I talked to Mrs. Sianga about how she wanted to use the money recently received through Global Giving.
She would like to feed the children – about 1.8m Kwatcha (£240 or $387) for three months.
She needs a strong room so that they can use the school as an examination centre saving the costs and disruption of transporting children etc. to a different centre.
She also has school fees to pay for the children that succeeded in getting to secondary school 2.2m Kwatcha/year (£295 or $475).
It is clear how important it is to continue to build on the ongoing support.
Mrs. Sianga is in Lusaka at the moment, with her daughter and very new granddaughter, but due back in a few days. I will then get to work on some stories for you about how this project has made a difference to the children here.
After breakfast in Lusaka it was time to head for Monze. We were running late so we picked up a fewitems at Shoprite in Mazabuka to serve as our lunch.After dropping off our bags the next port of call was Pemba village nearby where we weremeeting with Jennipher. I had reorganised my schedule and gave only adays notice about the changed programme. In addition we left Monzelate. Had I thought things through, I would have realised thatJennipher would organise a gathering and that changing the daywouldn't be such a trivial matter. I was very sorry to have disturbedthings but in the event we were escorted to her home by a group ofladies who sang a welcome as we followed in the car. There wereprobably 50 people assembled to meet us including several of thelocal headmen. The headmen traditionally allocate land and generallylook after the villagers, but in recent times many of them have alsobecome desperately poor and have difficulty proving for their ownfamilies.Jennipher had everything very well organised anddifferent people, all affected by HIV/AIDS, told us of their majorneeds. Children without school uniforms or shoes – one who alsomentioned that she had no food – a story that is far too commonhere. One man told us that he had 8 children and all of them died asa result of AIDS. Those unfortunate enough to have lost a child willunderstand some of the pain but to lose all of your children must beunbearable. Some outlined their plans for refurbishing a clinic tosupply the ARVs (Anti-retroviral drugs needed by people with AIDS)and the idea of a drop in centre to help some children learn andplay. Many of the stories are heart rending and the size of theproblem is huge. It is easy to feel totally impotent, but we can onlydo that which is possible. Jennipher has made a huge difference tothousands by setting up support groups and educating people aboutAIDS. There is no doubt that ARVs are allowing many not only to livelonger but also to be able to provide some support for children whootherwise would find themselves orphaned. It was getting dark beforewe headed back to Monze.Saturday was another full day. It is Jim's first trip to Zambia and it is important that he sees theprojects in which HANDS AROUND THE WORLD (HATW) has had an involvement over the years. Thefirst project at the hospital, the refurbishment and extension of thelaboratory and pharmacy, took place in 1999. Since then variousgroups and individuals have spent time working at the hospitalconstructing buildings or passing on some of their skills to thepermanent staff. Walking around the hospital it is clear to see howmuch difference has been made to the environment within some of thewards and specialist areas. The impact of the skilled volunteersisn't so easy to see, but the affection in which they are rememberedtells a lot.We were passing by the church and Fr. Kenan insisted that we joined the priests for lunch rather than go to ahotel. The hospitality we find in Zambia is exceptional. I am alreadybeing provided with accommodation and meals by the church here.In the afternoon we caught up with Mrs. Sianga and the head teachers togive David and Jim an update on the progress at PIZZ school. Theschool receives a lot of ongoing support from people associated withHATW. More and more projects which have started with our help are nowreceiving some long term support. It is relatively easy to obtaindonations to put up structures or provide equipment, but unlessongoing support is provided it will be impossible to make thedifference we want to the children where we work. With partners likeMrs. Sianga our efforts go a long way. There are now more than 200children attending her schools and getting a chance that otherwisewould be denied them. There are few, if any, of the children who Mrs.Sianga doesn't know individually. She provided support to many oftheir parents as a community nurse before they died as a result ofthe AIDS pandemic. If the younger children need a shower beforestarting lessons this is provided and if they are absent someone issent to find out what problems they have. The school provides acaring environment and a community for children that are goingthrough a very traumatic childhood.The examination results in the past year have been very good – despite a lack of resources.Three of the children are now at secondary school – largelysponsored through the project. More would be able to go if funds wereavailable.HATW past volunteers often keep in touch with theprojects and one volunteer recently raised some funds to pay fortextbooks, sports shirts and balls. Until this donation perhaps 2 or3 textbooks would be shared by 30 students. The teachers expect theresults to improve now that most students will have a textbook ineach of the subjects.Visiting projects like this make us realise just how worthwhile our efforts can be. Without our supportit is hard to see how this project could have survived. With the helpof past volunteers and supporters the future looks good.Mrs. Sianga and her husband joined us for supper and a very full dayreached it's conclusion.I suggested that we made an early start on Sunday, so we left at 8 hrs to return to Mrs. Sianga's firstschool. Each month she provides some additional food for 240 childrenin desperate need. Again Mrs. Sianga knows their families and theirproblems. These children are under-nourished and without this extrafood many would die. I couldn't help think how terrible it was thatin the world where we currently live, such situations still exist –and this is just a very small glimpse of a huge issue. The childrenpick up packs weighing about 30lb each and take them back to theirhomes. Some of the little ones are helped by older siblings. Thedistribution is carefully organised and some get extra itemsaccording to their need. Mrs. Sianga says that only two of thechildren have died during the past 6 months, which shows the successof the project. However that's two children too many, and alsocertainly two more than would have died in the UK. It is hard to beconfronted with the very harsh realities of live here, it is evenmore difficult when you know that it needn't be so! The feedingprogramme is not HATW funded, but receives some money from a smallgroup of Italians. After a visit a couple of them decided to dosomething, and with some family and friends they are ensuring that240 children have the extra essential food each month. It is amazingwhat some people are prepared to do when confronted by the reality oflife here.We headed for the 10 am mass at Our Lady of theWayside. 14 young children were being baptized so the day was one ofextra celebration. After the mass we were invited to join the baptism group for lunch. The proceedings includedsome speeches and, after lunch, the children exchanged gifts beforethe final prayer at about 15.30! David and Jim had to make theirapologies after the meal. They had another appointment with Mrs.Sianga to visit some people in the community. It was a similar visitwith Mrs. Sianga in 2003 that was probably the most significant eventduring my first visit. At that time there were no ARVs available andthe patients I saw were all dying. To be welcomed into their homeswas such a privilege and very humbling.There is never enough money available to meet the needs of the projects. Ifanyone has a few thousand pounds looking for a home you couldn't domuch better than donating it to HATW!David and Jim left this morning on their journey home. They will relax in Lusaka for a fewhours before leaving at midnight for Cardiff (via Harare, Nairobi &Amsterdam!) arriving home about 24 hours later.I will see whether I can get an Internet connection in a bit and send this blog.Chris
Looking after children is never easy and all the more difficult when funds are very tight. Mrs Sianga, who has almost 500 children dependent on her and her work, is an inspiration!
The recent Global Giving challenge has been a huge boost to funds to help her work and several of us plan to visit in June, partly to check on progress, but mostly to offer encouragement and support.
We'll post a more complete and informative report thereafter. Thank you for all your help in making a difference to these lovely but very vulnerable children.
I still remember visiting clients with Mrs S in 2004 and being brought to tears by the enormity of the task - young women dying in small shacks, of HIV-related illnesses, leaving behind them bewildered small children and aged grannies unable to cope with the scale of the problem caused by so many young adults' deaths... What a tragedy!
Thank God for her willingness to take up the challenge.
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