Friday, 22 April 2016

Guest Blog - My Dad's Return to Zambia

Last year my Dad came out to visit me in Kaniki. He recently returned, just over a year later. I asked him to write about his experience of visiting for a second time.

Dad meeting his sponsor child
It has been just over a year since I first visited Ellie in Zambia. I recently returned with my wife Helen and had the opportunity to see how things are going at Kapumpe Christian Primary School and the Arise project. I have been very impressed with what Ellie and the team have achieved over the past year and thought I would share my observations.

The school
Last year there were just two classes (Grades 1 & 2) at Kapumpe. There has since been the addition of a pre-school and Grade 3, and the school has a total of 92 pupils. Unsurprisingly the school seems noisier with the number of children having doubled since I was last there. Almost half of them are supported by the Arise project which works with orphans, vulnerable children and their guardians in the community.

Breakfast is now in two sittings
Many of the children who have recently joined the school are new to playing with toys, writing and playing games. They really enjoy wearing a school uniform and going to school. The pre-school children are beginning to understand English so that when they move into Grade 1 they will be more equipped for learning.

Grade 2 school trip
The staff
The number of staff has also grown and it was good to see more Zambians working at Kapumpe; two teachers, a classroom assistant and a recently qualified teacher. Ellie and Rosie have been joined by Naomi who is an experienced teacher from the UK and teaches Grade 3. The staff recently said goodbye to Tim and Gemma Mills, who set up the school and have now returned to live in the UK.

Grade 3 and their teachers, Naomi and Bright

Child sponsorship
In the last few months a child sponsorship scheme has been set up, allowing more children in the Arise project to be able to attend school. The sponsorship scheme pays for school fees, uniform and stationery for each child, as well as supporting their guardians in specific times of need.

Ellie with one of the new Arise pre-schoolers

Food shortage
‘Mealie meal’ (maize) is the main ingredient for Zambian cooking. Due to the recent poor harvest, there is a restriction on the amount that people can buy from the local shops. The price of food has increased in the last year and the media have reported that it is likely to rise again. There is no benefit system for the vulnerable and little work available other than occasional ‘piece work’ (manual labour). Some Zambians have even been trying to sell bags of mealie meal at hugely inflated prices across the border with the Congo, which has resulted in an increased number of police roadblocks.

Even the dog likes mealie meal!
The Kwacha (Zambian currency)
To make matters worse, the exchange rate has fallen from K10 to the pound, to K16 to the pound within the last year. This means that any imported goods from other countries can be up to 50% more expensive simply because of this fluctuation.

During my visit last year I experienced a few random power cuts, but this year there is a schedule in place for load shedding. This means that for eight hours a day, six days a week, there is no power. This also means no water in some places such as Kaniki where Ellie and the team live.

And finally…
Despite all of these changes in a year, there are also some things which haven’t changed. This includes the friendliness of the Zambian people, the colourful clothes that they wear and the stunning African sunsets. I thoroughly enjoyed my return to this beautiful country.

Friendly faces

As I reflect on my second trip to Zambia, I’d like to mention the comments made to me by Mr Kasonde, an ex-policeman and father of one of the Kapumpe pupils who also drives many of the schoolchildren to and from school in his truck each day. He told me that he is so grateful for the school, the people who work there and the work they are doing in the community. He said he can tell that the education the children are receiving is far better than that of any children in the local area. He is so delighted with the difference this is making and the opportunities it provides for the children. When someone like this says ‘thank you’ it makes things even more worthwhile.  

A lift home with Mr Kasonde

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