I mentioned in my last Update in December that, through AVN-Belgium, we have launched a program in Zambia, in collaboration with the Belgian NGO, Abantu-Zambia. The program centres around the construction of VN houses in a cluster of sixteen villages in the Chibombo District, north of the capital, Lusaka.
This has now got off to a really good start. A local coordinator, Sister Grace (see photo) has volunteered to organise the program in the field; 65 potential clients for VN houses, and 18 potential VN masons, from nine villages, have been identified.
The first two villagers in the program, Christoper Phiri and Jaspan Moobela (see photo) arrived in Boromo, Burkina Faso, in mid-December, for a 5-month apprenticeship in vault construction. This is the first time they have been away from home, and it was no easy matter arranging passports, visas, and travel (bus to Lusaka, a plane to Addis Ababa, another plane to Ouagadougou, via Lomé, and a 3 hour bus journey to Boromo - altogether this took some 30 hours!).
They are learning fast, and will be returning to Zambia in May, accompanied by two Burkinabé master masons, to start a training and construction program in their villages.
By good fortune, Austin Hawkins, a young American on a J.Watson Fellowship studying earth architecture, has been spending a 10-week attachment to AVN in Boromo : Austin speaks excellent French, so he has been able to help interpret for Christopher and Jaspan, and he has also translated the VN masons' manuals into English for them. A real cultural mix, and for sure another positive aspect of the AVN adventure!
You can see a video interview with Austin on our You Tube channel.
Village houses in Zambia are traditionally made of adobe walls with a conical grass thatch roof on timber beams (see photo); although these seem very picturesque, they have many drawbacks (the roofs are often infested with insects and termites, they have to be replaced every 2-3 years, they often catch fire, and it is the women in the family who are responsible for the drudgery of their maintenance). And, in any case, bush timber and grass is getting increasingly scarce, so many families have to resort to expensive, badly insulated, sheet metal and corrugated iron roofs, which only last a maximum of ten years anyway.
So, one can understand why so many villagers in the program area are keen to have VN houses with solid, safe, roofs which will keep their houses cool during the day, and cosy at night.
AVN-Belgium is raising funds to support this program: any contributions you might care to make will go towards this fund.
Thanking you once more for your support,
Jaspan & Christopher arriving in Boromo
Zambian village house