Thursday, February 10, 2011

Still very much in touch

Monday 7th February

The rains have been inconsistent and patchy this year!

I am not talking about the English winter but the rainy season in Zambia. It struck me yesterday that just because I am in England, it doesn't mean that I am no longer in touch with happenings back in Zambia. In fact I am still very much involved with my friends and their projects.

Less than 8 years ago when I first visited Zambia in 2003, there were no mobile phones and no Internet. Yesterday I spoke to Mrs. Sianga in Monze over the Internet and we could see each other using inexpensive webcams. I usually expect to have contact with Zambia during most weeks – at the moment it seems to be most days and sometimes several times in a day. So perhaps it is appropriate to provide the occasional update through my blog while I am awaiting my next visit.

For two or three weeks after I left Zambia very little rain fell, then there was heavy rain - at least once a day - and it has continued, with the growing risk of major flooding. Some people have already had to be moved out of houses in Lusaka. The crops are surviving at the moment, but there are fears that they will be damaged unless the rains reduce.

PIZZ school opened in January. A number of students passed their grade 9 exams and are hoping to find sponsorship to complete their secondary education. HATW has added PIZZ to the Global Giving website so that additional, much needed, sponsorship can be obtained. (You can find the project at )

Kaliyangile has opened for another term with additional students. Finances continue to be a big problem. The new workshop now has a roof which should ensure that the building doesn't get damaged by the rains. A couple of days ago I received an e-mail with the latest update from the project. Two of the tailoring students have been doing a little business in their own time. Both have young families to support and hope to buy their own machines. These young women have shown great initiative and are very thankful for the opportunity given them by the project, one has now been able to return to school, paying her own fees. It is these individual stories of lives changed that makes it a privilege for me to be involved.

Jennipher rang me a couple of weeks ago from Chipata, which is in the East of Zambia, 550 km from Lusaka. She was attending another family funeral - for one of Soloman's sisters who had been working as a teacher. Soloman has lost many family members over the past few years – including both his mother and grandmother. I cannot imagine how I would cope with such enormous loss.

Thursday 10th February

I returned from Liverpool yesterday evening. I needed to deliver the baskets and bags from the Buntola project. Jim and Jean sell the goods in the UK and recover their costs. For the past couple of years this has enabled us to provide a market for a significant amount of the project's output.

Jim was involved in a HATW project in Monze a few years ago and he lives in Bolton. We met at Crosby and, after a pleasant meal, wandered along the beach to see Antony Gormley's sculpture, “Another Place” on Crosby beach, which comprises 100 larger than life models of a man looking out to sea. We left as the sun was setting and we joined the sculptures gazing out to sea, thinking about distant lands.

I always enjoy an excuse to visit Liverpool. My mother was Liverpudlian and I have a strong attraction to the people who live there. As a young child I spent 6 months in Liverpool when my mother was very ill with rheumatic fever. I lived with my uncle, aunt and cousins in the house where my mother was born. After leaving Jean and Jim I made my way to my cousin Vera's house where I stayed the night.

I have now acquired another laptop so that I can continue to support the projects where I am using ACCESS databases. A few days ago I spoke to Vincent who works for the Monze Diocesan Projects Team. I am developing a database with him. The team are involved with about 60 communities (a total of more than 2,300 households). Information about each household has been collected, including details about income, food and assets – hoes, axes, livestock etc. Moving the data from spreadsheets to a database makes it much easier to analyse the information. So it seems that one in two families have a radio and, on average, each has 8 chickens, the average household monthly income is just over £100 but 11% live on less than £13, the average household size is 7 people and more than a third have 8 or more in the household. The information is used to monitor changes, as support is provided. However raw statics need always to contain a very bold WARNING. It is only people who are aware of the realities that are capable of proper interpretation – the database is no more than a tool for manipulating the data. So for instance, without further analysis, I don't know whether most people have chickens, or whether those with cattle don't have chickens; I don't know whether people exchange crops and livestock and whether these transactions appear as income etc. However for Vincent and the team the database should make it much easier to make sense of the information obtained.

I haven't heard from Diven since I returned to the UK. This worries me because I would have expected a call by now. He usually keeps in touch. I have tried to ring him on several occasions and have failed. Last week I asked Teddy to try and make contact.

I am planning to make a visit to Jack Scarisbrick the Chairman and founder of LIFE (UK) in about 2 weeks time to discuss the proposed establishment of LIFE Zambia.

As you can see, my live here in the UK still revolves, to a large extent, around my activity in Zambia. There is always plenty to do to support my many friends out there.

In many ways I found my last visit to Zambia one of the most difficult. The closer I get to the people the more I realise the difficulties they face and the extent of the support needed. It is clear that I can only do a little myself, there are generous people around me – and it would be unusual for a week to pass without someone giving me money for one project or another – but there will always be a gap, which I find difficult. Somehow it is meant to be that way. We dream of hitting the jackpot and being able to fund everything and save the world – but for some reason we are not meant to join the ranks of the super rich. Maybe we are just looking at the the raw data. We need to look deeper to discover what really makes us super rich!

Best wishes