Thursday, September 20, 2012

From Monze to Chisamba

Thursday 20th September

In many ways it feels as if I have been here for weeks and yet it was only this time last week that I was passing through security at Heathrow.

I am now in Chisamba catching up on progress with the Kaliyangile project.

I have quickly become accustomed once more to the ways of the people here and many seem to remember the strange white man who wanders around their compounds. The children greet me with 'How are you' and respond with smiles and laughter, as I wave and reply. I have learnt to accept the many people coming up to me to ask for money, or some other assistance. It can be intimidating, but I try to treat everyone with respect and listen to their requests – most accept my refusal of money graciously and sometimes I find that they are just inquisitive and want to know what I am doing in Zambia. Today a guy asked me whether there were white men who would pay good money for old Zambian coins (in fact all Zambian coins are old, since the depreciation of the Kwacha has meant that only notes have been exchanged for many years.). A couple of years ago I was asked a similar question and not knowing the answer checked a coin catalogue at home. It would seem that the coins have very little value unless they are in excellent (almost new) condition, and particularly rare. So I couldn't impart good news.

On Monday I needed to catch up with the Hands Around the World project in Monze – PIZZ School.

All the projects I know, run on a shoestring. There is never any spare money and lots of juggling is needed to keep up with the bills. The school is producing good results and it was good to meet up with Mrs. Sianga once again. As a charity we do our best to promote the work of this school where 240 children are being taught. Most of whom would have no education otherwise and little chance of progressing to make even a modest living. It is wonderful to see what a difference a relatively little investment can make to so many lives. Without inspirational people like Mrs. Sianga many children would lack hope. Unfortunately here in Zambia there are more than 1 million orphaned children – many just wanting that chance. We caught up and I promised to do whatever I could to reduce the burden, under which she is looking rather weary these days.

I have told Fr. Kenan that ideally I need my own space. One of the problems is that I have a constant flow of visitors – who like cups of coffee and feeding if possible! Another is that my lounge often resembles a workshop – which wouldn't be fair in the priest's house. In the morning he brought me several printers and a laptop and asked whether I could get them working! So my lounge became a workshop! I had a fair bit of success, though an Epson printer refused to perform.

The government has introduced a number of knew rules which have merit, but perhaps the implications haven't been fully recognised. (It seems to me governments are the same worldwide!) One change is the introduction of a minimum wage of 540,000 kwacha a month (about £72) – this equates to more than twice the average income of about £1 a day. This is likely to cause a lot of people to lose jobs if it is enforced - some of the staff at our projects earn less than 540,000 per month and at the moment the budget wouldn't cover the proposed increase.

By Tuesday I was well sorted out with tea and coffee. Unfortunately very little water had emerged from the tap for a day or two. Tuesday afternoon was the first opportunity to gather sufficient in reserve to cater for the requirements of myself and my guests. Luke visited me with his wife and Jennipher and Diven also called in during the day. I showed them some of the photos and videos from the Paralympics.

I was lucky to attend some sessions of the Paralympics with Dilys in the Olympic Stadium and watched the final day of athletic competition with my son Andy. It was inspiring to see the capability of these athletes. With a bit of thought, determination and the investment of time, energy and finance, it is amazing how disabilities can be overcome. If only we were determined to provide this opportunity to all with disabilities, however caused and in all parts of the world. How much better our world would be.

One of the interesting outcomes of the Paralympics was the amazingly good humoured and life-giving atmosphere that resulted – particularly around the Olympic Village. I hope that the event will change perceptions of disability and that more resources are provided to ensure that people with disabilities are able to take a fuller and more active part in everyday life.

First thing on Tuesday, I called into the hospital to check the position on my possible move to the hospital guest house, to check on the situation at the hospital and offer my services if required. The Accountant Motty, who was an uncle of Lukes and someone I knew well, died earlier this year and other key staff are currently doing courses away from the hospital – including the Administrator. Though it is not clear how I could help during my short stay, there might be some assistance I can give – we will see.

After breakfast yesterday (Wednesday), I set off for Chisamba. Diven was travelling as far as Mazabuka to pick up some goods to sell back in Monze, so I decided to join him in the minibus – though I usually avoid the small minibuses on long journeys. The driver was reluctant to move although he had a full bus and I predicted that another driver would appear. True enough he arrived eventually and ,after some wandering around, we set off an hour after boarding the bus.

I find it difficult to watch the way in which animals are treated here in Zambia. We had a trailer on the back and in the course of our journey it became full of pigs and goats unceremoniously dragged into it. We also had a couple of live chickens stuffed under a seat inside.

Once again there were accidents en-route. A lorry carrying steel girders was on its back - the cab crushed – I doubt whether the driver survived. Another lorry further down the road was on its side and cotton bales lay on the edgeof the road. I must admit to a great dislike of speed bumps. They seem to have taken off with a vengeance in Zambia during the past year. One of the side effects is damage to the vehicles' suspension. I can't help wondering whether this could be a contributory cause in some of these accidents.

As we approached Lusaka I had a call from Sr. Loice, for whom I had a sewing kit given to me back in the UK. We met and she drove me to the bus station were I jumped onto the Chisamba bus with my backpack, laptop and saw! (I was asked by a man in Lusaka whether I was a carpenter – to which I replied “no, but I know a man who is!”)

Surprisingly the bus was very soon full and on its way to the crossroads. Again at the crossroads the taxi left immediately. Surely this was too good to last!! And sure enough it was!! About half way to Chisamba the car lost power and gradually came to a halt. I had smelt petrol fumes and it seems that we had no fuel left. We waited at the side of the road for a short while and another taxi came along. I was surprised to see a familiar face in the front passenger seat. Patrick, who is very much involved with the Kaliyangile project had taken the cab. We were back on the move again and approaching Chisamba when there was an explosion and the front tyre split open. So another stop was required to change the wheel before we completed our journey. The incidence of breakdown in Zambia is high!! This is very far from the first time I have had to transfer from vehicles or wait for repairs before completing a journey.

I settled into the Guest House before Moses drove me to the Centre (Kaliyangile site). There I met Persis the new manager, Remmy – the carpentry instructor and Robert the tailoring instructor, together with Davison and Petros who I know from previous years.
It was good to meet the new staff and get an idea of the current position with the project. Disappointments over funding have made it a difficult year, but some progress has been made and there is more activity at the Centre than when I was last around. The 'day old chicks' are now nearing six months old and are big and healthy chickens laying some 250 eggs a day between them. The tailor and carpenter are in demand both from students and local customers. When they are not teaching they make products to sell and bring in income for the centre, providing funds for further materials to use on the courses. The laptop which has given good service over the years seems to me to be beyond its useful life – I tried a few things to bring it back to life but failed to resuscitate the patient.

Today I spent most of the day at the Centre getting to know the staff, explaining my role, and talking about plans for the future.

I am now well used to nshima again. This evening a guy joined me at the table for supper. He thought that people would come a long way to see a white man eating nshima with his hands! I think that it is important to try to fit into the culture and adopting some of the local customs shows respect. It certainly seems to be appreciated. Personally I don't understand how you can eat nshima except with your hands! Its not made for knives, forks or spoons!!

Best wishes


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