenges ahead. The school's success means that the costs are constantly increasing. We will probably need at least twice our current budget to meet the needs in the coming years!! Anything you can do to spread the word about this project would be most welcome. You can find a recent report on the school at PIZZ School Global Giving Report .

My immediate challenge is to raise £1,500 in the next week to enable 100 students from PIZZ School to visit Livingstone and Victoria Falls. For children who never get away from Monze this is an exciting experience of a lifetime. It is part of the business of motivating the students – showing them that there is another world out there and if they work hard they can be part of it.

Last Year Janes was one of the students who benefitted from the trip. Janes has been the face of Hands Around the World for many years, like the other children in the school there have been many challenges for her and her family to overcome. She is much older than the girl with the frizzy hair seen on the website – in fact I hardly recognised her when we met this year. She did well in her exams at the end of last year and is now in secondary school. I am hoping that people will think about sponsoring a child for the trip to Livingstone. It will cost about £15 each – we need about 84 sponsors to cover the remaining cost! If you would like to help you can use the following link to donate - perhaps you will spread the word.

I am very aware that my fundraising capability is small and that I need a lot of help. I also believe that there is a lot of goodwill around and I am sure some people would welcome the opportunity to be directly involved in a project which is so worthwhile.

Please pray for the people of Zambia at this time, with love and prayers,


Thursday, July 14, 2016

Transition and an elephant hunt

I have now arrived back in the UK and am trying to make sense of the past couple of months. On the whole it was a very positive experience. The time went very quick, but I was ready to return.

Monday 4rd July

I was lucky with the bus to Pemba. Despite people jumping on and off the bus, we left within a few minutes after boarding. Someone noticed the lion and I was dropped off not far from Jennipher's house. My sense of direction doesn't improve and it was only with some help from a local guy that I managed to meet up with Jennipher along the road!

Selina met me and we walked to the house. I was surprised to see Obadia so tall, but still smiling!

Soloman was busy making bricks for another structure which will be used to house some sick patients and others. Having no wheelbarrow, they improvised by dragging a plastic half drum from the anthill – the source of the soil for bricks. There must have been 400 - 500 bricks made at least. It was good to see that Soloman has recovered his strength after his illness last year. At one point he was not expected to survive.

Jennipher called here animals. The goats respond to one call while the chickens answer another! She has quite a menagerie!

She showed me the small piece of garden under cultivation and another area she would like to fence and develop. We chatted for a while before heading off towards the clinic. On the way we passed close to where a lady dying of cervical cancer was living. We therefore diverted a little and paid a visit. I am always a little concerned that I am intruding into such a personal situation, but invariably I am welcomed – as was the case on this occasion. The lady was conscious and eventually realised that I was present. She held my hand while a hymn was sung and I said a brief prayer. She was in some pain and I gave some tablets that Jennipher says give some relief – at least they are an improvement on Panadol (paracetemol). Her relatives had a prescription for some stronger painkillers and Jennipher gave a contribution towards their cost.

We carried on our journey towards the clinic greeting people on the way. I realised that I was running late so I delayed my appointment with Mrs. Sianga by ½ hr.

Eventually we reached the clinic, which has changeds beyond recognition since my last visit a couple of years back. I seem to recall a few rooms with very limited facilities. Now it is like a small hospital – and it is relatively well eqipped. The wards have proper hospital beds where head and feet can be raised. They even have a proper dentist!

It was a holiday so it was relatively quiet and some parts were closed.

I was not going to get to the Gonde ceremony this year! In all my years, when I have been in Zambia at this time, I haven't yet made the ceremony. In the past offers to take me have failed to materialise, but this time I decided I couldn't find the time at the end of my trip. However, many others where heading for Gonde and some of those were amassing waiting for buses in Pemba. Fortunately I had Jennipher to help me. Sure enough she found somone in a car heading for Monze and negotiated a place for me. I was less than impressed with the driver taking a swig of Mosi as he drove, but I made it safely back home.

I arrived at 13.30 an hour after my appointment with Deana and had problems contacting her. However since it was 14.20 before she arrived, I wasn't in trouble! Deana had brought me some baskets because my usual source is no longer producing them. I was surprised just how cheap they were – in fact I think that at £1 each they are too cheap! Sometimes I am embarrassed by the low prices considering the amount of work put in.

Just a little late I arrived for my last visit to PIZZ School. It was quiet – being a school holiday. I had a very useful discussion with Mrs. Sianga and was able to tie up a few loose ends. I left my laptop which I finished preparing at about 2 am the previous evening! I also left another football which I hadn't found another home for.

It was after 17 hrs when I arrived back home and there were people waiting. To be honest I can't remember the order of the visitors during the final day or so! Raymond arrived at about supper time and enjoyed some rice – he says that he has an allergy to eggs, so I ate those myself.

Fr. Clement arrived at 17hrs as agreed and after a coffee we headed for St Kisito for a game of pool. After the first game a couple of balls refused to appear. We took the table to pieces! Eventually the balls were found and they presented no further problem. A few priests joined us and we enjoyed a good session.

I was dropped back home just before midnight.

Tuesday 5th July

I tried to leave my last day in Monze free to allow my friends to pop around and say goodbye.

On Sunday I had been told to come back to see the preparations for the oil press while workers were busy. I pointed out that Monday and Tuesday were holidays but was assured that they would be busy – ready for the delivery of the press on Wednesday. The thought of a 2km walk each way actually appealed to me. Today is the start of my transition back to the other world in the UK. I am saying goodbye, tidying the house, packing and passing on anything I don't want to bring back to the UK. A decent walk gives me time to start to reflect on the past two months.

I wasn't very surprised, nor was I particularly disappointed to find the church deserted and the site as I left it on Sunday! I spent some time strolling around the church grounds. I examined the site where the oil press will be located and finished by sitting by Our Lady's grotto in prayer and reflection.

When I got back to town it was already after midday. I said goodbye to Ireen and passed through the market to say goodbye to my friend with the spices. Then I settled in the house while my friends queued to say goodbye! Jennipher had come early to collect the solar lights I had promised her - she was on her way to a funeral somewhere beyond Lusaka. Teddy came around and we chatted, Lillian visited with some rosaries I promised to buy, Obert came with his mother, who brought a present for Dilys, a small delegation came from St. Veronica's Small Christian Community – also with a present. Both of these presents were made with love and care – involving a lot of work. Obert's mother made a mat from bottletops covered with material. The present fromOur Lady's was a small vase covered in very small beads with the motto Be Blessed. Bright came along to say a final farewell and finally Diven came around to say goodbye.

I enjoyed a final beef stir-fry and finished the evening by finishing my cleaning.

Wednesday 6th July

I had arranged to travel to Lusaka with Fr. Clement. Originally we planned to leave about 7.30 am but an extra visit to the bank delayed our departure by a half hour or so. In practice it was about 9 hrs when we finally left Monze.

Fr. Clement had realised a few days earlier that his driving licence had expired. In Zambia licences need to be renewed every 5 years. Without reminders it is easy to allow them to expire. We had another three or four guys with us, so finding an alternative driver wasn't an issue. I grabbed a seat in the cab with the driver and Fr. Clement. The other passengers travelled on the back of the pick-up with my bags and a few other items.

We had just past through Mazabuka when Fr. Clement realised that he hadn't brought the receipts for the purchase of the oil press. A phone call managed to locate the documents and arrangements were quickly made to get someone to head to Golden Pillow and pass them to one of the coach drivers who would carry them to Lusaka! This isn't the first time that I have witnessed buses providing a courier service! This sorted, we continued on our way to Lusaka.

When we arrived at Downtown Lusaka we called into the shopping centre. It was good to stretch my legs and enjoy the now hot sun. The coach was due at about 14 hrs, giving a couple of hours to fit in other tasks. I was asked if I wanted to stay with the pick-up or meet up later. I had failed to confirm my booking at the hotel and anyway wanted to start winding down and start preparing for my move to the UK. So I chose to head for my hotel.

I was given a lift to Longacres Lodge and had no trouble checking in.

I popped into the cafe opposite the hotel and had a meal. I also found the internet cafe and established that it was open until 21 hrs.

For 2 months I have been without a television. After a while I managed to get some sort of picture on the TV in my room! At about 15.30 I received a call to say that the papers had been retrieved and the delegation were heading to the industrial estate where the oil press was to be collected. It was on the other side of Lusaka from my hotel. I picked up a taxi and we eventually found the place. The showrooms of Saro Industries were very impressive, with a large number of products on display and plenty of staff busy on computers checking customers requirements. Like many big businesses it is not Zambian owned. This is an Indian company.

Fr. Clement and the parish Council Chairman were in the showroom when I arrived. There seemed to be a slight hiccup!! They were told that the equipment assembly had not been completed and they would need to return tomoorow!! I arrived at what seemed to be an impasse! The equipment could not be assembled on Wednesday and our team could not return on Thursday!! Fr. Clement had already made a trip the previous week to be told the equipment needed assembling and someone needed training. It was arranged to collect on Wednesday and they were instructed to bring some sunflower seeds to test the equipment and for it to be demonstrated. Considerable time and money had already been spent on the exercise. Eventually a meeting with the manager persuaded the staff to work on and complete the assembly. It was after 5 pm when we were shown around the back of the showroom. We were first taken to where they had tanks to test submersible pumps. Here they also had testing equipment for the “starter” - a sophisticated switch to protect the equipment. Eventually the equipment was loaded on the pick-up with a fork-lift truck. (There won't be any similar equipment to unload it!! But at under a ton it is not considered a problem!!)

I was dropped off in town and said a final goodbye to Fr. Clement and the team.

I picked up a bus to Longacres and settled in to my hotel.

I wanted to check in for my flights, but I was a couple of hours early. I returned to the hotel and had a meal before returning to the internet cafe. I checked in and printed my boarding cards.

My room was ok. This year there were plugs in the basin and bath – something I hadn't experienced before – things were looking up!! There wasn't any hot water, but you can't expect everything!!

Thursday 7th July

The hotel had agreed to look after my bags for the day. My plan was to look for an elephant in the morning and to head over to the museum in the afternoon. I would have a meal in the evening and had arranged for a taxi at 21.30. I was aware that I would be at the airport rather early but felt I couldn't really expect the hotel to look after my bags much longer. I thought that I might be able to pick up a book at the museum to help me pass time before the flight.

I arose slowly and had a leisurely breakfast. I rearranged my luggage and still there was no hot water! I have been totally spoilt at my house in Monze – with hot water for a shower every day I think I had become a bit soft! I thought I needed at least to clean my feet – in the end I took the plunge and had a cold bath.

Refreshed I checked out! Behind the hotel is the Catholic Cathedral. I decided that it would be appropriate to visit the church before my days exploits. The cathedral grounds are a lovely green space in Lusaka. The grounds are quite extensive and the cathedral is a pleasant building where I find some peace. As I left the church I noticed a door framed with flowers. This year has been designated by pope Francis as a Year of Mercy. It is a time when we are asked to think about the mercy of God. Jesus made a point of asking us to care for those most in need. We are also asked during this year to consider doing something for those less fortunate. At the entrance to the door there was a collection box for donations and/or details of acts of mercy we are carrying out.

It was now time for the great elephant hunt!! Google had provided me with directions to Kabwata Traditional Village where I understood there were elephants. In true tracker style I didn't go direct to the destination. I must have missed the 'left towards Jacaranda Avenue'! Eventually I found Burma Road and was told that I could get a bus to the village!! It was probably a little after 11.30 when I eventually found Kabwata Village on foot!

There seemed to be a couple of thatched structures with a lot of carved items. The first guy showed me some nice objects including a stone carved cheetah and wooden giraffes. I was keen to look further before committing myself – and anyway I had only come to obtain an elephant!! As I wandered on I found more and more thatched buildings – and they got bigger, so instead of one artist/salesperson there were now several. Prices seem to drop as I moved from the entrance and those selling got more desperate. After an hour or more I reached the end of the 'village'. At the last stop the guy had some books for sale – a novel from a local Zambian author. I had my first purchase and my reading material for the airport.

One of the latter 'shops' had some decent carvings at good prices and they said they had gone days without a buyer! I made another purchase – from each of the artists! By the time I reached the first shop I had a very full backpack and very little money. The costs of the cheetah and giraffes were quite high – though for the amount of work they were very reasonable. I never wanted to spend a lot and decided to decline there requests for me to make an offer. Anything I would offer would be an insult. However I wasn't going to be able to leave without making a bid!!

I left Kabwata with the cheetah, the giraffes and a lot of other carvings in stone, ebony, zebra wood, iron wood and other materials!! I had 50 kwacha in my pocket and needed 250 for my taxi to the airport among other things!! Fortunately an ATM came to the rescue!! - When I travelled to Lusaka I thought I had come with rather too much cash in my pocket – it was no longer an issue!!

I needed a rest having been on my feet for several hours. I decided to treat myself to a pizza – which turned out to be very nice and a delightful change. It was about 15.30 by the time I finished my meal. I decided to get a bus to the museum. The waiter told me it wasn't as easy as jumping on the next bus. I needed to find Independence Avenue again. I therefore retraced my steps – though this time I used Jacaranda Avenue. Eventually I found Independence Avenue. I walked towards town for a few minutes – it was towards town wasn't it! It wasn't familiar! I asked a guy who confirmed that I was heading out of Lusaka and needed to walk some distance to get myself a bus to the museum. It was now about 16 hrs and time to abandon the museum! If I arrived before it shut, it would be only just! By now I was well on my way back to Longacres, so I settled on completing my lengthy walk and returned. It was still relatively early so I decided to call into the cathedral again and reflect on my visit to Zambia. Leaving the church this time I noticed an area of green and discovered the graveyard of the Bishops. The most recent grave is that of the first Zambian Cardinal. Unfortuntely he was only cardinal a couple of years before his death a few years back. The graveyard is a lovely peaceful place and it did me good to walk in the grounds.

Back at the hotel I bought myself a Mosi and emptied my back pack. It was surprising just what I had managed to pack in! I reorganised the items to make them a bit easier to carry. I would wait till later to transfer objects to my cases. My fear of carrying back two empty cases was very obviously unfounded – the question now was whether I now exceeded my allowances!

I settled in the bar and watched a little television until it was supper time. After my meal I was treated to a pot of tea!

Back in the bar I realised that the second semi-final of the UEFA cup was about to start. (I might have delayed my departure by a half hour had I realised! At about 9.15 I headed for reception only to find my taxi driver was looking for me in the bar! We connected and headed to the airport.

The book I bought at Kabwata came into its own. I was pleasantly surprised that the cafe was still open and settled with a coffee and my book. It was clear that in the restaurant upstairs there was a TV and people enjoying the match. There was a roar from what sounded like predominantly women's voices. Unfortunately both lifts were out of order!! This I felt was particularly cruel! Eventually I asked at the information desk if there was any way to get upstairs with my cases. The lady said, other then the stairs, no! However, she pointed out that there was a TV in the domestic departure lounge which was visible from outside. I therefore watched the final 15 minutes from seats outside the lounge. Admittedly I needed a bit of imagination for the distant camera angles, but I was able to follown the game. Football is a universal language and watching a game is a good way to get involved with local people. After the match I said goodbye to the guys next to me and ordered a gin and tonic from the cafe in celebration!

It surprised me that the airport was still fully open. I commiserated with the girl in the gift shop of the departure lounge because of our late flight and she told me that there are often three flights during the night – this was a slack night in fact.

We boarded the plane on time, but a problem with the paperwork caused us to delay take-off by about an hour. I wasn't too upset because I didn't need an extra hour in Nairobi airport!

I managed to sleep a little and missed breakfast – not that I wanted breakfast at 4 am anyway!! When I awoke dawn was approaching. I decided to watch the sunrise and it was beautiful, made even more spectacular by the sight of Mount Kilimanjaro appearing to my right. We landed and taxied past a small flock of Maribou Storks and a couple of Black Kites flew above us – a fitting way to end my African Adventure.

I was a little tired and set the alarm off at security by walking through with my backpack still on my back!

The flight from Nairobi was without incident though for a large section the plane was in semi darkness and outside it seemed hazy, though the sun was out – albeit directly above the plane.

As I waited at Heathrow for my cases I started to wonder how much I was entitled to bring back – I had in my mind gifts up to £150 or thereabouts. Before my safari to Kabwata, I had no problem, but I now wondered where I stood. Anyway I must have looked guilty and was pulled aside to have my bags checked. It is an embarrassing process where everything is unpacked and strewn on the metal tables. I explained that I had been in Zambia doing a bit of voluntary work and visiting friends. I had a few baskets – well 30 actually. A few pieces of chitenge material – maybe 20-30 pieces and then an assortment of carved animals etc.! I am not really sure what she made of my luggage, but eventually she let me repack and continue on my way.

I had bought an open return and was glad. I was able to catch the next bus at 6.35 and was in Cheltenham by 9 pm where Dilys met me at the bus station.

It was now of course Friday evening and I was once more back in the UK. I wasn't as tired as is often the case, but was glad to be home and to find my bed!


Sunday, July 3, 2016

Who is my Neighbour?

Its already late and tonight is the last time I will have a computer here in Zambia. I have brought my laptop with me each year for many years now, but they never seem to make it back to the UK. I will no doubt pick up another secondhand computer when I get back.

I will give a brief update now and fill in the final days after I land in the UK.

I had a call from a very distressed Luke on Thursday afternoon. His young daughter had been killed and of course he was distraught. I can't imagine the pain he is going through. There is nothing that can be said that is in any way adequate. Luke has worked so hard looking after his siblings, nieces, nephews etc. It seems so dreadfully unfair that he has to suffer this tragedy.

Friday 1st July

It must be old age but my first thought is that I didn't do anything on Friday! But no I remember now!! I did a last clothes wash before going to see Mrs. Sianga. There are still a few things to sort out with respect of the project – in particular a close look at the budget is needed to assess how much is really needed to maintain the school. The budget has always been tight and it is important for me to understand how they manage to keep things running.

I was told that Friday was part of a four day holiday, but Mrs. Sianga said that the holiday started on Saturday and finished on Tuesday!

On my way home I called in to see Diven. We ended up discussing his property and boundaries – eventually using a tape measure and diagrams to determine exactly what he was about to acquire.

It was nearly 5 pm when I got home – fortunately Diven had fed me with some rice – as a rice pudding i.e. with milk and sugar. A visitor was due at 6pm but he didn't show.

Saturday 2nd July

I arranged for my visitors to arrive a little early because I was meeting Diven at 9.30 am. I usually introduce you to my visitors, but there can be some jealousy among people and I have been asked quite rightly to protect their privacy in this instance. Suffice it to say that they have a very good little business idea and want my help in finding some funding. I was very impressed by the people involved and have no doubt that with a little capital, they will have a thriving little business. This tale is repeated all the time here in Monze. So many people are very willing to work very hard, but with nothing it is difficult to raise more than the bare minimum for food – and even that is a struggle.

Diven's final purchase was eventually sorted out, giving him a clearly defined plot of land which now has some buildings for his home and business. Now he has to ensure that his shop is well stocked and attracts enough custom.

Bright popped around to say hallo and goodbye. We had some coffee and chatted for a while. I put a couple of brief reports together and prepared for Teddy who was due in the evening. I am not sure what happened but he didn't appear.

Sunday 3rd July

I had invited Diven to come to supper with Delia and Diven's uncle. I decided to prepare the vegetables early, since I would be fully occupied during the day.

I attended the Tonga mass as usual at Our Lady of the Wayside. Fr. Raphael was celebrating mass and I happened to bump into him beforehand – after he said the children's mass. I wanted to express my condolences because of the loss of his father, a couple of weeks back. I thought I should tell alsotell him I was about to leave.

I always hope to slip away quietly, but it rarely – if ever – happens. Fr. Raphael thanked the donor from St. Gregory's church for the oil press which is about to be installed, before asking me to say a few words. The truth is that I am the one who has gained most from my time in Zambia. My life has been greatly enriched by my contact with the people here – if I can help here and there it is a delight. I asked for the people to continue to pray for our parish back in Cheltenham.

After mass many people came to say goodbye and wish me a safe journey.

I had a chance to send an e-mail or two and sort out a few things with my bank account over lunch before heading for St. Veronica's.

As usual a guide was on hand to take me to the meeting. Next Sunday's reading is the parable of the Good Samaritan. I am struck by the way Jesus points out that the priest and Levite – pillars of society - ignored the man who had been attacked. It was a Samaritan – an outsider – who recognised his neighbour and thus would gain eternal life. The message is clear. We should give support to anyone in need (Jesus says nothing about the man – other than that he was a man). This parable could be applied to many situations today. It is sad that in our world so many want to walk on the other side of the road - especially if the “man” is from a different tribe, or country or of the wrong religion.

Who is my neighbour?

I was wished a fond farewell by the Small Christian Community, with a promise of a final farewell on Tuesday.

Time to russh back home and finish the preparation for my meal.

My guests arrived at 18 hrs as agreed. I invited them in and made coffees, then put on the food. Now that I am addicted to my beef stir fry, this was the agreed fare for the evening.

It was particularly good to have Diven's uncle with us at my house for the first time. He is a lovely gentle man with a great humour. I showed a few photos and ended up showing some of the birthday cards I have made over the years. They were particularly taken by one which has a picture of my friend Mary flying a sort of microlight over Chililantambo. Since Mary has neither flown a microlight, nor been to Zambia, it was a bit mysterious. Diven's uncle wondered whether I used magic to produce the cards, so I showed him Gimp!! This is a program which has a clone tool that enables me to copy parts of photos from one to another. This is the main tool I use to construct the pictures for my cards. Although I enjoy making cards, they take a lot of effort – which of course is why they are worthwhile. I will have to make a card for Diven and his family.

Well it is time to sign off!! It is late and I still need to tidy the computer and transfer all my information to a flash drive.

It will be a late night!

Tomorrow is full with a trip to Pemba in the morning, a final session at PIZZ School in the afternoon – despite the holiday and a couple of visitors in the evening before a final session on the pool table with Fr. Clement.

Tuesday is free to do everything left and say goodbye.

So its goodnight from me!

With love and prayers.


Thursday, June 30, 2016

Centres of Excellence

I am already saying goodbye to people here in Zambia. I am not sure just how the time has flown. Yet there are still people to whom I am saying hallo. A lady in a smart car called out to greet me. Julie was my landlady a few years back when I had a marvellous house – far to big for me, but justified on the basis that a number of volunteers were coming out. In the event I had the place to myself!! Her husband Peter is a builder and was involved in a project at Monze Basic School some years back and I was asked to become involved.

I was sitting with Ireen as she was completing my shirts yesterday, when another guy from the past appeared. Clever was in charge of a piece of land used to grow vegetables and at one time he also kept chickens. This was part of the PEASSA project ran by Charles and Raymond. I understand that the owner of the land has now taken it back. I asked Clever how he was doing and he said he was struggling.

Monday 27th June

There was plenty of paperwork to catch up on after my trip to Chisamba. I had a chance to buy a few vegetables etc. and had visits from Raymond, Diven and Jennipher.

Tuesday 28th June

I had agreed to meet Mrs. Sianga at 10 hrs. I had mentioned a need for photos and there was a number of items to discuss.

When I arrived at the school it was empty! No children or staff and no sign of Mrs. Sianga. At first I was a little concerned! I knew inspectors had been around – surely there can't be a problem!

I needn't have worried everyone was at the 'New School'. Mr Sianga was waiting at the house to drive me there. It seems that there was to be a bit of a gathering in my honour!

It is a tradition that the school assembles to put on a show with dancing, poems, traditional dancing and sketches. It was great fun and it demonstrated the way in which the children grow in confidence as they go through the school.

I was asked to give a small speech – which I had not prepared. However, I don't find it too difficult to say a few appropriate words and it was my chance to express my appreciation of everyone present. I was proud of the school and told them they they too could be very proud of this wonderful project. Everyone plays their part in making this a caring environment, as well as one of academic excellence.

After the performances I spent a while with the teachers explaining, for those who were new, my role and assuring them of my support. I am very aware that the teachers struggle on the little they are paid, but I am amazed by their dedication and the resulting achievements. I like to tell them directly how much I appreciate their work – even if we don't compensate them adequately.

I was shown into the staff room where it appeared I was down as no 11 in the staff v students soccer match. Its a very long time since I played in a football match and I was never any good at my peak!!Still it was an honour to be selected and I could hardly refuse – kick-off scheduled for 3 pm.

After a quick lunch I was back for the big match – of course I needn't have rushed. I was given a team jersey to wear and battle commenced. I have slowed a lot in the past few years and know my limitations. My main aim was to avoid giving the opposition too much help – so most of the time I kept away from the ball!! (which incidently I recognised as one that I brought with me this year!) Despite my presence, our team won 2 – 1 !

Wednesday 29th June

A visit to the hospital was well overdue. I arranged to see Sr Juunza. She told me that considering the catchment area and amount of work at the hospital, it is significantly underfunded. It is obviously a struggle to provide adequate services. We talked a little about solar and she said that she wanted to look at completely powering the hospital using solar. She wondered whether I knew a donor that might be interested in providing funds for the installation.

My kettle stopped working on Tuesday, so I decided to go back to the shop – Mandes Supermarket where I bought it. Although it claimed on the box to have a one year warranty, I didn't expect a replacement!

A guy was eventually asked to look at it and he started to disassemble it – with my encouragement. We didn't find any disconnected wires and concluded that the switch must have a fault. After about an hour I left him behind the locked doors of the supermarket with the kettle.

I returned later in the day but he hadn't solved the problem, but had reassembled the kettle.

I called around to Ireen to see if my shirts were ready. One shirt still needed buttons. Just watching her sewing the buttonholes made me realise how much work was involved in making my shirts.

I had to leave because a visitor was due. Conceptor is a member of St Veronica's Small Christian Community who I have known for many years. Her family have been through a very traumatic time over the past few years. She is leaving the Community and I invited her around to chat before she moved on. I didn't manage to get back to Ireen!

I have been enjoying my beef stir fries so much that I bought another piece of steak! I have found that a very generous piece of ginger goes down very well. So it could be beef stir fries until I leave!!

Thursday 30th June

I had a 9 am appointment at Our Lady of the Wayside church to meet some of the children sponsored by St. Gregory's church. I thought no one was coming when we reached 9.30 am, however I eventually met two students and the mother of another.

Fr. Clement informed me that the oil press has been purchased. However, it now needs to be assembled and the operator needs some instruction. They will go to Lusaka on Wednesday to collect it. Since Wednesday is the day I leave Monze, I will either go with them or meet up in Lusaka. This will give me the opportunity to get some photos and find out a bit more about the operation. It is also hoped to collect another submersible pump for the water at the same time.

The children from the pre-school were outside and I couldn't resist going over to say hallo!

Best came around with his fiancée and their child. They are preparing for the wedding next month. I would have liked to be there.

In the afternoon I visited Lwengu School and its Director Shatis. Shatis had an idea to build a school many years back. He told me he had virtually no money and was advised against the idea. Anyway he more or less started building the school on his own – quite literally. Many of the buildings use hydroform blocks which fit together a bit like lego. These blocks he makes himself – now using a diesel operated machine. The school is now accepted as a place of excellence with students from many countries competing for places. I think anyone would be pleased to have their children educated here.

I was invited into his office in a new complex, which was being completed last time I visited. His grandchild wanted to know who I was and why I was visiting – apparently she is always interested in his work and spends a lot of time with him. She made us cups of tea.

Shatis has always been interested in nature and is involved with Kafue National Park as a Ranger. He said he is going away for a fishing trip with a couple of his nephews this weekend – he has his own boats and they will camp out well away from what we sometimes call civilisation! He told me that some of the children have decided to raise money for an elephant sanctuary in the Park and another group, again from their own initiative are supporting a school for disabled children not too far away. The emphasis is on a rounded education – not just getting good exam results, though I am sure these come as well.

My shirts were ready so I picked them up on my way back - and rather smart they are too!

Jennipher dropped by very briefly, but the other guest I expected hasn't made an appearance.

Best wishes,


Monday, June 27, 2016

Wildlife and Shooting Stars

When I first came to Zambia there was no internet access or mobile phones. Now it is possible to keep in touch regularly with what is happening at home and in the world at large. I therefore keep abreast of happenings at home. This last few days there has been a lot happening, both at national and personal level and from my perspective most of it has been negative.

Thursday 23rd June

I was a little later getting up than for previous trips. I left the house at about 6.30 am. Previously I had hoped to avoid the Rosa where I was hustled onto the bus, but today I was almost disappointed that I reached the middle of town and a parking place for Rosas without being approached. All buses seemed to be empty. I was told one was going in 10 mins at which I laughed. They wrote me a ticket but I said I would pay when it set off. After ¾ hour or so rounding the town a guy said hallo and announced that he was the driver! We continued rounding – the vehicle being driven by someone who presumably wasn't the driver! - while he stood at the parking spot. At about 8 hrs the driver got on board and we set off! Despite having no delay at Chisamba turnoff it was 15 hrs before I arrived in Chisamba – 8 ½ hours for a journey of about 150 miles. The journey itself was unremarkable, except that I saw a lion! (It was in Chisamba Zoo!)

I spent some time with Persis preparing a few thoughts for the meeting on Friday with the Global Giving Rep.

I met Davidson as I got off the bus and arranged to meet later for a meal and perhaps a game of pool. We kept the appointment but fared poorly on the table!

I brought a notebook computer with me specifically to track the events in the UK, but the MTN network was so poor that I failed to get anywhere. I decided to go to sleep and check in the morning.

Friday 24th June

I woke just after 6 am, got dressed and tried to check on the referendum results. Again the connection was too poor. I had some breakfast but after an hour or more still couldn't get a connection. I had some talk-time on my phone and the dongle was apparently universal, so I swapped SIMs and at last got a connection. It took me very little time to hear the devastating news that we had voted to leave the EU.

I was in shock! I really didn't believe that the British people would make this choice. It seems to me that in a world which is becoming more connected, to choose to isolate ourselves in this way is an odd choice. What saddens me is that it appears to be a move made primarily out of selfish motives. We are keen to keep the benefits of a decent life to ourselves and not be prepared to welcome others, particularly the less fortunate, to share in our good fortune. I suspect that in fact the result will in fact be that we will be much poorer financially as well as being much poorer as human beings.

It was difficult to concentrate on the matters of the day. Aleia arrived at about 11 hrs. Patrick joined us and we outlined some of the history of the project. Unfortunately the tailor is sick – just when we were about to recruit more students. We toured the site – keeping a good distance from the bees, which by all accounts are a bit aggressive! We were reminded why we should have been wearing gumboots when we passed close to a snake – as usual I didn't see it!

We met a couple of the students. One has just completed her course and the other, Matilda, finished a couple of years back and has her own machine. It seems that she is having some difficulty because where schools used to provide material for uniforms, they now only buy completed goods. Matilda has no capital and is finding it difficult. She needs to find the equivalent of about £100 to enable her to buy material and get into the market.

I decided that I should invite our small group for a meal and so we headed for Fringilla. I think that it was when David and a supporter from Jersey – Kevin – were out here that I last went to Fringilla. I think that was in2008! Fringilla is about the only place around Chisamba where I have seen white faces. Although there are a number of white farmers who own the large farms around I never see them in the town.

We had a chance to chat in a relaxing atmosphere and enjoy a nice meal. It was however quite cold and we needed to move out of the draughts to be comfortable.

Aleia's taxi dropped us at the crossroads and she headed back to Lusaka. What she made of us and the project she didn't say!

I spent a short time with Persis putting together an agenda for Saturday's meeting and was ready for a meal and some action on the pool table. I tried to ring Davidson, but the Zamtel network was now out of action. So – late – I caught up with Davidson in town. We had a meal and headed to the bar. I was an angry man and no one was going to beat me on the table tonight!! And so it turned out! Davidson arranged to arrive late for his night work and I destroyed all opponents with the courage to challenge me on the pool table!!

I checked the state of play on the internet – having already had regular updates from Dilys throughout the day.

The day ended with me wondering what was going to happen as a result of yesterday's decision. One immediate impact is that unless we increase the amount we send, our projects in Zambia will receive less today than yesterday. With fluctuations in the kwacha to some extent the differences cancel themselves out, because prices here go up or down as a result, but the drop in the pound it will have a direct impact.

Saturday 25th June

The weather has been relatively cold. A strong wind and cloudy sky have added to the impact. Yesterday was probably the first day since I arrived when the temperature hasn't reached 20°C. Albert, Dr. Nkata and Patrick who form the active committee at the moment came to meet with Persis and myself. They had scheduled the committee meeting to fit in with my visit.

It must be ten years or more that I have been visiting Kaliyangile on a regular basis. I have come to know some of those involved quite well. Though it is a formal meeting we get on well and can discuss issues openly and honestly. Last year Hands Around the World stopped sending regular funding for the staff. This has given the manager a serious challenge, but so far she has kept the centre going and paid the staff. There are activities in hand which should help the long term sustainability of the project – particularly the piggery. I will continue to visit and will keep in touch with their progress.

I left for my taxi at 1pm and was on the road by 1.30. Occasionally I spot a monkey or two on the road – Aleia said she saw some on her way. Today they were about – a single monkey then a few more further along the road. There were also some impala in one of the farms. Apparently when they established some of the large farms a few wild animals were trapped and have stayed. It is unusual for me to see wild animals in Zambia apart from this stretch of road – though I have seen a monkey once or twice on the Great North Road in the Mazabuka area. My heart does lift a bit when I get close to nature – and on Saturday I felt in need of something to raise my spirits.

I decided not to delay in Lusaka, so I headed straight for the bus at Downtown without stopping for lunch. I was on the other side of the road when someone called and said there was a bus waiting to take Mr. Chris to Monze! It seems that even the conductors recognise me!! He said that there was only one space!! Well it was almost full!

I settled in a seat with good legroom – something quite rare on Zambia's buses. I had been told that an empty seat, which had a jacket on it, was taken. The bus filled and I thought the extra passenger was a bit inconsiderate having a rear seat and waiting till the last minute to board, thus disturbing all the other passengers. I needn't have worried! The guy came in through a window! What surprised me more was that his friend followed him through the window, though there was no longer a vacant seat. One of the advantages of a Rosa is that although passengers are tightly packed, you do get your own seat – or so I thought!! The guys squeezed either side of a girl and made our row a very tight squeeze. I was at least happy that I had enough room to stretch out my legs.

As we approached police check points various procedures were introduced by the guys to prevent detection from outside! In the event, for some unknown reason, we didn't seem to need to stop at any check points – another first!!

I was heartened when the driver filled up in Lusaka with nearly 70 litres of fuel – it seemed that he expected a long journey!

We made good time to Mazabuka and arrived at 18 hrs. I was surprised when everyone started disembarking! It seemed that we had no lights and therefore couldn't continue.

The way it works is that the conductor now finds another bus to take his passengers. I am always a bit out of the loop because I don't understand any of the chatter! Usually a Rosa happens to be around and it happens reasonably smoothly. This time – perhaps because it was unplanned – it was a little random and I was told to follow a lady who took the last seat on a small bus. She insisted that I still boarded and I more or less sat on her lap. Another guy was told to get in and finally the conductor filled the remaining space! I think I counted 22 in the Toyota Hiace (plus children of course!). Behind the driver, where we would have 2 people in the UK, we had 6! I was one of them! Fortunately after a very uncomfortable few kilometres a passenger got out and I found a seat. The driver was good – he even checked the tyre when we smelt burning rubber! (we did continue!) Travelling on the roads in a small bus can be risky, travelling at night is not advisable!! Travelling at night in a small overloaded bus is probably something to be avoided – but sometimes there is little choice!!!

I settled down and saw a wonderful array of stars outside. The milky way was clear, looking like a spiral of grey mist in the sky. I decided to watch, hoping to see a shooting star – and so it was that I saw my first Zambian meteor! Maybe there are forces at work far stronger than our politicians that will bring peace to our world – I hope so.

It was good and comforting to reach home. I picked up some sausage and chips from Tooters and put the kettle on! Dilys wanted to chat to me about work issues that had come up affecting our family – life everywhere has its challenges!! We spent some time chatting via Skype.

I tried to relax but ended up with difficulty sleeping – there was too much going through my mind. It is unusual for me to have disturbed nights but Saturday night was one.

Sunday 26th June

I arrived at church to find a group of men in a huddle. It appears that when they arrived they saw that the water pump had been disturbed. In fact it had been stolen. It seems there has been a spate of such thefts recently. It is a terrible crime because it means the church and the local community now have no direct access to water.

This tends to put some of our problems in perspective. Water is so essential to life itself that to be deprived of it is a real catastrophe. Of course there will be other sources, but water which was readily available is no more. The pre-school might have to close and there are other services that might struggle – such at the counselling and testing centre.

After mass I visited the site which is being prepared for the oil press.

About two years ago I talked to Fr. Clement about introducing a project that would help the parish, which St. Gregory's church might be able to support. The people at Our Lady of the Wayside met and decided that an oil press would be the most useful investment. It would enable parishioners to get oil from their crops and would provide a service to the local community which would generate income for the church. I confess that I never managed to arrange any fund-raising activity to raise funds - this is not my forte! However a few months back a parishioner expressed interest and, after I still didn't take decisive action, agreed to fund the project herself. We had hoped that everything would be in place before I left, but issues with the money transfer mean that it will not happen while I am around. However, the press should be bought from Lusaka on Tuesday and preparatory building work for housing the equipment has commenced.

I headed for Queen in order to track down today's meeting for prayers. Queen was out but a neighbour took me on a tour of the compound and after some enquiries led me to the correct place.

The reading was about Jesus sending out his disciples to spread the Gospel. It struck me that it wasn't just a set of instructions for them, but He was also telling us how to receive His Word. There is a verse which says the disciples should enter saying peace be with this house and if the person is one of peace, peace will stay, if not it will return. It is so important that we are people of peace and that we are ready to welcome strangers into our house and land. The Jesuits place a lot of emphasis on discernment – trying to understand whether your actions are in harmony with God or not. One test is that that having made a decision we feel peaceful - a feeling likened to the difference between water hitting a rock or a sponge. I found this reading made me feel more peaceful, again the knowledge that there is a greater power which can transform any difficulty into something life-giving is reassuring.

I decided to make a quick meal – scrambled eggs with rice fried, onions and tomatoes is an easy standby. Diven rang to say he was nearby and Delia needed a coffee. I increased the quantities and they joined me for supper. Delia hasn't visited before. It was good to have them around and of course Paul is a delight! We chatted, looked at some photos and took a couple of new ones!

I finished the day feeling rather more positive, though still wondering what Thursday's decision will mean to the world.

With love and prayers,