Thursday, 9 February 2017

Bit by Bit

‘Panono panono’ is an expression commonly used in Bemba, which is the local language in this part of Zambia. It means ‘bit by bit’. So when I’m struggling to communicate with someone who doesn’t speak English, I’ll often say “Icibemba panono panono” which means 'I only know a little bit of Bemba'. The Bemba vocabulary is much smaller than English so this expression can also be used to mean ‘slowly slowly'.

With a friend who was teaching me new Bemba words

To me, 'panono panono’ is a very apt Zambian expression. Most things seem to happen slowly here. I have learned to appreciate that long-term development means VERY 
long-term. Working at schools in the UK, if I asked a teacher to change their lesson plans in a particular way, I would expect the way they worked to change right away following the conversation. That’s just not how things work here. Things move and change more gradually, which is a challenge when you’ve grown up in a fast paced, convenience-led culture. Although it does mean that Zambians tend to be a lot more patient than us Brits.

A place where things tend to move very slowly

One of the lovely grandmothers supported by Arise recently came to see us and let us know that her house had collapsed. She lives in Kanfinsa, a rural area about 9km from Kaniki. My colleague Naomi went to see the house and found that there was a whole wall missing, as well as a large crack running through one of the other walls. Unfortunately the heavy rains we have been experiencing, which have been desperately needed for the crops to grow, have caused extensive damage. The family were using a big piece of plastic sheeting to try and keep the rain out, but this was not proving very effective which meant the lady's bed was getting extremely wet from the rain.

Where the wall has collapsed

Another damaged wall

This particular grandmother is the guardian of five 'double orphans' (which means they have each lost both parents). Looking at the photos Naomi had taken, my initial thought was that the house needed to be demolished and built again from scratch to give the family a decent standard of living. But I knew better than to suggest this. As a visitor here it can be tempting to think we know better because we are used to a much higher standard of living, but what is acceptable or expected here is very different to what I am used to back home in the UK. 

The guardian with the youngest child she looks after

Naomi decided to ask the local pastor what we could do to help. It's not a good time to buy bricks here at the moment as it’s more difficult for people to make them and transport them during the rainy season. So the pastor’s advice was to find a temporary solution until bricks are easier to source and the house can be properly repaired. I can't imagine having to sleep in a house that lets the rain in so badly. When it rains in Zambia, it really pours. Nevertheless, the pastor kindly offered to find someone who could temporarily fix the house, using tree branches and mud to pack up the gap from the missing wall, fill in the crack and nail the roof down to prevent leaks. The local Zambians are really the best people to suggest appropriate solutions for a problem like this.

The pastor, his wife and some of their children

Bit by bit the house will be repaired, although at first only temporarily. This is one of the many types of situation that Arise is able to fund from the donations we receive. The immediate work will cost about £20, which would be unaffordable for this lady who doesn't have an income and has five children to feed. Generally Arise doesn't help the people we support pay their rent because we do not want to encourage dependency, but during the rainy season we will often help vulnerable families with roof repairs.

A typical grass roof

This story gives you another glimpse into a very different life to ours. There is no question that wherever we are, we all face different struggles and sometimes we have to accept that things will only change bit by bit. Arise is making a difference 'panono panono' by helping the very vulnerable but wonderful people that it supports. Thank you for your support for our work.

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