Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Jennipher's Trip - the Legacy

Wednesday 24th September

Another month has passed. I think it is time to write the final episode of Jennipher's trip.

It was a wonderful visit, filled with different experiences. It would be easy to list all the places visited and people met, but that would not do justice to the value of that precious time.

It is always difficult for me coming back from a trip to Zambia and trying to re-adjust to life back in the UK, perhaps this time it has been more difficult because I brought back a bit of Zambia with me. Jennipher has had to return to the difficulties of her life in Pemba. Our close connection was strengthened during her visit. We shared our home and our lives for a few weeks and we came to understand each other better. The differences between our worlds has been reinforced and the huge gap emphasised.

Fortunately Jennipher threw herself into the experience. Everything was different. The climate, long days, rolling green hills, a lack of dangerous animals particularly snakes and crocodiles – there were so many strange things to get used to. Jennipher ate nshima twice during her stay, probably less nshima than she would consume in a normal day in Zambia, but she was so interested and willing to try new foods that she hardly missed it. We were so grateful to Jennipher for throwing herself into our world. It must have been quite frightening and challenging at times.

It was towards the end of her visit that we journeyed to London. She had seen many things but London topped everything. We arrived at Buckingham Palace in time for the changing of the guard, had lunch in a restaurant overlooking the Thames and travelled around the city by underground trains. There is certainly nothing in Zambia to compare with these experiences.

Of course we were determined to spoil Jennipher, so we lived more extravagantly while she was with us. I have always tried to be honest about our lives in England and haven't tried to hide the fact that we live a very different life - so perhaps she wasn't too surprised, though of course being told and experiencing the life yourself are very different things. Some people I know in the UK seem to have been too embarrassed by their relative wealth and as a result kept their distance.

I remember once having a decent meal with friends who asked if I found it difficult enjoying a feast while my friends were hungry. My response was that I was happy to spend more than the cost of the dinner on my friends in Zambia and therefore I had no problem. There was another occasion years ago when I was in Rotterdam and I was asked to buy some cakes for tea - they do very nice cakes in the Netherlands. I then realised that the day was designated by CAFOD as “Family Fast Day”. Initially I felt guilty, but then decided to add a letter and turn the fast day into a feast day. Instead of just cakes, I bought biscuits and beer to take back home and really went to town indulging myself. To solve my conscience I had decided that for every £1 I spent (or more accurately guilder) I would donate two to CAFOD. Needless to say CAFOD did very well that year! I would like everyone to be able to enjoy some treats - as Jennipher did in the UK – but this should not be at the expense of the poorest.

It was amazing that Jennipher's interests and concerns so closely matched those of Dilys and myself. We visited the Slimbridge Wetlands and Wildlife Trust reserve and the Forest of Dean where she embraced the natural world, delighting in it's variety - even if some of the creatures seemed to her ripe for the pot! She was interested in people with disabilities, sickness and the homeless in fact all the disadvantaged and marginalised. She enjoyed meeting my friends and family and made a lasting impression on all she met. As I have said before it was a delight and a privilege to have her stay with us.

Since returning to Zambia she has been busy. The harvest this year has been poor and food is beginning to get scarce and expensive. Most of the money Jennipher was given while in the UK has been converted into maize before prices get too high. Her main support groups have each received a small stock for when times begin to get hard.

In discussion with the Hands Around the World volunteers Jennipher took in a mother and baby and two young children. The mother and baby weren't in the best of health and some extra food was needed for the baby – unfortunately the child wasn't strong enough and died a couple of weeks back, the child was buried with dignity at Pemba. The mother is still will Jennipher, though not in the best of health. She is supporting the other children but feels that her accommodation is small for her growing family.

I am still in very regular contact with other friends in Monze. Diven has finished building his house and shop - though how it is complete when there is no roof I am not sure! There is also the issue of a toilet! It is good to hear him so happy and proud that one of his dreams is near fruition. Mrs. Sianga enjoyed having the volunteers and the Holiday Club. More than 60 students had a wonderful day in Livingstone and the volunteers found out that children in Zambia aren't so different from their counterparts in the UK.

I am well aware that the rainy season is a month or so away. This will bring good news but crops will take a while to grow. It will also bring challenges – some buildings which are not watertight will be in danger of collapse, the mosquitoes will be very active and the rate of malaria will rise. Flooding will also bring its own hazards. The maize harvest will not happen until March/April at the earliest, food prices will rise and during the next few months their will be a lot of hunger in Monze.


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Tuesday 26th August

Once again I have failed to maintain my blog – apologies.

A lot has happened. Hands around the World volunteers have spent 4 weeks in Monze and are on their way back as I write. I have just come back from Pontypool where a container is being packed today and will soon start its journey to Monze.

I produced a photobook of Jennipher's visit and was able to send a copy to her with the volunteers. I will use the book to bring back memories of her visit.

I look at some pictures of Ogmore and Raglan castles. Jennipher told us that when she is back in Zambia she will be able to show the people a real castle. People in Zambia only know castle as a brand of beer!!

One of Jennipher's groups has land close to a small reservoir and they would like to grow vegetables to make themselves more self-sufficient. During her visit Jennipher met members of a small bible group and told them a bit about herself and her work. In return they donated some money. Last week I was able to send this money to Jennipher, because she can buy a treadle pump which should make the dream of a vegetable garden come true for the Hatontola Support Group. Next year I hope to see the pump in action. For me it is a delight to be so close to such small projects and being able to monitor and report of the impact.

I see a photo of Jennipher with Martin Horwood – our local MP – who wrote a very supportive letter which I am sure influenced the decision to grant Jennipher a visa this year. We had the opportunity to meet him and thank him personally for his sup

There were many new experiences for Jennipher during her stay. A train journey – only to Gloucester - but enough to show her the differences between Zambian and UK trains. She was amazed at the air conditioning, but the speed, the cleanliness and general comfort are also a long way from the experience of the Zambian Railway. Of course the London Underground was another thing altogether, but again Jennipher delighted in the experience and put aside any fears.

Nelson Mandela is one of Jennipher's heros and she was delighted to find a large portrait of him in Gloucester and the statue in London literally brought her to tears.

Jennipher is a very caring person and has a particular affinity with the most vulnerable. We visited the Leonard Cheshire Home in Cheltenham where she saw an electric wheelchair for the first time and was surprised that the residents didn't need to buy them themselves. We were given a tour of the home by Paula – one of the residents – and Jennipher was introduced to Loom Bands by another. (Jennipher was subsequently shown how to make bracelets by my 8 year old granddaughter Cheyenne and I hear that now Selina has a little business in Pemba selling Loom bracelets to her friends!) Jennipher was asked to return to the Leonard Cheshire Home one evening to talk to the residents – this worked very well and clearly had an impact.

During a visit to my sister in Milton Keynes we had a meal at a restaurant staffed largely by people with learning difficulties. Jennipher was delighted to see these people living a fulfilled and largely independent life. She was very complimentary about the way people with disabilities are treated in the UK – I hope that it continues to be the case! However, the most amazing thing she saw at Milton Keynes was an elderly friend of Theresa (my sister) catching a good sized bream and then returning it to the canal!! No one in Zambia would throw away good food like that!! She had previously asked Nick at the Leonard Cheshire Home whether he ever ate any of his goldfish!

Since Jennipher left she has been in regular contact. She has also spend some time with the Hands Around the World volunteers, who she first met at our office near Monmouth introducing them to some of her support groups.. Some money she raised has been used to buy maize while the prices are still affordable – this will be stored for the difficult months to come. I am sure it will help but it is unlikely to stop the hunger that some of her clients will suffer.

I will close here, though there is a lot more to say.

Best wishes


Friday, July 11, 2014

A very special visit

Friday 11th July

I am very aware that an update to my blog is very much overdue.

Jennipher left the UK last week with over 400 photos – most relating to her 3 ½ week stay in the UK. I therefore have plenty of photos to share with you.

There are far too many photos and much too much to say to do justice in a single post – so I will give a very brief account of her visit and include a few photos now and over the next week or two I will add some photos and expand on some of the events, experiences and insights of this memorable visit.

I as said last time, it was a joy to have Jennipher with us. We had a packed schedule visiting places, meeting people and also trying to find a little time to just relax enjoy each others company and let her take in some of the English culture. Everyday was busy and for Jennipher each brought new amazing revelations. For me it made me focus even more on the differences between life here and in Zambia and how wrong it is that, in this world of plenty, people routinely go hungry and die as a result of poverty.

Jennipher is not one of the more more privileged African people who we generally see in England. Her background and current day to day life is among the poorest. Without support from Dilys and myself, she would regularly go hungry and her children would probably get no education. The contrast with what she experienced in the UK was unbelievable. She told people back home that she was eating like a princess and claimed to have put on 10 Kg (almost 25% of her total weight)
Of course we spoiled her, trying to ensure that she had everything she wanted while she was with us. The Lord played his part – the good weather had been ordered and, as predicted, we had an unusually fine period while she was with us.

At the end of her stay we helped her fill her cases to within an ounce or two of their maximum permitted weight and drove her to the airport. I failed to check her in online from Heathrow – though the exercise was completed and boarding passes were printed for Addis Abbaba. At the airport I was a little concerned that Jennipher seemed to be having long discussions at the check-in desk. I wondered what was wrong. Eventually she emerged and told me that the guy on the Ethiopian Airlines check in desk was a fellow Zambian and they were having a good chat in Bemba (one of the local languages). Once again I realised that I should have more faith – the Lord had everything in hand. She was assured that everything would be fine. Her luggage would be take all the way to Lusaka where she would collect it and she would be fine wit her hand luggage.

On the day before she left Jennipher was invited to listen to a local choir that Sheila (the artist) attends. They sang a number of African songs for her and Jennipher sang some for them – including one which she said they would sing when she returned. On her return many people would gather to greet her and they would sing this welcoming song. It is based upon the idea that when Jesus returned to heaven his father would have given him a special welcome and when anyone goes on a special journey they too deserve to be welcomed in the same way! It is wonderful to know that Jennipher was greeted back home last week with this song.


Tuesday, June 17, 2014

New Experiences

Tuesday 17th June

I am very aware of the huge contrast between life in England and that in Zambia.

Last Thursday we visited a school in Oxford were my friend John teaches. The school has extensive grounds with football pitches, tennis courts etc. Well equipped classrooms with various items of technology are standard – computers are used as a matter of course, as we found out when we joined a french class. There were several music rooms with various instruments available for the students and even a recording studio! I couldn't help comparing this school with Lushomo in Monze where there were no tables or chairs and where buying enough chalk was a major issue!

Jennipher talked to some of the students who were interested in her life and work in Zambia. We then made our way into the city along the river where we watched young people rowing. In the centre we looked around some of the impressive buildings and pleasant parks, we climbed a church tower for a better view of Oxford. Jennipher is enjoying her experience in England – she was particularly pleased to visit Oxford which was the place named on some her her books when she was at school many years back!

John joined us after he had finished at school and he led us to an inn on the river. He asked me where I thought we should sit and I suggested a table near the river in the sun would be ideal. We headed for the river and as we approached the customers at a table at the riverside freed it for our use – we couldn't have found a more suitable table. We had a very pleasant meal in the evening sun to conclude a lovely visit.

On Friday we returned to Wales – this time to meet the volunteers and trustees from Hands Around the World. Jennipher gave a moving talk about her life in Zambia and met people from Hands Around the World including David and Jim who she knew from their visits to Zambia.

While I attended the trustees meeting Dilys took Jennipher to Raglan castle which she found interesting.

The World Cup has started!! Jennipher enjoys watching the games when she gets the chance. Dilys has been recording the matches – despite the fact that she doesn't enjoy watching sport herself. It is therefore wall to wall football here when Jennipher is at home!!

On Saturday Dilys took Jennipher to our church where they were doing a “Stitch and Pray” session. Jennipher learnt to knit and now spends much of her time knitting while watching the football! She seems much too good at knitting for it to have been her first experience!

On Sunday we went to St. Gregory's church and met some of the parishioners over coffee. In the afternoon Barby and Cheyenne, Andy, Tracy, George and Charlie joined us for a barbecue and Paul and Jess came later. Jennipher has known about the family over many years – seeing photos, now she was able to meet them properly.

Yesterday Dilys took Jennipher to Gloucester to visit the hospital. When I asked Jennipher how she found it she said she was amazed that everything was provided – women giving birth didn't need to bring any bowls and patients could choose what food they wanted! She was saying today that because Selina was in hospital for a few weeks with a broken arm some years back she missed important schooling and as a result lost a year. She was impressed that our children can continue their education whilst in hospital.

It has been busy, with new experiences every day for Jennipher. It is a delight to have her with us – she is so easy, enjoying trying different foods and taking in the new environment.

Today Jennipher is having her portrait painted by an artist friend. Unusually the artist wants to pay for the privilege! I hope to be able to have some good quality prints produced.


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

A Different World

Wednesday 11th June

It's a different world!!

I have been asked whether it is difficult to adjust to being back in the UK. In reality it isn't, but what is difficult is to connect the two very different worlds. On this occasion the differences are accentuated by having Jennipher here with me. She is totally amazed by what she sees, but enjoying the experience enormously.

Last Wednesday I went to Mazabuka to extend my visitor's permit. It took less than 10 mins to go through the process find the stamp etc and issue the permit, 1 ½ hrs to travel there and back and 3 hours waiting for buses!!

Thursday was my day for saying goodbye, but I found myself sorting out a few bits of business and constantly running an appointment or two behind schedule. It reached abour 20 hrs and I decided that I had to call it a day and recognised that my visit to Monze was finished. I finally called at the priest's house before joining Diven for a final meal at Tooters.

I didn't sleep well on Thursday night, but managed to over sleep eventually. It was therefore before my breakfast when Obert's parents arrived unexpectedly to wish me a good journey. In the midst of a later than expected breakfast, Julie arrived and I had the chance to talk about the imminent arrival of the first of the volunteers and hoped she was ready to accept them at the house.

Obert arrived a few minutes late – for which I was grateful. He had agreed to take me to Pemba, where we would pick up Jennipher. Soloman was at the roadside waiting to direct us. I was welcomed with hugs from Obadia, Maggie and Jennipher (the younger). Jennipher joined us in the car and we headed to Pemba Basic to say goodbye to Selina. On seeing the police check point however, Obert was persuaded by the owner of the car to head straight for Monze. I was sad that we let Selina down, but I heard later that she understood the problem.

Jennipher's holiday had begun! We arrived at Monze just in front of a Shalom bus (quite literally). They had a couple of spare places – it seemed that the Lord was with us for we were on our way without delay. At the Inter-City bus station a taxi driver was waiting – he agreed a fair price, drove well and had a good car with ample space for the luggage. When he dropped us at Longacres Lodge, I engaged him to take us to the airport the next day.

I spent a considerable time during the afternoon trying to check in online. This proved futile and eventually I gave up. I don't think that Jennipher was impressed! We returned to the hotel and rested for a while. I rang Judy who I was aware was in Lusaka preparing for some exams. I have come to know Judy over many years from Monze Mission Hospital where she worked as the secretary to the Hospital Executive Officer/Medical Superintendent. She was transferred to the Copperbelt a couple of years back, so I was pleased when she met us at the hotel. Jennipher appeared with a nephew who works in Lusaka and he joined us for supper. Judy had to rush off, but it was good to see her - even if it was brief.

On Saturday there was no great hurry. The taxi was arranged for 9 hrs, so we could enjoy a leisurely breakfast and even sit and enjoy the early morning sun. I warned Jennipher that she might not see it again for a while!

Our taxi arrived on time and we were at the airport in very good time. One of the many error messages i received when trying to check in online suggested that I contact customer services at Ethiopean Airlines to complete checking in, so I took the opportunity to go to their office at the airport. The guy confirmed that on the first plane my attempt to gain a window seat had succeeded and that we were in adjacent seats – though not by a window – on the final flight. Unfortunately he couldn't change this. However, a final attempt to sort out our seating arrangements to my satisfaction succeeded at the check-in desk. I wanted Jennipher to be able to see as much as possible from the plane, hence the energy expended trying to get to the window.

We watched the planes from the departure lounge before getting onboard. A delay at Harare meant that it was dark by the time we passed Kilimanjaro, but there were some good views. It seemed that the equipment that lifted the luggage to the plane was faulty – hence the delay. Most appeared to have been had been loaded, so eventually we carried on with our journey.

At Addis Abbaba further confusion reigned!! I told Jennipher she should find the next plane! However, it seemed that there was a delay of an hour or so. I tried to contact Dilys, first by phone, then by e-mail and, since neither was operating, by a message to a friend on Facebook chat! When I returned to Jennipher she said that there had been a call for Heathrow passenfgers to go to gate 4. Since we were still 3 hours from the revised departure time this seemed strange! I looked on the departure information screen and was alarmed to find that apparently the next plane left at 8 hrs (it was about 23 hrs) and there was no mention of any flight to Heathrow. I decided to ask someone with the right uniform on, and was informed that the Heathrow plane was leaving from gate 6 which was in a separate area. We were both sceptical but after receiving confirmation we passed security and made for the gate. An hour later about 50 people were at gate 6 where an Ethiopean Airways plane sat. (Since almost all the planes were Ethiopean Airways it wasn't very significant – except that since it could hold about 350 passengers there was a marked disparity with the number waiting to board.!!) It was sometime later that thepassengers at gate 4 eventually joined us!!

I had told Dilys not to rush as we would be at least an hour late. In the event when we boarded the plane it was announced that, despite leaving an hour late, we were expected to arrive on time!

We had no food on the plane to Harare but had lunch at 15 – 16 hrs on the next leg of our trip. We were now served supper at 3 hrs (Ethiopean time). By 4 hrs (UK time) – 3 hrs after supper! It was light. We enjoyed watching out of the window as we flew along the Greek coast picking up the many small Greek islands. We were then gifted with the sight of the alps in bright sunshine – Jennipher's first view of snow! As we approached the coast it was cloudy but this cleared as we neared England. Finally we were treated to a close-up view of London before coming into land. It was a wonderful flight for Jennipher. She appreciated all the new sights and was in awe of the world which was appearing before her. All the efforts to precure the window seat were amply rewarded.

I decided to do all I could to stay with Jennnipher through the entrance process and was able to be with her at the immigration desk. Being able to explain that we were together on the flight and that she would be staying with me me and my wife made the process relatively straightforward – I suspect on her own Jennipher might have had a more difficult time.

Jennipher found a trolley while I tried to spot our bags. Two cases arrived on the carousel but when all was loaded my final bag was missing. I eventually found it at the side of the carousel with the lock broken! (I only noticed this when I arrived home!) I don't think anything was taken – probably because it contained nothing of interest, but it was curious that it appeared to have been taken from the carousel. I can't imagine anyone removing it of the carousel, then trying to open it in full view of the other passengers!

Dilys wasn't around so We had a couple of coffees and waited.

The song “I'll raise you up” started playing at the café and I wasn't surprised to see see Dilys appear at that point – it is one of her favourite songs!

Dilys drove us home, while Jennipher looked in wonder at the world in which she had suddenly arrived.

On Monday I went to mass and arranged that Dilys met me for a coffee afterwards. I was a little disappointed that some friends weren't at the service. However, I greeted a few that were around. Dilys and Jennipher should have been at the parish office but hadn't arrived so I headed to see if I could get some mealie meal! Before I left the church grounds I bumped into Maria and after a brief chat Dilys and Jennipher arrived. I introduced Maria to Jennipher. We entered the office and before leaving Mary arrived and agreed to join us for coffee. Both Maria and Mary have been very much interested and involved with my Zambian trips and I had hoped that I would see them on Monday. It appeared that I would meet neither since they weren't at mass, yet both were brought to meet us anyway.

I showed Jennipher around town and we entered some of the shops. I organised a mobile for her before rwe returned to relax in front of the TV.

Yesterday after dropping Paul in Cirencester for 8 am, Dilys, Jennipher and myself made our way to Ogmore on Sea - just beyond Cardiff - using the scenic route through one of the Welsh valleys. Jennipher loved the views – especially the mountains and we were blessed by good weather. Until that is we arrived at the coast – the first sight of the sea was still a special moment for Jennipher, though we didn't linger. We met Deana who lives nearby and who visited Monze in 2012 as a Hands Around the World volunteer – where she first met Jennipher. Deana has subsequently set up her own small charity and is leaving to return to Zambia this Friday. I was able to pass on some items from Zambia for her and others items for her to take to Zambia with her.

We had a very walk around Ogmore castle before having a very pleasant lunch at a café overlooking the sea.

Of course, though the weather had changed for the worse, I was not going to allow Jennipher to return without getting really close to the sea. The rain eased and we headed for the beach. Only I was brave (or foolish) enough to have a paddle, but we all enjoyed walking on the shore at the edge of the sea. Deana showed us to a walled garden and Jennipher continued to say Wow!

We took the quick route back on the motorway over the Severn Brige to complete a very memorable day.

It is such a joy to have Jennipher here with us. She is enjoying all the new experiences – the food as well as the sights, sounds and smells!

Today was a quieter day but we visited Cheyenne's school where her class put on an interesting and entertaining assembly for the school and Jennipher met Amy again. Amy visted Zambia in 2011 and spent some time with Jennipher – we visited Livingstone together.

I will try to maintain my blog while Jennipher is with us in the UK.

Best Wishesws


Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Mothers and Babies

Tuesday 3rd June

At that this point in my trips I start panicking realising how much I need to fit in during the last few days. I was feeling somewhat under pressure by the weekend so I decided to take a day off!! Strange as it seems when there is too much to do, doing nothing can be the best solution. On Saturday I decided to read the Jeffrey Archer book I found in the house and then go for a walk to the small dam. I was immediately rewarded with a view of an African Open-Billed Stork. Later another 4 or 5 joined this one. A flock of White-Faced Ducks where floating on the lake and some African Jacanas flitted around the edges of the shore. As is usual, a group of lads playing with a football gradually found themselves kicking the ball ever closer to where I sat. More unusually a group of girls grouped behind me in some bushes. It is very usual for girls and boys, men and women to keep in separate groups. The girls were bolder and greeted me – finally sitting with me and enquiring about my presence, using the binoculars and looking through the bird books. One of the girls proved very knowledgeable and told me the Citonga names for many of the birds. She turned out to be a student at PIZZ School.

On Sunday I expected to be free after mass. However a change in plans meant the Small Christian Communities would meet after all. I still planned to excuse myself, but eventually decided to join them. I saw three of the students we sponsor through the church in Cheltenham, before Best gave me a lift home. After a quick bite he took me to his home, where I was offered some sump and sour. It was therefore about 15hrs by the time I reached the prayer meeting. As with the previous time when I almost excused myself, my presence turned out to be important. Clarification about a small project established last year was necessary to clear up some misunderstandings.

I had arranged to meet Sr. Christeta at Pemba at a variety of times during recent days! I was at Pemba at 8 hrs – one of the agreed times - met Jennipher at 9hrs and Sr. Christeta at 10hrs! I decided to relax while waiting and walked slowly along the main street taking in the environment. I have spent too much time rushing – I need to make the most of my last few days and enjoy the experience of being in Africa.

The road we took from Pemba was a good dirt road. Sr. Christeta has a Landcruiser which covers the ground well. I enjoyed getting away from the town for a while. A beautiful glossy bright blue bird flew past – I believe it was a starling – there are a lot of varieties in Africa and some which are present in Africa don't seem to be present in the countries covered by my Southern african bird book, making positive identification difficult for me. We also saw hornbills with their characteristic shape and flight. We passed small vilages with their range of grassed thatched buildings and moved from the Chiefdom of Chief Monze to that of Mapanza when we crossed a small river. Sr. Christe
ta is the daughter of the former Chief Monze, so now lives in foreign territory!

We reached a tarmac road and very soon were at Chililantambo – the village where Sr. Chisteta stays. There is a Catholic church, the convent were she lives, the clinic were she works and very little else! The houses are well scattered over a number of kilometres.

I was glad of Jennipher's presence. She was very much at home talking to the women who had established a group to tackle the danger of transmission of HIV infection from mother to baby. Sr Christeta was very busy immunizing about 200 babies agaist a variety of diseases while Jennipher talked to the mothers finding out some of their challenges and getting me to take numerous photographs! One of Jennipher's main concerns was the number of 'early marriages'. We discovered later that the majority of the mothers at the clinic where students from the local school where the nun's taught.

The group of volunteers were making a lotion which apparently is very good at relieving muscle and back pain. Many leaves were cooked with some oil and animal fat – by the end of the day the lotion was put into pots and labelled ready to be sold. The government provided a borehole and handpump under the same scheme as that for Jennipher's group in Pemba. This has enabled the group to make a small vegetable garden. Sr. Christeta also grows yellow maize and keeps some village chickens – one of which we ate for lunch!

There were a few other patients that appeared. A boy with malaria and a man with a large bed sore. Sr. Christeta cleaned the sore with water, but had no ointment to aid healing. The patient left on the ox-cart used as transport.

There is no electricity at the clinic – though the convent does have power. If the patient has no candle, night deliveries are often carried out in the dark. Transport to the clinic is a problem for the women – Jennipherbelieves that a bicycle ambulance would be a great help.

Once again I was reminded just how different it iin Zambia and because of the lack of things we take for granted, many lives are lost.

Sr. Christeta saw her last patient after 19.30 and we set off for the return journey. I was surprised that we only saw one animal on the journey – a rabbit.

It was 22 hrs when I was dropped at my house. I found the remaining bottles of clove oil and some painkillers and gave them to Sr. Christeta. A lady at the clinic today will be grateful to get relief from her toothache.

It was a good day, and relaxing in the rural setting allowed me to reflect on some of the experiences I have had this year. The prospects of many of the women and the children I saw at Chililantambo is not promising. Infant mortality is still high in Zambia and higher among groups such as these.

Today I had an appointment at PIZZ School. It appeared that since last night there was no water, however the owner was here this morning and demonstrated that the hot taps did produce water. He had attached the pipes to the wrong inlet to the house and just filled the geyser! I suspect that the fact that all the hot taps were open last night when I arrived might explain the lack of water. (I closed them when I noticed).

A man – Kennedy – told me he had a 9 year old son, Lewis, who was unable to sit up unaided, couldn't speak and wasn't growing. He asked if I could give any advice. I am aware that HHI provide support for children with disabilities and suggested that he talked to them. I will also speak to Deana before she comes out to see whether her involvement with HHI can help. Once again I can't help think that their would be so much more support for children with such disabilities in the UK. I hope we continue to value these services and don't let them deteriorate.

I saw a few more sponsored children at PIZZ School and discussed a number of issues including a partnership agreemet that we are drafting between us.

I fitted in a visit to Buntolo to collect a few items made to provide a little income in support of the orphaned children. My next meeting was overdue. Fortunately Obert was able to obtain a car and pick me up to take me to his mum's pre-school - after calling at the ATM, my house and dropping of Clara and Bridget! When we arrived at the pre-school I felt guilty about the long delay that I had caused.

The pre-school is attached to the HIV/AIDS group and has a number of children with disabilities. One who has limited speech was absent, another with a problem with one her legs was present. The teacher qualified at a centre which the government no longer recognises, so she decided to help at the pre-school, but she struggles to survive with very little money. The children sang me some songs and one child recited a poem. The children seemed very happy and one girl inparticular seemed to be wonderfully alive and mischievious. I look at thes children and wonder what their future holds – some obviously have great potential, but just how much will be realised and how much wasted - to the detriment of all of us.

On arriving back home their was a queue of friends to see. Diven joined me for supper and left at about 21 hrs.


Friday, May 30, 2014

PIZZ School

Friday 30th May

Each year I try to see the students and teachers at PIZZ School. In particular I make an effort to talk to as many students as possible who have been sponsored by people back in the UK. As the success of our sponsorship grows so does this task – though please don't let that put you off, we need many more sponsors. So on Tuesday morning I met a number of children who are currently being sponsored or who are awaiting sponsorship. Most of these children face great challenges and the knowledge that someone cares about their lives can give them a huge boost. When asked what subjects they enjoy most – perhaps surprisingly - say maths and english. Many want to be teachers, doctors and nurses but one lad said he wants to be a pilot and another to drive big buses. I would love to fly with the aspiring pilot in 20 years time, if I am still around!! When one girl was asked what she most liked about school she simply said – food! This brought me firmly down to earth and I started to realise that so many here are barely surviving.

I was assigned to collect more chitenge material for the bag tidies – which reminds me that my shirt and Jennipher's dress should be ready – I was to collect them yesterday, because they wern't quite ready on Wednesday evening (or the other days!). Both look good and to be honest it was only the buttons and some braiding that was still required. I searched the market for 'traditional African' chitenges and eventually found a small selection. These are really of a quality that is wasted upon this task – but I wanted to move on, so I paid the necessary price.

I still have my regular visitors. Diven is busy starting to build a small house and shop down St. Mary's Road. He has a small plot – which I am hoping will not get waterlogged during the rainy season! I met him yesterday to observe the progress and when walking down the road he was greeted as “Mr. Boom”. During the past couple of years he has developed a market for the small packets of detertent paste. He buys 20 packets at a time and has been selling them for 3 kwacha which is probably as cheap as you can buy them. However, for some 3 kwacha (30p) is too much to find in one go – so Diven lets them have credit by given them the Boom and collecting his 3 kwacha in installments of 1 kwacha per day. In this way he provides a service to some of the poorest and makes just enough himself to buy some food to keep him alive. Whenever Diven joins me at supper time he brings with him something he has cooked or some biscuits to share.

Obert and his mother came around on Wednesday to talk about the baby (Carol) who needs dried milk and Brian who is short of school fees. Obert and his mother spent time with Carol's mother while she was in hospital and really in desperate need of medical attention which wasn't provided in time. Brian didn't manage to get his fees for last term until late and missed most of the lessons as a result – he was distressed at the thought of not being able to continue with his education. I will make sure that neither are left without support. We also spoke about the bag tidies that she is making, which should be ready early next week.

Yesterday I had it in my mind that I was to meet at PIZZ School in the afternoon. However, checking my notes I had written that the appointment was at 9 hrs. Perhaps it is old age! It was as well I checked, because ALL of the students at the school were assembling to greet and entertain me. It is a great privilege to be honoured in such a way. I was seated on a sofa in the field were the event took place.

There were a number of introductions followed by some songs, poems, sketches and cutural dancing. I don't know how much is geared specifically towards me, but most of the subject material for the songs, poems and sketches was AIDS related. There was a long sketch where a girl, desperate for some support, found her uncle but was mistreated by his wife. eventually she left and found a family much kinder, where she prospered.

I realised that what I was seeing and hearing were the stories of these children and not some remote situation. Many of the children will be passed from relative to relative, some of whom consider them a burden and treat them as little more than slaves. We might be appalled, but if we had 5 children of our own and had to take in another four how lovingly would we respond? - especially if we already struggled just to feed our own family?

In one of the songs the children say that AIDS has taken their mother and father their brothers and sisters. I remember a young girl I saw the other day who now lives alone with her mother having already lost her father, her brother and her sister.

I was asked to give a “speech” after the entertainment. I told them that I was feeling extremely fine because it was such a joy to see them – many have seen me now over many years and have grown considerably since our first meetings. To see them happy and healthy and to see them perform with such confidence gives me a warm feeling and hope for their future. There is no doubt that the school is making a real difference to the lives of the children.

It was then time to adjourn to the shelter and meet the teachers.

It is remarkable what the staff manage to achieve at the school. I am very aware that they receive very little by way of wages, especially when compared with government teachers. Most struggle to cover the cost of food and rent. I am happy to let them tell me the problems they face because of insufficient resources. I try to explain how Hands Around the World fits into the picture and the fact that we too have very limited resources.

My role as Project Coordinator is to understand how the School is working, see how resources are being used and where there are shortfalls. I then act as an advocate back in the UK to find as much funding as possible to ensure the best outcome for the students. There is a huge list of requirements from decent salaries to books, school uniforms, additional buildings, better water supplies and electricity.

I listen and respond as best I can. Some things we can address, for others we can seek funding and yet others will be put on the long wish list. It is clear from our discussions how important it is to make personal visits. You cannot feel the passion from 5,000 miles away, nor is is easy while sitting in England to convince the people in Zambia that you really do appreciate what they are doing and that you are fighting for them back in the UK. We need these staff to be well motivated and they need to know how much what they are doing is valued.

At one point the headmaster said that they in Zambia were unable to give us anything in return for what we do to support their school. Later I felt the need to correct him! A very important part of the work of Hands Around the World is to send volunteers to various projects to get involved and meet the people. As volunteers the gifts we receive are so much greater than any financial contribution we make on our own or on behalf of the charity. To see a student succeed or even to see one look much healthier than last year has no price. Many of us have had our lives transformed because of our experiences as volunteers and you cannot buy the fulfilment this brings. I consider myself so fortunate to have the opportunity to visit my friends here in Zambia and play some part in their lives. I wouldn't hesitaate to recommend the experience to anyone who has the opportunity.

Best wishes


Monday, May 26, 2014

Living life to the full

Monday 26th May

Today it is a holiday, as it is in the UK. We are celebrating African Freedom Day, which I assume is marking the freedom from colonial rule. Unfortunately there is still a huge legacy from those times and much of the continent, although free from direct rule, is still largely working under the rules set down by the powerful nations and businesses. For example the games that are played to avoid paying taxes result in people suffering and dying throughout Africa.

On Saturday my main task was to make enough samosas for St. Veronica's Small Chrisian Community who were due on Sunday. There was a lack of power from morning till about 18.30. Losing public utililities (and some private ones!) is a fact of life in Zambia. This year I suspect that as often as not either electricity, water or mobile phone access has been unavailable – sometimes more than one simultaneously - but you learn to work around the issues.

Mains water can be difficult at the end of the dry season and here at Corner House there seems to be a problem with the supply from the borehole – though what exactly the fault is I have yet to figure out. If you think a problem might arise you keep some supplies – drinking water and if necessary bowls, pans and even baths filled for washing etc. My problems currently seem to be minor and I am sure I will get supplies if I run out for any length of time – so a few bottles of water for drinking and a pan and jug for washing mean I can cope quite well.

Electricity is often off all day on Sunday for 'maintenance'. I therefore planned to cook at least the majority of samosas on Saturday when, as mentioned above, power was absent until 18.30 – in practice I just postponed the cooking phase to the evening and early Sunday morning.

Many people here have phones that accept two SIM cards so they are not dependant on a single network. I have a SIM card in my USB modem I can use as well as using Skype to make phone calls.

So all in all you learn to work around ther cuts and life continues – albeit by candlelight!

Mrs. Chiiya called around to show me how far she has progressed with her school of nursing. Hands Around the World were initially involved when she started a school for disadvantaged children, but, after she found that funding it became a problem, she moved her attention to nursing. Out of 160 students she provides places for about 14 disadvantaged young people – some were students at the original school. She is currently trying to complete an accommodation block for the students, but finding th money is a challenge.

Sometime during Saturday night a couple of frames – one with a swing attached – arrived on the lawn! I didn't think they would be an asset when my group gathered for prayers so I hoped I would be able to move them.

I met Best at church and he was willing to come back with me to make the final preparations for my guests. He drove me back and joined me for a hot drink and sandwiches before we moved the frames and put out what chairs I had.

The owner of the house offered me some extra chairs when I mentioned the gathering and Eunice said she would bring them around. (I had unfortunately told her that I needed them for 14 hrs!)

At 14.30 neither the chairs nor the community members had arrived! However Eunice arrived soon after and I helped her carry about 25 plastic chairs from the 'events' location opposite. By 14.50 I had two members of the community present and wondered whether I had overdone the preparations However,eventually about 20 more guests arrived and we had our meeting. This year Monze Diocese has decided to set aside some christian community meetings to reflect on family life and what we learn from scriptures and church teaching about the subject. I am impressed by the activity of the church here in Zambia – in many respects it puts us to shame back in the UK.

After prayers we had some fruit juice and samosas. Everything was quickly devoured and I realised that I only just provided sufficient – I think there were at least 50 samosas made!

In the evening I met up with some of the priests and we hit the pool table. I didn't expect the luck of last time and I was right. The champion of the night was Fr. Clement who beat all opponents. It was close to 1 am when I was dropped back at my house after a very pleasant evening.

I had hoped to visit The Holy Family which is an organisation which works with people (particularly children) with disabilities to help them lead a mre active life. They provide aids and other support. However, the meeting wasn't arranged. I hope that I will still get a chance to see the how it has developed since I last visited , many years back before I leave this year.

This afternoon I went to Pemba to visit Jenniphe. She arranged to meet me just outside the town and I was lucky to get the opportunity to be dropped where she was. At the beginning of the year when I was speaking to Jennipher from the UK, almost as an aside, she mentioned that a Non Government Organisation (NGO ) would provide for her support group a borehole and hand pump at a fraction of the true cost. I was interested but found it a little hard to believe – but she assured me that it was true. I told her that if in fact it was the case, I would find the funds for her to have it installed. For me the idea of being able to provide a clean reliable supply of water for a community was something very significant and worth the investment. Subsequently when asked, Jennipoher told me it had been installed and was being used, but she never seemed as enthusiastic as I expected. She said that she decided it shouldn't be placed on her land, but at another site which would be better for the group as a whole.

She told me today that her reason for meeting me at the police check point was to pass by the pump. On the way she pointed out a large hole (well) where there was some dirty water. She told me that this used to be a major supply of water for the people in this area. A little further on we reached the handpump. It looks like an excellent and well thought out installation.There is a ramp at one side to allow wheelchairs access and it is designed with sufficient room for a wheelchair user to get to the outlet with their containers. On one side is a round plinth. Apparently pregnant women when lifting their water containers use their extended stomachs to balance the load before lifting it onto their heads. This plinth allows them to raise the container to their heads using the plinth as the staging post instead of their stomach. There is also a channel alowing the dirty water to soak away avoiding contamination of the borehole.

For me to see this was a great delight. It makes it so worthwhile for me to se that between us we can make significant changes to a few lives. There is also a garden being developed close to the borehole.

We passed by a place where an elderly woman was staying. Jennipher told me that she has no relatives – she had no children. She hasn't the strength anymore to collect grass to rethatch her house and would dearly like to have the thatch replaced with iron sheets.

Jennipher had talked about a child of one of her clients who was deaf and dumb. We came to her house and met the girl with her parents – I am afraid I have forgotten her name but it means gift. The girl came to us – apparently she often runs away from people. Something about her was particularly appealing. Her parents seemed to treat her with a great deal of dignity and respect. They hope to obtain a place for her at a special school near Choma – about 50 - 60 km from Pemba. This is the same school that Bright's son Brian has been attending.

Eventually we arrived at Jennipher's house. I didn't recognise Obadia he has grown into a wonderfully cheerful, healthy looking lad and no longer the baby I remember. He ran to me and laughed the whole time I was with them. Maggie has a new companion – Jennipher. Emmanuel is staying with Sandra just outside Livingstone while she has a short break. Selina arrived on her bike and is quickly growing into quite a young lady.

Soloman has created a little den where he has made a small gym – using engine parts as weights – apparently the young lads like working out here!

The headman who helped Jennipher with her visa by writing a supporting letter came around and Jennipher showed him the plane tickets.

Soloman has managed to build an extension to the house using money gained from the solar phone charger and a little business he has done selling goats.

The book Wayfaring refers to the Ignatian practice of reflecting on your day and particularly noticing the life giving moments. For me to see the hand pump and have the young children joyfully playing on my lap made my heart leap. I really am privileged to have the opportunity to get to know some wonderful people and have the ability to help improve the lives of a few here in Zambia. I would urge anyone who has the chance to take a small leap of faith and risk getting involved – the rewards are so much greater than the costs.

This evening Obert came around with the bag tidies. His mother will make some more if I obtain some extra material. He showed me a letter from a local school where a child had been accepted for grade 8. She is the child of a client from his mother'ssupport group – the client died. They are struggling to find the fees for this term (about £9). Of course the girl will not finish at grade 8 and the fees will increase significantly after grade 9 – it would be easy to cover this small cost and forget the years to come!

Obert also told me of a child of a friend of his – a 18 year old girl who died from complications after delivery. The child needs to be fed on dried milk for the first few months – again the costs are difficult to meet. Obert has helped a bit himself and says when he has his own car he will look after the child because he was a close friend of the mother.

There is little here that is dull and grey! Everything happens as if in full technicolour stirring the emotions one way and another. I look with pride at Jennipher as she walks head held high among the people who know, love and respect her around Pemba. There doesn't seem to be a house in the area where she is not intimately involved with the lives of the residents. She is much more deeply impacted by the difficulties of the people around her than I am. By supporting her I can also support those who now look to her. I hope that her visit to the UK will enable to her to do even more when she returns to her people here in Zambia.

With my love and prayers