Thursday, August 9, 2012

8th August 2012

For the first time since 2003 I will have spent a full year away from Zambia. I am planning to return again in mid-September. Although 5,000 miles away I keep in touch and every week I speak to someone in Zambia. Very often – like today - I speak to several of my Zambian friends during the day – the wonders of modern technology!

I have been spurred into resuming my blog by a couple of my long term friends.

Jennipher and her family have featured regularly in my blog. She rang me yesterday to tell me that Mike, who had been taken ill a few weeks back, died early in the morning. Mike was probably 19 or 20 years old. He was a great guy who had been through a difficult time. His parents having died, he had to escape from Zimbabwe with his three siblings. On the journey one of the children died and Mike's elder sister was very sick when she arrived in Zambia. I visited her a couple of times with Jennipher, but unfortunately within a few weeks she also died. Jennipher welcomed into her home Mike and Raquel who were related to her – perhaps neice and nephew. Raquel started to thrive, picking up on her schooling and growing into a lovely young lady, but when she was 14 or 15 years old she caught measles and also died.

For the past year and a half Mike has been following a course in engineering in Lusaka and would have completed it at the end of 2013. I don't know what illness ended his life so prematurely, but, like his siblings and parents, if he had been born here, rather than in Zambia his chances would have been so very much better.

I mourn for Mike. Any death of a friend is difficult, but when someone so young is cut down without having a chance to reach his potential ,it is very hard to take. Jennipher's family is an extension of my family and the children welcome me as “uncle”. When I return to Zambia there will be one less 'nephew' to welcome me with a loving hug.

Jennipher was distraught when she rang yesterday, as would any mother be after losing a son.. She had stayed with Mike in Lusaka University Teaching Hospital where he was being treated. Please remember Mike, Jennipher and her family in your prayers.

Best has also been in contact in recent days. He is another person who has featured in my blog over the years. Best was born the second of 5 children in 1987. Three of this siblings died before they were three years old. His father died in 1995 and in 1997 when he was ten years old his mother also died. His sister died in 2003. leaving him not only orphaned but also as the last surviving in his family. He lived with his grandmother for 12 years and she worked hard to help him get an education. The later stages of secondary education in Zambia become too expensive for families such as that of Best. Fortunately, with support from our church in Cheltenham, the local church helped to fund Best until he finished his grade 12 (end of secondary school) studies with excellent marks.

Subsequently Best has worked hard to raise funds to help him pursue studies in Law and, with help from a few people in Cheltenham he gained a diploma in Law, and a certificate from a course he followed in Namibia (again achieving excellent marks). He has now commenced a degree course in Lusaka having worked to raise the full cost of the first semester's fees – no mean feat. He has three more semesters left to fund and each will cost about 10 Million kwacha. (Approximately £1,350) in addition he will need to find a further sum to be admitted to the bar.

Best is a very capable young man and is determined to complete his studies to enable him to become a fully qualified lawyer. He has always played his full part in acquiring his own funds but there is very little chance of him being able to fund the remainder of his course through holiday working. He has never liked having to beg for money and again wants to try to play his part in funding his studies.

Best has a friend who is a taxi driver and for a long time he has wanted to acquire a car which his friend would drive. Best is sure that the income from this business would cover the cost of his studies and his keep. He has identified a good second-hand car, with help from his friends who are involved in that business. One of these friends – a mechanic – has checked the vehicle carefully.

The owner has agreed to accept 20 million kwacha (about £2,700) of this Best has been lent 5 million leaving 15 million (£2,000) to find. I think this initiative deserves our backing. Best is prepared to take the risk and does not expect funding beyond the cost of the car. So far I have received money and pledges covering £1,200 so my task is just to find a further £800 in the next two or three days!!

It would be a shame to miss this opportunity! The alternative is to try and find in excess of £4,000 to cover the University fees.

There is a lot to say about my relationship with Zambia over the past year but I will leave that to another day. I expect to receive my flight tickets in the next day or two and will now start my preparation for the trip.

The stories above remind me of the vast difference between the world we experience in the UK and the one in Zambia. We are currently feeling weighed down by the recession and austerity – it is good every so often to remember how fortunate we really are.

I look forward to returning to Zambia and Monze in particular. I know that I will be greeted warmly by many people who have become good friends – this is truly life-giving and brings me great joy. To see friends who are confident, happy and progressing is also a joy. I like to think that I have have some part in their development, with support from friends back home.

Thanks for being with me during my journey and please keep me in your thoughts and prayers as I venture once more to my second home.

With love and prayers