Sunday, September 11, 2011

Final Days in Monze

Sunday 11th September

Since retuning to the UK both Dilys and myself have been suffering from a very heavy cold and lack of energy. However, I think that it is time to try and describe the final week in Zambia.

On the Tuesday I had agreed to meet up with some of the students we are supporting through St. Gregory's church – Education Fund. Dilys wasn't well enough to join us, but Amy and myself made our way to the church at Manungu. We were late setting off and I was aware of the amount of walking etc. over the past few days – so we picked up a taxi for the couple of kilometres. In the event we still waited an hour before anyone arrived. Eventually three lads arrived – two were twins. It was a shame more hadn't made it, but it was good to talk to the guys who did arrive. Amy was able to describe some of the differences between schooling in the different countries – but perhaps what struck her most was the fact that students in Zambia seem to have high aspirations and a determination to do well at school which no longer seems present in the UK. It is so important that people have the chance of education in Zambia. The children we are supporting are unlikely to finish their education without our help. For some this could be the one opportunity they get to escape from a life defined by the poverty in which they find themselves. I am hoping that this is an area that we can expand when I return to the UK. Getting to know the students individually is important – it was as a result of such a meeting that we got to know Best, who is now working in Lusaka as a Legal Clerk.

Before we left the church Obert came up to us to say thanks for helping him get a new leg – which he proudly showed us. He was obviously coping with it very well. During the next few days both of his parents visited us to show their gratitude. Obert is obviously a very determined young man and I hope that he is very successful. With his new legs he is hardly disabled at all. However, there will be many who are not so lucky and without support they will not receive the artificial limbs they require. We walked back home after our meeting.

On Wednesday Amy wasn't feeling too good and decided not to join me for the trip to Lukamantano. This is the village on the banks of the lake formed by the Hichanga Dam. About twenty years ago a nun was supporting some people with physical disabilities and suggested that they set up this village to provide mutual support and to enable others to concentrate their efforts. Although I have visited before, I haven't properly met the community. I was therefore looking forward to the meeting and the opportunity to find out more about the place and the people.

Over the years many of the residents had established families and decided to start a community school, with the help of the Catholic Church. This has now become a focus for the community and also takes children from nearby villages. Some progress has been made to obtain government support – though they rely on the church to pay some of the staff costs. They are currently building a staff house, which they hope will enable them to obtain another government teacher – as always, funds are very difficult to obtain.

A number of the people in the village are starting gardens to provide vegetables – boreholes have been provided through the church and, with a solar pump, water is available throughout the village.

The people also make baskets and hats to produce a little income from the occasional visitors. There are of course many needs – including wheelchairs and other mobility aids. I am very glad to have had a chance to meet this community and hope to maintain the connection on future trips. It would be good to try to link the community, and perhaps the school, with groups in the UK.

Neither Amy and Dilys were on top form so I used the opportunity to catch up on the many little projects where I had more work to complete.

By Friday Dilys and Amy had to be better, because we had an appointment at Pemba. Jennipher was also just getting over a bout of malaria. In the morning we went to the children's ward where they had a group of children with HIV/AIDS coming for support and social activities. I left Dilys and Amy, and called to a few places in the hospital and convent where I had a few things to tidy up.

We were a little late setting out and, for the first time I can remember, there were no buses waiting to go Pemba. We waited ½ hour or so and still no progress. There are always buses outside Tooters going in the direction of Lusaka or Livingstone. On this Friday all the buses were heading towards Lusaka. I discovered that there had been riots in Lusaka that had held up all the buses , so I enquired about the cost of a taxi and agreed a realistic price. I think we might have waited another couple of hours, but for the taxi.

We were dropped at the 'lion' and contacted Jennipher. A couple of minutes later the taxi driver returned to say he had met Jennipher and would take us to her. We were met with singing, dancing and obvious joy! It was good for Amy to experience a proper Zambian welcome. I have already described our meeting with Jennipher and her groups. We returned to Monze on a Rosa bus. It seemed appropriate for Amy to experience the usual mode of transport. Though full the bus was not overfull for once!

Fr. Kenan decided to take us up on the pool session tentatively agreed earlier. So Amy and myself joined him for a couple of hours in the evening. Amy has hardly played before and turned in a very creditable performance. It is clear she is a girl of many talents – given the opportunity she will go far.

On Saturday afternoon I took Amy for a walk to the local dam and we sat down for a while in the quiet and peace of this little oasis. Unfortunately the elections meant that a car with loudspeakers brought us abruptly from our meditations! It was however good to introduce Amy to another aspect of my life in Monze. We saw a snake eagle overhead and for once the local children left us in peace – I think they were a bit intimidated by Amy and weren't sure how to react.

Saturday marked my last full day in Monze so for the rest of Saturday I tried to tidy up the very many bits and pieces still unfinished – with some success.

Our visit to Zambia was almost over, but a trip to Livingstone and Victoria Falls was important to conclude Amy's visit – so we made preparations for the trip as well as preparing to leave our accommodation in Monze.

The final episode of the trip will follow soon!


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