Saturday, July 30, 2011

Listening to stories

Friday 29th July

Yesterday afternoon I went to PIZZ school. I wanted to try to get some stories from the children. I was particularly interested in finding out how their lives were changed by attending the school. In the event it was difficult to get unrehearsed stories.

We did manage to have a long session with Barby – my daughter – over Skype. I had hoped that Amy would be able to take part, but in the event she was spending the day with her dad and so was not available. The video was OK but unfortunately we had some problems with the sound at the Cheltenham end. It is interesting how we seem to be hitting as many problems with the technology in the UK as here. With voice in one direction and typing in the other we managed some form of conversation.

Some of the children told their stories to Barby. Many of the children said they had lost both parents when they were relatively young. Most had then been looked after by grandparents. When one boy was asked how many children his grandmother was looking after, he told us she looked after 15 children. Joseph told us that he wanted to be a doctor. I asked whether he would be one of the doctors who left the country once qualified and he said he would be a Zambian doctor, he would look after Zambian people. One of the girls was 15 years old and she was in grade 7. If she continued she would complete school at the age of 20. I was struck by how many of the children told us the date on which their parents died. In 2006 Dilys did some work on child bereavement with Mrs. Sianga and others which was very powerful and I understand has been used to develop new ways of supporting thQ orphaned children. Some of the children became quite emotional when they mentioned the loss of their parents. Sometimes it seems too intrusive to ask them to say a little about themselves.

I think everyone appreciated talking to and seeing Barby and my granddaughter Cheyenne. I was glad after all the raised hopes we were at last able to satisfy a few of them. The children are hoping to meet Amy when she comes along and show her some of the local culture.

Jennipher popped around to my home with a client and I took the opportunity to ring the DATF manager to confirm the arrangements for Friday – which fortunately were still on track. Mrs. Chiiya was my next visitor with her daughter – Saki's mum – who also had with her Saki's baby sister, who has just had her first birthday. Apparently Saki, who is about the same age as Amy, is excited at the prospect of introducing Amy to her friends and showing her around Monze.

The Internet is still poor much of the time and I have not yet succeeded in sending Charlie his birthday card for 24th July – sorry Charlie I will keep trying!

Today I met the DATF (District AIDS Task Force) manager and set of for Hatontola together with the manager of the hospital Laboratory who is on the local DATF board. I understood we would take direct route, but in the event we passed through Pemba and could have picked Jennipher and some of her group. We consequently arrived before her. We did get some idea of the distance that she has to travel and thq condition of the roads.

The meeting was well organised by Jennipher. The numbers were down because two funerals were taking place. There was just one headman representing the others – he is a lovely man and invited me to join him for chibantu after the meeting. The DATF manager – I still failed to pick up her name – wanted the community members to talk, as well as Jennipher and the commitee members. Again it seems both a privilege and an intrusion to listen to people who admit that they are HIV+ and they tell of some of their difficulties. The main theme was that they had to go to Monze for drugs which was too costly. As a result many stopped taking the drugs or never got tested, knowing they couldn't afford the transport costs. There were many deaths in the area as a result. There was also a problem with education and stigma which they hoped the new support group would help to address. The laboratory manager said a few words and asked how many present had been tested – not surprisingly the proportion of the group who raised their hands was high – I was glad that I too could raise my hand. It is very important to reduce the stigma attached to testing. When the hospital had a special day for testing, a couple of years ago, it seemed appropriate that I joined the queue. He stresssed how important it was that all the headmen were tested to show by example. Where the headmen are tested for HIV/AIDS most of the community will follow. Apparently in Monze more than 20% of people are currently testing positive.

It is going to such meetings that I realise just what good work Jennipher is doing. The initiative at Hatontola should save many lives. People testified that the ARVs had enabled them, from being dependant to being able to work and support their families. Small amounts of money can make a huge difference. By registering, a group can become eligible for extra support, but it can cost 1 million kwacha (£130) to register. Money for seed, a well or pump, a couple of pigs etc. can help start an income generating project that provides extra food or money for transport to a clinic or hospital. I have for many years hoped to set up a small group in the UK that would raise a small amount each year to support the groups that Jennipher has established – so far it hasn't quite happened. Dilys has one solar radio to bring out for Jenniphers clients, if anyone else would like to donate one it would make a difference to someone here.

I would have liked to be able to wander around the village and enjoy being out in the bush – we were about 10 – 15 km from the tarmac road. There is a nice lake and plenty of birds flitting among the numerous trees, including what I think was a paradise flycatcher which has a very long thin tail. It was a delight to be out of town for a bit. I need to get out more!

After dropping Jennipher and her group representatives at Pemba, I got out at Manungu where I had agreed to take some photos of The Legion of Mary members after their meeting. This group of Catholics is already taking up the challenge to find out more about the Cheltenham group and report on their activities. I hope more will do the same and that eventually we will have a lot of contact between the parishes.

Just time to pop around to the projects office, set up a meeting with Vincent for tomorrow morning and contact Disacare in Lusaka – who make wheelchairs and bicycle ambulances – before attending mass at the chapel!

After mass Sr. Rachael caught me to ask if I really meant that I couldn't take anything else back from the 'orphans project'. I had been in touch with the friends who have been selling the baskets and, although they have taken the ones David brought back, they say their shed is overflowing. People in the UK don't feel rich at the moment and aren't buying! Apparently on receiving the money for the baskets, the ladies went to Lusaka and invested in material to make bags and doormats, knowing that Dilys and Amy were on their way with space in their luggage. (At the time I was hoping that the market was still there.) So please let me know if you would like some nice shoulder bags with traditional African patterns or some mats. I will try to take some photos tomorrow and add them to the blog to give you an idea about what is on offer – network permitting. The money provides a small income for the guardians of orphaned children in Monze to help them provide support. I don't feel rich enough to buy them all myself without any indication that at least some of the money would come back.

Take care,


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