Thursday, 9 July 2015

Clothes and bras in Zambia

I love clothes shopping! I think my sister Rach and I both got the shopping gene from Hope, our Nan. Both of us enjoy shopping for hours at a time and even at 90 years old, Nan still does well going round as many clothes shops as possible whilst being pushed in a wheelchair!

Nan and I stopping for cake during a shopping trip
I know some people hate shopping for clothes and only do it when absolutely necessary or maybe choose to shop online, but either way it's very easy for us to do in the UK. Whilst most of us don't have the money to buy all the things we want, we do have the means to buy the clothes that we actually need. Sadly this is not the case for the families that we support through Arise.

Each year, Arise runs a clothes distribution where children and guardians are invited to come and collect some clothes for free (or make a small contribution towards any shipping costs). This year, Rosie and I were the organisers. We were warned we would need military-like precision to keep things orderly, since given the chance most people will grab as many items as possible!

Mrs Chomba (one of our Arise volunteers) who calls herself  my African granny!

The clothes that we distributed were donated by people from Denmark and shipped over to us in a container with lots of other items. The bags of clothes had been left in the container for some time so they were pretty wrinkled and a bit smelly, but nothing that a good wash couldn't sort out.

These football jackets were snapped up quickly!

Children in grades 1-5 were invited to come to the clothing distribution on Monday afternoon, with those in grades 6-9 on Tuesday afternoon, guardians on Thursday morning and anyone who had missed their session on Thursday afternoon. People were limited to taking two or three items of clothing, depending on availability for their age group. Unfortunately we didn't have many items for younger children (apart from babies), and in particular boys. Everyone had to sign their name (or get us to write it for them if they couldn’t) on our list, so that we could track who had been. At the end of the week, we let anyone who is supported by Arise come back and take as many of the leftover items as they wanted. Several people left with sacks stuffed full of clothes!

Although not all the people who came could write to sign their name, Grade 1 children from Kapumpe could!

It was interesting seeing different peoples’ reactions to the clothes. As we helped people search through the piles, some screwed up their faces at our suggestions and spent ages looking for something they liked, whilst others were thrilled with anything that we showed them. One of the sweet old grannies even started dancing because she was so happy with what she’d been given!

White clothes were not so popular because they get so dirty in the dust!

Anyone who found a warm jumper or a coat was happy. Now that we're in the cold season, people living in the villages do need lots of clothes to keep warm. It gets pretty chilly in the mornings and also at night. Underwear was also in demand. Very few of the women in the villages where Arise works own a bra, because they simply can’t afford to buy one. If you don’t have enough money to buy food, then underwear doesn’t often make it on to the priority list. I’m pleased to let you know about an idea of Rosie’s that we have started…we have declared BRA AMNESTY!

My sister Rhi and Rosie's Mum, Kathy, are both collecting any old or unwanted bras from the UK, to bring over to Zambia in August so that we can give them to the ladies here who don’t have one. We’d like to ask you to donate any spare that you might have; it’s a small thing to many of us but will mean a lot to the women here in Zambia. You can contact Rhi (Winchester/Woking) at or Kathy (Birmingham) at or you can find them on Facebook. Thank you to those of you who have donated to the amnesty already. Feel free to message me for further details; you can find my contact details to the right of this post.

I have been hearing that it has been lovely and sunny in the UK - hotter than here for once! I hope you are all enjoying the sunshine just as we are starting to wrap up warm here.

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