Saturday, September 29, 2012

Choices and Good fortune

Saturday 29th September

I once went to a series of plays with Dilys. All of the plays had the same first scene and then the key characters had choices to make, perhaps which route to take home or whether to make a particular phone call. The plays then diverged and the lives of the characters took very different turns.

Yesterday morning I was visited by Obert who has only had one leg since he was a small child. His older brother was very protective of him and walked behind as Obert crawled on the ground in front. If anyone laughed or made fun of Obert his brother ensured they wouldn't repeat the behaviour! One day a white nun approached them. Obert was scared of white people - fearing he might be snatched and crawled away as fast as he could. The nun followed them to their house and spoke to Obert's father, while Obert hid in the background. This chance encounter changed Obert's life. The nun arranged for him to be taught to use crutches and an artificial leg. He now walks well and rides a bike. In another chance encounter I met Obert and a friend of mine paid for him to have a replacement leg as he had outgrown the one he has. Obert is sitting his final school exams at the end of October and then hopes to gain a driving licence if he can raise 700,000 kwacha – about £100. ( He has driven an automatic off road and is confident of succeeding!)

We all have chance encounters that can significantly effect our lives, but here the differences can be huge. Just meeting someone who is prepared to help you with school fees, pay for some medicine – or even transport to get you to a hospital can transform your life and, in some instances, save it. Sometimes it is easy to get dispirited when you see the scale of the need, but to improve even one person's life makes it all worthwhile. Very often the encouragement is as valuable as any financial support provided. There is a young woman that Jennipher often refers to. I only remember the incident vaguely. I think I provided transport money for her to go to Lusaka for some treatment – no more than £3 or £4. She is now married, doing well and living in a neighbouring country. Jennipher seems to believe that without this small gift she would not have recovered and probably wouldn't be alive today. This is both humbling and frightening. To think that lives might be lost but for £3 or £4.

I spent a couple of hours chatting to Obert, and showed him photos and videos of the Olympics and Paralympics.

In the afternoon Jennipher came around and took me to another support group – this time it was to the West of Monze at the district called Water Affairs. This is a more rural part of town where people tend to have a little land around their properties. Chisikili support group has a decent sized piece of land and vegetables are grown in the garden.

The major issue is getting the water to the plants. There is a deep well – about 30 metres (100 feet). At the moment the water is raised with a bucket and watering cans are used to carry it to the garden. This is hard work and not all the members are up to the task. A rota is drawn up to ensure that there is sufficient water, however only a small part of the land can be cultivated. Using this method. The group has acquired a tank and a stand to raise it. Gravity will enable it to be distributed, but they have not yet raised funds for a pump and hoses to connect the system and distribute the water. If funds could be found to complete this project the group, would be able to provide vegetables and maize for their members and probably also have some remaining to be sold. This is an instance where a helping hand will provide long-term benefits. I agreed to find out about solar pumps – but funding is another issue!!

Here too the group are keen to plant maize both at the group centre and in their homes – as yet that have received no support for seed or fertiliser.

There are some trees on the site including some cashew nut trees. These produce nuts – apparently on the outside of the fruit – in the rainy season, but I was told that with the right attention – probably water – they would produce all year round. The group also has a peanut butter making machine, but a grinding wheel has broken. One of the Hands Around the World Trustees is hoping to find the spare part and bring it later this year when he plans to visit Zambia.

I was very impressed with the enterprise of the people here. I could see them being fully self-sufficient if they could get the water supply harnessed.

In my spare time I have been sorting the anti-virus on the Parish laptops. The ease with which we can access the Internet back home has serious repercussions here. To update two laptops I have transferred at least 600 – 700 Mbytes of data. The main system here probably transfers at a rate of less than 10 kbit/s, hence it would take at least five full days to complete the exercise. Fortunately I am using a USB modem which is operating much faster ,but I have paid about £25 to be able to transfer 2 GBytes during the month – at this rate it might run out before the month is up. If the computers are not kept up to date they invariable collapse under viruses, but sometimes the costs are prohibitive and therefore people take the chance.

I have been missing my walks out of town, so today I wandered to the dam. I used to be able to sit and enjoy a little peace, but now I find myself surrounded by children who just follow me to the lake and sit next to me, giggling and staring at me. Today was no exception. They wanted photos taken and enjoyed looking through the binoculars. Previously they have asked if I could get them a football. I wished today I had brought an extra one from the UK, they are a good natured bunch of children and would love a decent football to kick around for a while!

There were a lot of cattle at the dam and only a few birds – mainly cattle egrets.

I headed for Our Lady of the Wayside church this afternoon where I hoped to take some photos. They were having a workshop which was expected to finish between 15 and 16 hrs. In the event they separated at 13 hrs and by the time I arrived there were few people around. I took some photos of ladies washing the dishes and returned with Fr. Clement.


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