All the work of The Butterfly Tree is aimed at improving the lives of vulnerable and orphaned children. Since the charity started we have helped thousands of children in remote villages but many more are suffering as a result of the HIV and AIDS pandemic, poverty and malaria.
Joshua was so young when he lost his parents that he cannot remember them. Sent to Mukuni from the Western Province Joshua lives with his grandmother who struggled to pay his schools fees. For the past few years Joshua has been on the orphan sponsorship programme and is presently sitting grade nine exams for entry to Mukuni High School. Though Joshua is not highly academic he has excelled in music and leads the Mukuni Basic Choir as a skilled singer, songwriter and conductor. Providing these orphans with an education gives them hope for a better future.
Currently volunteering in Zambia to help with the orphans are Emma and Jess, who recently completed a 50 kilometres sponsored walk from Mukuni to Zwanga Village and back. This is a route that children walk daily to receive an education. Doing this challenging walk in the Zambian heat Emma and Jess have raised substantial funds for our projects.
One of our main volunteers, Mutsa , recently arrived in Zambia to continue her ‘Catch me I’m a Butterfly Tree” project which provides peer education for HIV prevention - an invaluable part of our work with orphans. In addition Mutsa will be holding sex education workshops in an attempt to reduce the number of teenage pregnancies.
I recently returned home after another rewarding visit to Zambia. It is hard to believe the progress we have made. What started off as helping a handful of orphans has now expanded to over twenty schools, seven clinics and more than 100 villages in four Chiefdoms, throughout the Southern Province of Zambia. The distance we are covering is a radius of 200 kilometres from base and thousands more orphaned and vulnerable children are receiving a sound education, improved healthcare and drinking safe, clean water.
Bore holes have been installed at Kauwe and Muchimbala schools with a third one about to be completed at Kanimbwa. Not only do the pupils have access to safe drinking water, but the bore holes will be used to irrigate crops for much needed feeding programmes. I was horrified to learn that some of the food, provided by theWorld Food Programme, is rotten by the time it reaches the schools.
One Head teacher reported that this year the food provision had been delivered for term one, the second term the maize was stale and the beans were mouldy. When the Head complained he was told by the distributors ‘beggars cannot be choosers – they can eat it!’ Nothing was received for term three. It is heartbreaking, knowing that young school children have no food during the day. Many of them leaving home as early as 4am to return twelve hours later, on any empty stomach. Next month we will increase the number of donated seeds to support this project.
As the rainy season approaches so does the increased risk of contracting malaria. Though prevalent all year, malaria cases increase between November and March. I spent two days distributing mosquito nets to outreach communities. Due to the remoteness of these villages the government do not spray the mud huts putting the people at great risk. Our malaria prevention programmed is vital. Since January no new cases of malaria have been reported in under fives and zero deaths caused by malaria.
While I was in Zambia I was invited by Sky News to give a ‘live’ interview on the much anticipated malaria vaccination, which could be available as soon as 2015. Glaxo,SmithKline has developed the first ever vaccine and I was asked to comment on how effective this could be for our malaria prevention programme.
Malaria remains the biggest killer of man. Every year around 660,000 people, mostly children under the age of five in sub-Sahara Africa, die from this mosquito-borne parasitic disease.
On another serious matter sadly the HIV and AIDS statistics remain far too high, at 27%, in the Mukuni and Livingstone areas. We are continuing our support for children with HIV, increasing our funding for workshops, specifically targeting school children. Mutsa Marau, our HIV prevention coordinator, will return to Zambia next month to offer peer education for HIV prevention. As always I was presented with a long list of orphans who need help. Our sponsor an orphan programme has supported hundreds of individual children in education.
It is difficult to comprehend the scale of the decimation caused by the HIV and AIDS pandemic in Zambia. With a population of barely more than 14 million the nation has over 700,000 orphans, primarily as a result of HIV and AIDS. Virtually all of the Butterfly Tree’s work revolves around the orphans and we strive to give them hope for a better future. Our aim is to provide a sound, basic education for as many rural children as funds permit. It is not possible for every child to be accepted on our orphan sponsorship program as there are so many, but we can help in other ways by improving the education facilities in these remote schools and helping them to generate sustainability.
Creating global awareness is paramount - the poverty levels are extreme. Under normal circumstances Zambian families can support themselves by living a simple lifestyle, but when they have the addition of several orphans to feed and educate they are pushed below the poverty line. Two thirds of the entire nation lives on less than £1 ($1.5) per day. Our aim is to develop sustainability in rural schools and communities so that every orphan has a chance to be educated.
We have many people helping us to achieve this through fundraising, sponsorship and volunteering. Last month we welcomed Thomas Mills High School, whose pupils raised funds to build a sustainable school shop at Mukuni Basic School. Camping out in the classrooms, two groups totalling thirty pupils form this school in Suffolk set about building the facility, which will be used to make and sell uniforms as well as school supplies. Students helped in the classrooms, with activities and on the sports ground.
While it is essential for these vulnerable children to complete their education it is not always possible to seek employment once they leave school. Mukuni Village is close to the mighty Victoria Falls, a major tourist destination, but there are not enough jobs for everyone and unemployment is high. To take advantage of the surroundings and the abundance of visitors to the area we are initiating an Ecotourism project. In July I visited Zambia with Jonathan Sedo, an Ecotourism consultant from Costa Rica, who is submitting a project plan to The Butterfly Tree. Emma Kennedy, an International Development student will assist with the initial stages of the project. This is a great opportunity for Mukuni orphans and school leavers to be involved income-generating enterprise
The orphan sponsorship program has been running since 2006, many of the children have reached high school - some have already completed school whilst others are just starting. We have extended the program to help children in the following schools: Mukuni, N’gandu, Kamwi, Siamasimbi and Ndele and many more need help.
The following is an e-postcard from Kai Iizuka, a GlobalGiving Representative in Zambia.
The Mukuni Model School has grown thanks to the support they receive from the Butterfly Tree. According to head teacher Rev. Mulenga, thanks to the new school buildings as well as dormitories for teachers, the school that could only teach till grade 9 now is able to offer high school education.
Thanks to the organization providing for their tuition fee as well as their school supplies (uniforms, notebooks, pens, etc.), 400 orphans are able to go to school which they would otherwise be unable to attend. The students attending the school come from all over, with some travelling up to twenty kilometers to receive education. To help remedy this problem, two boarding houses have been constructed and a feeding program has been established where the children are able to receive lunches.
One of the orphan children attending Mukni Model School is Sickley Mwandila in the eighth grade. She told me how her mother died when she was four, and her father died before she was born, so she currently lives with her extended family; she and her three sisters are being taken care of by just her grandmother. She explained how after the Butterfly Tree learned of her situation they have been helping pay for her school fees, uniform, books and shoes. With the money that they have been able to save, her family has managed to build a house for them all to live in. Sickley’s favourite subjects are English and Science, and she hopes to become a nurse someday.
After a somewhat challenging year I am pleased to report on the completion of several projects that will benefit the orphans and rural communities. All of them are a huge asset but none more so than those providing improved water and health facilities. Three new bore holes have been added at Kauwe, Kanibmwe and Muchambile schools in the Nyawe Chiefdom. In addition two latrines and a sluice for Mukuni Health Centre and one double for Kamwi school. Kaminbwa school. The new health centre at Mahalulu in the Mukuni Chiefdom is now complete. The government had taken three years to construct a clinic building in this outreach area – in just over a year we have added a maternity clinic, a women’s shelter, three medical staff houses and latrines in addition to a bore hole. The facility will cater for people who previously had to walk over thirty kilometres to reach the nearest health centre. A further women’s shelter has been added to Mambova Clinic in the Sikute Chiefdom.
Staff at these rural clinics has to treat patients with numerous illness including HIV/AIDS, TB, malaria, diarrhoeal diseases and snake bites, besides holding anti-natal and post natal clinics. In addition to skilled staff local people are trained to assist with childbirth and home care. The HIV and AIDS statistics in the area are the highest in the nation, with as many as 30% of the population being infected with the HIV virus. Livingstone is a border town and the capital of tourism. I was horrified to learn that one of my team had overheard some European female students saying that they only come to Africa for sex! We are increasing the number of educational workshops on HIV and AIDS prevention and teenage pregnancies, but it appears the visitors also need to be educated!
A new Special Education unit at River View school has just been completed. A further unit is currently being constructed at Katapazi Basic school. The new 1×2 classroom block is in full use and a school shop will shortly be built to create sustainability for the Mukuni schools. Some of these projects are two hundred kilometres from our base and up to sixty kilometres off road. All kind of problems arose, including poor access, vehicles getting stuck, dry bore holes and increase in fuel costs. Mupotola, Martin and Presley, three of The Butterfly Tree volunteers in Zambia, deserve most of the credit for their hard work, sheer determination and dedication in helping these vulnerable communities.
As always it was great to meet up with the orphans. Many of them participated in the Kazungula District schools’ events, with Mukuni hosting it at the new Music Centre. Mukuni won the best choir, poetry and traditional dancing competitions and went on to compete in the Southern Province finals where they came runners up in all categories. I managed to catch up with the Kamwi twins who lost their mother in childbirth, both are happy and healthy and will be three years old in October. Sadly more children have been orphaned and need our support. Today I was delighted to hear that a group of Australians has agreed to sponsor fifty orphans for a further year. Many thanks to all our donors.
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