Most Zambian schools start their new academic year in the second week of January - I definitely prefer this to going back in the first week of the New Year! The week before school started back, we scheduled our school uniform distribution for the children supported by Arise. I arrived back in Zambia on Sunday 3rd January and the next afternoon was in the Arise office giving out uniform and books to the children we support, or their guardians. We paid some local people who could sew to make the school shirts, shorts, trousers, skirts, dresses and ties that we gave out.
Around half of the people who came to the office weren't actually supported by Arise. Some of them had applied to be part of the project and came to find out if they'd been successful. Some people came to ask us for help even though they hadn't applied. Even though we explained that all the places were full, it was still quite tough telling people we didn’t have the funds to support them at the moment. We invited them to come back in a few weeks to get any surplus uniform and books once everyone in Arise had received theirs. The people that we were unable to help reacted in several different ways. Some smiled and thanked us anyway. Some sat quietly, and others repeated their story several times. There were a few people who wouldn't even look at me.
|A few school jumpers that were knitted by people in the UK|
|Piles of books, pens and pencils to give out|
In that situation, I felt all sorts of emotions. Guilt for not being able to help, gratitude for the things I have, sadness at some tragic stories, admiration for people who do the best they can in a tough situation, even a bit of anger and frustration towards some peoples’ attitudes. I felt compelled to tell one lady that she needed to take responsibility for her own children after she complained how hard it was for her mother, looking after them and her other grandchildren.
|Many children don't go to school|
There was one situation that stood out for me. An 11 year old boy came to see us with his younger brother. As we talked through translation, we were able to piece together bits of their story. His father used to work at the local farm until he became too ill to do so. He has a large tumour on his face and can rarely get out of bed. Their mother is an alcoholic who’s been married several times since and doesn’t live with the family. I was impressed that this boy of just 11 years old had been doing manual work to earn some money to support the family. A neighbour paid his school fees for him last year but was unable to continue doing this. His younger brother had not yet started school. I find it hard that we are able to help some people but not others who live in the same community. But it’s hard to meet a child like that and not feel compassion. I am really pleased that we are able to sponsor these two brothers and support their family in the coming year. Hopefully it will relieve some of the pressure that they face in their young lives.
|Visiting people in the local community|