In this instalment of Fiona Hatton’s travel diary, we meet some of the inspiring people of Zambia including a goat group, a local pre-school committee, and a group of youths taking charge of their own future.

Fiona, ChildFund's Development Manager

We are off and out in the vehicle by 7.30am and it is already hot. First on the agenda is a courtesy call to the local District Commissioner who speaks very highly of ChildFund and in particular about the good work Denford is doing in leading the team in this area.

(I should just point out now that our agenda for the day has been worked around “the elephants schedule”, this is said in such a normal way that I am almost a little hesitant to ask for a little more explanation. Denford explains that the elephants are very active on the roads around Chikondwelelo at sunrise and then late afternoon as they cross to and from the river. This means that those who live in the village avoid walking at these times as they don’t want to run the risk of bumping into a herd. I am told that just two months ago a woman was killed by an elephant as she collected water.)

Plaque at the pre-school in Chikondwelelo

Now we head to Chikondwelelo to tour a pre-school and to meet the pre-school committee. What is special about all of these committees is that they are made up of local people. It is quite clear that the success of ChildFund projects depends heavily on our skill in involving communities from the very start of projects, making sure they feel ownership, whichh ensures ongoing success and of course, pride.

The committee of the pre-school is an even split of men and women and they begin with lots of thanks and tell how happy they are that their children now have the best chance to succeed in education. As I am shown round the two classrooms, one mother tells me that she never learnt to read or write but now her 5 year old son can already write his name. She is grinning from ear to ear.

Luangwa's amazing goat group

Next I meet a group of ten women who are beneficiaries of one of ChildFunds’ livelihood programmes. Each woman was given 4 goats on the premise that the first four kids produced would be given to another woman. All of the women have fulfilled their promise to pass on goats to others and have now amassed herds as large as 29 and between them they now have 152 goats. It is just brilliant listening to them.

They are able to milk the goats and give much needed nourishment to their children, when in need of money they can sell one, they use the goat manure to fertilise small gardens which produce vegetables for their children and even a little extra to sell.

The goats provide more than just milk

I ask how the project has changed their lives and a lady called Albertina replies “we were the lowest of the community. Widows, lone mothers, caregivers to orphans and we were beggars. People now come to us for advice and help”.

These are such beautiful and now proud women and all they needed was a little help – they have done the rest for themselves. They have expanded their business and now provide small loans with low interest rates to others in need and offer advice to new groups just starting out with their goats. They have over 13.5million kwacha in the bank ($2700) and when they reach 15 million they intend to build a chicken coup and branch out into egg production. The only rule of the group? They don’t loan money to men as apparently they only buy beer and don’t pay it back!

The brand new Special Education Needs school

Back into the vehicle and we start the journey to Kapoche village, it takes about 30 minutes to get there. I can hear the drums before I see them. We are approaching a Special Education Needs school built by ChildFund New Zealand this year and groups of children and youth have gathered to welcome us. I am immediately impressed with the school – it has classrooms, bathroom blocks, dormitories, a little teachers’ house and dining room. There are ramps leading to all of the rooms and I am lucky enough to meet some of the very first pupils.

Fiona sits with Naasir, one of the school's first students

The need for a school like this is huge; there are many children with special needs in the area and almost no services for them. They have been overlooked for so long and to see them in their brand new classroom with their teacher is wonderful. The local Chief has come to say hello. He donated the land on which the school has been built and I thank him for his support. He assures me that he has so much faith in the work ChildFund does, that if we ever need more land consider it given already.

Last stop is the village of Tigwilizane where a group of youth have been supported by a ChildFund livelihood project since January 2012. They have created a really very impressive banana plantation; complete with fencing, irrigation systems, water tanks and if at the beginning of the tour my knowledge of banana production was almost non-existent, after an hour with these young experts I reckon I could now tell you a thing or two about bananas.

Members of the youth group stand in front of their banana plantation

The best part is that they have great plans for the future. ChildFund have provided a stepping stone and these youth are doing just what we hoped, using it, making the most of our support, learning, but then working out how they can build on it.

A young guy called Adam tells me that he dropped out of school 3 years ago and used to spend his days begging for money and then buying alcohol. He said until this project started he “didn’t care whether it was day or night or even if he died”. And now, I ask? With some of the money he has made from selling the bananas he has bought a school uniform, two books and a pair of shoes and two months ago returned to school! He is alarmed and quite possibly a little frightened as I jump up to hug him. It is past 7pm as we head back to the guest house. What a great day.

For more about ChildFund’s work with the amazing communities in Zambia, please explore the Zambia page of our website.

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