Since returning home, the Hands around the World team has followed up, consolidating the work that has been done in getting the Vocational Training Centre opened.
The major step was appointing Wilson Phiri and his wife as the centre managers with full responsibility for the tools, the security and the cleaning of the rooms. Wilson has also been appointed as the 'in house' carpenter.
Chief Mnukwa has supported this appointment and HATW will support Wilson and his family for the next 12 months. At the end of 2015 the situation will be reviewed.
Wilson has been allowed 3 months to build all the shelving and cupboards needed in the classrooms to ensure they are secure and that everything has it’s place. The sewing machines in particular need to be kept out of the dust.
Another massive step forward has been the meetings and discussions between HATW and ZOE. ZOE is a charity that is working in Zambia with orphans. They are very well established and a marvellous manager Stephen oversees the ZOE projects.
I met with John Hunt the founder of ZOE and, as both charities are working in the same area, we have agreed to work closely together. As Stephen has transport he has kindly agreed to help us by acting as an unofficial “postman” liaising with Wilson and others in Mnukwa.
The next major projects are
- to set up support mechanisms for some of the older students at the school so they can stay in education and
- to support the start of the building of a maternity ward next to the existing health centre.
HATW will be working with ZOE on this new building.
Thank you for your support and encouragement!
In recent times I have been talking often with Geoff Burnett and Dick Wheelock about progress with the Adjidole orphanage building in Benin. Dick visited twice in 2014 with other volunteers and helped move the building along, also embarking on the drilling of boreholes. Unfortunately, Geoff has been unwell and for the first time in 12 years was unable to visit this year. We have however received regular encouraging reports on progress, along with some photos from Dieu Donne Kakpo our link partner in the country, showing the roofing and subsequently the plastering/rendering of the Adjidole building well under way.
Happily, although the initial building funds have now been used up, we are delighted to have been able to secure further money to allow the work to continue, especially as the weather is currently good. Dick feels that the team are very much on budget and producing good quality work. He writes:
'The shell of the main Adjidole building is now complete but wiring, ceilings, rendering and painting are still required. The boundary wall is also complete – but the necessity of moving the construction of this wall forward has involved some changes to the timing of the original plan.
The expenditure of the newly agreed funds should be quite sufficient to get the orphanage open and working with up to 10 or 12 children. We then need to allow time to see if there proves to be both a demand for and the ability to manage more children, before taking further steps.'
In relation to the child support programme, we are in a more unsettled position due to Geoff’s enforced inability to visit this year. I do hope that Guillaume (who volunteered in 2014) will be able to look at this when he visits later in the year, supported by Dick who is hoping to go out again in 2015.
Naturally, we are keen to supervise the support programme closely, whilst feeling confident that Dieu Donne is very honest and worthy of support.
This is a successful project, consistently doing well and supporting many needy children! Thank you for your support and interest in the past. With your help, we hope to be able to make a positive difference to many more children in the future.
This was my first trip with Hands Around The World. There should have been 4 of us going but due to medical circumstances beyond Steve and Tina’s control it was only Dennis our leader and myself who were able to make the journey from Jersey.
Even though I had seen photographs of the stunning countryside, of all the hills and greenery and the poverty of the local people, along with the progress of the school from the previous volunteers over the four years, I had not experienced the real-life aspect of living and working in this part of Africa for myself.
We stayed at St Francoise guesthouse and we were able to meet up with Sister Betty who showed us around the disability and medical centre, which forms part of the complex. The rehabilitation work that these dedicated Nuns and workers, many of whom are disabled themselves and have employment here, is awe inspiring. I met up with Sylvester and Bibian who have both received artificial limbs through my late husband’s fund – The Chris Halsey Tribute Fund-set up by David Steiner to provide Nursing, medical aid and equipment. This was an emotional moment for me to meet them both and to think that donations received in his memory had made a difference to their lives and how they coped with their disability.
Dennis and I also met Masarina, the seamstress who is 27 years old. She also requires a replacement artificial limb as it is such poor condition. I will apply to the CHTF in due course.
Our daily trip to the school meant a 45-minute journey to Bugarama in an old car also occupied by a family of cockroaches in the boot. The police who stopped us on twelve separate occasions often interrupted the journey. Dennis, who did all the driving, as I was not brave enough to have a go, had only ever been stopped a couple of times in four years and thought this to be very unusual. The daily trip was an insight into life on the road to and from Bugarama and how hard it is for the local population, of all ages, to transport their goods on foot, bicycle and any means to get a meagre day’s wage.
At Muko School, our initial meetings with the school committee laid down the ground rules for employing the workers, food provision and their priorities for the school, which was to secure the school premises with a perimeter wall, which was undertaken by a local builder and his team once tenders had been agreed. Dennis soon got to work with the team of up to 16 workers and the progress made with the cleaning, painting, and general repairs was impressive.
My main tasks were to provide and prepare the workers with daily lunch of bread, boiled eggs, and fresh fruit and vegetable from the market, accompanied by Esther who could help me with the language. This enabled me to interact with the local community. This took the best part of the morning with buying food in a foreign land not quite the same as the Supermarket at home. The ladies in the market insisted I speak 5 different words everyday and I was set the challenge of remembering them and getting the pronunciation correct. In return they had to speak the English equivalent. There was a lot of laughter and fun despite their desperate situation.
I was very popular as I carried my camera and everyone wanted their photo taken. I would be walking along and find a small hand slipped inside mine and turn around to find a large crowd of children following me. Then of course a further ten minutes of conversation and photo taking.
The daily photographs taken enabled us to see how quickly the perimeter wall progressed and the local workers were always keen to show their skills when a camera was pointed at them. Dennis and I were able to have the photos developed in Kemembe and give them a copy, much to their excitement and delight.
As a choir member in Jersey I love listening to other choirs. I was delighted when the choirs practiced and the Catholic Church held their services as the music was fantastic, pitch perfect and the harmonies amazing.
I was also able to meet up with a few of the teachers, one of which was a Nursery teacher who assisted me in establishing the priorities for the Nursery class. Together we scrubbed down chairs and tables and I was able to converse with her in English to assist with her pronunciation and vocabulary.
We purchased new mattresses and covers for the Nursery, sourced locally, and Dennis brightened up the classroom with designs on the walls. Some of Dennis’ workers also proved to have artistic skills and helped with posters for the wall.
When on site I would be visited by the local children coming from the village, wanting to meet this ‘muzungu’ and of course have their photo taken. The main conversation with the boys was always football and names of the players. Fortunately I was able to name a few so felt I could communicate this common language. One young boy told me is his name was Stephen Gerrard, which caused huge hilarity among the children.
I was also able to teach English lessons with students and teachers from the school. I would have undertaken more of this but they were teaching in the morning and not always around in the afternoon.
On one occasions when teaching on a one to one, it rained so hard and the classroom roof was made of tin making conversation impossible. So it was a matter of giving the student theory to do and discussing it when the rain stopped. This is normal for the teachers and they are quite used to having strategies to teach the children when this happens. One of the students came to the school to speak to the secretary. He was keen to speak and learn English and I was able provide him with some lessons and conversational English. He was an orphan being brought up by his Grandparents, as both his parents died 3 years previously. His siblings were all living separately with other family members. This brought it home to me how children have to survive with so much going on around them. They grow up very fast.
I also visited the Medical centre in Bugarama, and was able to take a few medical supplies for them. I was actually quite surprised how well equipped part of the centre was. The maternity and paediatric ward interested me the most, as a former Midwife. I was privileged to meet a mum who had just delivered twins the day before. The twins looked a healthy weight, however the mother and baby in the next bed look malnourished and weak. Most of the work in the center is around health promotion and education in nutrition, family planning and sex education for the teenagers of both sexes. Young mothers are encouraged to attend pre and postnatal classes. The staff also do outreach work in the hills otherwise a great many would not receive the appropriate health care and vaccinations required. Malaria, HIV and gastroenteritis being a threat to many lives of all ages.
Wellars, Dennis’ right-hand-man, and his wife Chance and Esther accompanied us at the weekend and we visited a tea plantation. We also visited the hot springs and couldn’t believe how the local people could swim in water, which was bubbling with the heat. I managed to take a picture of a man diving into the steaming water, he did survive to be shown his technique.
Wellars kindly introduced us to their Church on the Sunday. This was quite an experience and we were made to feel that we were part of their community. We were made very welcome wherever we went. I will always appreciate their kindness and generosity of spirit even though they have so little to offer materialistically, they are generous of heart beyond belief.
On our last day, just before returning home, we visited the Genocide Museum in Kigali. This was a thought-provoking reminder of what the people Rwanda had faced only a short time ago. I will always be left with images of the photographs in the museum and the contrast to the photographs I had taken over the 3 weeks in Rwanda.
Thanks go to HATW for giving me the opportunity to have this experience and to Dennis for leading the trip so successfully.