Thursday, July 25, 2013

Visiting Pemba

Thursday 25th July

It might only be a couple of days since my last blog was written but it appears that there are three days to catch up!

On Tuesday I spent a long morning at PIZZ school – that is to say that it was 14 – 15hrs when I returned to the flat. There was much to discuss with the teachers. In particular the issue of what happens to children when they finish at PIZZ school. The school teaches to grade 9. Some pass the exam at the end and are awarded a certificate which allows them to finish their secondary education. Those that fail have limited prospects, though we hope they will have developed in many ways at the school.It will undoubtedly be a struggle for most. One boy Boniface who didn't do well academically is now earning a living as a musician, both as a performer and songwriter. I am sure that his time at PIZZ school helped him to develop this talent – if I can I will meet him and find out more. Those who pass grade 9 often cannot afford the secondary school fees and drop out if we cannot find some extra support.

Diven's shop is taking shape. He tells me he has a system, but why he has several shelves filled with different varieties of detergent paste instead of other goods I cannot quite fathom. Still he tells me this is part of his master plan!

After supper Edward called to take me out. We started at the golf club and moved on to Moonlite! The Moonlite Guest House used to be called Nampeyo and was were I stayed with the team on my first trip to Monze. Mr. and Mrs. Chiiya – the owners – were not about on Tuesday and I felt bad that I hadn't been in touch. Edward and I caught up with the events of the past year or so. It is good to chat over a beer or two. We have known each other for a number of years since I got involved in a project he initiated at Monze Basic School were he was head. We continue to meet when I come over here and it is interesting to share our relative perspectives on the world. We discussed some of the difficulties between the indigenous population and others in the country. Unfortunately there are still some who belief there is a natural hierarchy. He dropped me back home and we will probably meet again on Saturday. I will also call on his wife to say hallo if I get the chance.

Yesterday I headed for Pemba. It was about time I said hallo to Jennipher's family. I didn't fancy the buses outside Tooters – near empty buses usually mean very long waits! I wandered up to the main road and was told a small bus was going to Pemba now now! I was suspicious when I saw another empty bus and when a Rosa came by I jumped on that instead – without realising this was also empty! The conductor I had just ignored, jumped into the full bus a little further down the road and away they went. I went to dismount, but my bus continued moving slowly. To my surprise it then sped up and headed for Pemba – still virtually empty. I went to ring Jennipher to tell her I was on my way and realised I left my phone in the flat. I have come to realise that, particularly here in Zambia, a mobile is a very important asset – especially if you intend to meet with someone. The conductor of the bus main a vain attempt to gain extra passengers at Chisakesi – even to the extent of trying to pull passengers from another bus – much to the amusement of all of us! I arrived at Pemba Post Office with no Jennipher to collect and guide me! I spoke to a man at the grocers and told him I was going to try to find the house on my own and to let Jennipher know if he saw her!

My sense of direction – or lack of it is renowned. I can get lost in a building – many times I have found myself in a cupboard when trying to find the front door! I have a vague idea where Jennipher lives – the fact that I might have visited on 10 – 20 occasions is only marginally relevant in my case! After walking a kilometre or so up the main road I decided to follow a dirt track. There didn't seem to be any obvious paths off this track, so I kept going. At one time Jennipher might not have been known beyond her immediate neighbours. This is no longer the case, most people in Monze who I talk to know Jennipher. I heard today that she had recently been on the radio telling people of her forthcoming trip to the UK – not necessarily a good idea, knowing how jealous people can be. Anyway being a bit unsure I was confident that if I mentioned the name I would be put on the right path. Surprisingly I was heading in the right direction and might well have found my destination alone. However, an elderly lady – who turned out to be one of Jennipher's members – led me by the hand (literally) to the family home. I spotted Jennipher and she alerted Selina who ran to me and jumped into my arms.

In the past I have got to know all of the children Jennipher is looking after, but I confess I lost track of who was living with her and who was just visiting! Maggie was around but Emmanuel and Obadiah were with relatives when I arrived. There was a succession of Support Group members who came in one by one and greeted me. Jennipher told me a little about each. There were two main groups – those who hadn't received any seed and fertiliser for the coming season and those that had! The ones without of course need some ( but at least they had received some food) and those with the seed, were hungry because they didn't receive the mealie meal! Jennipher does her best to find support for her many clients – she has done well to get seed etc from various agencies, but invariably there is a shortfall – which she tries to fill from other sources!!

There were two educators from local organisations teaching her group today. One of these teachers had been involved in prostitution until only a few months ago but was persuaded to take a different route. She is now a volunteer trained to teach others. As with Jennipher, the testimony of one who has a wealth of hard experience, is much more powerful than one who is talking from theory. In general peer educators are used to teach about AIDS - as such they share the burden being HIV positive themselves and speak with authority.

An elderly gentleman came into Jennipher's house and sat down. Jennipher said he always spends the day with her and receives his meals there. A small house – the original one that Jennipher used – is now occupied by a young mother and her baby. Rogers is a little lad who has also joined the expanding family. So Jenniphers dependants increase. Soloman is a great help, looking after the family when Jennipher is out and about.

Selina spent some time making herself pretty before being photographed with me. She reminded me that she wants a bike and a school bag!

I am reminded how fragile life is in Zambia, when I visit Jennipher's home. The stories of terrible hardship follow one after another. Mothers looking after children with disabilities with no support and perhaps also having elderly parents to look after. People reliant even more than most on a good food supply have managed to grow nothing because of last years drought. For many Jennipher is literally a lifeline. Some people walk 10 – 15 km to attend the weekly meeting despite their illness and lack of food. Some sump with ground groundnuts was provided for those at the meeting and I was also given a bowl – which tasted good. (Sump is made by boiling maize and is a little like rice pudding.)

A small pre-school group also receives some lessons from volunteer group members in the garden. Soloman and Selina were also helping these children when I was around. Everyone was enjoying the experience.

Selina and Soloman escorted me to the road and Soloman flagged down a car that took me back to Monze.

It was Charlie's birthday – the last of the series! I decided to ask Andy if we could get together on Skype to wish him a Happy Birthday.

Jennipher followed me to Monze – she had further work to do in relation to her attack and other local issues. She arrived with Selina who had expected to come with me – though I was unaware. I told Andy they were around, but he was not yet home to set up Skype. While we waited, I showed Jennipher and Selina some of the uses for the Internet. I showed them the Hands Around the World website and associated Facebook page. I decided to take a picture of Selina with the Facebook page and post it with a comment. I reflected on what a different world we live in today. Only a few years ago this wouldn't be possible. Until very recently access to the Internet from Zambia was very difficult, if not impossible. Today I sit here in my flat and have easy access to the world!

Eventually Andy came online and we were all able to see Charlie and sing him the traditional birthday greeting. It was good to be able to connect the two worlds in this way. Maybe in a little over a week Jennipher will be greeting Andy and his family in person! I hope you are still praying for a miracle!

Today I had arranged to visit Buntolo. A project to support orphaned children was started at the hospital and, about the time of my first visit, they starting using a place called Buntolo for meetings and training sessions. Some of the guardians make baskets, bags, aprons and other items for sale, to bring in a little income to support the children. At one time I had an outlet in the UK where some products were sold. In recent years this source has dried up. The market here is very limited, so on my visits when I make contact, I somehow seem also to fill a case with sundry items! The amount of work that goes into each item is enormous, but a charge of a few pounds can seem expensive when compared with the mass produced goods available these days.
I enjoyed the opportunity to walk a bit. It allowed me to reflect and slow down just a little. On the way back into town I was passing Tagore school and decided it would be rude not to call on Mrs. Chiiya, who was a former headteacher of the school and lives at a house on site. I was able to make up for not seeing her at Moonlite and also met Mr. Chiiya. The nursing school she set up is still operating, but like most ventures, it is not without its challenges.

I had agreed to visit a couple of places in the afternoon. Heading for Chisikili with Jennipher we were still in town when met the leader of the group we had intended to see. Since he was on his bike it seemed sensible to talk to him at the flat rather than journey to the site and wait for him. Warren has a support group that has the use of a little land suitable for growing various crops. They have a well and a water tank, but no pump to take the water from one to the other. Deana who came to Monze a couple of years ago as a Hands Around the World volunteer has acquired funds to provide a solar pump. She asked me to talk to Warren about the progress if I had a chance. It appears that the scheme has been planned, quotes obtained and contractor organised. Shortly the installation should start. There should be sufficient money to provide for the pump and water distribution system. This will mean that the group might be able to support the members with very little need for outside support.

I spent the rest of the afternoon with Fr. Raphael and Fr.Clement discussing the link between Our Lady of the Wayside here in Monze and St. Gregory's Parish in Cheltenham. There are various connections being made and we are currently supporting 18 young people with their education at secondary school and a small church run local university.

Raymond joined me for supper – for which I was grateful. I was enticed by some of the lovely vegetables in the market a day or two back! I wanted a small cabbage, then spotted some Chinese cabbages. I was told they were 1Kw (12.5p) and expected to be given one 'cabbage' only to find there were about four strapped together. (These look a bit like large cos lettuces but cook like cabbage and retain a lovely fresh crispness. A little further I came across the sort of cabbage we are used to, but I wanted a small one!! I was told that the one offered – again for I Kw (or maybe 50 ngwee ½ Kw) was small! It must be 2 kg at least!! So I will need plenty of help to get through my stock!

Again time has run away.


P.S. Today I will treat you to a few photos taken recently.

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