Saturday 20th November
I decided to go to mass at the chapel this morning.
November is a month when, in the Catholic Church, we remember those who have died. At the chapel we are invited to write the names of anyone that we would like to be specially remembered – particularly those who have died during the previous year.
Names are read out during mass and today Cathy Andrews was among them. Cathy was a good friend who supported myself and Dilys in a variety of ventures over many years. She was very interested in life in Monze and the people here. Unfortunately she died earlier this year before I had a chance to relate the details of my Easter visit. It seemed very fitting to remember her today, here among the people of Monze.
Just after 9hrs I set off for Pemba. Consultants were meant to call around to the flat to look at the crack in a wall so I left the keys with a neighbour.
I boarded a small minibus and there wasn't much delay before we got underway – though I think I was caught on the price! As we approached Pemba Police Checkpoint, the driver put on his blue shirt and buckled his seat belt. I have no doubt he was back to normal after he dropped us off. Jennipher met me close to the Post Office where the bus stopped. As we walked to her house several people greeted us. Just before we reached our destination Jennipher told me that one of the women who answered my greeting with kabotu (I'm fine) had recently had her house burnt down and lost all her possessions. Even the clothes she was wearing had to be provided by the support group – her food was also burnt in the fire. People often burn the land to prepare for planting the new crop, and sometimes the flames get out of hand resulting in devastating consequences. Very few people in Zambia will have any insurance against such incidents and therefore can be literally left with nothing. At least her small child was rescued before it could come to any harm - though it was left naked.
A group was waiting to greet me. They have been provided with some land on which to grow some maize – their need was some seed and fertilizer. Like most places in Zambia the quality of the soil is very poor – this is blamed on the constant use of fertilizer. I am not sure of the processes, but it does seem to me that there is a vested interest in ensuring that, every year, farmers need to go back to buy more fertilizer. Some people are using the anthills which apparently provide much better and longer lasting nourishment to the soil. There are plenty about but I am told it takes a lot of labour to dig out the hills. (Those who have read my blogs before might remember that anthills here are often
5x5x5 – and that's metres!)
At the house I met Selina, Soloman, Mike, Anna and Margaret. Selina I have known since she was a very small child. Soloman too has been part of the family for some years and provides a lot of manpower to keep the family going. Mike is at home because he was ill a week or so back but he told me he was returning to school tomorrow. Mike is embarrassed sometimes at school because he hasn't any decent cothes to wear other than his uniform. Anna and Margaret's mother, Choolwe, died a couple of months ago. Margaret is 14 months old and was a bit uncertain about me when I arrived today, but we invented a game which amused her, and before I left she was happy to come to me and sit on my knee.
The major absentee was Sandra who is away at school. I understand that she will start grade 12 next year – the final year of Secondary school. Along with Selina, I have known Sandra for almost as long as I have known Jennipher. They are as close to family as I have in Zambia, and it is a joy to see them grow and develop. Sandra is quiet, but has taken on a lot of responsibility over the years – looking after Selina and doing much of the housework. I was delighted that Jennipher encouraged her to go to school and she is doing very well. Selina is now taken on many of the roles that Sandra used to have – looking after Margaret and doing household chores – though she cannot be more than 8 years old.
Emmanuel the other little one – not much more than one year old - is now staying with a relative in Lusaka. Emmanuel's mother died in the hospital soon after his birth, with no known relatives. So Jennipher took him in. However, after Choolwe died, Jennipher felt she couldn't look after two children so young and the relative offered to care for him.
On the way to her home Jennipher was telling me how many of her clients were dying too young. I remembered the children she has cared for over the years that are no longer with us. Osbert, Twambo, Chimunya and Raquel all died as children. As Jennipher says, even better transport enabling patients to get to hospital sooner, would save many lives. Jennipher would love to have a vehicle. In the past I have felt that a motorbike might be a practical solution, making it easier for her to visit clients in the more distant areas. I felt that a car or truck would cost too much to run. However, Jennipher pointed out today, that Soloman can drive and would use the vehicle to take passengers, when it was not needed for clients. This would provide an income to cover the maintenance and fuel costs – plus a bit to spare. I was told a good secondhand vehicle can be bought for 15 million kwacha (£2,000). There is no doubt that Jennipher would have been able to save some lives if she had a car, rather than a bike, when she met very ill patients.
Jennipher's bike is suffering from travelling very many miles over rough tracks. A number of repairs are needed before it can be used again – at the moment she is back to her old bike.
The major problem faced by Jennipher and her family is the difficulty in accessing clean water. For the past couple of years, Jennipher has enjoyed the luxury of mains water at (or just outside) her house for the first time in her life. About 5 months ago, the pump at the local water plant burnt out and they haven't yet found the resources to replace it. This means a 2 km trek to find water and then it isn't clean. A well that was built for Jennipher, in her garden, a few years ago was damaged and, after a recent inspection, it was decided that it would be too dangerous to repair.
I think we could do with a Secret Millionaire out here – there is no doubt we could find plenty of areas where she could make a huge difference to the lives of so many here. I find it very difficult, because however poor I think I am, in comparison to people here, I am hugely wealthy. (Though not for long, with my large list of friends.)
Jennipher is doing a wonderful job and I try to support her as best I can – but with 65 support groups that she has set up (and more, like Poliqueen, on the way!), plus the needs of her family, I must find additional support for her work back in the UK.
When I got back home the consultants had been and gone to get their tools. I logged on at the Internet café and found a message from F-prot about my computer problem – possibly a solution. As usual, I copied the message to read later. I picked up some dried kapenta and some beans for meals in the next few days and went to the market to stock up on chitenges. I was asked to bring some back for a friend at church and I need a couple for Ireen, so she can make some shirts. I now have plenty!!
The consultants were busy measuring everything when I returned. I thought that they were just investigating a crack in my bedroom wall but it appears the whole building is being checked out – including all my rooms. I am just praying that it will take 4 weeks or more before they can agree what is needed and start work.
I am realising that my new book is rather familiar. I just hope that my computer can be soon repaired because my reading material is becoming limited. The fixed computer would have a few games to keep me amused and allow me to relax a bit!
Bye for now