Friday, 7 October 2011

Charities Update

Special Unit for Hearing Impaired in Mpika, Zambia.
> > Fr Muba and 3 staff from the school welcomed us on the outskirts of town and then took us to the school.

> > The headmaster of the 1400 pupil school to which the unit is attached welcomed us and explained that the school operates a "shift system" to accommodate all the pupils. The first thing that caught our attention was a list on his notice board detailing the number of orphans and disadvantaged children. From memory I think around a quarter of the school came into the orphan category.
> > There were 42 children aged 8 to 14 in the unit. They were taught totally separately from the other children although they could mix outside in the grounds. None of the children had a hearing aid and all teaching and communication was by signing. All the staff in the Unit, including the Head Master, had learnt to communicate through this medium. We just wondered how the c hildren survived during the holidays etc. in an aural environment. Apparently the general referral method was through the churches in the region. How we wished we could employ an ENT consultant and audiologist to properly assess these children's needs.
> > The children in the unit come from considerable distances and board at the school for 13 weeks at a time. Unlike the other children in the school, who only attend school for about 3 hours a day on the shift system, the children in the unit have lessons until 5pm each school day.
> > Out of school hours and at weekends 1 house mother is responsible for all 42 children. The children sleep in 2 dormitories, a girls and a boys. Possessions are few and accommodation is very basic. The housemother cooked on an open fire in a shed.
> > We took along some exercise books, pencils, colours, chalk etc etc. We also gave footballs, skipping ropes and frisbies for all the children. As far as we could see these would be their only play things.
> > The staff had decided that they would like to use any money we could donate to rebuild their kitchen. In the state it was in - see photo- in the rainy season cooking was virtually impossible and also they had nowhere to store their wood so it kept getting stolen. On everyone's behalf we made a donation of 8 million kwatcha which equates to about £1000 and then went into the town with Fr Muba and the Headteacher to commence the purchase of the wood, roofing sheets and cement which would be needed.
> > Water was also a huge issue. The school had a bore hole but the pump was broken and trapped at the bottom of the well. This meant that in the dry season when the town water became unavailable the children had to go out into town to collect water from other sources. Apparently they were waiting for a quote to repair the bore hole.
> > We came away wishing we could do so much more, such as provide more staff to look after and occupy the children outside school hours and a new bore hole to provide water. The school was so welcoming towards us and are obviously doing a a fantastic job within the circumstances and finance available.
> Chipembele South Luangwe Zambia
> This was a totally different experience. Set up several years ago by Steve and Anna, retired police officers from the UK, Chipembele educates local children in aspects of conservation and educates the children who visit on a global scale, with the introduction of both local and overseas flora and fauna in an educational, well thought out and resourced setting.
> Steve and Anna are also involved in anti poaching work and also with local schools.
> On behalf of everyone we donated some of the items Anna had requested.
> Franschhoek, Rundu and Lake Malawi
> In addition to the above we donated to three unlisted charities. We had so many kindly donated children's clothes we couldn't carry them all and so gave some to the children's home and local schools in Franschhoek and Paarl. The second was an organisation operated from a camp site in Rundu, Namibia which is working with local schools. Here we handed over exercise books, pencils and children's clothing. The third was a local primary school on the edge of Lake Malawi. We arrived to find the Head Master cutting pencils in half and then sharpening pencils which would be sufficient for just one class. The children were expected to come to school with their own exercise book and pencils but the majority were too poor to do this. How we wished we could have found a shop to buy such basic supplies but the nearest town was Lilongue, a day and half drive away. The class sizes were unreal - 108 six year old children to one teacher and not enough tables and chairs to accommodate them all. The register was a total of boys and girls present for the day written on the board. Again we found a man collating the numbers of orphans in each 'shift'. We gave them all the exercise books, pencils, crayons, rubbers, sharpeners, teaching resources etc. that we had left and every last kwacha (Zambian currency) that we had.

In addition to this we have been handing out pens and pencils in the villages as we have gone along, everywhere we went in Zambia and Malawi the cry was "give me pencil".
> Our next charity visit is not scheduled for a few weeks and we will update in due course.

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