May 10, 2017

This was my first visit to Zambia and what struck me the most was the warmth of welcome, the smiling happy children, (despite having nothing), and the willingness by people to improve their lives and receive help. The people I met and their living circumstances threw into sharp relief the abun-dance of stuff we have in England, and how much we waste and throw away. The children and adults I met created something out of almost nothing to make a difference to their lives, whether that was a toy car made of plastic bottles, or a business starting off with a few chickens. It was a humbling and joyful experience.

Here is a full report of what a week in Zambia looks like for a trustee!

Friday 10th February – Introductions

10am Meeting at Light of Hope Clinic with John Shawa, our coordinator in Linda. Met Coco, (Kondwani Nyimbili) and Tima, (Tima Banda) his assistants (paid), and Benjamin, another of John’s helpers, (unpaid). Looked around the bar/cafe he is creating with the aim that it will be a community space, which is not quite finished. We visited the school briefly just to say ‘Hi’ to Doreen (Head).

3pm Met with Mainess to discuss women’s groups and the computer course she would like to do in order to improve her skills and enable her to better manage the groups and communicate directly with us. Also visited Deakin, a local computer college.

Saturday 11th February

8am To Mother of Mercy Hospice for Outreach trip with Sr Jeremiah and Leonard, (counsellor) who visit patients of the hospice four days a week. There are over 3000 registered patients and some live quite far from the hospice, eg 35km. When they have some, they deliver a big sack of corn meal, a box of fortified rice, (supplied by Stop Hunger Now, an American charity) and a sack of protein meal HEPS. To qualify for this food at least one member of the family must be HIV+. We were aiming to visit five families; however two were unavailable to meet with us. So we visited three families, firstly an 80 year old with HIV and her various family members. Secondly, we saw Mr Paul, who has TB, and his wife, both are HIV+, and we met their four children and two grandchildren. Lastly, we met Elisabeth, who had a beautifully kept garden, and who we interviewed on video. All were very grateful for the food supplies. It is vital for them to have some food in order to take their medication and enable them to adhere to their medication regime.

1pm Meeting with Sandra whose women’s groups make the key rings which we sell in the UK to raise extra money for VZ. Cossie, another VZ trustee, joined us and we were able to inform Sandra of a large new order for lanyards from the PR company connected to Unilever, who contacted Patricia before our visit to buy key rings for an event.

3.30pm Meeting with Tiyende Pamodzi Women’s Group who sell Chitenge material and slippers. Their enterprise is going well and they sell locally in Linda. They have put in a funding request for K7000, (£564.00) to change their business approach by buying more materials and slippers in bulk rather than buying retail as they do currently.

4.30pm Meeting with Josphat and Roderick who run the Light of Hope Sports Club. This club began in 2015 with the intention of ‘engaging young people in sport to reduce risks of idle living.’ Josphat is a teacher and they are working with many schools and communities. He and Roderick, (volunteer) are now working with John Shawa and Mr Zumba to develop and support the football teams and netball team in Linda Township, (formerly known as Linda Compound). Their vision is to teach life skills through sports activities.

Sunday 12th February

8am Arrive at Linda Township, (LT) to meet with football teams ahead of today’s match. The girls’ team is doing very well having reached the finals: the boys’ team is doing less well but has avoided relegation. There was also a netball match today.

11.30am Kick-off. We watched a very good match. The girls’ team, ‘Divas’, are very skilled and committed and a joy to watch. Divas win 2-0. Then we watched some of the netball match and this team also went on to win their match. Although, the day was long and drawn out, waiting for a pitch etc, all the young people seemed to be very committed and enjoyed playing.

Monday 13th February

8am Meeting with Doreen, Head of Linda School, Doreen. There are 1500 pupils on roll. The total population of LT is now around 45,000. They are very grateful for all VZ support. We match fund the school fees collected. The fees are K670 (£54.00) for grades 8/9 annually and K150 (£12.00) for grades 1-7 annually. Doreen would also like money for specific projects. Her wish list is:

  • stools for the new science labs
  • lab equipment
  • concrete benches for children to sit outside
  • flat stone paving for the large area in middle of school, used as a playground, which when the rains come is a mud bath. Also some advice on drainage.
  • annual computer servicing. (Currently there are 35, Doreen is aiming for 40)
  • noticeboards in all classrooms
  • Four more pit latrines which are raised. They are called VIP latrines, ventilated improved pit latrines. The current ones flood when there is a lot of rain so very unsanitary with overflow.

We had a tour of the school. The staff room has been upgraded with VZ money supporting the purchase of chairs and tables. This improves staff morale and so staff stay at school and are motivated to work, prepare lessons, etc. The store cupboard is full of books and some equipment for the lab, a microscope, a skeleton and some other bits paid for with VZ monies. There is a photocopier paid for by VZ, but the Computer room needs more chairs and computers. We saw the Garden where the children grow vegetables to sell. If parents can’t afford uniform there is a charity box outside the staff room to take donations to buy uniforms. This is now a model school and other schools come to visit!

10am Meeting with the Parents Community School Committee (PCSC). What they have planted is growing well but they would like funding to grow more crops. There are security issues with the plot of land where crops are grown and people are encroaching on the land. They would like to build a caretaker’s house; they have laid the foundations and have blocks. They also want to put up some houses for teachers, which would also help to deter encroachment. They generate money by selling produce and have used those funds to pay for bricks but they need more money to do the building work and are asking VZ for the necessary funding.

2pm The meeting with Groups Savings and Loans, Fiwamina Abanthu Group, starts with a prayer. They meet in FHF Hall (Friends Helping Friends) once a month. Four bowls are on the floor:

  1. Savings, each woman puts in money for her personal account, she can choose the amount
  2. Social fund, each woman puts in money for a group account, the same amount for each woman.
  3. Fines, if someone turns up late they have to pay a fine of K5, about 40p.
  4. Loan repayments

All is recorded in a group book and also in each woman’s personal account book. Women can borrow up to three times the amount they have put into their personal account. They must pay back the loan with 20% interest. All the fines and interest go into a pot, which is regularly shared out amongst everyone.

“You can’t stop village banking because it is the best” Juliana Banda, a member of this group.

This system is becoming increasingly popular in LT. There is a maximum of 30 to any savings and loans group and already groups are reaching this and so having to split into two groups. It is growing and very popular with the women since it gives them power and control over their lives.

4pm– Meeting with Fiwamina Abanthu Women’s Group, led by Miniver. This group was set up to sell children’s clothes but then moved into sanitary towels and charcoal production. It feels like they lost focus for a while so they agreed that they need to unite and come up with a goal and find a project that will generate money. There are spaces in the group, it is scanty and John feels they need to have a full committee before he can start working with them. They decided that they want to focus on sewing shirts and uniforms and would like funding for that project. They were advised to draw up a plan and prepare a report for the next visit.