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


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