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  • StPaulsChildren

February 2024

Hello again to all our friends and supporters. Hope you’re all doing well.

Thought we’d start with some lovely news. You might remember that in our August update we wrote about Mukondwera who was helped by the Project and is now working as a pre-school teacher in Vubwi. Well, recently, Naomi had a visit from Mukondwera, his wife and their new baby, born in September.

To our surprise and delight, Mukondwera has named the baby James Malcolm in honour of the help he’s received through school and college from St Paul’s Children’s Project. We’ll follow the progress of this gorgeous baby boy with interest!

In fact, we’re hoping we might get to see them as we’re heading to Chipata ourselves in June to visit the Project and talk to Committee members.

Here in the UK there are signs of spring everywhere and we’ve reached half term already. In Zambia, unfortunately, the start to the academic year got disrupted by an outbreak of cholera. While schools were initially scheduled to open on 8 January, the Ministry of Education postponed opening until 29 January and then, due to a surge in cases, to 12 February. The cholera outbreak, first reported in October 2023, is reported to be the worst for 20 years

As cholera is highly contagious, schools were closed to mitigate the risk of transmission. Luckily, we’ve finally seen a downward trend in the number of cases and deaths, and education authorities confirmed on 7 February that schools could open on 12 February. Schools were inspected and preventive measures put in place to ensure the safety of students and staff. Our children have, of course, been very concerned about missing the first five weeks of school, and there is widespread disquiet among teachers too about the impact of such closures on children’s education

Everyone in the Project was relieved that school was able to restart on 12 Feb, and our Committee in Chipata worked extremely hard to get everything in place for the beginning of the new term. As usual, they had a big shopping expedition with the young people to buy uniforms, shoes and books and then, on Saturday 17 February, they distributed food to all the children (food insecurity remaining a huge challenge in Zambia).

We had 6 young people leave the Project in Dec 2023, with Steven, Jane, Peter, Kayabwe, Alice and Grace all completing their teacher training courses, and we wish them lots of luck in finding employment. We decided to recruit 6 new students for 2024, a mix of single and double orphans and vulnerable children, to take their places.

Emmanuel, aged 16, has lost his father and lives with his mother who tries to make a living selling goods from her home. He’s starting school in Grade 10 and is pictured with his school supplies.

Racheal and Maureen are both 14 years old and joining school in Grade 8. Racheal also lives with her mother, while Maureen, who has lost both parents, lives with an aunt who is a stallholder in the market. Of the other new children, Yelesani is living with a brother, Tapela with her sister and Robert with his mother.

We received the results of the Grade 9 exams that pupils sat at the end of last year and were delighted to learn that Elida, Hilda, Maureen, Agria and Purity all passed and were able to progress to Grade 10.

As well as helping children remain in or return to school, last year the Project sent some young people to skills training and 10 students completed short courses in subjects ranging from bricklaying and car mechanics to nutrition and secretarial work, giving them a much better chance of finding employment. The Committee were keen to repeat this in 2024 and were dismayed to find there has been a substantial (more than fourfold) increase in fees for the 6 month courses. As a result, we decided to take on five students for this term and then reassess the situation later in the year. One of the five starting skills training is Violet, a single orphan living with her mother who sells vegetables in the market. Violet has been accepted to do a catering course. She is pictured receiving a food pack of sugar, rice, kapenta (dried fish), soya pieces and cooking oil.

We’re pleased to report that the plan to convert the house bought in 2010 to student accommodation (as reported in the last update) has come to fruition and we now have 6 students living here (some of them pictured), in addition to the 15 in the student flats.

The Committee decided to build a wall around the property (now completed) and they’ve paid for this out of their rental income. In terms of the 2024 budget, they’ve carefully considered their finances and for Term 1 the Committee are contributing 30% of school costs. They intend to contribute 50% of the budget for Terms 2 and 3 this year.

It just remains to say a huge thank you to all of you for your amazing support for St Paul’s Children’s Project. This time, as well as receiving your vital regular and one-off donations, we’ve been lucky to have again been included in the list of charities helped by Hexham Abbey as part of their Charitable Giving initiative. We also got donations from the Abbey bellringers in lieu of exchanging Christmas cards, and from the Abbey caretaker who, on his retirement, asked for donations to be made to our Project instead of having a leaving present. Thanks, Jeremy!!

We’ll report back on our visit to Chipata in the next newsletter.

Best wishes

Malcolm and Elaine

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