Hope everyone’s been enjoying these amazing summer temperatures! We’ve got lots to report this time from our recent visit to the Project in Chipata (currently not as hot as London…).
It was brilliant to see the change in Chipata since our last visit. Designated a city in 2017, its economy and infrastructure have just grown and grown. Roads (now with footpaths and cycle lanes!) are much improved, there’s a new hospital (Chipata District Hospital) and a university is being built by the Catholic Church.
But the most exciting part of our visit was meeting the children and young people we’re helping.
Fifteen of them took time off school or college to come and see us – we were thrilled! We met in a hall behind St. Paul’s Church and what a welcome we got – with much music and dancing!! Ackim, now in second year at Teacher Training College took charge of proceedings. He expressed everyone’s gratitude and the hope that our support would continue, and he emphasised how different all their lives would have been without the Project’s help. We then had a good chat to everyone, listening to what they hope to do in the future. What fine young people they are! They’re all so grateful for the opportunities that access to schooling has given them – it was very humbling. What struck us was what a family unit they’ve all become as a result of Naomi’s and the Committee’s love and care, and how they support each other. Some of the boys have formed a band and are having a great time playing music together. The Committee’s work, we’ve realised, goes way beyond identifying vulnerable children and buying school requisites – they also provide encouragement and counselling to individuals and groups and attend to their health needs as necessary. We met Ruth (below), who underwent heart surgery. She travels to Lusaka for regular medical reviews but is looking really well – and has decided she’d like to train to become a nurse on leaving school.
One or two of those who have now left the Project came along to see us too. Innocent (on right of group photo above) was one of the original 10 children in the Project. After completing school and doing a construction course at Chipata Trades, he’s now a self employed builder and doing well.
We learnt that students who’ve completed teacher training have now got teaching jobs, some locally but some as far away as Kabwe (Mary), Lusaka (Masuosa) and Livingstone (Martha).
Having talked to these young people, who started out with virtually nothing, we’ve seen how going to school gives them self-confidence and aspiration. Rona (third from right in group photo), for instance, is currently working in clearing at the Zambia/Malawi border but, having always wanted to teach, is currently funding herself to do a distance learning course in primary teaching. We were delighted to learn that she’s now also joined the Committee – giving something back after receiving help herself.
The Project Committee in Chipata told us they’ve been working on a plan to move towards self sustainability.
You might remember that in 2015 the Committee purchased a plot of land on which they built four shops to get some rental income to support the Project. Well, this year, because of the cholera outbreak in Zambia, the council made them stop trading until toilets were installed. These have now been built (and approved by the council), a cesspit has been dug to provide good sanitation, and trading can recommence.
We were delighted to see, when we visited, that the shops are situated right on the Great East Road (the road to Lusaka) in an area called Referendum(!) which has recently seen huge growth in residential development and they’re also situated very close to both the new hospital and the site of the new university. The Committee couldn’t have chosen a better location for the shops. They’re still waiting for electricity(!) but there are signs that ZESCO will put it in soon (fingers firmly crossed!).
Once a regular rental income is established the Committee plan to use part of the money raised to build 10 rooms behind the shops. There’ll be 2 beds in each room, with shared bathrooms, and the idea is to rent these out to students (as the university won’t be able to provide enough accommodation to meet demand). The Committee are keen to raise funds to drill a borehole as soon as possible so that they can have their own independent water source. Once this is in place, there are further plans to have a carwash on the same site.
In another fundraising venture, land owned by one of the Committee members is to be used to house a piggery. Pigs will be bought, bred and sold on to provide an income for the Project.
We were very impressed with the Committee’s thoughtful and enterprising plans for sustainability. Their intention is that income from the shops and the rooms will fund the future of the Project on a long term basis, so helping children into the future and reducing the Project’s reliance on fundraising in the UK. The plan outlined to us is a three year plan but, of course, in Zambia things move slowly and we know the Committee are hoping for our continued support, both financial and spiritual, for some time yet.
It was inspiring. Seeing how these children have thrived and knowing that, together, we’ve helped to keep them from dropping out of school is amazing and we’re very lucky to have such wonderful supporters.
This time we’d like to say a big thank you to our friends at St. Bart’s, Ripponden who raised £117 from donations at their Lent lunches; to Julie for organising the ceilidh in Ripponden in April and to everyone who came along and had a lot of fun while raising £535.80; and to everybody who encouraged Malcolm and Simon on their London to Paris cycling challenge and raised a whopping £2,610.50. They made it to Notre Dame without mishap, having cycled the 250 miles in very hot temperatures!
And, finally, thanks to everyone who’s made a donation or just encouraged us in any way. We’ve been reminded by our visit of how great the need for help is and how determined the Committee is to offer as much help as they can. They are determined and dedicated – and they will get to a point where they don’t need as much help as they do at the moment. But in the meantime we’re equally determined – with your continuing support – to help them to provide for the orphans and vulnerable children in our care.
Malcolm and Elaine