Wednesday, 3 July 2019

Heros and Unity

Zambia has 14 public holidays a year.
By contrast England has 8. 
Youth day, Independence day, Day of Prayer etc. 

This week we had 2 holidays. Heroes day, a day to remember those who fought in the battles for independence (Independence day is a separate holiday!) and Unity day, a day which celebrates the great diversity in Zambia coming together as one country.

Zambia is a country that has 72 tribal languages, 10 provinces (counties), 5 major cities and a population of just over 17.5 million.

TCS is a small school, with a population of 150 children and 12 adults but within our school we have at least 5 languages and people whose backgrounds spread across all 10 provinces of Zambia, and Suffolk, England! Lusaka is a melting pot of traditions, cultures and languages and as a result town Nyanja has become the dominant language in this area. This is a hybrid of at least 3 languages and often results in me getting very frustrated as everyone I ask seems to translate a phrase slightly differently!

However, we the children are thriving. We have the usual issues with behaviour and attendance that any school has but we also have a brilliant literacy rate with children learning to read very quickly and not only that, they can understand it as well!

Grade 4
Lessons on keeping clean and  healthy
Outside games
Reading is key
Role play learning conversational English
Writing everywhere!
Baby class

Song lyrics

Monday, 13 May 2019

Library revamp

Three years ago our ZEMS charity sent out 4 big boxes of books to start the TCS Library. Since then we have added books from all over the world, Zambia, South Africa, Australia, America and even more from the UK. 

Our Library has been functional but very plain. It started off in one of the old, dark classrooms then we moved it into a converted container. The books have all been very well used and were in need of repairs and a good sort out and the whole thing needed a serious facelift.

The original library in one of the old classrooms
The second library in the plain container
Then along came Debs. She arrived for a 6 week visit mid March and was happy to get stuck in wherever it was needed so between helping out in the classrooms and listening to readers we tackled the Library. 

See the transformation in the video below.

Wednesday, 13 February 2019

Time flies when you're having fun....

Happy New Year!

I thought the UK was cold!
I know that's a little late but things kicked off in January full steam ahead and somehow we are now well into February. The year is flying!

Last school year finished well with a party for 180+ children.  The party ended at 3.30pm and at midnight I headed to the airport to go and visit my family for the holidays. It was a special time, my nieces didn't take too long to warm up to me and I was able to visit a few people and catch up with Don and Christine.

I came back to Zambia in January knowing that we only had 30 free spaces at school and I had more than 30 children on the waiting list.... an impossible situation as they are all so desperate for school.

New uniform for some of the boys
New uniform for some of the girls

We spent a week doing some teacher training. This included practical things like building lego models - something the teachers had never done before - and some learning and self evaluation. Then on the 14th January the gates were opened. Actually, we didn't let any parents into the school as we knew we were going to have a problem. The approach we took was to let all of the children already enrolled in school go through the gates then separate the parents into 2 groups, those that had children at school already and those who didn't. Unfortunately we had to tell all of those that didn't have children here that there would not be spaces for them. The rest of the parents had to fill in a form giving names, ages and grades of the children they wanted to start. It is amazing how some of the families I have known for years suddenly have extra children who I've never met!! It is a minefield trying to find out children's names let alone their ages and who their real parents are.

The last 4 weeks have been a blur of new children, giving uniforms, buying resources and generally trying to get back into routine.  The children who were in Grade 4 last year have moved on and as happens every year I miss them a lot.

Teacher Sam with some of her boys
In January we had a very special visitor. Teacher Sam, who worked at Taonga for 3 years, came back from Mozambique for 10 days. It was so much fun to show her all of the changes and for her to see how much the children had grown and changed.

We are also very excited as we have our first "Taonga Baby" Teacher Angela had her first child, a little girl, at the end of December. We are all so happy for Angela and are looking forward to baby Pauline starting school in 3 1/2 years time!

Aside from school Christine is still in the UK with Don. She is still waiting for her liver transplant. The waiting is long and difficult but we believe God knows what he is doing in this period of waiting even if we don't understand it at the moment. The boys are doing well. There are only 9 living at the farm now and they are generally working hard and behaving themselves.

Thank you for your prayers and support through 2018 and the start of 2019. We hope you are having as much fun as us so far this year!

                Grade 1 reading             Making models of the school     Cooking lesson in Grade 4
Grade 4 made chocolate crispy cakes Baby Pauline Robert and Teacher Sam

Sunday, 4 November 2018

Christine Living in London

Many of you know that for the first 9 years of my time in Zambia I lived with Don and Christine Macdonald. I came to help them with Old Macdonalds Farm and the work with the boys to which we added a school. 

Recently Christine has been very unwell. She has an auto-immune disease that has left her with permanent, irreversible liver damage that can only be cured with a liver transplant.

For the last 4 months Christine has been living in London while waiting for a liver that is a match to become available. 

Lots of people have asked how they can help Don and Christine at this time so I have set up a GoFundMe page where people are able to donate to the cost of Living in London. 

Thank you so much for your support, messages and prayers for everyone at this time. Her children in Scotland, Don and those of us left in Zambia.

Friday, 20 July 2018

Through the eyes of Judith and Rose. Camp 2018

Every year at Tembenukani we have visitors from America come to run bible camp. It is organised by Arise Africa and is so much fun for the children and adults and everyone learns a lot. For one week we are off timetable and have completely different days. 
This year we have been learning about the Armour of the Lord.

On Thursday Rose and Janet hijacked the camera to show you what the day was like for them.
Judith and Rose walk to school

For the week of camp we come to school at 8am instead of 7am. It takes Janet 40 Minutes to walk to school, Rose only has to walk for 20 Minutes. 

First when we get to school we start to play, we like to play together. Our best thing to play with is the skipping ropes. After we have been playing for a little while we go to get our breakfast of bread and eat with our friends. 
Bread for breakfast
Teacher Abi

This week is different so when we finish we go to play again while we wait for all of the Americans to arrive. When Teacher Abi sees the cars she calls us all to the open area (assembly hall) and we sing some songs until everyone is ready. 

We greet our leaders and have some time with them in a small group. We practise our chants and put our headbands and name tags on. They also ask us what we have learnt on other days.  After a few minutes everyone goes back to the open area for big group session. The CSOs (Zambian staff) sing some songs and we all worship God. Then they teach us about the new piece of armour. Today was about the Shield of Faith. We made shields today.
Listening to lessons
Small group lessons
Making shields
Febby with her shield

After we have learnt our lessons we go back to the open area to answer some questions and watch a skit which teaches us something about God. Today they were teaching us how we have lots of troubles and things tempting us but if we have the Armour of God we can stay strong.
Uncle Jay being given
the "belt of truth"

Then it's lunch time and we all go home.

We think camp is GREAT and wish it could be every week! 

Thursday, 28 June 2018

Thankfulness to Change

Taonga to Tembenukani

The last two months have been full of visits. First of all I did a last minute trip
back to the UK then Mum and Dad came to see me and the school. As usual the
visits were full of fitting in seeing people and getting jobs done. While Mum and
Dad were here Mum heard lots of children recite their bible verses and we
organised books and uniforms, Dad oversaw the building of some garden beds
and a soak away. We also went to look at a new house for me….
A new house
For the last 8 1/2 years I have been living with Don and Christine and their
family as we work with the boys and the school. When I first moved here there
was a core family of 9. Gradually through the last 9 years most people have
moved and just Don, Christine and I have been left. As lots of you know Christine
is very unwell and is needing a liver transplant. This will mean that for most of

the next year she will be in the UK. That leaves just Don and I living in the family
house. It is a big house and some times we don’t see each other for days but as 
Christine will be away for an extended period it is not appropriate, especially in
the culture, for us to continue living in the same house. We have been talking
about this for some time but just before Mum and Dad came I messaged some
friends from church who rent out small flats about 15 minutes away asking if they
had anything available. Initially they said they didn’t, but within a week they did
and we were able to go and see the flat which looks ideal. Mum and Dad also
had a chance to meet Harold and Mary so they have a better idea of where I will
be staying. I hope to move in mid July. There are a few challenges to moving
out but the main one is finances. Rental properties here are fairly expensive and
I have not had to factor in rent to my living costs up till now. I have around £300
to make up per month.
School has continued to go well. We have had the usual turn over of staff as it is quite difficult finding people
who live locally and are willing to work in a different way to how they were trained. We have a new teacher
starting next week and another in around 3 weeks time.
I am still working on the registration process for school. It is long and complicated. There is no list of what
needs to be done and every separate piece of registration involves multiple trips to offices with documents and
payments. Normally they start by telling you what documents to prepare,
you do it and go back full of hope only to be told you are missing things
and need to go away to changes bits of it or that previous things you have
done are wrong. So, I needed to re-register the school and wasn’t able to
use the name Taonga School. Taonga means we are thankful and is a
name chosen by the parents. It has been hard accepting the change but
we are now calling school Tembenukani Christian School. Tembenukani
means change or turn (I’m told!) It was really hard to find another name
for the school as you can not have a name that already exists in the
country. I am sure we will continue to be known locally as Taonga for a very long time!

Thank you all for your support through the last 8 1/2 years staying at Old
MacDonalds Farm. As I look to move the work here will still continue and I
will still be here every day I will just be staying in a different place.

Please Pray for:
Christine and Don and the family as they face the next few months which
will hopefully involve major surgery and recovery.
Changes as I move for me and for everyone left at home as they adjust. 
School to continue to develop and for the teachers and children to put their trust in the Lord.

Between February and June the children learnt a bible verse for every letter of the alphabet. 
To watch them recite it click here ---> Bible Verse Challenge

Friday, 16 February 2018


22nd January 2018 school opened.
And then this happened….

On the first December 2017 we closed school with 140 children enrolled.  Twenty Seven of those children would be leaving me to go to another place and continue their studies. That meant I would  have 37 spaces available to new children when we opened.

Within an hour those spaces were filled, and more! Every day I have another parent come and see if I will take their child. Some of them just sit and wait after I have told them no spaces to see if I might change my mind. We now have 153 children enrolled and the previous Grade 5 class has settled well into their new school. I miss the big children every single day. Rhoda’s hugs, Harriet’s chat and Peter, Mali and Everson’s help with jobs … I could go on. Some of those children have been with me since 2012 and I was the class teacher for most of them at some stage.

Since we opened
The teachers and children have got to know each other.

The Grade 4 children have helped sort out some of the gardens.

We took class photos.

I have assessed over 100 children on their reading and writing ability.

And everyone has now settled into their new roles and classes.

We opened two weeks late due to the Cholera outbreak and have been focussing on teaching the children about hygienic practices and cleanliness. One of our issues has been the toilets. I am still not fully comfortable with the idea of a long drop toilet but that’s what we have. Six of them. I have previously hinted at the ‘tide marked’ doors that we have had to change but regardless of the nagging the children's aim doesn’t seem to be improving.  We are currently looking into putting “pans” on top of the holes in the hope that this will improve things. We thank God that none of the children or members of their families have suffered with Cholera.

We are also very thankful that the rains have now started, last week we have over 3 days of rain and this morning have had heavy rain for over 3 hours. 

Please continue to pray for

  • -       The children to remain healthy
  • -       New children who are settling into school
  • -       The bible lessons and assemblies will have a lasting impact on the children
  • -       The teachers as they teach the children
  • -       The rains, that they would continue but not worsen the spread of Cholera.
  • -       The end of the Cholera outbreak

Whole School Photo