Written by Abi Tudor
“Penza! Have you brought me my children?”
We were told a lot about our potential host homes and families, we were told of the loving new mums we would acquire and what to expect but those welcoming words from Aunty Irene were more touching than I expected. From that moment, her home was our home. Having spent the week at the lodge living out of our suitcases it was in some ways a relief to be welcomed into a home for the remainder of our time here. All our homes have come with their individual quirks, a crazy 8 month old Alsatian named Zinya ‘guards’ ours, I say ‘guards’ because she more often than not can be seen crawling away, tail between her legs. Eventually though I befriended her with T-bone in hand and perseverance and now she attacks me with kisses everytime I walk through the gate!
Others have slightly more serious guard dogs that actually won’t let them out of the house if it’s too early in the morning, no 5am runs for Winston and Ricky anymore unfortunately. Some are now experiencing more of an insight into Christianity than perhaps ever encountered before and some have the full time hustle and bustle of a large family to fill their evenings and weekends. All have one thing in common though, unbelievable generosity and warmth. This has been extended to all of us from all host mums too, just last week we found ourselves invited to Nancy’s daughter’s birthday party at their beautiful home, allowing some of us stragglers to even stay over afterwards. That was only to be followed up by all of us being invited to her nephew’s wedding this Sunday, extraordinarily generous and incredibly exciting for us. From what I’ve heard, a Zambian wedding is not to be missed, I’m looking forward to seeing why not!
Day to day life is never the same here in Zambia, for one, power often going off at 6am means getting up at 5 is sometimes the only option if you want a running bath and a working toilet. However Zesco (the power company) can’t be trusted, and when you expect power to be off it can be on and vice versa. This has left my host mum stranded at the cooker at times, mid way through scrambling eggs, and at others starting our dinner at 4pm on the braziers outside just to get it on the table for us by 7. I have a huge amount of respect for everyone’s attitude here, power or no power, things will get done…eventually. Another thing, my commute to work I dont think has ever been the same route, local buses are infamous for bumping down tracks for shortcuts or driving on the verge to avoid staying in a long queue or using petrol stations as a cut through. You’re a good driver here if you can find a road where there is no road! And it was one of these dirt roads that led us to our first community action day in the Ngombe compound at Needs Care school.
Needs care is a Zambian NGO. Their vision is to improve the living standards of the local community through education, nutrition, healthcare and psycho-social support. In just over 10 years it has developed to include a school, a health clinic and a life skill department which focuses on empowering local women.
The school provides education and feeding to over 1,200 children, aged from 5 to 18. These children come from very poor families and 60% of them are affected by HIV/AIDS. When we got in touch with Needs Care, what they asked for from us was not material things but time. Time spent with the chidren, time offered to help at the clinic or even at the life skills classes. I thought that spoke volumes in itself about the NGO and how it’s run. The morning spent at the school was eye opening, for Uk and Zambian volunteers alike.
I left feeling hopeful that I may have been an inspiration to some of the kids as to what they could become, regardless of their current situation some of them had such big dreams that I’d love them to chase (Chimuka, ZM).
One of the things I will remember from this first trip was the talent of the children, if I was searching for the next spoken word genius I would have found him, I was blown away and moved by the words he said in their opening performance. I for one, left keen to return with a more structured session we could offer, utilising our own skills between the 27 of us and a lot of us are looking to take an afternoon off to offer a much needed extra pair of hands at the health clinic.
The feeding program that the school also offer is another area we are grouping together to try and help. The programme is vital as for many it is their only meal of the day and the main reason why they come to school, however the only affordable porridge available is lacking in essential nutrients. As one of our SMEs is in this industry our committee of volunteers working with Needs Care are proposing a solution; to get our other SMEs to pull together and sponsor a new feeding programme with nutritious porridge provided by Sylva Food Solutions (previously featured). I’m loving the sense of community we have between us volunters, all keen to support the other in their work and I’m positive we can pull off this new programme to leave, hopefully, a years worth of sponsorship.