Mother of Mercy Hospice runs an outreach programme taking medicines and food to patients in the poorest parts of the community who are too weak or live too far away to make the journey. On each of our visits to Lusaka VisionZambia trustees accompany Sr Jeremia to see this invaluable work at first hand.
Whenever Sr Jeremia meets children on these trips she asks if they are attending school. When I visited earlier this year with trustees Georgia and Sandra I was delighted to see that two children Patricia and I met last summer, Ruth and Justin are now sponsored to attend St Patrick’s one of the hospice schools. Ruth had made a great impression on us as before she opened the sweets we gave to her she turned and gave one first to her father. Last July the siblings had not been able to access education but are now happily engaged in learning with new friends. Ruth was pleased to see us – her brother did not look any happier until we found more sweets…
We travel on into Mahpepa, a very poor compound in Chilanga, and the first home we reach is a basic mud hut being rented for 250kwacha a month (about £25) by Agnes who is looking after her grandchildren, Emmanuel Chikoti and his four year old sister Costa who, when she has overcome her initial shyness, entrances Georgia with her dancing.
Emmanuel is 17, he reached Grade 9 but the family cannot afford to pay the 450kwacha to get his results or the fees to attend school at Grade 10. He was offered a place but the School will not accept instalment payments – the 950 kwacha must be paid in full in advance. Unless he takes up the place soon he will lose it; unless he completes his education he will have no chance of a job and will languish in the compound. We leave Mealie Meal and HEPS for Agnes and an intention to find a scholarship for Emmanuel.
The next house shocks our local trustee Sandra, who grew up in Lusaka, it is constructed of asbestos pipes with a corrugated tin roof and leaks heavily when it rains as it has been earlier in the day: Leonard tells us there is a danger that houses like this can collapse in heavy rain.
A wood fire is churning out smoke in the kitchen which makes it difficult to linger inside. The owners Bisek Chupa and Anna Phiri have lived here for 20 years and have outlived their children. Sandra is working out what would be needed to improve this building.
Boyd Phiri in the third house we visit lost his lower leg to an infection in 2012; he has lived here for 25 years and now shares his small house with a his nieces and grandchildren.
More stories unfold: the visit to Mahpepa sets a measure of true poverty for us and shows us just how far Linda has come by contrast in the years VisionZambia has been supporting the community.