September 14, 2017

On Thursday morning we visited the women of Lusapila, meaning ‘Still here’. They were delighted with the gift of Microbz poultry nutrition booster. Mary (Secretary), Mavis (Treasurer), Irene and Amanda explained how they had originally started chicken rearing and recently sold 15 of their 60 chickens for 40 to 60 kwacha depending on size. The eggs sell for 1 kwacha each. The women started with broiler chickens and then moved on the more natural ‘village chickens’ when the feed price increased. The chickens were living in the house with Amanda (the eldest) for a year before Vision Zambia donated the funds to build a chicken house. Mary explained that as the chickens live in their small yard and have to be confined, they can fight and eggs are lost in the process. The Group joined the Chicken Association, based in Lusaka, and were advised that in their circumstances they should buy an incubator to protect the eggs. We are delighted that a donation has been made recently to support this project.

We caught up with Sandra who provides the beautiful beaded products that we sell to raise funds. She related how she became involved in using craft production and selling to empower women in her local community. After discovering that the women were mainly using money raised to help pay school fees she set herself a goal to educate ten children from the sale of beaded products. She is currently helping five children; three are at Linda School, one of whom has gone on to Grade 10 at another school after getting the highest mark at Grade 8. Sandra heard from the women she beads with about Selena who was working as a maid to pay her fees and of Ruth whose mother had got a loan using her fridge as security. Sandra paid to get the fridge back and covered the fees. Ruth and Selena are now in Grade 11 at Twin Pines School. Sandra found out about the children at Linda School through visiting Doreen and asking about children who were academically able but struggling to pay fees. Doreen identified children in Grade 7 and Sandra met with the parents and supported them. She is also supporting the son of a woman, who used to bead, but left to become a street sweeper, when there was a delay in receiving salary and she could not afford the fees, her son had become depressed and was not leaving the house. It was becoming apparent to us that there is a strong link between the ability to access education and not only improving life prospects but the emotional health of the young people we were meeting.

On Friday morning we were at the clinic for the weekly weigh in of the babies and toddlers who are supported by the infant nutrition programme. Serena, here with her own baby Mila, was recording the weight of the children.

Later in the morning, we caught up with Miniver Chalwe who told us about her work in supporting women’s education and health and the progress with a range of products and initiatives including the ‘green’ briquettes and the menstrual pads. The latter is now awaiting government approval to be commercialised and she is hoping to take the product into women’s prisons.

Miniver has been asked to attend summits and speak at conferences in the USA, Argentina, and Ghana for IDIN (Innovation Development International Network). She explained that the IDDS (International Development Design Summit) visited the compound in 2001 looking for people who work within their communities to support education projects on a voluntary basis.  She has further projects, involving different technologies that she wants to work on including water purification and cassava processing. Her main priority continues to be the literacy groups for women, with the oldest pupil being 63.

We were delighted to find that Sarafina had made huge progress since our visit in February. She has gathered together and is leading the Zone 8 Women’s Group ‘Twatasha’ meaning ‘We are thankful’.  The members contributed 10 kwacha each when they joined to buy seeds to start cultivating the ground. They grow and now selling Indian spices and kale with the intention that the proceeds are used to pay for the donated sewing machines to be serviced, which will cost 80 kwacha per machine. So far plant sales have raised 200 kwacha and their intention once the machines are usable is to buy material to make uniforms. However, the hand pump in Zone 8 broke a couple of months ago, and they are concerned that the new crops will fail due to lack of water if they cannot raise the 750 kwacha needed to fix the pump. They also want to start a Savings Group and Mainess will support them to start with the new programme in January.

It is traditional for visiting trustees to gather together with our friends from Light of Hope Clinic, the School and women from some of the Women’s Groups towards the end of our visits. This time of gathering together and chatting informally brings up new ideas and collaborations. This time Doreen talked with the Lusapila women about buying eggs and chickens for the school from them. She commented that in Zambia the men were usually the providers, but the women in Linda were innovators who were changing the culture. When she learnt that Mainess and Judith had taught the Light of Hope women to knit and make the rugs she invited them to come into the school to teach the children and we discussed knitting groups and the educational benefits for children.

Our plan for Saturday was to watch the Light of Hope Soccer teams that VisionZambia support; Girls’ Soccer was scheduled for 10.00am in Zingalume, the other side of Lusaka and Boys Soccer at 3.00pm at a different venue. We had arranged to meet at Light of Hope at 8.30am when the bus was due to leave and were to follow on in the truck. When we arrived only two of the team were there and John explained that the girls would need to complete their chores before leaving home. As time moved on, I became concerned about being late and John explained that fines could be imposed and the team could lose by default.

Meanwhile Patricia, who understood better than me how time works in Zambia, had met three young men who had come to cheer
on the girls. Kenneth, Zenith and Ben, provided a stark contrast to Joseph’s despondency at the start of the week, and provided for us a clear example of what education can do for youth. The three young men were all at college studying law and transport and logistics respectively. Their fathers had mainly worked in trade and been able to pay fees and they had bright plans and hopes for their future.

The bus eventually left at 9.45am, en route we kept picking up more players, changed direction several times, and stopped for petrol, then two minutes later stopped again to change drivers before cutting on to dirt tracks to avoid re-joining the queue behind an abnormally wide load, then getting lost and stopping to confer with our passengers. The journey across Lusaka took two hours and our bus was almost identical to the many public buses in Lusaka, luckily the number plate (BAD 1647) was memorable – and there was a picture of praying hands on the back – we just needed to get close enough to see them. At one point our bus could have been any one of four buses we could see in the distance. The driver appeared to be oblivious to our need to know where he was going and the journey down the Cairo Road was like a cross between a James Bond chase and Wacky Races. Luckily the other team was also late and the match eventually started after a warm up around noon. As the bus had to be back to pick up the boys for their match it was decided that the girls would play 20 minutes per side.

This had been an invaluable experience, enriching our relationships with our friends and partners in Zambia and informing our plans for the next phase of our work.