Back home to Zambia we go, with 16 – plus more – luggages in tow!
Being back in Canada proved to be more challenging than we ever could have anticipated. Life there is so vastly different from what we experienced in Zambia (though we’d only been there – in Zambia- for a relatively short period). The trip to Canada made us cognizant of the fact that we really don’t fully belong back in Canada – nor do we feel 100% Zambian at this point. Essentially, we feel as though we’re in a sort of a “no-mans-land”. I guess that’s how we should be feeling anyway as believers. This land is not our home, we’re just a-passing through .
I’ve read a fellow blogger express it this way, and I quote,
“In America (Canada) we were yellow.
We thought yellow, we talked yellow, we dreamed yellow, hey, we even ate yellow!
We really like yellow.
In Zambia, we are blue, or at least try to be.
We find our minds stretching to think blue, interact in the blue way, and occasionally we eat blue.
We really like blue.
But we really aren’t either blue or yellow…we have become a shade of green.
And we like green. We think.
Green feels strange. What is familiar? What is normal? What if we act blue in a yellow situation? For instance, eating rice with our hands. Or forgetting to wear shoes in public. Or, driving on the wrong side of the road. And these are the obvious ones. Who knows what will go through our green minds. But, we look forward to the adventure and certainly will have many laughs and embarrassing moments. Isn’t that what makes life interesting?”
This morning’s devotion was led by Josiah on humility and his own experience of how necessary it was to spiritual progress. He shared how God worked it out that he could come in spite of apparent obstacles and the incredible timing that confirmed that it was God at work.
Today has been a very busy day. Rob Jr. and Josiah met with two electricians for Kitwe to go over our plans to make sure that they meet the Zambian code. After some minor changes in types of cable to use, the electricians put together a material sheet and went to get prices. They also pulled cable to another school block and marked out where all the switches and receptacles will go. Josiah also organized the sea container that brought over supplies from Canada. The rest of the team continued to paint the classrooms. We are finding that the Pre-school-Grade 1 classrooms (which was built before we got involved) are in really rough shape as you can see from the exposed block walls in the picture below. This is slowing down the painting progress. Also we are a little tight on cable length, so we have to dig a new trench to shorten the run. This is done by pickaxe and shovel and is quite labor intensive. John (the caretaker) and Esau (living with Dennis) worked tirelessly on this. Mark also pulled out the leaking plumbing from the block of washrooms. We plan to place a raised water tank onto the roof of the block of washrooms and to do some improvements so that we don’t have to rely on the unreliable and expensive municipal water supply. Some of us have been experiencing internet withdrawal and today we finally got access to the internet. That is why you are finally getting all of these updates all at once. We are feeling under pressure because there is a lot of work to get done before the school opens next week. We would really appreciate your prayers to complete this work on time.
Dennis and Kenneth (who is the project manager and is responsible for the grounds) were both away today attending the funeral of the husband of one of the school’s teachers Mrs Fury. She is only 24 and has two children and her young husband died at the young age of 27. You can imagine the desperate situation she would be in, if she could not count on the regular pay check from the school, as small as it is. You can read more in the background below. You can really see how your financial support is having a ripple effect throughout this community. We also can see how God has shaped Dennis to be the perfect instrument for this ministry. He has such a heart for these children as he has known the loss of a parent. He also has the courage and tenacity to protectively fight for them against the forces that would like to take advantage of them. Please continue to pray for this young family as they stand in the gap for the powerless.
Some background gleaned from Kenneth. The Kitwe cooper mines used to be government run and provided a source of income for unskilled labour and even provided education for them. In the 90s it was privatized and the corporation wanted to run on a minimum of skilled employees to maximize their profits. People continued to migrate to the city. The Chipata compound is full of unemployed people and alcoholism is also a problem. With little to no income, children would not be able to get an education. The Lifesong School solves that for 500 but there are many more. Also the Lifesong School takes the kids to grade 7. The grade 7 kids were at the school today a week early to prepare for their exams in October. Because there are very few spots available they have to achieve a very high mark to get past the cutoff to get into the closest high school which is more than 10 km away. Those who are able to persist past the arduous walk there, have to deal with the high school fees, which due to the unemployment and orphans is usually unattainable. So the Lifesong School would like to build a high school in the next phase because their children are still set up for failure if they cannot get a high school diploma. Even the new jobs downtown with a mall coming in, require a high school diploma. Harmony could set up a policy with the government so that priority would be given to double and single orphans so that everyone would have the opportunity to go to high school and break the cycle. The community is very grateful for what is being done for them.
We stopped at Supasave (grocery store) on the way home and found Lifesong products being grown at the Garneton school which is in the community just outside of Kitwe and has a strawberry farm that helps offset the costs. You can see the products in these pictures.
Today was the first day that we had the whole team working together. Everyone except Rob Jr. and Josiah continued to paint the classrooms. Thankfully now we have been able to thicken the paint so that we don’t have to put on as many coats of paint. Today we completed 4 classroom and 3 were started. Tomorrow we hope to have the rest of the classrooms painted. Rob Sr. also went around all the buildings and pulled out any broken glass out of the windows so that we can replace them. Rob Jr. and Josiah started to plan out how to bring electrical cable to the buildings with the trenches provided pulled 1 line into a building. Rob Jr. also went to many hardware stores to get prices for breaker panels and other electrical supplies. We also had two Zambians (Alan and Esau) help us parge the classroom floors. Within the last two years big chunks of the floor have come out. This is probably a result of manual concrete mixing.
After lunch Edmund, Josiah, and Mark when with Victor to meet with one of the Care and Compassion groups. Victor drove us out to a neighbouring village. The streets were lined with small shacks selling anything from beds, to car washes (2 young men and a bucket), to air time on your cell phone (very cheap) to food, brooms, you name it. We pulled in to a poor neighbourhood of packed dirt. Most of streets were not passable. The house we pulled in to was a little better than the neighbouring ones. All of them were made of adobe mud. But this one had a neat hedge around it and an onion patch and even a well. A group of 12-15 ladies were sitting on a drop sheet under the shade of a tree. We removed our shoes and sat on the stools provided and introduced ourselves to each other. You can see from the photo that these were all middle-aged ladies who had many children to take care of, an average of 8 and a maximum of 10.
They had a cash box with three locks on it and 2 bowls in front of them. Victor explained that they were helping each other get on their feet through micro-financing. Each week they would contribute money to which could then be lent to help them grow their businesses. Of course they could also have crises that they needed help with so they would also contribute to a second alms fund, so that they would not be tempted to dip into their capital savings when someone was sick or had a funeral. With the three locks they needed to come to community decisions on who could receive loans or alms. The loans are repaid with interest, and those who had done so had access to bigger loans. The ladies had gathered 500K over the past 8 months. The Zambian currency is Kwatcha (K) which is currently exchanging at 6K to $1 CAD. The ladies gathered an additional 95K with most donating 10K each (which they pulled out of the knot of their skirt which they use as a purse). We asked each of them to explain what their business was and how they could use a 100K loan to grow it. It was very insightful to see how they all made their living. Most purchased wholesale items and sold them at retail (often in the small shacks along the road) Charcoal was the most popular as it is universally used to cook with. Others would repackage salt in smaller bags and sell them. The most profitable was a lady who cooked African Poloni and sold it. The ingredients cost her 45K and she could sell it all for 95K to 100K. This provided an income of about 10$ a day. However others were more likely to only make 15K in 3 days and the worst case was 5K a week. Imagine raising 6 kids on less than a dollar a week. The loans could help them increase this income and hopefully improve their situation. We encouraged them and distributed some food (soup mix from Gleaners-like organization from Canada). The costs of this food are provided through the Care and Compassion project through ACCMBC. Victor explained that Care and Compassion is focused on helping those who have been affected by HIV/AIDS. This is a huge problem in Zambia and drags down the average lifespan to 34. Those who have been affected and for many of them it is innocently, need proper nutrition in order for the medicines to be effective and a positive attitude in order to continue to take care of themselves. These support groups helped get people out of their despair and encouraging each other and feeling empowered to improve their futures. Victor who clearly has a heart for these people planned another visit to a group of isolated women who had not yet decided to form a group. It was clear that they were living in much poorer conditions. He has a number of support groups going on and visits them on a weekly basis.
Tonight we had planned to eat supper at the Lifesong Lodge but the oven broke and the electricity was out by 4pm. Now we are having dinner at the Delic’s again. Afterwards we debriefed on what we all learned for the day and how we can plan and improve the next.
Today Group 1 had an American Breakfast (see picture below) and Edmund did a devotion on Phil 2. The striking things from visiting a third world country is how little people live on and how far our money goes. We will be looked up to as foreigners. We need to be careful not to develop a God-complex as described in the book called “When Helping Hurts”. Poverty is more a sense of powerlessness and when foreigners come and in and do things for the poor that they can do for themselves it can make that worse. Let’s make sure we make this more about investing in people and respect the people we are serving esteem them higher than ourselves. Jesus left heaven to become one of us and not only wash our feet but die for us. Let us have the mind of Christ.
When we arrived at the Lifesong Community School, Dennis gave us a quick tour. He also showed us the medical building where a volunteer nurse gives out vaccinations and tends to any students needs when at the school. Today we started painting the first block of school rooms. We completed 3 classrooms and 1 office, 1 classroom has been prepped and has one coat of paint, and 1 classroom needs one more coat of paint. Unfortunately, each bucket of paint vary in consistence in that one class room may one need 2 coats of paint but from another bucket it will take more than 4 coats to paint a classroom. For lunch Dennis graciously provided us with tuna sandwiches, water and chips. George rekindled his relationship with the children playing soccer by handing out peanuts and candy (see pictures below). Group 2 arrived at around 4pm and thankfully they picked up the missing pieces of luggage. After work, Group 1 stopped at the local mall to exchange money and buy some groceries. During the day the mall’s electricity comes from a generator because of the country-wide load sharing. In order to conserve power most of the stores, ATMs, and hallways are not powered. We were surprised to see a large black cloud of smoke rising from the side of the building that put a literal cloud over this very North-American new mall. It was somewhat concerning walking into a large building without power. To add to our discomfort, while getting money out of a powered ATM, security passed by with automatic guns (AK-47s). Once we returned from their shopping we were all outfitted with shirts that the Ritzmann’s brought. Tonight we are eating dinner with at the Delic’s house.
After some minor flight delays the first group of team members arrived safely and fairly rested. Unfortunately 6 bags are lost somewhere between Canada and Zambia. Thankfully we packed most of our clothes and essentials into our carry-ons to leave room for school supplies in the suitcases. We would appreciate prayers for that our lost luggage arrives tomorrow (Monday) so that we can pick it up at the airport when Dennis Delic picks up the 2nd group of team members. Dennis took us to Lifesong Lodge where the team will be staying for the next 2 weeks. We were very thankfully that when we were arrived the electricity was on. Dennis was telling us that the entire country is under “load sharing”, which means that neighbourhoods are allowed 12 hours of electricity per day. The dry season has caused the hydroelectric dam to have insufficient water. Unfortunately, even though there is a schedule of when power will be on, it is still hit or miss. In order to help finance the school, Lifesong Canada and Lifesong USA have decided to purchase and operate a lodge. This will save all of the costs from the many work teams that come. And with additional guests, the cost will hopefully be recovered and provide an income stream that will contribute to making Harmony school self-sufficient.
Tonight we will be having dinner at the Delic’s house and have been meeting Victor and Kenneth who help administrate the Care and Compassion (AIDS) program and the school. The Delic girls were excited to get all of the news and gifts from home. Thanks for all of the love and encouragement.
Tomorrow we will be starting with painting the classrooms and then the floors will be parged. Trenches have already been started to bring in electricity. Also we need to build bases to set up water tanks at the school. The lack of water is affecting the garden success. We are hoping to install shelving in the class rooms but this may be a project for a future team since Jorge is not here with us.