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.
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.
One of the most difficult decisions I have to make when I am in Zambia is to prioritise when it comes to funding treatment for sick children. Such is the demand that it is impossible to help every one of them. Over the years the charity has assisted as many children as possible, some through the under fives’ feeding program, other more serious cases with operations and medical treatment. The number of beneficiaries has increased in the past two years thanks to regular donations from Brady Italia.
The rural Health Centres we support at Mukuni, Katapazi and Nsongwe deal with general practice. The clinical workers examine patients suffering from common colds to full blown diseases such malaria, TB and HIV and AIDS. Most households cannot afford to keep a paracetamol or bandage at hand. The clinical staff are well trained but facilities and medical supplies are basic. The Butterfly Tree supports a number of health projects at Mukuni, which include helping sick and under-nourished children. It is heartbreaking to learn that children have been waiting several years to have a spleen or bladder operation or in need of physiotherapy. In addition we provide support for orphaned babies and an under-fives’ feeding program.
The nearest hospital to these clinics is Livingstone, some 16 kilometres from Mukuni Village, which has a new paediatric ward. The surgical ward in the general hospital is where I have taken a number of young children to seek further examinations. One such case was a little boy who had a swelling on his eye, thought to be a tumour. The doctor told me that he would have to perform a biopsy. I was horrified to learn that the results can take between three to six months as there is only one pathology laboratory in the entire nation with a population of 13 million. Fortunately for Jordan his eye swelling was caused by a piece of wire embedded in his eyelid and not a tumour as first thought.
Most families have no money for transport to get to hospital, the charity provides these funds whenever possible. Even more challenging is when a patient is referred to Lusaka Hospital, which is over 500 kilometres from Livingstone. Currently we are funding five children for on going treatment and seven infants who are orphaned or under weight. Global Partners for Health has generously supported this program. In addition we provide funds for malaria and HIV and AIDS prevention.
I have just returned from a rewarding yet very challenging trip to Zambia. After three weeks enjoying temperatures reaching over thirty degrees, it was a shock to come back to the UK to snow and below zero temperatures. As always there are many projects I to check on and new ones to initiate.
Education is foremost in making progress, but more importantly health concerns have to be dealt with. A number of children had to be referred to hospital suffering with various conditions ranging from Cerebral Palsy to stomach ulcers; some had waited for many weeks due to not having transport money to reach Livingstone. In addition there were several babies who needed support.
During my first week in Mukuni a woman had walked for three hours from Ndele to ask for my help. Last year a fifteen year old school girl had fallen pregnant in her village. During the girl’s pregnancy her mother, who she lived with, sadly passed away. Some months later the girl herself tragically died in childbirth. For the past two months the guardian had to beg for contributions from the community, so that she could buy the costly formula and care for this helpless infant. It was heartbreaking to see this beautiful baby orphaned at such a delicate age and it was agreed that the charity would support her.
The rainy season in Zambia ends in March. Unfortunately the rains, which started in October, have been intermittent – either too heavy or insufficient. This means that the crops will yield only around 30 – 40% of what is normally expected. This will result in a great deal of hunger, if not famine, amongst the rural communities that depend on maize as their staple food. I came across many hungry children living on just one meal a day, some of them walking for three hours to get to school.
Thanks to donations from an existing supporter and some generous tourists I met during my stay, we were able to distribute bags of ‘mealie meal’ (ground maize) to vulnerable families in both Mukuni and Kamwi Villages.
Despite all the hardships it was great to see all the progress. A boarder’s shelter and five new community houses have been completed, two of them to house young widows each with several children. Sibbulo Village has an entire new school and bore hole. Over 2000 mosquito nets have been distributed in the Mukuni and Sekute Chiefdoms.
A clinic, which comprises of a maternity unit, women’s shelter, three staff houses, latrines and a bore hole will be opening in May. This will help people who are currently walking over thirty kilometres to seek healthcare and treatment.
As always there are many more orphans seeking sponsorship. Some children are returned to the villages from townships when their parents pass away. It is really tough for these children and also for their grandparents who become their sole guardians. I met one elderly man whose daughter and son-in-law had died as a result of AIDS related illnesses. His grandchildren had been brought to him from Sesheke, some two hundred kilometres from Mukuni. A neighbour had kindly offered him his mud hut as the old man did not have suitable accommodation. We will soon provide a house for this family along with support for the children.
These are the really vulnerable people who desperately need funding. Working at grass root level, we can identify the real need and ensure that all donations go directly to the cause, without deducting costly administration and personal fees.
We have had tremendous support from our donors, fundraisers and volunteers. Please continue to help us to reach out to more vulnerable children in these remote villages of Zambia.
New Year Brings Hope for Orphans. It is almost seven years since I first stepped foot in Mukuni Village and visited their basic school. It was there that I learnt about the plight of the orphans – almost 50% of the children had lost one or both parents. Since 2006 The Butterfly Tree has assisted thousands of orphaned and vulnerable children in the Mukuni Chiefdom and beyond and sponsored over 500 individual ones in education. With the start of the new school year in Zambia many children will have dropped out of rural schools due to the lack of funds. Education up to grade seven is free, though books and uniform still need to be purchased. After grade seven school fees have to be found – a hard task for families who are living below the poverty line.
With so much poverty in rural villages education is crucial for these needy children. We have provided bore holes, improved health facilities and feeding programs but far too many orphans are struggling to meet the school fees. It cost just £110 ($180) per annum to sponsor an orphan or £10 per month for UK donors. Last year twenty orphans who had completed high school were able to go onto further education thanks to a grant from the BFSS. The majority of them took hotel management or food and beverage courses. Zambia is an up and coming tourist destination and new hotels are being built in the area. More jobs will become available for these students who are now trained in this industry. Two of the first orphans we sponsored have employment as security guards at Stanley Safari Lodge.
For 2013 one challenge is for the schools we support to become more sustainable, another will be to initiate income-generating enterprises for orphans who are unable to seek employment. Our aim is to provide a mentoring scheme, which will involve local employers and businesses. If we can teach these educated orphans how to run a business not only to provide food for their families, but also to produce food for the tourist industry, they can overcome the poverty cycle. At the end of 2012 many of Zambia’s crops were destroyed be army worms. Mukuni and Kamwi villages lost most of their crops and will suffer a food shortage later this year. The Butterfly Tree has donated funds for 100 bags of seeds to help the worse effected families to replant during this peak growing season. All of these families will be supporting orphans; besides giving them an education we have to ensure that the orphans do not to suffer from hunger.
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