Over the next few weeks we will be sharing the travel journal that Fiona Hatton, our Development Manager, kept on her first trip to projects in Kenya and Zambia.
Auckland – Brisbane, Brisbane – Dubai (how hectic is this airport?!), Dubai to Liliongwe and finally Liliongwe to Lusaka. Hooray arrived in Zambia! I am met at the airport by a beaming Chola and Evans holding a ChildFund sign. They gather all my bags, insisting that I carry nothing, and as we walk to the car as I try to decipher what the correct day & time is, I have flown through so many time zones I haven’t quite kept track. Chola is the Programs Director for Zambia and he seems very happy to have another visit from a ChildFund New Zealand colleague. I am delivered safely to a hotel and we arrange to meet at 8am the following day.
By 9am Chola, Evans and I are on the road, heading off to spend a few days in the field, visiting lots of projects in Luangwa supported by ChildFund New Zealand. Along the way Chola and I talk of the challenges people in Luangwa face and how the Luangwa team are working with the 3 main communities of this area namely, Tigwirizane, Chikondwelelo and Kavalamanja.
We have been driving for a good few hours when we reach the “town” (some fruit stalls) of Luangwa and I presume that we are finally here. But no, we turn off the main road onto a dirt track and drive and drive and drive some more. Clusters of huts appear, women carrying water on their heads, children wave, groups of goats saunter along and every now and then I get a glimpse of the stunning Luangwa river. I also start to see ChildFund signs at the side of the road, marking a school or perhaps a health clinic funded by ChildFund.
84 bumpy kilometres later we reach the Luangwa field office, close to six hours since we left Lusaka and we are now truly in rural territory. Another wonderful welcome from the ChildFund Zambia team based here in Luangwa, led by the happy and chatty Denford.
Community members who form the executive board for the region start to arrive and we have a meeting to discuss current projects, those that have recently finished and talk openly about challenges and successes in the communities. It strikes me that there is a great diversity of projects – microfinance, agriculture, youth groups, pre-schools and malaria prevention to name a few. I am very chuffed with how involved the community are and know that Denford must work hard to keep communications flowing between his team and the people they work with.
As the sun begins to set Evans drives me to the point where the Luangwa and Zambezi rivers meet. It is an awesome sight, the rivers are huge and buzzing with activity; both animal and human activity it turns out. There are fishermen pulling in their nets, mothers and children jumping in to very wobbly wooden canoes, lots of people haggling over buckets of freshly caught fish and the groups in overcrowded tin boats crossing to the other side of the river are in fact international travellers, as the other side of the river is Mozambique.
In amongst all of this I suddenly see hippo pop up in the water, and then another and another. Three giant heads with little flicking ears are literally meters away from people – I naively begin to warn everyone around me and insist that Evans translates my proclamation of imminent danger to one and all. Not one person so much as bats an eyelid. Without even looking to see where the hippos are a fisherman up to his waist in the river, says “of course there are hippos, it is their river. We work together ok”.
I chatted more to the fisherman and it turns out that most days they do indeed work together ok, but there are times when it goes so terribly wrong. Almost every month someone, both adult and children alike, are injured or killed by hippos. They are incredibly dangerous creatures, but as the people cannot survive without the river it is a risk they all take every day. That night, Chola and I talk more about the projects. He is a compassionate man and this coupled with his belief in how good development can really change lives makes for a very interesting conversation.
Follow our blog to find out more about Fiona’s trip to visit ChildFund projects, and hear other stories of Kiwis helping children in need.