Friday the 16th of October.
Somewhere above Turkey having just left Iranian air space.
On my way from Dubai to Glasgow and had a few days to reflect on my time in Zambia; however, I will have to finish this once I am home.
It was emotional saying goodbye to Jenny and all the staff in Chodort as it had been a difficult last few days for them. I had said we were to be having a grand opening ceremony for the new Chodort classrooms on the13th October. All the staff had worked extremely hard to get the classrooms ready, curtains put up, chairs refurbished, and all this with the continuing challenge of power cuts for 8 hours daily. Very sadly one of the representatives from the German church coming to Zambia for the opening was showing his wife around the Mosi ao Tunya falls at Livingstone when he collapsed and died. A decision was made that the opening ceremony should be cancelled in respect. What should have been a celebration turned to a time of mourning and all our thoughts went to his widow visiting Zambia for the first time and away from her own family. Thankfully the authorities acted quickly to repatriate them without delay and I have been told since I left that the coffin stopped in Choma to allow prayers for a safe journey back to Germany.
I also have to pay tribute to all the staff for the hugs and prayers for safe travel for me. You are wonderful people.
In other things we just ran out of time for me to get to Masuku clinic for the screening session with the donated blood pressure machines and urine dip sticks to screen for diabetes mostly. There is no form of bus service to there and with the planning for the opening, there was just too much to do. Jenny will take the 2 BP machines to the clinic herself along with the dip sticks and thermometers when she next visits with her load of Days for Girls hygiene packs made in the tailoring workshop. (In my last letter I reported that I gave the other 2 BP machines, sticks and thermometers to Keith and Ida at Mwandi Mission in Western province)
I did have my teaching session on non-communicable diseases though. I hope it went well and I had to do a little clinic of BP checks with the girls straight after. Having noticed the previous week that the carpenters who were all boys chuckled their way through the session I allocated everyone to a group. Through the group work and them feeding back to each other I was able to establish what they did know about ‘non communicable diseases’. In Africa generally, diabetes, cancer, especially of the cervix for women, stroke, heart disease, and depression are all increasing and these are the ones I focused on for the session. Often these diseases are more advanced before diagnosis is made as health education is poor, communicating that education across the population when it is available is challenging, especially among the most vulnerable in the society. Word of mouth, one to one, is the most effective way because of poor reading skills and / or access to any written information or TV that we know here. In recent years understandably AIDS and HIV have been the main focus. They are still up there at the top with malaria and malnutrition. I learnt during the session that women ‘dry out’ their vagina with whatever they have at hand to make sex better for the man! Example of why education for girls and the Days for Girls http://www.daysforgirls.org/ project is so vital to stop these practices and help young women refuse to do these things and for men to not demand it. I was nearly crying when I heard what they told me. Pregnancy in young teenagers remains very high, with marriage seen as a ‘must do’ for girls. There is a push to encourage young women first into education, then a career; however, this takes years to change /alter behaviours and what is seen as traditional ways. I did find that where some of the students knew about the diseases, when it came to symptoms and prevention they had little awareness, so we had a discussion on checking breasts for girls and testicles for the boys. I hope that my short session with them will make a difference in due course, either for them or a family member.
Almost half way through the flight now and over the Black Sea, having crossed Turkey. Beginning to get dark so won’t see much more than lights from now on and going to stop here till I get home.
Back with you on Tuesday the 20th. Since returning home have had some lower back pain which has been troublesome, probably the sitting around on flights.
To Play 4 All for a bit. Some of the donation money was used for replacing the cement surface on the porch area of the building which was not done till after I left Kitwe, though Jane has told me she will post pictures of the improvements as soon as she can on the Play 4 All Facebook page. I Also bought extra locks for security for them and a new pump for the balls. If you go to the Facebook page now https://www.facebook.com/ZambiaPlay4All?fref=ts you will see the difference with the ground from the photos taken at the birthday celebrations in January during the wet season and when I was there during the hot season, when there has been no rain for several months. Jane is also going to be starting a project to raise and sell chicks to provide funds for Play 4 All. Let’s encourage Jane and pray for this venture as choices for sustainable income are limited in a poor area like Kamatipa. There is so much more that could be done at Play 4 All, but this always relies on donations so far and the aim is for it to be self-sustaining, and as new schools do get built Play 4 All would no longer be necessary. Wow! That would be great news one day.
While I was in Zambia the value of the Zambian Kwacha was plummeting. It was about K12 to the pound when I arrived, but dropped to 18 + by the time I left. Where it helped me in that it gave me more Kwacha to spend with the money donated (items sponsored were priced at K10 to the £) it was beginning to bite in Zambia and prices were going up for basics. People were being asked more for rents and those were the ones who could least afford. With Zambia being land locked it costs more to transport overseas things with many items coming from South Africa. The power outages see no end just now and I was constantly amazed about how these challenges are absorbed into daily routine. I don’t know if it is right or wrong to just accept the situation and get on with life or if the Zambian people should be challenging the powers that be more strongly to get a solution? There is an election next year so what happens will be interesting. People were queuing to register for the vote while I was there. Methods used to inform people of things like registering or vaccinations available for things like elephantitis is for a car and loudspeaker to go around the area speaking the message and/or through the local churches.
Before I finish I must commend Caroline and Kabutu to you. Caroline just keeps accepting more street orphans into her 1-bedroom rental home. (29 at last count) At present she is building a new home for to accomodate everyone; however, this can only be as funds allow and will still only be very basic. She and her husband Crispin are not well off, and have three children of their own, but through perseverance they have started on building the walls for their new home. As soon as they get a roof they will move in as this will stop the need for paying rent. Her dedication to others is amazing.
As with Kabutu, he does not know how NOT to share what he has with elderly group he cares for through Grace of God services. He has visited the local mine companies and other businesses to support the group and raise awareness of their need within Kitwe and works tirelessly.
In Dubai I met up with the lovely Susan McKeever from too many years ago at Kingseat for those of my readers who remember ‘Kingseat days’. Thank you for a lovely day Susan. Dubai is very different to Zambia and the UK and I cannot make up my mind about it.
Being back home for over a week now I still feel a little ‘unsettled’ is the best way I can find to describe it. Zambia knocks into touch what you think is necessary for your daily life; however, I am not about to give up on my computer to do things like this. Is that contradictory? Many Zambians demonstrate daily what being humble and joyful for what they have looks like.
I pray that one day ALL in Zambia will get that education they want; That girls will have easy access to menstruation packs and not miss that schooling and that spending the day hungry is no longer part of the daily routine. That poverty and the reasons for it is eradicated; or should that read like a recent article I read, that having less people with great wealth would better share out our resources amongst all people?
To Jenny who put up with me I huge thank you. I believe Jet the dog has been moping around a bit since I left so I hope Jenny is not doing the same! Jenny lives for Chodort and its success and for Play 4 All. At times she needs boosts of encouragement so a quick message is always appreciated. We had lots of laughs, especially about what you do when you only have candles to watch when the power is out.
Jenny Is not an easy person to catch on photo so here is one of her as we clambered over the rocks on Chikankaisland in the middle of Lake Kariba. Thankfully she was too far away to stop me!
Please also have browse the links at the side of this to see more of the different people / organisations who are part of who I met or found out about while in Zambia.