Saturday 10th June
My daughter Helen should be about half way along her run to the Tower as I start to write! She set off at 8.15 BST – about 5 hrs ago on her 53 mile run! I hope that sufficient will be raised to secure Talent and Betty's secondary education – there are of course more children who need our support. Any raised above the £1,800 will go into the fund which is attempting to pay the fees for about 80 secondary students – all former PIZZ Students. So we still have a challenge ahead. For anyone wanting to make Helen's efforts really worthwhile, donations are still being received at http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/HelenBarrell.
Tuesday seems a long time ago and a lot has happened since. In terms of the diary we met the caregivers from the school on Tuesday, went to Hachanga Dam on Wednesday, out into the rural areas on Thursday and attended a sports day at the school yesterday!
Of course this brief diary contains a wealth of interactions. Everywhere you go, whether a visitor or resident, you need to make time to say hallo – to ask whether the other is well, and how is the family. Enquire about any problems etc. When we went out into the villages this was very apparent.
We left the tarmac just before we reached PIZZ School and drove 14 Km to St. Mary's – probably regarded as a small town here. Another 10 – 15 Km and we reached Hatontola. I had been here before with Jennipher – then we came from Pemba, about 15Km distant. Jennipher donated one of her bicycle ambulances to her support group at Hatontola, because of the long distances people have to travel in these parts. There is a school and clinic at Hatontola. We continued for a few more kilometres and arrived where Mrs Sianga was born and brought up. She told us that all the people around were her relatives. A village in Zambia is a remote place – you cannot expect any mains electricity or water and you don't expect to be within 10 Km or so of a tarred road. This village was probably at least 20 or 30 Km from a tarred road.
On our journey we met men pushing bicycles with perhaps four large bags of charcoal balanced. They were on their way to Monze – 30 - 40 Km or more distant. There they will sell the charcoal for 25 kwacha a bag (Just over £2). It would be getting dark before some were back home, having left at four in the morning.
A village in Zambia comprises a small group of structures which form the family home. Maybe a couple of hundred metres away there is another family home and so on. There is little need for roads between because vehicles are rare – though we came across one or two guys who had sold some cows to buy a motorbike!
We stopped at a home – to be honest I was a bit surprised, since there were more houses than I expected – maybe this was a small community and my concept of the village was wrong!. However all was explained when we met the headman – who of course shared a grandparent with Mrs Sianga! He had married six wives – four of whom are still alive, including his first wife. I think the man said he was 83 years old. He had 26 children and 50+ grandchildren. So yes all these buildings belonged to his family – it was just that his family was rather large!!
We were made very welcome. Ben asked if he could take a photo and spent the next half hour being taken on a tour of the place, with family members posing at each stop. Everyone had a great time!
The visit to Hachanga Dam on Wednesday was a little more sedate. On the banks of the lake a small community has been established. With support from the Catholic Church, a group of disabled people have built houses and grow some crops. They also make beautiful baskets from palm leaves and small twigs which they sell to bring in some income. We were visiting to pick up some of these baskets. Again we were made very welcome and learnt a little about their lives. In recent years the community has grown with many children being born and a school has been built. They also have their own chapel where priests occasionally come to say mass.
We left the village and stopped close to the lake to relax a little and see what the fishermen had caught. In fact the women and children had caught some very small fish in nets.
Back to to visit in the rural area we continued further from Monze and finally arrived at a village where Killian's mother was born. Killian had many relatives in this area. We were expected and were invited into a school classroom where we were told about some of the challenges facing children living in such remote areas. It was several kilometres from the nearest school and, particularly in the rainy season, it wasn't safe for small children to walk to school, since they had to go near dangerous streams. They erected a two-roomed classroom to form a pre-school and grade 1. They lacked many of the resources needed – such as story books. The village has no clinic – the nearest is 15 Km away at Hatantola where it has a very basic clinic. The nearest hospital is Monze Mission Hospital 45 Km away – about two hours along a dirt road if you have a car. Probably an ox-cart would be usual means of transport.
Most children would never have a pair of shoes. Apparently we were the first Europeans ever to visit the village! An American had visited in the past!
On the journey Mrs. Sianga and Killian stopped regularly – the car often went very slowly, finding a suitable path along the dirt tracks, so it wasn't hard to stop and chat. We rarely seemed to pass anyone without greetings being exchanged. On the way back Mrs. Sianga told us that as a child most of this area outside Monze was a big forest with many wild animals. She also said that in the 60s there was trouble between rival political groups and, as children, they would flee into the forest to escape fighters. Often returning to find that family members had been killed.
We had a lovely picnic before returning to Monze. Sitting in the shade without any noise except for the birds.
Yesterday the children spent the morning playing another local school at football and netball. There were several matches representing the different age groups. PIZZ School performed well – particularly in the netball. There was tremendous excitement whenever a goal was scored – the pitch was invaded with dancing and cheering.
It has been a week when we have experienced different facets of life here in Zambia. The Siangas have been very gracious ensuring that Ben in particular experiences different aspects of life and that we appreciate some of the daily challenges that people face. I too have been reminded of the different aspects of life here and have seen new places – including the Sianga's farm, which I have nearly visited many times over the years!
Early in the week we heard from the caregivers. These women give up their time to act as the link between the school and the community. A small organisation from Italy which has been providing support over the years has cut back drastically in recent years. The caregivers do what they can to provide support to the vulnerable children, but there are always too many to cope with. They were keen to find ways in which they could generate a bit of income to help them meet more of the demands. We talked for a while and listened to their ideas. We will need to take the thoughts away and see how we can help them move forward.
It is always uncomfortable sitting in the middle, but that is where I live! The needs here are enormous and people are desperate not to abandon any of the children. On the other side I am told that money is hard to raise and we cannot keep meeting demands! I will do what I can and hope that I can make a difference to the lives of some of the children here in Monze.
Today was Ben's last full day in Monze. Tomorrow he is heading to Livingstone for a couple of days and will, more or less, just pass through on his way back to the UK and a very different world. I am sure that he has found the experience worthwhile. He has allowed himself to be touched by the people and their lives and we have all enjoyed his presence. I am sure he won't forget Monze and nor shall we forget him.
This afternoon we went to the showground and spent some time at the agricultural show.. It was interesting to see the variety of produce on display and there were a few other interesting stands as well as some music.
I am now going to see whether Helen is nearing home – it is 10 ½ hrs since she set off. I am sure that she will be hoping the finishing line is close!!
With love and prayers,