2nd June 2008
It is time to revive the blog. I am surprised when looking at my blog that I don't seem to have got around to writing that reflection of my last trip promised at the end of December. No doubt bits will creep in over the next few months if it is never formally written.
The observant among you will have noticed that this blog has an addition to the title – being the addition of Monze 2008.
On arriving back from a few days in London on Saturday, my tickets were sitting on the floor ready for my next adventure in Africa. Time has passed very quickly and so much has happened around the world.
My new grandson Jack, Adedeji (three times crowned) is now two months old and taking a keen interest in life all around. He was born just before dawn on Easter Sunday and Dilys and myself were there to greet him a few hours later as he came back from hospital with his mum and dad. Our burmese friends all survived the terrible cyclone though so many are still suffering terribly from it's effects.
As usual I feel that I have done nothing despite feeling constantly busy. I have tried to maintain contact with my friends back in Monze and find out how their lives are unfolding.
Back in December all seemed to be set for good rains and a bumper harvest. Unfortunately this was now how things turned out. I left Zambia looking wonderfully luscious with green growth everywhere and good regular rainfall. The rains continued but became heavier and constant with hardly a break for 3 or 4 weeks. For the first time that anyone can remember the area around Monze became flooded. The crops were destroyed and houses and bridges washed away. This resulted in large areas being isolated as well as people losing their homes and livlihoods.
So the maize that Jennipher and her group had planted was all lost, as were the crops that Henry and Clever had planted for Charles' PEASSA project. For these, and so many of the most vulnerable people who rely on some homegrown maize to provide some food throughout the year, 2008/9 will be a very dificult time.
Here in the UK we are worrying about the additional cost of fuel and food. These problems are also being felt in Zambia but there it is on top of a crop failure. In the best times many people would not manage three meals a day. The people of Zambia know what it is like to feel real hunger – this year the hunger will be much worse than usual. Perhaps we need to think of this when we moan about the cost of filling our cars to drive half a mile to a supermarket were we moan about the 10% extra cost of food (of which at least 10% we will throw straight into the rubbish bin!)
I received an e-mail on Friday sent on behalf of Jennipher. She tells me that another tragedy has befallen her family. Nchimunya, a girl of 4 or 5 years old, who was looked after by Jennipher fell down a well and was drowned. I am sure that Selina will be absolutely devastated. Selina and Nchimunya were always to be seen together playing happily – in fact I have a lovely short video of them dancing together. The fact that there are so many deaths in Zambia doesn't make it any easier – it means that you are affected more often. I know how much these deaths, of people far too young, affect me – how much more must those very close be affected. Today I received a newsletter from Winston's Wish (the UK charity established to support children who have suffered bereavement), maybe I need to visit them before I return to Monze. A couple of weeks ago I heard that sister Nindi who ran the eye clinic also died – she might have been in her 30s I don't think she was older.
So when I return to Monze at the end of this month I expect to find my friends having an even bigger struggle than usual. However, I still expect to be greeted with wonderful smiling faces and a genuine joy only too rare in our part of the world. Unfortunately this year I won't be able to wait for ripe mangoes but the sweet potatoes should be in season and I am sure to find some wonderful interesting foods available. I will be thinking of you all as I enjoy non-stop sunshine for three months (why do I worry about making such predictions?) Previously when I have been away for the summer I have been told of tremendous heatwaves back in the UK well surpassing the temperatures in Zambia.
I will be returning to the hospital and hope to make rather more progress than I was able to last year. I will also be preparing some of the ground work for the Hands Around the World team who are coming out at the end of July to help start the building of a new Secondary school - “The Maluba Project”. I also hope to be able to make progress with the links we are establishing between Monze and Cheltenham. There are some exciting ideas of which you will hear more in the next few weeks.
As usual I realise just how much I need to do to prepare for my visit and to leave things here in a reasonable state. Almost everything I had intended to do during my six months in the UK is still to be achieved in the next four weeks – somethings never change!
Well enough for now, there might be a couple more brief notes about the preparation before the next adventure begins properly.