'Making friends and changing lives through working together'

Latest Adventures from the Wye Valley Zambia Project

In early April another group travelled to Lusaka as part of the Zambia Exchange project (WVZP). This party was different to the larger group who travelled in 2012 as apart from the 3 teachers and 1 RAF officer everyone was connected to Rotary, be they Interactor, Rotaractor or Rotarian. We took teachers Jan and Jane from Carrington and Matthew from Bardwell schools along with Squadron leader Paul a long time helper at Carrington Rotakids and Jan’s husband.

Led by Rotarian Sue Pommeroy, we had a very large “to do list” most of which had come about as a result of the young people in the UK and Zambia collaborating on what needed to be done during previous exchange visits.

As in previous years we were able to visit our friends and partners at Libala High School and spend time at Libala Basic School, but the lions share of our work was at Chilenje Basic School.

It is here that we first met up with the special needs class in 2012 when the group of Libala and Wye Valley students all agreed that it would be good to do more to support the students and their teachers. A small group, namely Rotaractors Rachel, Natalie and Andrew visited again in July of last year and so the scene was set to get stuck in!

Matthew the teacher from Bardwell School in Bicester had joined us on this trip as his school was looking to join the project and “twin” with the special needs class. He had brought with him a large selection of resources plus examples of Bardwell’s teaching methods for students who need extra help and support. In the Chilenje class we had examples of almost every combination of special needs you could think of.

A number of the young ladies on the trip had already spent time at Bardwell ahead of the trip so quickly knuckled down to support Matthew and the class teachers Jordan and Brenda. Very soon a plan was hatched to completely refurbish the classroom to make it a bright and stimulating learning space. Materials were bought and the gang including a number of Zambian students got stuck in. Before long a brightly coloured room emerged complete with designs on the walls suggested by the Chilenje students and painted sheets hanging from the ceiling prepared by Bardwell children.

We were also able to explore with the Head teacher and her deputy the possibilities of creating 2 disabled toilets in the classroom as there are none at the school and the ordinary loos are 500 metres across a bumpy playing field – impossible for those in wheelchairs. By the end of our stay we had finished the room and plans and costings had been drawn up for the building project, which will hopefully happen in May once the Ministry of Education, has approved the plans.

The project has the funds in place for this and one of the original students involved at Libala - Chico – now studying construction  - will oversee the work for us. My Rotary Club at Bourne End & Cookham has provided further sponsorship for this construction for which the project is very grateful.

In addition we were able to buy 2 new bespoke wheelchairs for 2 students (one bought by Bourne End and Cookham Rotaract), arrange for 5 hearing tests and supply new hearing aids to 2 students.

The future plans are to expand the number of students who attend the class from the current 12 to a possible 25 and a “next step” to enable this will be the refurbishment of the adjoining classroom. This will allow the existing room to become a skills room using wipe clean tables and chairs provided by Bardwell and presently on a ship heading for Africa!

Whilst all this was going on part of the group spent time at Libala Basic School who have a Rotakids Club twinned with Carrington School Rotakids. On the trip we also had Learning Mentor Jan who runs the club and Deputy Head Jane who was there in support and to develop a whole school “twinning”.

The 4 interactors in our group had put together a number of lessons involving ukuleles and percussion instruments, which really got the Libala children excited and involved. I am not sure they were expecting to be as swamped as they were by quite so many excited little people!!

At both schools we were able to leave many resources that were provided by our friends at the Literacy Box Trust – the schools had the boxes so we brought a vast amount of stock to replenish them. Rotaractor Natalie was also appointed as a Literacy Box Ambassador just before we left the UK, following in the steps of her sister Rachel.

We were also able to supply both Family and Individual life straws to both schools. These are destined for the most needy and vulnerable children and their families and at both locations the teaching staff will distribute them out to those most in need that have no access to fresh water. Just for fun Paul and I tried them out using the muddiest water we could find to show groups of young people how they worked – their faces were a picture when clean water came out of the other end – and of course it’s the ability to block the harmful bacteria that you can’t see that is the best thing of all.

A big thank you is also due to South Bucks Hospice for looking out for good quality school uniforms and sports clothing for the project. We were able to take with us three very large bags of clothes that were then sorted into piles for each school and the Chilenge Transient Centre where they were very well received.

In each location we left it to the teachers and carers to decide how the kit was issued according to the needs of the individual little people. One young man in the Transient Home grabbed a  pair of green tracksuit bottoms from the stack, put them on and refused to take them off - Oh well, looks like they were going to be his then!

We also found time to visit our friends at the High School, meet up with past students and the Libala Interactors as well as the new school head – Felix, whom we had not met. Whilst at the High School we delivered books for their library and also an example of a newly refurbished Acer computer, one of 14. The rest coming on the boat mentioned earlier. This will enable teachers Adrian and Floyd to completely re-equip the IT department. They were provided by Westfield, another School in the partnership.

On the final Monday we were also able to support Libala Interact with their talent contest fundraiser - held in the open air, which was very different for us. The school also laid on a magnificent traditional Zambian meal for our last night when a number of awards were made to individuals involved with the project who were made Ambassadors. Sean was also presented with a football kit for the new team he has started to give a sense of purpose to a group of older teenagers.

Changing the subject completely we were able to travel to Livingston over the middle weekend to visit the falls and game park, both fabulous experiences. I have never been that close to a hippo or a white rhino before. Such was the variety of wildlife that after a while it was “just another Zebra”! I am not sure however that I really enjoyed seeing the 5 foot long crocodile being removed from the hotel fishpond just before breakfast on the Sunday.

It was good also to catch up with all our friends and supporters at Maluba Rotary Club, Incoming District Governor Ken and District Governor elect Lucie. We had much to talk about; two Rotaractors Carrie-Anne and Rhian presented at Maluba’s meeting on the project and were well received. Sue was also able to start the dialogue about the New Generations Service Exchange Programme, so much so that we have a young lady going out this summer from Oxford University who will work in the schools above and other projects. There is also an expectation that we will see young people from Zambia coming to the UK and plans are already in preparation   
Our trip came to an end all to soon and already there are ideas buzzing around as to what needs to be done next time. These ideas come from the young people from both countries as they work together which is what makes the project so unique. Zambia 2015 – you bet!

None of this would have been possible without support from Bourne End and Cookham RC, a District Grant, our friends and supporters, Bicester RC, our friends at Maluba RC and members of staff at all the schools especially Patricia, Susan, Daniel, Brenda and Jordan and of course ex-student Sean who is also a member of BE&C Rotaract – “Their man in Africa”           

Mike Ware
District 1090 Rotaract and Interact Liaison officer
Bourne End and Cookham Youth Services Chair.

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