Welcome to our summer update! It hasn’t been feeling very summery recently, of course, but in Zambia the cold season is over and temperatures are climbing nicely.
In writing these newsletters, we try to keep you up to date with the latest news and we have had some very sad news recently. On 4 July, we learnt that the husband of Naomi, our Project’s Committee Chair in Zambia, had died suddenly. We got to know Mr. Thawe while we were living in Chipata. He worked for the Anglican Church and, although he didn’t have an official role in St Paul’s Children’s Project, he took a keen interest and pride in its work and, above all, provided wonderful support to Naomi in everything she does to improve the lives of disadvantaged children in the community. His funeral took place in Chipata on 7 July and we know he will be very much missed by everyone who knew him.
This is Naomi and Mr. Thawe at one of Sam’s graduation ceremonies. Sam, who joined the Project in 2006, qualified as an accountant and has recently been promoted to become senior auditor at the Zambian Ministry of Finance in Lusaka.
We’ve been feeling moved to reflect on the Project and all that’s happened over the last 17 years. Those of you who have begun supporting us fairly recently may not know that the Project was set up in 2006, while we were volunteering in Chipata with VSO. A group of volunteers from St Paul’s Parish Church (including teachers, counsellors and health professionals) in Chipata decided they wanted to help the growing number of orphans and vulnerable children (many orphaned as a result of AIDS) in their community and we began providing financial support through fundraising in the UK. The Project initially helped 10 children (including Sam, above) to continue with or to return to their schooling (buying school uniforms, shoes, books and paper and paying school and exam fees) and the numbers were increased to 20 at the end of 2006. Children in Africa see the chance to go to, or to continue in, school as an amazing gift. Thinking about Project milestones, we might include:
- Buying a house (thanks to a friend’s generous donation) in 2010
- Becoming a registered charity in the UK in 2012
- Registering for GiftAid (which enables us to claim an extra 25% on top of your donations) in 2013
- Building shops (to provide rental income) in 2015
- Building accommodation for student nurses (to provide rental income) in 2021
- The number of people giving monthly donations increasing to 20 in 2021
- Helping 46 children and young people through school and college (+ 5 on short vocational courses) in 2023
The closure of schools during the Covid pandemic was a challenge, but the Committee kept in close contact with, and provided support to, all the children while they waited to return to school. Another difficulty was the exceedingly long wait for electricity to be connected to the shops! We’re relieved to report that, in the case of the student flats, ZESCO (the electricity company) connected electricity in February this year (a comparatively short wait of only 17 months!!).
The plan is that income from the shops and student flats will fund the future of the Project on a long-term basis, reducing its reliance on fundraising in the UK. And we have news of a further project in the pipeline! The Committee’s most recent proposal is to convert the house bought in 2010 into student accommodation (for which there is a real demand, as lots of vocational training is taking place in Chipata). The purchase of the house was conceived as an income generating activity (and a step towards the Project eventually becoming self-sustaining) as well as a means of housing young people being helped by the Project, enabling them to lead independent lives while still attending school. Extra space was rented out, thus generating rental income. One of our young people who lived there for a time was Mukondwera. After his parents died, he went to live with his sister, who rented a small grass-thatched house in a compound. She had children of her own and couldn’t afford to send him to school. Instead, Mukondwera was selling plastic bags at the market in Chipata (and sleeping under a leaking roof). In Mukondwera’s own words (in a letter sent to us in 2017):
“The Project St Paul’s got me and rented a house together with other children. They gave us food, clothes, paid school fees, books, uniform until I passed to go to secondary school. They continued to help me, we were kept like their own children. The Committee members visited us, encouraged us to put more efforts on school activities. I then passed my Grade 12 and secured a place at a college to study pre-school teaching which I managed to pass through the same St Paul’s Project assistance. I am now working as a teacher at Vubwi school teaching at a pre-school section. I am very grateful for the Committee members who are my mothers, aunts, everything. Thank you. May God bless you”.
Since Mukondwera moved out of the house, the Committee has been receiving rental income, but they feel that more income could be generated, given the demand for student accommodation. They would like to start offering places in September. We looked at costs, got our trustees’ approval and sent money to buy bunk beds, mattresses, tables and chairs. The Committee went out immediately to buy these items (before prices went up again!). Zambia, like many countries, is suffering from a cost of living crisis, with year on year inflation for July 2023 at 10.3 per cent and with annual food inflation at 12.1 per cent. A surge in the price of maize flour or mealie meal (used to make nshima) and other food staples, which we reported on in our last update, continues to be particularly worrying.
But there is some positive news from the world of sport, where the Zambian women’s football team qualified for the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup (one of only four African nations to qualify). Hope everyone has been cheering them on!! Although they were eliminated in the group stage of the tournament (after losing to Japan and Spain), Zambia went out on a high after beating Costa Rica 3-1 in an exciting match on 31 July to finish 3 rd in their group. Well done to the team for making history with their first ever World Cup win!!
Finally, after all our reflections, we want to say a massive thank you - to the lovely people who make monthly and annual donations, to everyone who’s ever made a contribution and to everyone who gives us support in any way (especially by giving us encouragement to continue). Keep smiling at the thought of the difference you’re making in a small corner of Africa…
Malcolm and Elaine