Friday, May 23, 2014

Difficult decisions

Friday 23rd May

Sitting under the veranda here at 'Corner House' I realise just how wonderful life can be here in Zambia. Yet I am constantly challenged by the world in which most people in this country find themselves.

It is my choice to come here each year and welcome the people who meet me and touch my life. This can often be a painful experience.

Jennipher arrived on Wednesday with Tabia, a girl who has been accepted at a college in the Copperbelt to do a teacher training course. The fees amount to about £400 per term. Tabia is the daughter of one of Jennipher's clients and has managed to obtain support to go through secondary school. Although relatives had promised to fund her progress through college, nothing has been forthcoming. It is difficult when you realise that someone's future could rest in your hands, but it is easy to agree to too much. I realise that education is a long term commitment – there is nothing worse than having to give up a course midway. I hope that Tabia will find a way to achieve her ambition, maybe even if it means a delay of a year or so, but I am aware of the dangers that lie ahead if she is unable to continue her studies. Unfortunately Tabia is one of many very vulnerable children in Zambia who are struggling to make a reasonable life for themselves.

Bright arrived a little later. His son Brian is now in grade 12 at a special school for the deaf. Brian is hoping to go to teacher training college after school. Fees at the special school are quite high and those at college will be higher. Bright is a general worker at the hospital and only his determination and resourcefulness have enabled him to ensure that Brian receives a good education. I showed Bright a picture of him that I had noticed in the brochure brought out for the hospital's golden jubilee. Sr. Juunza had previously pointed it out to him.

I visited Teddy at the hospital and found Sr. Juunza. Sr. Juunza is the Senior Administration Officer at Monze Mission Hospital. We first met some years back and recently she has been studying to improve her qualifications. Unfortunately in Zambia there is, to my mind, too much emphasis on qualifications. Senior government jobs cannot be held by people without the relevant certificates. It is important that people are well trained, but being able to pass exams does not necessarily equip you to manage projects or carry out technical tasks effectively. In my expereince there are many who have few qualifications who make far better senior personnel than those with pretty pieces of paper! However, in Sr. Juunza, we now have someone who now has the paper to go with her abilities as a manager.

She told me that this year the hospital will celebrate its golden jubilee. They have embarked on a campaign to make significant improvements and refurbishments to mark the event and are looking for sponsorship. The plans are very ambitious and a booklet has been produced with details and budgets.

I spoke about the stock control system and agreed to demonstrate it on Friday if the managers were available. In the event some people have turned up unexpectedly this morning from the Ministry of Health, so I am waiting to see when the morning's planned meeting will now take place.

Yesterday I visited PIZZ school in the morning. At about 10 hrs the children have a break and are fed some fortified rice. I felt humbled, and a bit upset, that this small meal could mean so much to the children. First the young children brought their containers and later the young teenagers also came to eat a meal which will stop the hunger for a while and is actually making them noticeably healthier and more able to concentrate on their lessons.

We visited the new school briefly to see the progress with the construction of a strong room – needed in particular to keep safely examination papers. We also visited the new plot of land – though it must be at least 7 or 8 years since it was acquired. We discussed the issues where residents had built up to and beyond the boundary, and even dug a well in the school grounds.

On the way back to the first school we visited Euphrasia. Euphrasia has worked at the school for many years cleaning and cooking for the children. Recently she has become ill and since January has been unable to work. She has a serious skin disease and has lost a lot of weight. I have met her on numerous occasions over the years and she seemed pleased to see me. Before I left she assured me that with God's help she will recover.

It appears that landlords are often unhappy about very sick people living in their houses and Euphrasia has been told she has to move. She has been building a house for herself and her children which is almost complete, but the roof only covers half of the structure. Members of her church have agreed to move her furniture and she will move to her house within 24 hrs. of our meeting. Fortunately we are in the dry season, so it is unlikely that it will rain before October – by which time she will need to have completed the roofing of her house.

In the afternoon I met Tabo Meheritona who is now the director of Health Help Zambia (HHZ) a part of Health Help International (HHI). This organisation, based in South Wales, supports disadvantaged people, particularly those with disabilities. They are keen to seek out any people who have disabilities and are not included within the wider community. Sometimes as a result of stigma and shame severely disabled people are hidden in homes and rarely experience any interaction with the wider world. HHZ tries to counsel the families, bring children into schools and provide aids such as wheelchairs, crutches, walking sticks and glasses to enable those with disabilities to take an active part in the life of the community.

I was interested to learn that the Leonard Cheshire organisation was going to rent offices at HHZ for a pilot project, attempting to make schools in the area more accessible for children with disabilities. For many years I have had an association with 'Leonard Cheshire' in Cheltenham and have come to know a number of residents at the local home. I would like to talk to the organisation here and perhaps establish a link. Mr Meheritona promised to let me know if Leonard Cheshire move in before I leave Monze.

I started by saying how wonderful it can be in Zambia and so it can. However we live in a world where the gap between the wealthy and the majority is becoming ever wider. We hear more and more that we cannot afford to look after the most vulnerable, while being afraid to tax people who receive obscene amounts of money in salaries and bonuses.

Many of the people I met during the past two days struggle to live with any sort of dignity, some will die prematurely because they have insufficient nourishment and/or lack access to the necessary medical treatment. Living in a world which has enormous resources and capability through modern technology, I am ashamed that we continue to allow such situations to arise. I am disgusted that we are allowing matters to get worse.

Hands Around the World have a campaign to obtain funding so that the children at PIZZ school can continue to be fed. The target is to raise £600 by the end of May in order to provide a meal for 50 children for a whole year. To donate £5, please text HATW01 £5 to 70070 (That's HATW ZERO ONE space £5)

I know just how important this is for the children and I hope that we will far exceed this target and secure the feeding programme for a long time into the future - please spread the word by distributing this link.

Thank you,


No comments: