Sunday, November 29, 2015

Preparing for Christmas

28th November

I am surprised to realise that I haven't written on my blog since August. Perhaps because I am in almost daily contact with my friends from Zambia I can't imagine that I haven't been in touch with you as well.

The rains in Zambia have just started. This will be a big relief. Water levels were very low this year leading the government to ration electricity – the main source of power being hydro-electric from the Kariba Dam. The local people will now have to gamble on whether they expect the rains to continue reliably or whether they might stop - leading to drought and lost crops. In recent years it has been almost impossible to get sufficient consistent rainfall to give a good maize crop. Some people are growing other crops, but in recent history food in Zambia has meant nshima – a food made from maize flour. For a Zambian it is very important to grow your own maize.

My friends continue to struggle along.

Jennipher found Sandra's death very difficult and her health has not been too good. She recently spent a week in Choma just to have a bit of a break – the doctor suggested that she needed 3 weeks rest! She continues to be very busy helping her many support groups to move forward. Some of these groups raised a little money as a revolving fund. Members can borrow money for small projects – they are then expected to repay the money so that it can be passed to another member etc. On Tuesday it is World AIDS day so they will be meeting for celebrations. Jennipher has taken in a 19 year old girl who has contracted AIDS. She is trying to help her to manage the condition, but is concerned about the risks to her children. People with AIDS are susceptible to a range of infections – particularly TB. It is these infections (rather than AIDS) which present the major risk. Jennipher wants to build a single roomed house where she can house people like this girl. She is keen that the local support group helps by making bricks. She will probably look for help to roof the building when it is built – after the rainy season.

Diven's house and shop are now plastered on the outside and gutters and gulleys have been made to take the water from his buildings. He still has no plaster on the inside and most windows have been bricked up because of insufficient funds. Delia gave birth to a baby boy called Paul who is doing well. Business is tricky these days as costs have been rising rapidly because of the drop in value of
the kwacha. From 10 kwacha to the pound when I arrived in Zambia, it briefly hit 20 kwacha to the pound a couple of weeks ago. Diven remains cheerful despite the challenges he has to provide for his family.

Best has found it difficult to get enough work in Monze and Choma. Recently he set up an office in Livingstone, but still finds getting work a challenge. He has decided that he needs to do more studies to gain a licence to operate as a solicitor. He wants to start in January, but as usual the costs are high. He will make a considerable contribtion, but without support will not be able to proceed.

Raymond and Charles have not yet revived the PEASSA project, yet there are people relying on them to provide some basic food to keep body and soul together.

Obert had hoped to have his leg mended. Unfortunately it wasn't possible to repair the leg and he needs a replacement. He says that his spare leg is too short which makes walking difficult, though he still manages to do some driving.

We have just moved into Advent – a time of preparation for Christmas. In our secular world we are told that we must go out and spend like there is no tomorrow – in fact apparently our (economic) survival relies on this process. I think that we really must question the model by which or lives are ruled.

For several years I had a big problem with Christmas. How could I embrace the enormous excesses of the season, while people I know well are just hoping they will have something to eat. My friends and family receive very few personal presents from me, but they know that some people in Zambia will have a little extra food, some seed to grow maize, next term's school fees paid, a roof to keep out this year's rain or something else which will make a lot of difference to their Christmas.

If I don't get another chance, I wish you a wonderful peaceful and life-giving Christmas – a time when you experience the real spirit of Christmas full of joy and love.