Saturday 13th June
As I prepare for my next trip, I find myself being aware of some of the differences that I will face.
Here convenience food is readily available - packet soups and frozen pizzas are no problem. It is however some of the other items I will miss. Cheese can be obtained at a couple of places in Monze – but not Stilton or Gorgonzola and what is available is expensive! In practice I rarely eat cheese in Zambia! Chocolate is best left on the shelves! It doesn't taste the same after it has melted and solidified several times! However there are plenty of compensations. The market stocks lots of lovely fresh food and it all seems to taste so much better. Impwa and masala (not the spice, but a root vegetable) are products you won't find at Tesco's (or even Sainbury's or Waitrose!) - you probably won't even find dried pumpkin leaves or ground ground nuts. Of course in Monze there will be fresh bananas and tasty local eggs; tomatoes grow all the year round (and very quickly) if you have a water supply. However, there are a couple of things from home that I find important - namely tea and cornflakes!! When I get up in the morning I find my cereal and a couple of cups of tea very comforting – combined with the welcoming sunshine which invariably greets me, this sets me up for the day.
The past couple of days I have started to say goodbye to friends – so today's HANDS are signalling farewell and very soon a similar shake of the HAND will mean welcome. It is amazing just how important are our HANDS. My journey to Zambia this year is squeezed between two Hands Around the World events. A Trustees meeting where we reflect on the work of the charity over recent months (and perhaps years) and look at the path forward to ensure that we are able to enrich the lives of more children around the world. Children who can achieve so much if we are willing to lend them our HANDS. The day after I return to the UK in August we celebrate the charity's 21st Birthday with some of the people who have been involved in our mission, many of whom (like me) have found their lives changed as a result. If you haven't added your HAND to show support you might like to follow this link. HANDS Supporting Hands Around the World
Surprisingly I am almost packed with a few hours to spare. My 30kg allowance is proving quite a challenge. In the past I seem to have been provided with an allowance that was always ample – irrespective of the official scale!! The record was 3x23kg bags on a standard BA economy flight – I was surprised to find that in fact I was able to make full use of this gift.
As I say goodbye I receive many words of encouragement as well as an envelope or two with money to help some currently unknown people in need, who I will invariably meet. I am aware of the many difficulties that I will face – some of which I will not be able to resolve. Working with the local people it is generally possible to achieve far more than we could alone – people like Mrs. Sianga and Jennipher who have used the support we are able to give to make huge differences to many in their community. However, during my visit I will be made aware of the huge issues that these people face. They never have any reserves! Every Kwacha is spent as it is received and when unexpected bills come along the implications can be enormous. So often in our world we like to be comfortable and to guard against any risk. As I continue to read Jean Vanier's account of life at L'Arche it is clear that his life is firmly rooted in Christianity – a faith which worships a God who ended up dying the death of a criminal and preached a message of love and compassion and told us not to worry but to trust in him. (Seen to many in our current world as total madness!!) As with most worthwhile organisations finding the resources is a constant struggle, but he trusts in the message and example of Jesus and is able to transform the lives of many who have previously been abandoned by our world.
Life is not meant to be comfortable – if we have enough to do what we want to do, we need to do more.
I too have prided myself on having a small reserve in the bank for emergencies. Recently I have been challenged to dip into this reserve. If someone needs expensive medical treatment that might save their life, or another is in danger of losing their family home or yet another's house is in danger of collapse - though perhaps not the emergencies envisaged, surely the reserve should be used.
Needless to say I will travel to Zambia this year without any of the comfort of money in the bank. However this in no way compares to the life of my friends in Monze! Diven said that he would like to meet me in Lusaka but he hasn't any transport money. If he had 50 kwacha (£5) I am sure he would use it all to travel to meet me on Monday – and would be very happy, even though then he really would have nothing!
Maybe when we have nothing, we more easily turn to God and let him in. I have often thought that God within us often breaks out into a huge smile and I look forward to seeing those smiling faces when I return in a couple of days to that special place – my second home.