Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Another Death in the UK

Saturday 23rd August

This afternoon Dilys rang to tell me that my friend Danny died yesterday. Deaths here in Zambia are only too common but Danny's death serves as a reminder that even in the UK we are not guaranteed a long life. Danny was no more than in his early 40s. I met him in the early 1990s when I was organising a pilgrimage to Lourdes and we have been friends ever since. During the time I have known him he has lived at the Leonard Cheshire Home in Cheltenham. He was born with Spina Bifida and as a consequence was reliant on a wheelchair to move around. He was a man of good humour and we always enjoyed some friendly banter, which always produced plenty of laughter. He had a very caring nature and was always ready to provide support where he thought it was needed. He will be sadly missed by many and I have lost another good friend.

On Friday I thought I would say hallo to Constance and send an e-mail or two from the NFU (Farmer's Union) Internet cafe. Constance was not in (Now I realise why I met her at the hospital!) and after an hour I gave up trying to open my e-mail account.

The Jacaranda is beginning to come into bloom. The outgoing team remarked on the wonderful colour of the blossom – a beautiful deep blue. In fact it will be a few more weeks before it is at its peak – I might even post a picture to let you see. After a couple of years plus, I have seen an icon for inserting pictures in the blog – my claim is that it is a recent upgrade. Anyway I will see if I can brighten the blog with the occasional photo in future – maybe even on this blog.

This evening it felt warm in the house. That is I could do with an open window - if I find one with a decent mosi net over it I might give it a go. However, the weather continues to be cooler than I remember at this time of year. Many people still wear jumpers and jackets early in the morning, though I am comfortable in shirt sleeves.

I visited Pemba today to see Jennipher, her family and how her home is developing. She first gave me a tour of Pemba clinic. She is now based there in her new role. I was interested to know that she has been given the task of tracking 36 defaulters which she will do during the next week, though without a bike it might not be possible to reach the more distant clients. It struck me last year that this was work better given to local groups than attempted from Monze Hospital. She also told me that they were now doing reviews and giving out ARVs at Pemba Clinic which I believe is a real step forward – and I suspect that Jennipher has had an influence on this. She was described to me today by one of the doctors as 'a little warrior' and I think he is right. Jennipher has found her mission in life and is determined to improve the lives of those living with AIDS.

When I arrived at her house I was greeted by Selina running into my arms. More subdued was Rachel who is 11 years old. Rachel escaped from Zimbabwe with 3 other children after witnessing some horrific events in that country. One of the children died on the way and another girl, and her newborn baby died in Pemba during the past couple of weeks, as I reported in a previuos blog. The other child Mike - a boy of about 13 – was away playing football with his team when I visited today. Jennipher has arranged for Rachel & Mike to attend school along with Selina and Sandra. The house is looking good and the water is still flowing from the tap – though, as I expected, they are about to start charging for its use.

Soloman is doing a good job in the garden – the tomatoes are growing well though some pests are attacking them before they ripen, there is rape and a similar plant they call 'five years' which grows shoots that can be cut and used to provide more plants. He has also planted carrots, onions and okra though these have only recently been sown. At the moment the hose doesn't quite reach the garden so the final stage of watering is done with containers.

I saw the well where the tragic death of Chimunya occurred. I am very keen that it is mended and properly capped so that no similar disaster can happen in the future.

Jennipher has lots of good ideas for helping her group. She wants to set up a small shelter which can be used as a creche/nursery for the young children. The mothers will take turns at looking after the children, while the others try to earn a little money to support themselves. Jennipher is keen that this shelter is not on her land in order to make it clear that it isn't 'hers' but for the whole community. She was told that sorting out the defaulters would be a lot easier with a computer. (A simple database seems to be the answer!). She also likes the idea of a machine to make hydroform bricks both for the groups buildings but also to sell the bricks and generate some money. I am reminded just how much work there is here and how easily I can be fully occupied outside of the hospital. There are a lot of little projects that need relatively small injections of cash to produce significant effects for the people here.

On the way to the 'bus stop' I met a man I knew from last year and he told me he was hungry. I am told that no one in this area had any harvest this year. Jennipher took me to a house where some fruits she talked about were growing. There we met a group of children eating nshima and a little relish. She said that they would move around to find someone who would give them something to eat. The owner of this property was working and was able to buy some mealie meal (the maize flour used to make nshima). What is worrying is that this is August and the next crop will not be harvested till at least March. There will be a lot of hungry people around here until then and it will obviously become worse as the months go by. Jennipher said that some people will have to live of some of the wild fruits that grow on the trees in the bush.

On the way home in the bus, I chatted to a guy who farmed some land near Mazabuka. He is very interested in organic farming but said he didn't know the techniques. He has 17 hectares of land which he says he cannot fully farm. Last weekend I stayed on the land of a farmer who had decided to grow 30 hectares of wheat this year, out of his land which extends to 2,500 hectares – he was white!

I was in the market when Dilys called. As I returned to my house the sun – huge and bright red was setting transforming the previously uniformly blue sky. What an amazing and complicated world this is!

With my love and my prayers


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