Thursday, June 9, 2016

Reaching Half Way

Time is beginning to run away, I have already started the second half of my stay in Zambia. I am still meeting familiar faces.

Mrs. Chiiya had come to Homecraft to meet someone and we spotted each other. When a team of volunteers arrived in 2003 Mr. Chiiya was just about to open a guest house “Nampeyo”. It was almost ready and most facilities were installed. Our group was provided with rooms there during our stay. Mrs. Chiiya at the time was the head of the local primary school – Tagore. She has since retired and initially she wanted to run a project providing training courses in tailoring, carpentry and catering. After a while the project changed into a school and it is now it is fully operational as a nursing school.

I agreed to call at her house sometime and catch up with events.

Monday 6th June

My eldest granddaughter Amy is 20 today. In 2011 she spent about 3 weeks in Monze. She came with Dilys and the three of us returned to the UK together. It was quite an experience for a fifteen year old – especially since I was able to introduce her to aspects of life here most visitors will not encounter. Today she is on holiday in Mexico.

I am continuing to meet the children from PIZZ School – apparently I have spoken to 67 children individually so far this year. I am particularly grateful for some of the secondary school children coming to meet me. Having known some of these children for a number of years it is lovely to see them now developing as young men and women. My other friends are also growing up – Best is about to marry, Luke has a wife and children, as has Diven. Obert told me that he is now married, though I have yet to meet his wife and Raymond has a fiancĂ©e. I suppose after 13 years it isn't strange that people develop!!

Fr. Raphael's father died a couple of days back and the funeral is tomorrow. Here everyone attends funerals. I am not sure whether I should be there or not. In the UK we tend to only attend funerals of close relatives and friends.

Someone called out my name and I recognised Fr. Kenan in his car nearby. We gave each other a hug. I first met Fr. Kenan in London. A friend of mine from Cheltenham, a Zambian nurse called Diliwe, met him and arranged for us to get together. She knew that I visited Monze and that Fr. Kenan was from that Diocese. I invited Fr. Kenan to my house in Cheltenham – although he was studying in Margate at the time. He eventually returned to Monze and returned the compliment with a weekend at his family home, way out in the bush! It was a wonderful experience! We are highly competitive on the pool table and play whenever we get the chance.

Best called around. He has to travel to the Western Province for the last of his visits to the tribal chiefs. He has an office in Livingstone where a couple of friends, who have Certificates in Law, are looking after his legal advice business. This provides some money to help with his course costs – but never quite enough! Still he is now on the final stretch. He assures me that he will get his call to the bar at the end of the year – and I have no doubt he will succeed.

Power had been off for most of the day so, after offering coffee to Jennipher and a client who had visited my house, I accompanied them to the hospital where a young lad they had brought was receiving treatment at the eye clinic. I chatted for a while with Michael Breen. Michael is a doctor from Ireland who has been operating at the hospital for longer than I have been visiting. On my first visit I was invited to observe one of Michaels operations. I was surprised that I didn't find it a big issue and could look at it very objectively, despite never having witnessed major surgery before.

                                                                                                            My Garden Cat

Power returned just after sunset - in time for an evening meal, though not before the water had stopped flowing. I have been a bit complacent and haven't made contingencies for periods without a water supply.

Tuesday 7th June

I had little planned for the day. I decided to wander along to the cathedral at about 10.30. I wasn't surprised to see many cars parked in the grounds. The church was full and almost as many people were standing outside. I stood for a while to pay my respects, but resisted suggestions that I make my way inside. I decided to return home where I could say a quiet prayer.

Another friend was in Monze. Criscola was the receptionist at Monze Mission Hospital for a number of years – she is now located in Gwembe a few miles outside of Monze. She immediately asked after Dilys who she met when she visited. These chance encounters are very much facilitated by my position in the town centre.

Diven called around and we sat outside and talked. Diven is always interested to hear about life in the UK, about my family, politics and all manner of things! His main aim now is to develop his shop to generate a good income which he can use to finish the buildings he now owns. He has a system where he fills his shelves with Boom – a detergent paste. This fills his shelves cheaply. As he makes a bit of money he buys more Boom! Eventually he sells a case or two and buys other products. He has a separate client base for the Boom and says he can sell a case very quickly when it is time to buy more expensive products. The recent illness of his wife brought his business down and he now has to gradually restock. However, there is a critical stock level needed to enable him to start to grow.

I had an early supper. When Fr. Kenan rang at about 6 pm I was ready to play! He picked me up from Homecraft and we found a pool table about 15km from Monze near Chisikele. The bar was quite empty and three of us played a few games against each other, over a couple of beers.

Fr. Kenan has two brothers who are also priests (I think these are Zambian brothers i.e. might be cousins in our terms.) He had arranged to meet them with a couple of fellow priests. They preferred the bar down the road – unfortunately the pool table has been removed. We joined them at Mayfair.

In the UK I get the impression that priests often lead a solitary existence. Here in Zambia priests often get together to socialise. The priest's house at the cathedral was always a place where priests passing through would be welcome. I stayed on a few occasions while in Monze and met a large number of priests. In the Philippines and Myanmar we were also regularly in the company of lots of clergy.

Fr. Elias is a Jesuit priest and also a brother of Fr. Kenan. He had recently been awarded a doctorate – only the second awarded to a Zambian Jesuit. This provided a good excuse to celebrate – if one was needed. We were the only group at the bar and the priests were able to relax and let their hair down a bit. The beer flowed and the dancing was hilarious! It was after 1 am by the time I was returned home after a very pleasant evening! It reminded me of an experience in Manila where Dilys and myself found ourselves amongst a group of priests, nuns and seminarians at 2 am drinking Budweiser and singing karaoke.

Wednesday 8th June

I was still dozing when at 8 am Mrs. Sianga rang to ask if I would be free at 10 am to see a few more children. There were still a few sponsored children I hadn't caught up with, so we tried to identify and see them.

PIZZ School is very much the vision of Mrs. Sianga. She was keen to keep 'her children' off the streets. Many of these children were initially left as orphans by the mothers she nursed. The school became a place of refuge for the children, but with help from Hands Around the World has now also become a recognised place for high quality education. It not only gives a place of respite while the children grow, but also gives them a real chance to transform their lives and help improve the lives of their families.

It is important that we talk about the longer term issue and how we can try to ensure that this wonderful project has a long term future. Some of the older children are now supported at Secondary School and Mawini is at University. This inspires the younger children and gives them hope. It also encourages the guardians to enable their children to attend school rather than just spend their time looking for ways to feed the family. A project of this sort costs a considerable amount to operate properly and continue to deliver the results we are beginning to see. It also needs tremendous dedication from the staff and others involved in running the project locally.

Much of my time at the school is spent in looking at how we can jointly keep the project moving forward and be less dependent on individuals. With the best will in the world people like Mrs. Sianga cannot be replaced, but at least we must plan for the long term. We look forward to a time when there is a long list of doctors, teachers, lawyers together with craftsmen and women who were educated at PIZZ School.

I met Patrick up the road from Tooters. Patrick was a nurse who worked with Mrs. Sianga in Home Based Care. He left the hospital some years back. We agreed to meet up some other time and catch up.

Jennipher was around at my house with another client when I returned. They had swept outside again to make the house presentable! Charity apparently missed me last year when I visited Pemba and was keen to say hallo. I hadn't eaten lunch so we had some peanut butter sandwiches with our drinks.

Next week there will be an opportunity for people to get matched funding from Global Giving for donations made during a 24 hour period. In this instance we can get an additional 40% on top of the donations. These opportunities occur a couple of times a year, but I think this is the first time that I have been in Zambia at the time. I am keen to maximise on the opportunity and have sent e-mails to all my long suffering friends and relatives preparing the ground – encouraging them to read this blog – maybe you are one of them!! I must have sent out more than 150 mails and will follow up before the day and probably during it!! If I can get more individual donors to support PIZZ than any other project we will get an extra £650 – if we get the most money we get another £650. Unfortunately we cannot give these children the chance of a better future without raising the funds. On the other hand to be part of such a project is such a privilege that maybe people will jump at the chance – anyway I live in hope.

Thursday 9th June

Obert came to collect me at about 9 hrs. His parents wanted me to visit their house and talk about the pre-school unit they have established.

It was good to call at their house again. I came to know them through my chance meeting with Obert. The father used to work for the Catholic Diocese doing some maintenance work, but the unit has now been closed leaving him without regular work. He is a builder by trade and has built and extended his house, putting up a structure to use as a pre-school. The house is also the site of an AIDS support group and they have a small barn for layers as an income generating scheme for this group. Paying a teacher a little for the pre-school is always a challenge. The people from the community often cannot afford to pay, but Obert's parents are more focussed on the education than charging – so many don't pay.

I was shown into the small classroom and decided to join the children for a few minutes while we recited our numbers – in English! It was quite fun, though I was a disruptive influence – perhaps it will give the children a story to tell. I took a few photos and said goodbye. (Unfortunately I have managed to delete these pictures so you will miss a treat! I was asked to return and now must do so, if only to capture some of the lovely faces.)

We sat outside and chatted some more about what they are trying to do. They asked about my family – particularly Dilys and Amy who they met.

Obert drove me back home and, after a cup of tea, I headed for the immigration office which was newly established in Monze last year. I had decided to go today because I was not confident that they would be able to extend my visitors permit. I had no experience of their responsibilities. I kept tomorrow available for a trip to Mazabuka, if necessary. In the event they did the business and a half day's travelling was avoided.

On my way back I met Lillian who assured me I knew her. Apparently I met her at home-based care at the Cathedral. This must have been a brief encounter a few years back – I have only a slight recollection. Anyway I listened a while and gave her my number. Later in the afternoon she came around. Lilian has started making rosary beads as a little business. They are actually well made and quite attractive. I agreed that I will buy some before I go home. I think there are probably some groups at church who might make use of them. She also said she has a child in the final year at school and is struggling to cover the fees. I am willing to help through buying rosaries, but cannot cover school fees for someone I have only met briefly. She left thanking me for listening and agreeing to help.

Deana has arrived in Monze and invited me to join her and two women who have travelled with her from England. Deana came over to Monze 4 or 5 years back as a volunteer with Hands Around the World. I wasn't in Monze at the time but kept in touch by phone while she was here and introduced her to some of my friends. We have since met a few times in Wales where she live. A couple of years back she set up a charity “Friends of Monze”. Through this she has developed a school and provided irrigation for another Monze project and is particularly active in the area of women's rights and issues. Last year we shared a house in Monze.

To my shame I have forgotten the names of Deana's colleagues. I joined them at Tooters where they were enjoying nshima! I chose chicken and chips myself!! I explained to her friends that I spend my time in Zambia talking – usually over a hot drink. I then spent the next hour or more talking!! Those who know me realise that I don't find it difficult to talk endlessly! If I get started about Zambia and my experiences there is no stopping me. Deana went shopping with Agnes – a local friend, and I was still in full flight when she returned. I realised I might have done a better service by showing my guests around the market – a pity I didn't think of it at the time!

I will have a couple of sandwiches for supper, having had a meal at lunchtime. Diven has said he wants to call around briefly and I am expecting Raymond later!

Take care,


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