The past few months at Kaliyangile have been challenging, but everyone is working hard to move forward, supporting the vulnerable teenagers in Chisamba.
The project has always looked into ways of maximising the effectiveness of its activities. In its early days, a substantial water system was introduced with a wind pump and a series of tanks and reservoirs. Repair of the wind pump is being carried out to prevent reliance on the erratic electricity supply. But unfortunately the incubator does rely on electricity and because of power rationing (known as 'load-shedding' - which means planned lengthy daily power cuts) it cannot currently be used.
The sow will be sold on so that the piggery project can be put back on track.
The bee keeping course and the computing training are well under way, also giving the students opportunities to acquire some extra income.
Matilda – a former Kaliyangile student – is now working from home, having bought her own sewing machine. She told me that she had plenty of customers for her products and she was also able to provide clothes for her children so that they were no longer “running around in rags”. It is good to see former students able to look after themselves and their families. Matilda would like to get a treadle machine that will enable her to work faster.
Life in Zambia is always hard for most people, and particularly in the long dry season. Often there is no rain at all from Easter right through until November! Poor harvests in recent years have made life even more difficult – and with the drop in world copper prices, the value of the currency, the Zambian Kwacha, has dropped dramatically leading to a greatly increased cost of living. Providing help to give teenagers extra skills is even more important to help them through the difficult times.
Thank you very much for your much-valued ongoing support.
Having focussed on the young people of the vocational training centre in Siriba for previous updates, I thought this time that I would tell you a little of what goes on here in the UK.
I am lucky to have six grandchildren ranging from two years to seven years old. They all live close to our home within their own settled family environments. Mya, aged six, took part in a project on Africa at her school last term. Since this she has shown a keen interest in my photographs of the people of Siriba. I have taken over 2000 during my visits - good, bad and ugly!
Mya has noticed that most of the children of her age are very poorly dressed and has decided to do her bit to help. During one of the few sunny days we had during the school summer holidays, I showed Mya some of the photographs again. She is noticing much more now than she did before the school project.
We went to a nearby sunflower field last week as she has decided that she wants to help many of the young children to have some better clothes.She has decorated her clothes collection box and is determined to fill it before I go to Siriba again. She is promising shoes, shorts, dresses and really anything else decent that she can find!
You may wonder what this has to do with a vocational training centre? Well these people need all the help we can give them and something decent to wear makes the little ones feel ten feet tall!
So watch out British Airways, it looks as though you will have to be generous again and give us another double baggage allowance!
The residential children’s centre in Affame, named in memory of Geoff Burnett, is now ready for occupation.
This year's visit in September will mark an interesting change in my involvement with Benin. For the first time since I started going there in 2009, there are no on-going building projects. This time the emphasis for me will be on helping HANDS AROUND THE WORLD (HATW) local representatives themselves to raise running costs for the centre.
The obvious route for this is to build on the work started on lifting agriculture from the current subsistence level. The tractor and implements provided through HATW are already leading to improvements in soil fertility by enabling farmers to incorporate crop residues rather than the traditional burning. I am now removing my engineer’s hat and, calling on a lifetime of living on a farm, will be using a soil test kit donated by Andrew W to check on actual levels of fertility as a first step towards improving outputs. Andrew, an agriculturalist, hopes to visit Benin in the future to further this work.
Forestry plays an important role in this area and the Iroko tree is considered of great value. Unfortunately there is no local knowledge of how to propagate this tree. However some work at a Nigerian university has developed a system of stratification for the Iroko seeds to enable germination. I will be taking the very simple equipment (i.e. a thermometer and schedule) to start a programme of raising plants for sale.
Work on the orphan support programme will now continue under the able guidance of Nigel England who will be accompanying me to Benin on 22 September. I'll leave him to introduce himself.
Nigel writes: "In 2009 I was involved in a trip to Kenya to build a school with volunteers and local tradesmen and women. This was an amazing experience. I now have the spare time due to retirement as a children's services manager from a large charity. HATW has given me the opportunity to use my skills in child protection and engineering (20 plus years in each) to support the project in Benin. I will be looking to help enable sustainable systems to ensure safe and appropriate child development."