After breakfast in Lusaka it was time to head for Monze. We were running late so we picked up a few
items 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 were
meeting with Jennipher. I had reorganised my schedule and gave only a
days notice about the changed programme. In addition we left Monze
late. Had I thought things through, I would have realised that
Jennipher would organise a gathering and that changing the day
wouldn't be such a trivial matter. I was very sorry to have disturbed
things but in the event we were escorted to her home by a group of
ladies who sang a welcome as we followed in the car. There were
probably 50 people assembled to meet us including several of the
local headmen. The headmen traditionally allocate land and generally
look after the villagers, but in recent times many of them have also
become desperately poor and have difficulty proving for their own
Jennipher had everything very well organised and
different people, all affected by HIV/AIDS, told us of their major
needs. Children without school uniforms or shoes – one who also
mentioned that she had no food – a story that is far too common
here. One man told us that he had 8 children and all of them died as
a result of AIDS. Those unfortunate enough to have lost a child will
understand some of the pain but to lose all of your children must be
unbearable. Some outlined their plans for refurbishing a clinic to
supply the ARVs (Anti-retroviral drugs needed by people with AIDS)
and the idea of a drop in centre to help some children learn and
play. Many of the stories are heart rending and the size of the
problem is huge. It is easy to feel totally impotent, but we can only
do that which is possible. Jennipher has made a huge difference to
thousands by setting up support groups and educating people about
AIDS. There is no doubt that ARVs are allowing many not only to live
longer but also to be able to provide some support for children who
otherwise would find themselves orphaned. It was getting dark before
we headed back to Monze.
Saturday was another full day. It is Jim's first trip to Zambia and it is important that he sees the
projects in which HANDS AROUND THE WORLD (HATW) has had an involvement over the years. The
first project at the hospital, the refurbishment and extension of the
laboratory and pharmacy, took place in 1999. Since then various
groups and individuals have spent time working at the hospital
constructing buildings or passing on some of their skills to the
permanent staff. Walking around the hospital it is clear to see how
much difference has been made to the environment within some of the
wards and specialist areas. The impact of the skilled volunteers
isn't so easy to see, but the affection in which they are remembered
tells a lot.
We were passing by the church and Fr. Kenan insisted that we joined the priests for lunch rather than go to a
hotel. The hospitality we find in Zambia is exceptional. I am already
being provided with accommodation and meals by the church here.
In the afternoon we caught up with Mrs. Sianga and the head teachers to
give David and Jim an update on the progress at PIZZ school. The
school receives a lot of ongoing support from people associated with
HATW. More and more projects which have started with our help are now
receiving some long term support. It is relatively easy to obtain
donations to put up structures or provide equipment, but unless
ongoing support is provided it will be impossible to make the
difference we want to the children where we work. With partners like
Mrs. Sianga our efforts go a long way. There are now more than 200
children attending her schools and getting a chance that otherwise
would be denied them. There are few, if any, of the children who Mrs.
Sianga doesn't know individually. She provided support to many of
their parents as a community nurse before they died as a result of
the AIDS pandemic. If the younger children need a shower before
starting lessons this is provided and if they are absent someone is
sent to find out what problems they have. The school provides a
caring environment and a community for children that are going
through 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 – largely
sponsored through the project. More would be able to go if funds were
HATW past volunteers often keep in touch with the
projects and one volunteer recently raised some funds to pay for
textbooks, sports shirts and balls. Until this donation perhaps 2 or
3 textbooks would be shared by 30 students. The teachers expect the
results to improve now that most students will have a textbook in
each of the subjects.
Visiting projects like this make us realise just how worthwhile our efforts can be. Without our support
it is hard to see how this project could have survived. With the help
of past volunteers and supporters the future looks good.
Mrs. Sianga and her husband joined us for supper and a very full day
reached 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 first
school. Each month she provides some additional food for 240 children
in desperate need. Again Mrs. Sianga knows their families and their
problems. These children are under-nourished and without this extra
food many would die. I couldn't help think how terrible it was that
in the world where we currently live, such situations still exist –
and this is just a very small glimpse of a huge issue. The children
pick up packs weighing about 30lb each and take them back to their
homes. Some of the little ones are helped by older siblings. The
distribution is carefully organised and some get extra items
according to their need. Mrs. Sianga says that only two of the
children have died during the past 6 months, which shows the success
of the project. However that's two children too many, and also
certainly two more than would have died in the UK. It is hard to be
confronted with the very harsh realities of live here, it is even
more difficult when you know that it needn't be so! The feeding
programme is not HATW funded, but receives some money from a small
group of Italians. After a visit a couple of them decided to do
something, and with some family and friends they are ensuring that
240 children have the extra essential food each month. It is amazing
what some people are prepared to do when confronted by the reality of
We headed for the 10 am mass at Our Lady of the
Wayside. 14 young children were being baptized so the day was one of
extra celebration. After the mass we were invited to join the baptism group for lunch. The proceedings included
some speeches and, after lunch, the children exchanged gifts before
the final prayer at about 15.30! David and Jim had to make their
apologies after the meal. They had another appointment with Mrs.
Sianga to visit some people in the community. It was a similar visit
with Mrs. Sianga in 2003 that was probably the most significant event
during my first visit. At that time there were no ARVs available and
the patients I saw were all dying. To be welcomed into their homes
was such a privilege and very humbling.
There is never enough money available to meet the needs of the projects. If
anyone has a few thousand pounds looking for a home you couldn't do
much better than donating it to HATW!
David and Jim left this morning on their journey home. They will relax in Lusaka for a few
hours 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.