The Road to Fiwila
I started writing a blog whilst out in Africa a few weeks ago and fully intended to keep it up while I was out there but with no wifi or even power most of the time it was impossible, more than that it was NOT possible - in an environment like that, things like blogs, admin and tech kind of go out of the window -every moment needed to be savoured - not wasted doing something that could be done much later. So, much later on - here it is.
Being out in Zambia's remote region of Mkushi District in the Central Provence is like being transported back in time to a place with no infrastructure, no tarmac, few buildings and zero electricity. The roads are sandy, very uneven and getting from A to B was no fast feat. Occasionally there would be a crossroads with a few ramshackle buildings scattered about or a church building with a few huts around it but there are no towns as such or proper buildings. This was an area that was cut off from western civilisation, where people live a simple and often hard life with no luxury and very little in the way of food and water. That said it is not completely devoid of western influence. Much of the clothing recognisable - football shirts, jeans, polo shirts and trainers albiet dusty and well worn were in abundance and that essential item - the mobile phone had managed to find its way in too, though a signal in these parts was rare!
Fiwila was an old mission post which was to be our home for six days. With no lighting the meals were taken under the stars having been cooked over a fire and the facilities basic and not particularly clean.
Bathing was done by pouring jugs of warmish water heated on a fire over your head - the toilet with a section of the seat missing, would not be passing any health and safety checks at any time and visits to it were not revered in any way! A few days in though and strangely you got used to it. It was almost worth the experience just to see the stars - with no light pollution they were incredible!
My first experience of a Zambian School was at Chipumfi. I had no idea how I was going to communicate with the children or how they would react to me - many had never seen a white face before and would not know what a camera was. I need not have worried, it happened that one of the ZRDF team had a squeaky nose which delighted the kids and within minutes they were laughing and the more I squeaked his nose (poor David) the more they giggled. It was however the moments that followed that I would never forget. I knelt down and showed one of the children the image on the back of my Nikon and within seconds I was surrounded by excited kids - I realised that some of them had probably never seen images of themselves so they did not realise what they looked like and to them this was something very strange. I was overwhelmed and I have to say it was one of the most emotional experiences I have ever encountered, Something I would never forget. In every school I visited after that I followed the same procedure with the same results - what an honour to be able to meet these polite and happy children and not an electronic gadget in sight (apart from my camera).
The next school was in the most remote community of Boole (pronounced Bohley). It had teachers houses but no modern classroom as yet and the existing building could hardly be called a building - more a structure made up of branches and dried mud it seemed. The 'classroom' was packed with children sitting on the floor or crude seats made of branches but there was organisation - this was a community in the midst of transformation - there was a water pump and a thriving vegetable garden. Here the boys were jostling to have their photos taken politely shouting 'Me Sir, Me Sir"
As you can see from the above picture these were very smiley kids and once again I felt lucky to meet them.
Throughout the six days we visited eleven communities supported by BZT and ZRDF and saw the different elements of their work first hand. We watched a SILC group meeting - a rudimentary banking system managed by Women of the Community thereby empowering them and developing new skills. We visited Farming Demo sites and met with farmers whose lives had been improved dramatically since having the means to earn money and feed their families. We saw the important work done with health clinics and projects to help stop the spread of HIV/AIDs - and we witnessed the difference education can make to a community with schools that had been funded by BZT.
At the end of the 6 days we returned to the city of Lusaka leaving behind the amazing ZRDF team at Masansa to continue their work on the ground. I was treated to a day in Livingstone to see Victoria Falls and saw wild animals on the banks of the Zambezi river from a boat under an incredible sunset. Then back in the city visited a compound where some of the city's poorest people lived in squalid conditions. There was beauty though too in the city - Jacaranda trees were starting to show their stunning lilac blooms and added a well needed splash of colour to the dusty and crowded streets.
All in all I spent two weeks in Zambia and came back with a different outlook on life. I had met hundreds of people who had nothing but a few pots and pans, a couple of wives in some cases, and a welcoming smile - these are beautiful people living a simple life and struggling along in a way we cannot comprehend - I am eternally grateful to BZT Trustees - Patricia & Robert Napier for giving me the opportunity to see another side of life and to be in a position to make a difference in some small way. My images and videos will be used to raise more money to build more schools and help more people live a longer and healthier life - all done in a hollistic fashion enabling organic growth and a sense that they have learned and earned their place in this beautiful piece of our planet. The road to Fiwila was a long and dusty one but by far the most rewarding journey I have ever made.
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