Thursday, 30 December 2010
Saturday, 27 November 2010
Some of the pre-school children playing with chalk powder after the lesson.
With some of the boys. Our boys in the bridal procession.
- Church camp, that many of the boys will be influenced by what they learn.
- School, as it continues to grow and wisdom dealing with the big age range and ability. Especially the older children who have never had school before.
- Brian and Esnart as the start their life together.
- All of the boys as they go away to visit family and especially the boys who are waiting for results.
- Don, Christine and myself as we begin to plan and organise things for christmas.
Thursday, 14 October 2010
September has gone very quickly in a blur of activity, visitors and changes.
We had a couple of sad weeks at the start of the month with the death of the father of one of our boys. The father is someone who had been an alcoholic for many years and although we don't know the actual cause of his death it was likely to have been linked to that. At the same time it was very sudden and obviously very sad for the family. All of our guys were affected with the suddenness of his death and it made a lot of them seriously think about their own lives and how quickly they could end. The week after this we heard that Loveness, the sister-in-law to Auntie Yvonne, had also passed away. Although she was very sick with heart failure the doctors at hospital had expected her to live for another couple of years. The relatives had decided to take her home and didn't take her back to the hospital when her health deteriorated. This was very very sad for Auntie Yvonne who had spent so much time and effort trying to help Loveness only to be undermined by the relatives then almost blamed for the death because she hadn't been there. As a result of this Auntie Yvonne has still got a large family and it looks like it will stay that way for the foreseeable future. The family of Loveness have said the father should look after the children as he is still alive but Auntie Yvonne knows her brother doesn't have a house or a job so wont manage and it will end up with the children suffering. I think they children are settling in well now but it does mean Auntie Yvonne has 13 people staying in her 4 bedroom house.
There have also been a couple of big developments in other areas. Some of you will have received an email from Don telling of a local school that is up for sale. The owner approached Christine to see if they would be interested in buying it. Initially we got very excited with the prospect of continuing the school and using it as a premises for all manner of different things, including a church and community school, then we had news that maybe the weren't going to sell after all. However last week they have come back to us to ask us to go ahead with a valuation and they are selling so we wait an see what happens next. Also in that newsletter Don mentioned about three boys who have come to know Jesus as their saviour. Lucky, Ackim and Owen have all come to know Jesus for themselves and have been a great encouragement recently. Other boys are also showing a greater interest in spiritual things which is very exciting.
At the end of September I had a visit from my brothers and Agi. It was really good to see them and we managed a trip to Livingstone to see the Victoria falls (although there wasn't too much water) and go across to Botswana for a safari. At the falls we walked across the top and stood very very close to the edge which was quite exciting. Agi decided it was a bit high up for her liking!
The three of us at the top of Victoria Falls
Other than that things seem to be continuing well. The grade 7s are 2 weeks away from starting their exams so tension and pressure is mounting. The grade 9s start their mocks in 2 weeks and the real things next month and Samson (grade 12) has started already and finishes in November. School at home is continuing well with the extra pupils although we are all suffering as it has really got hotter in the last few weeks!
Please Pray for:
- Auntie Yvonne and all of her children!
- Lucky, Ackim and Owen and all of the other boys.
- The sale/prospective purchase of the school and all of the plan surrounding that.
- All of the boys in exam classes and that the tension and pressure wont get too much.
Wednesday, 8 September 2010
There is great excitement around the farm at the moment because one of the girls Auntie Yvonne (one of the workers that stays on site) looks after has had a baby girl. Although the situation is not idea, she is a girl of 16 and the father is not interested, we are all very happy because she did not have a straight forward delivery. Two days after her waters broke she still was not in established labour. She had been sent away from a local clinic and told not to come back making a fuss until the contractions were stronger so Christine took the decision to send her to one of the better hospitals that she knows and works with. She was monitored over night on the Friday night but nothing was happening still and the baby was becoming distressed so on Saturday she had to have a c-section. She ended up with a stay of 5 days in hospital , blood transfusions etc and it could have very easily ended up with the death of either the baby, Berna or both if we hadn't managed to get her into the Coptic hospital. The problem appears to have been a low lying placenta which (according to people that know!) would have ended with massive bleeds and because of the lack of blood available here it is very unlikely Berna would have pulled through. Every day a woman here dies in labour in the major hospital because there is not enough blood and we were reminded of this just this week with one of Mr Tuesdays (the farm manager) relations dying just 2 days after giving birth of what is most likely a 'simple' complication.
As Berna needed blood and they wont give any until you have replaced the stock I took a group of 5 boys to the blood donation clinic. They were all very scared but we all gave blood and they realised it wasn't as traumatic as they though and you got free coke or milk afterwards. They are very easily bought!! We are hoping to start taking a group of boys every couple of months as quite a few of them have realised the importance of such a simple thing.
All of that happened 2 weekends ago. Then on Sunday night a taxi arrived with another relative of Auntie Yvonnes in. She was in a serious condition and the family who had been looking after her didn't want the responsibility any more. Yesterday she went to the clinic for tests but this morning when Christine saw her she didn't look like she would last the day. Christine got her admitted into Coptic hospital this morning and she is on oxygen and undergoing more tests. They still don't know what is wrong with her.
Please pray for:
- Berna and baby Anna.
- Loveness, the lady who is in a serious condition, and the doctors caring for her.
- Auntie Yvonne as she is trying to look after Berna and the new baby, then has a very sick relative 'dumped' on her. She has not had a proper nights sleep for over 3 weeks looking after Berna before the birth, staying in hospital with Berna, Berna and the baby after the birth and now the relative. She also has a family of 4 children. (not including Berna)
- The children of Loveness. Auntie Yvonne already looks after one who is 6. There are 3 more smaller ones at home. We are going to visit them later to make sure someone is looking after them but they may end up coming to stay with Auntie Yvonne putting even more pressure on her.
Sunday, 5 September 2010
- School opening and exam classes. We have 10 boys in exam classes
- The church plant. That we would find somewhere more suitable and people would come along.
Thursday, 29 July 2010
This is just a quick update to say I arrived back safely on Thursday morning last week. It was very good to be back with everyone again and I soon settled back into things.
Since Monday I have been back at school and have enjoyed seeing how some of the boys have moved on. I have also started an extra class for some of the little ones. I needed to start Christina (who is 2 ½) in the nursery class but also have two 6 year olds in that class. Although there are only 5 children it is hard to move the older ones on when Christina needs totally different kind of attention and 'work'. To overcome these problems Ezra and Eliza now
Don and Christine have gone to Cape town on a family holiday for 2 weeks. They have managed to fit it in while both the girls are on school holidays and Nico has gone with them. On top of them all being away Mr Banda is having the week off. If he didn't have this week he wouldn't have managed to fit it in until October. This brings with it all the extra jobs, sorting things in town, shopping and various other bits but so far it is going OK.
Don and Christine, Nico, Sarah and Rachel that they can have a relaxing holiday.
Wisdom for me dealing with the boys at home and for them to behave.
The boys who have exams coming up. 10 are sitting big exams next term.
Wednesday, 30 June 2010
Due to BA strikes I was delayed a few days coming home but that just gave me more time to organise school while I am away. There is a visitor over at the moment who is in charge of the classes while I am away. I was able to spend some time making sure the boys would all have enough work. Hopefully this will make Emily's life a bit easier and when they start complaining about the work she can blame it on me. - It is bound to happen as the boys, like any children, will test new people to try and get away with as much as they can.
Anyway, I am still at home now for a couple of weeks, then hopefully heading back. One of the things I have to sort out while I am home is finances for the next year. Some of you have been very promt in replying to either Joe (finance guy at CEC who sorts it all out!) or myself as to whether or not you are able to continue supporting me for another year, thank you. If you havent responded please let me or Joe know asap. If you dont have Joe's details or want gift aid/financial giving forms just drop me a message. Thanks.
Saturday, 26 June 2010
Mzungu - it is the word for white person. If you go into an area where there are lots of children or it is rare for a white person to go you get this shouted after you by people of all ages.
Friday, 25 June 2010
I hope you are all well and enjoyed a good Easter. We had an interesting time! On Thursday before Easter Christine and Rachel went for a holiday to Scotland. That left Don and me sorting out all of the boys. The boys had a mixed program of school, work and holidays. They were generally very well behaved, which we really appreciated. On Easter Monday we were invited to go to some friends of Dons who own a big coffee farm about an hour and a half out side of Lusaka. We hired a bus and all piled in. The boys were all in high spirits even if we did have 4 people too many for the bus and some had to share seats. When we passed the police checks the curtains were pulled and all singing stopped as they pretended to be asleep so we didn't get an inspection. We had a tour of the farm which was huge, then had a swim, played some football and had a BBQ. The only thing that spoilt the day was Sam ending up with a broken ankle which meant lots of painkillers and a trip to clinic the next day. It seems to have healed now. He removed the plaster himself as it was crumbling and he wanted to play football and hasn't had too much pain since! On the morning we expected Christine and Rachel to return the volcano messed up all plans. Christine and Rachel ended being stuck in London for an extra week. The boys were all getting a little anxious about when 'Mum' would be home. Thankfully they managed to get on a flight the following Thursday so arrived only a week late.
Over Easter I also had a visit from James Skelton. He was able to help out in school and see a little bit of what my life here is like, although with Christine being away it wasn't quite a true representation. He also had the opportunity to visit Covenant College in Petauke where we spent 2 months in 2005 and Kasissi Orphanage (which I have told you about before). It was really nice to see a familiar face from the UK. James also got held up by the volcano as he was due to travel back on the same day as Christine was due home but was put up in a very nice hotel for a week so didn't have too much to complain about!
Just after Easter I closed school for two weeks and some of the boys went away to visit families. School is going well at the moment. I have had 7 pupils since Christmas. The time keeping seems to have improved a little bit. It is very annoying when I ring the bell at 9 and still they haven't arrived by 9.15. A few well placed words and punishments seems to have got the message across! In the past 2 months we have had two Canadian visitors here who have been a real help. They have spent many hours patiently listening to the boys read, asking them questions about the stories and correcting their mistakes. It is a very slow process and it can be hard to see the progress that is being made but all of the boys have benefited by growing in confidence as readers and understanding more of what they are reading. Gift, one who dropped out of school after Christmas has started working in the kitchen. He is really enjoying being there learning different things and even doing the washing up! Hopefully this will give him some kind of direction in life. Although Gift was in grade 8 he couldn't even do 2 digit multiplication and division when he dropped out of school. His reading was good but he didn't understand any of it. We have really had to go back to basics with him and he seems to be doing much better now.
The boys who were taken out of school for a variety of reasons are very excited. They went back to school on Monday. So far things seem to be going well. They have been requesting prayers of thanks in the evenings for being back at school! Hopefully the enthusiasm will continue for a long time!
We have had some bad news. Joseph, who came around October time, has been asked to leave. It wasn't one big problem that made Don and Christine come to the decision but lots of smaller things over the last few months. Generally he was showing no respect for authority and was becoming very demanding. Also we had heard stories of him saying he was going to steal a lot of things when he left and cause a riot. Not really the kind of person we want staying here.
Mum and Dad are hopefully arriving in Lusaka next Thursday. That is if BA decide to fly and the volcano doesn't play up too much! They are here for 2 weeks and we are planning a trip to the Victoria falls and to Mfuwe for a safari. They will also spend a week at the farm so will get to see some of the work I am doing and meet the guys and girls. I hope to return to the UK with Mum and Dad for a holiday before the new school term begins.
Over the past few months I have been thinking and praying about what to do in the next few months into 2011. Lots of reasons have made me come to the decision that I would like to carry on working here for another year. Through the year the boys in the class at home have made very good progress and have benefited from having some consistency in the level and type of work they are given. When there are lots of different people running the class it can become very disjointed. I don't want to leave the boys who are just beginning to grow in confidence to go back to constant changes. Also I have worked very closely with a lot of the boys who are in grade 7. They sit their exams in October/November so the last few months of the year will be critical. I don't want to leave without seeing them through to the end. Taking the decision to stay for another year brings a few things to sort out. When I came I was issued with a work permit for 2 years so that is valid until August 2011 and I don't have to do anything with regards to that. I need to sort out funding. If you have been sponsoring me through this year, I don't want you to feel obliged to continue, but if you would like to please let either Joe (JWKing@lgc.com) or me know asap.
Thursday, 24 June 2010
Once again weeks seem to have flown by and we are approaching another holiday.
The boys are all looking forward to Easter and a time to relax a little bit. Depending on which school they go they the boys will get between 2 weeks and a month off. Some of them will go for extra tuitions in that time, others will go and visit families and some will stay here and work on the farm and relax. I hope lots of them go home for visiting. Christine is going to Scotland for two weeks with Rachel so the less that stay here the easier it will be for me!
The boys who are working at home are doing well. There are two volunteers here from Canada at the moment which is a big help to me. They are taking the little ones for 2 hours every day instead of the 1 hour I was doing and they are listening to the older boys read. I have been trying to work out a way to listen to the boys read since I got here but when there are 7 of them needing help with school work you cant just sit back with one of them. The boys reading and comprehension has improved a lot since they started, as has their confidence. Some of them have even begun to volunteer to read at prayers in front of everyone else.
The grade 7s still have a teacher who comes every morning. After Easter we hope to put them back into school. Some of them have found it hard to take school seriously since they are learning at home but most of them have managed some form of self discipline to get their homework done in the afternoon and study a bit in the evenings.
The boys who have been smoking Dagga seem to have done really well with coming off it. We took 2 of the boys for testing last week so are waiting on their results. Apparently it stays in your system for up to 1 month so we will probably do a few spot checks in the next few months to see how they are doing.
In the last few weeks we have also become involved in a situation with one of the brothers of a couple of the people that stay with us. He became a double orphan around the age of 14 and started using Dagga and drinking a lot. (Home brew which is very strong.) Over the past few months he has deteriorated dramatically resulting in being admitted to Chinama, a mental institution, about a month ago. Levy (said Levee) is convinced he is major pop star and that he performs at concerts world wide. He also has been found wondering around at night with just his boxers and one shoe on and generally doesn't make a lot of sense to anyone except himself. He stayed at Chinama for a week the first time then one day I went to visit with Lucky (his brother) and found he had been discharged and sent home. The agreement had been that he was coming to stay with us so we went to find him. Eventually he turned up at his Grans place and agreed to come home with us. He stayed one night then made his excuses and refused to come back. Last weekend he was admitted to Chinama again. On Tuesday I went to visit him. He has lost a lot of weight (he wasn't very big anyway) and really seemed to be unwell, despite all of that when I went on Saturday he had been discharged again! We found him at his Grans again, he had been drinking and probably smoking. The nurses at Chinama kept saying we are doing 'shared caring' but surely if that's the case they should get in touch with someone where he is staying to advise them on what to do. Anyway at the moment it is a tough situation. Until Levy sees he needs help there is not much we can do. Hopefully he will realise before it is too late and any damage is irreversible. Chinama is a very bleak place. It is basically a concrete exercise pad in the middle with dorm rooms around the edge. There is nothing for them to do except wonder aimlessly around and the nurses and staff don't even know who most of the people there are. There is very little 'care' for any of them. If I find it difficult I cant imagine what it must be like to see your brother or cousin in that kind of place! Please pray for Lucky, Memo and Lingson. (brother, sister and cousin) and also that we will have wisdom with dealing with the situation. I think it is just a matter of time before he is admitted again.
I hope you are all well and have a good easter.
Wednesday, 23 June 2010
Good afternoon from a hot and sticky Lusaka!! I hope you are all well.
In the last email I wrote I told you about a few problems with school and boys fighting so to update you on that...
Don and the boys involved in the fighting were summoned to the local court. This ended up in Don having to give the woman who took him there some money. (Not a large amount) Don admitted there had been an argument and tradition means you have to give the other person a token to resolve the situation. After that had been settled the judge turned to the woman and told her off very sternly. She had no right to take Don to court as they had started he problems, if Don had taken her she would be looking at a much larger fine etc. Since then we have heard nothing more from her or any of the other people involved. Although we see them on the road the boys have either made there peace with them or ignore them.
The situation with school continues to rumble on. Christine, Mr Banda and myself have had a series of meetings with the lady in charge at Lusaka East and all came to the same conclusion. She is able to talk lots of words without answering questions and she says she is working hard but has little to show for what she is doing. 2 weeks ago she sent home Ackim. Christine and I were going out when he was walking home so knew there had been some kind of problem. When we got back he came to the kitchen to tell us. Mrs Chihana had told him off for hanging around in the door way of the classroom instead of studying. He was asked to pick up litter so asked if he wasn't allowed to take a 5 minute break from studying. At that she told him to get his bag and go home. He wasn't to go back to school without someone. On the day it happened Ackim had only had 2 lessons out of 8 because of the shortage of teachers! The next day I went with him to school and was told Ackim is rude, obnoxious and has no respect for authority. Ackim is the opposite of that! He is a quiet, polite, kind boy. If she had been talking about lots of the others I would have believed her, but not Ackim! Anyway she didn't want to decide on a punishment but Ackim had already decided he wanted to drop a year (he was in grade 11) and start grade 10 at Tina Trust school where some of the others go. (He is changing exam courses which is why he needed to drop back) so I bought him home. Later on the same day Wisdom had a fight. When Mrs Chihana was called he decided to come home before she got there. He spent a long time talking and acknowledged that he was the one to start the fight and he shouldn't have done it. He had been being provoked by this other boy for a few weeks and the teacher seemed to have done nothing about it. The other boy had bitten Wisdom through his shirt and t-shirt and drawn blood. Although Wisdom didn't hang around to receive the punishment for his behaviour the other boy was told never to fight again and sent back to class. We somehow think Wisdom wouldn't have got away with that! On the Saturday she sent a note home with one of the boys saying that Wisdom and Ackim were not to go back to school again. This was the last straw. Some of the other comments she had made showed that she didn't like 'our boys' and she grouped them all together as troublemakers. So on Monday we kept the boys at home. Christine went to meet her to tell her. Initially in the meeting she went on about Ackim, Wisdom, 'your boys' and me, then when Christine told her we would remove the boys because they were causing her so many problems she tried backtracking, obviously realising we made up a significant proportion of the school.
All of that resulted in having 17 at home for school last week. 1 each in grades 2-6, 6 in grade7, one in grade 8 then the others who I usually have and are not working on grades. It has been quite chaotic but an interesting experience! As of today we have a teacher who is coming to take the grade 7s. She will also take the grade 6 as he will hopefully be able to skip. (He was only in grade 4 last year so has already skipped one grade but was still getting over 90% on most of his weekly tests. This will reduce the number I have back to 7 as a couple of the others are the girls who are hopefully going to put into another school.
Another sequence of event that helped us decide removing them from school was the only option we had was finding out some of them were smoking Dagga. (Cannabis) We were told about this a few weeks ago. On the way home from school they were stopping to smoke. It is very hard to tell (apart from the behaviour) if they have been smoking. After the tip off we were able to pick out the boys who were doing it and usually when they were. Most days! We were also able to ask a couple of the boys who we were sure wernt involved and they were quick to confirm our suspicions of who and when they were doing it. If the boys had been caught at school we were very worried about what Mrs Chihana would do. Anyway they didn't know that we were aware of what was going on until Mr Banda asked them directly. They admitted quite quickly what had been going on. This surprised us! Since then we have had to deal with symptoms of withdrawal from most of the boys involved. Watching them going through withdrawal is difficult, they feel achy, cold, moody etc and cant see the point in carrying on. Two have come saying they might as well leave now, one saying whats the point of his life he should just end it. Its really difficult and although they are the ones who got themselves in that situation you feel so sorry for them. A couple haven't shown any signs, including one who we think is the main user so we are wondering if he is managing to get some from somewhere. (The gate is kept locked but we have people who come for work) Just before we found out about them using Christine heard about an American, a drug and alcohol councillor, who is working here for at least 6 months. He was happy to come to the farm to start working with some of our boys. He came yesterday for the first time and the boys seemed to like him. He told all of the boys his story which is very sad and includes being abandoned at the age of 6, adoption, drug and alcohol use, rehab, relapse, (a few times over) then going to a christian rehabilitation centre and managing to beat his addictions as he realised his problems were deeper than just the substance abuse. The boys were all very interested. They couldnt believe it could happen to a white person. He also spent some time with the 6 who have been using. He is going to come every week to meet with them and help them. It is amazing that he is out here just when we need him! He arrived in Lusaka 2 weeks ago so we will be able to use him for the whole 6 months or so that he is here.
On the lawyer front we have also had some good news. Kelvin Bwalya, the lawyer who was threatening Don with court action and trying to bribe lots of money out of him, has been suspended by the lawyers association of Zambia. His law firm has also been closed down. This is a great piece of news, a real answer to prayer! We had long ago decided it would take a miracle or an accident to stop him! It doesn't mean it is the end of the case though as someone will have to take over his work load. That will probably be a long process and we don't know who is going to do it. Hopefully they wont be as corrupt as Bwalya.
I have just received a text from Christine to say she has got the registration certificate. That is the first stage of us being officially registered. It has taken since May last year. Now the certificate has to go to Social Welfare and we have it on good authority that the process should be straight forward there... we will believe that when it happens!
Thank you for all of your emails and messages.
Tuesday, 22 June 2010
We are almost at Christmas which is proving to be a very busy, yet very exciting time! It is all of the usual Christmas activities - shopping, cooking, decorating, going to carol concerts, pantomimes only for/with 30 guys! We made a list last week of who we had to get presents for. It was more than 125 people and that was only boys, 4 of their relatives, (they could choose 4 each) workers and workers families.
So how do you shop for that many people, most of whom you don't know? Well, you go to Johannesburg, enter the shops with a list of ages and have lots of fun choosing outfits for all of them! Things in Johannesburg are a lot cheaper than here in Lusaka and a lot better quality. Don has started working with Zambezi airlines on a part time basis so we can get a good deal on flights and we stay with some people Don and Christine know which makes it worth the travelling to do the shopping. We took two big suitcases and 2 smaller ones which were empty on the way out but well and truly stuffed on the way back. This week we will begin wrapping all of the gifts.
A couple of weeks ago I took some of our boys to watch a Peter Pan play. Samson (the oldest boy that stays here) is involved with a group called bearfeet. It is a little bit like an amature dramatics group but they also do workshops and lots of projects with underprivileged children. They have worked with the boys here before but this time only Samson was involved in the play. The play was really good and the boys are still quoting lines from it! They had done it really well and included relevant places (Manda Hill, Lusaka, Soweto Market) and some Nyanja lines which got massive cheers. We were invited to go on the Friday but wernt able to make it so changed to go on the Wednesday. When we arrived the show was delayed by an hour as they were still waiting for the rest of the audience, they had gone to pick up a bus load of street kids who still live in Soweto market. The joy on their faces while they were watching the show and the whooping of delight when places they recognised were mentioned was so lovely to see however it was tainted with the overwhelming smell of glue as kids all around us were busy sniffing. It was so sad to see little children, and bigger children, who couldn't even go a few hours without glue. We all spent the evening recovering from the effects. In some ways I think it was good for our boys to have a reminder of how they use to be.
A few weeks ago we had a bad couple of weeks. I had drawn money out on a Thursday, which was still in my wallet on the Fri night. I didn't use the wallet on Sat and by Sunday morning it had gone. I spoke to Christine about it and we decided to watch and wait. Lots of the boys were going visiting on Thursday and if we hadn't caught the person by then the plan was to search them all. So Thursday came and we had our suspicions but they one we thought wasn't going visiting. Anyway we went ahead and searched them all, bags and person, and didn't find much. The next morning we managed to search the whole farm and the dorms but still found nothing. The person we suspected was still at home so we decided to set a trap. One night while we were watching a movie Don hid in my room and I left the door open. After about an hour the one went out... then came back in with a cup of water. Then again about half an hour later he went out, but came in quickly, then went again a couple of times then there was shouting and running with Don flicking on the light and announcing to the boys that he had just caught a thief. He was holding Danny. The boys were all very shocked that we had set a trap. Don had earlier announced he was going to bed and keep the noise down. Danny admitted to taking the money, he also confessed he had taken a lot more money but didn't say where from. He was taken to the gate and told not to ever come back. It is horrible to think of such a small boy (he is 10) being out on the streets but we cant have him here when he is acting like that and somehow he has to learn. This was also the final straw as there had been other incidents of bad behaviour and times when we were suspicious about the way he was behaving.
One of Christines dreams is to set up a bakery. She really enjoys cooking and somehow thinks she isn't busy enough with 3 mornings working and everything else! We had our first order for yesterday. 200 packets of small gingerbread biscuits, iced and packaged to look lovely. The plan was to cook them on Thursday afternoon and ice them in the evening, then package them on Friday. Thursday afternoon came, no power! We finished cooking them at 11.30pm on Thursday night then spent from 7am until 3pm on Friday sorting everything else out. We put a little card in each one so it is free advertising too. Hopefully we will get more orders, but next time have power!
I was lucky enough to have a trip to a lodge from Tues-Thurs this week. I won a prize for 2 nights for 2 people at a fund raising event back in October and asked Sarah to come along. We had contacts with the owner of the lodge so emailed him and asked if it would be ok for a couple of the boys to come and pitch a tent. (Usually they don't have tents at this lodge) He replied telling us to come when there are 2 chalets free and they can stay in one. So on Tuesday Nico, Lucky, Sarah and I headed off. We arrived at a beautiful lodge set on the banks of the Lower Zambezi river which had crocs, hippos and all kinds of animals in. We went on boat trips and a canoe trip (coming very close to elephants and crocs!) and had a wonderful time surrounded by the most beautiful scenery. Needless to say we didn't want to leave. It was a lovely break in preparation for the madness of Christmas and it was nice to spend some time with the other guys. The owner was very generous in allowing the boys to stay as well.
Today, by contrast, I have been to visit Emmanuel and Thandi's family. They are orphans who are 14 and 15. (I think.) They have an Auntie who lives in Kabwe, (which is a 2 1/2 hour drive,) with their sister and cousins. Another sister lives near by there and is married. The family really don't have much so the boys feel that going to stay would be an extra burden they don't need. We suggested going one day and taking them some presents for Christmas. This idea was greeted with great enthusiasm! So today we started off about 9 o'clock and went to Kabwe. We did some shopping, mainly of food as that would be the most useful gift we could give them, and then went to find the family. Thandi wanted to buy them clothes too but they couldn't remember the ages and didn't know how big the children were as it is over a year since they had last visited. The house is in one of the poor compounds on the edge of Kabwe but since the last visit they have managed to set up a little business selling charcoal. Last time the family had a lot of problems with sickness, the uncle had TB, but that seems to have been sorted out now as well. The family are still very poor though and the Auntie is very close to having another baby. The boys didn't want to stay long, all they really wanted to do was check everyone was ok, they are virtually strangers after all. It is also distressing for the boys because although they want to visit it is sad to see their family living in such conditions and not be able to do very much to help. At least one of the children was going to school as he was reading a tatty book outside to the other children so there is hope for him if they can continue to afford to send him to school.
In the next few weeks we anticipate being very busy with Christmas preparation then a few days after Christmas I am going to the other side of town to help with a party for the kids who are still on the street. It is being organised by a lady who has a similar, bigger project and takes in more cases of abuse, often the smaller children that have been abused by the bigger guys. She also does a lot of work going into places like Soweto where the kids are, and gets to know them. This should be an interesting experience, one which I am slightly nervous and excited about at the same time. She will go out at about 6am with a bus to collect the boys and bring them to her place where they will get presents and food be looked after for the day.
I hope you all have a lovely Christmas and New Year
Monday, 21 June 2010
So, another few weeks have past and we find ourselves in school holidays after a short term. The Grade 9's finished writing their exams on Friday and are off school until February. Everyone else broke up on Thursday for about 5 weeks until the beginning of January.
The end of term meant tests. Most of the boys seemed to think they got on ok, although results have not been released yet. The boys that I use to teach at home (and only went to school in October) found some of the tests very hard, especially English. Wisdom, who is the one I was most worried about, came home very happy on Monday as he had done well in Maths and Science but as the week went on he found it harder. He didn't let that put him off though and continued coming to study every night and talk about the test he had sat that day. This is a massive step forward for him as previously he would just get up and walk out of class if something was too hard. Also he didn't use to speak except for one or two words when he wanted/needed something. In the last few weeks begun speaking a lot more and even managed a whole conversations about school and his family. Sam and David have kept their results and thoughts about the tests to themselves, but they are much more confident and were more ready for them anyway.
In school the boys have been making steady progress. Cliffords reading has made massive progress and he is understanding a lot more of what he is reading. Joseph has begun to settle down too and accept that he needs help with his comprehension. We have spent a lot of time talking to him and trying to get him to understand that it is not because he is 'dull' that he is doing this work, his reading is almost fluent, but because he needs to understand what he reads. I have had a girl from church come and help me in the last few weeks (which is very useful as she can explain things in Nyanja!) but she will be back in college herself when term starts again after Christmas. This has especially helped Joseph to understand the reason for his 'easy' work that he cant manage. Charles and Thoko also continue to work hard. Danny is back as well, with varying levels of effort and cooperation. We are all being very strict on him just now and hope he settled back down again quickly. Although he is a handful most of the time he does have moments that remind you he is only a young boy. Last week he came asking for scissors but wouldn't tell me why, I had to go and see. When I went to the farm later he was busy with the small children making a 'shelter' out of some bits of wood he had found, some old bags and cardboard. He spends a lot of time with the 3-6 year olds, playing games and chasing them.
Now it is holidays lots of the boys have gone to visit family. Today there are only 15 people here, including the girls. Usually we are about 35. Lots of the boys have gone until the 22nd or 23rd of December. I wonder why they are coming then?! One of the big boys (17 years old I think) came to ask me "what exactly is special about the 25th of December?" Then asked what happens at Christmas that means people are writing lists for presents and getting excited so I explained. While I was telling him Thadi (who is 15) was in the room and gradually started hopping from one foot to the other getting more and more excited! Some of the boys are coming back sooner as there is a Church camp from the 10th to 14th Dec which they would like to go to. I think 8 of them have decided to go. It is good to see them keen to mix with people outside of the farm.
Don and Christine have managed to get away this weekend for a couple of nights. That was fine because Aunt Yvonne (who does the cooking for the boys and lives on site) was around until a family member passed away and she has travelled to the funeral. I am very glad it is school holidays so there are only a few of us! I cooked roast chickens for us all last night and think Sunday will be a BBQ which the boys will cook and I will just organise. Today... we will see! Hopefully the rest of the weekend will pass without major incident. Thankfully Mr Banda doesn't live too far away if I need him!
I hope all are well. I need to go and chase these boys back to work!
Sunday, 20 June 2010
“Ah, Iwe. Zona awye.”
“Where's my lunch box”
“Ah where's my shirt?”
“Give me the iron”
These kind of things, at a high volume, are usually my cue to roll back over, squeeze my eyes shut and try to kid myself that it is not morning yet and pretend I will manage to go back to sleep. It is around 06.00 and the boys are getting up ready for school. I lay in bed and listen to them going backwards and forwards, getting their rooms ready for inspection. One of them sweeps, someone comes in and makes a mess, they get shouted at, someone else sweeps. Etc.
06.30 riiiiiiiing, riiiing, riiiiiiiing. The alarm (just outside my room) is turned on to let everyone know breakfast is ready. This is accompanied with lots of shouting and running trying to get the final things done. Breakfast is tea and bread. (1 loaf shared between 5) Some of the boys eat it straight away, others collect theirs and go back to finish getting ready, they were late getting up and haven't managed to get all of the jobs finished before breakfast is ready.
Boys start to trickle out of the gate to walk to school. (Looking verry smart in freshly washed and ironed uniform, but I try not to ever see them like this!) I am still laying in bed listening to the noise, waiting for it to quieten down. Someone runs back past the room, they have forgotten some books. Someone else shouts to them “Iwe, my book” “I don't know where is it” “the table” All in Nyanja, peppered with English.
A hush settles on the house. It is safe to get up. Time to go and get some breakfast, toast and coffee. Thoko is working in the kitchen. You can tell the mood of the day by whether you are greeted with a big hug or a grunt. Aunt Yvonne wants clothes for washing and Eunice is looking for matches to make the fire for cooking. The boys who are at home come in. One carrying three cabbages, one with a bucket of tomatoes, one with 3 onions, then 'Mum' comes in so they all run back to the farm. Only one person needed to bring the vegetables up.
Time to get dressed and sorted for the day ahead.
It has come round too quickly. The boys are all coming up from the farm for breakfast and school and I am not ready because I have found something else to do instead of getting their books ready. (Usually this is a good time to go on the internet because I wont get disturbed.) The amount of noise just a few boys can make is amazing! The devour breakfast and go for bathing.
“School time, come on boys don't be late again”
5 mins later they begin to trickle in and we settle down to a mixture of English, maths, social studies, science, RE and any other subject that I think they could do with. At 10.10 we have a break, it is only meant to be 10 mins, but 15 mins later we might be ready to start again with everyone working on a different subject to earlier.
By 11.00 the boys are beginning to flag, sometimes they will work until 11.15 but usually by 11.00 we are involved in a deep discussion about who is the richest person in the world, how you can become rich, which job would be the best job to have or where they would like to visit when they are rich. When I tell them they can go the slowly leave, not the usualy rush out of the door at the end of school so I take that as they have had a good day.
Time to walk around the farm and collect the little children for their lesson. As I round the corner three little bodies come flying down the slope to see who will be the first to get spun around this morning. Then we walk together, singing as we go, to get Eliza. As we get close the little ones stop mid flow in their song and begin calling “Eliza, school time” She runs and gets her shoes before joining us going back to the house for their lesson. This is a combination of all different kinds of activities, sometimes we cook, other times we make puzzles and learn sounds. Eliza and Ezra have just learnt to write their name so are keen to practice writing the letters. At 12.15 we pack up and it is “trampoline time” The best part of the lesson! Outside is now above 35 degrees but that doesn't deter them. They run down to the trampoline and all jump on it together doing seat drops, front drops, back drops. There is a tap is close by... It would be rude not to throw some water over them. They run screaming, then back again for more.
“home time, nsima time”
All shoes are put back on and we walk back to the farm, balancing along the wall as we go, two children on each hand, although they are beginning to get more confident and try balancing on their own.
With the children are delivered safely back home I am hungry! After some lunch it is time to mark any work from the morning that didn't get to looked at then prepare some work for the next day. Most of the boys in the lesson now need work written in their books as they are older boys but working at lower levels.
At some point in the afternoon I may go into town to pick someone up or do some shopping or just to get out for a while. Sometimes I stay at home. If it is a bad day I might be sorting school work until the boys start coming home from school again. Some days it is a nice quiet afternoon and I can read a book and get some peace and quiet for a little while.
The noise level is rising, this can mean only one thing. School is over and the boys are on their way home. Between 15.45 and 16.30 the boys all arrive. Some wander into the kitchen looking for food, others go to their room and lie down for a while. Most get changed and head over to the football 'pitch'. Someone finds a guitar and starts practising some 'chords' they have dreamt up without realising it needs to be tuned or there is a certain way to make the chord they want. The boys on duty check to see if there is nsima and relish made. A couple of boys stay in the kitchen hoping to 'help' and pick at whatever is being made and a few of the older boys do some studying.
At 18.00 the bell goes again to tell the boys it is their supper time. They come bringing their plates and cups. We finish making our supper, setting the table (for around 10 to 12 people) then go and enjoy some quiet while we eat.
19.30 is prayers time. The bell goes again and everyone gathers in the lounge, people sitting everywhere. Someone chooses a song to sing and they read around through proverbs. One of the verses tells them they are fools who don't want to learn and everyone laughs nervously. The adults all agree with what is being read. Some of the verses provoke heated discussion, others mean the boys shift uncomfortably in their seats. Then if anyone has anything to pray about they can mention it before we pray.
After prayers is lunch box time. The person on duty cuts 5 loaves into 10 pieces each and slaps egg mayo, peanut butter or sausage meat in between two of the slabs of bread. Someone else is washing up and packing away and another few are clearing up any scraps or left overs. Then it is homework time. Time to collect the spellings and other work for the guys at home and see what the guys from school have bought home today. Some are at the table in the lounge, others work in their room. Thandy comes, “Will you do my homework?” “No, but I will help you” Usually he has spellings and maths. With a little explanation he understands the maths and gets most spellings right. One of the boys creeps up. “Sorry, but can you do maths?” “No, but I will try” they show me a question on simultaneous equations “Go and ask someone else!” Then we spend a while looking at it and explaining how you simplify it. If there is a question that I cant remember how to do I try and find a text book with the explanation and we work it out together, usually coming to a satisfactory conclusion with both him and I having learnt something.
21.30 people start drifting off to bed, the bread for breakfast (all 9 loaves) has been taken out of the freezer and the kettle is on the hob starting to heat up for the morning. One of the big guys locks up and sets the alarm and peace descends back over the house. Time to climb under the mosquito net, check for beastys, read one line of a book before giving up and sleeping until I am woken again...
Saturday, 19 June 2010
I managed to get my work permit yesterday which is valid until June 2011. I had to go in the morning, which meant I had a morning off teaching, and spent a while queueing in for different desks in an office. There were no problems getting it though which I am very thankful for.
The lessons are going well. We have all settled into a routine for the time being. Two new visitors arrived last Saturday so they have been helping with the lessons which has made it a lot easier. Trying to sort out 9 different levels of work, keep an eye on what they were all doing and sorting out their problems/dealing with their complaints was quiet tough. They can be very verbal when they want to be! I have also introduced a new timetable. They are still working on Maths and English but I have introduced Social Studies and am planning to start some science in the next few weeks. This is mainly because three of them thought they should be moving onto grade 7 English but were not ready. I had another scheme of work for grade 6 English but when I presented it to them they were not impressed. Doing Social Studies they are still reading and doing comprehension but under a different title. They also felt they should be doing grade 7 maths so to combat that I have been writing all of the questions out in their books every day. They just assumed they had moved up to grade 7 and I didn't tell them they hadn't. It is a bit crafty but it makes my life so much easier even if it takes longer to prepare. They feel it is some kind of rejection, like I am telling them they aren't any good, if I wont move them up. They have had so much of that in the past they don't cope with it very well so it is best to avoid it if possible. On a Friday morning they all have a maths test and a spelling test, then they can play a game. The older ones have to team up with a younger one to help teach them. They get very competitive and usually the game lasts longer than the lesson should. Tomorrow the guys that go to school have got 'teachers day.' Basically I think it is an excuse not to have lessons. They have to do “sketches, dances and funny stories” (in the words of one of the boys) and have lots of fun. Tonight we have just made and decorated biscuits for all of them to take tomorrow. The boys I teach think they have got their usual maths and spelling test and are feeling quite hard done by. I think we will do some cooking and baking instead though which they will be very excited about. Mainly because only about half of the mixture of anything we make will have any chance of getting near an oven. I am sure by the time we finish they will be complaining of sore tummies!
In the little class the children are continuing to pick up English quickly. Today we made some biscuits and tomorrow we will eat them. Well, they will, I am not sure if I will... they hadn't quite got the idea of not licking the mixture off their hands in between shaping each biscuit!
Homework time is interesting with me struggling, often more than the boys, with iGCSE science and maths. I am relying on GCSE revision guides to help me but am learning a lot and remembering a little. If that fails I find one of the boys who is in a higher grade to come and explain it to us.
In prayers time the boys have been doing hot seat. They have the chance (usually they volunteer sometimes they are told) to tell everyone their story of how they came to be at the farm. It is amazing to hear these boys telling of how they were, what they use to do and all of the problems they have had before coming here. It is quite amazing to see how normal most of them have turned out! Yes, they leave dirty dishes and dirty clothes around, try to get out of chores or school work, hunt around the kitchen to see what there is to eat, argue and make lots of noise but how many teenage boys do you know that don't do the same?!
It seems like every other day we are without power at the moment. They are building a new road on both sides of the farm, putting tarmac down, although as yet we have seen only a little evidence of it! For some reason they have thought it essential to move the power cables about 2 feet on one side of the road so are replacing all of the poles and wires. Usually we get warning the power will be off, but not always. It is a bit of a problem as we cant pump water or so lots of the jobs in the day but I am getting use to minimal water use and things.
Thank you for all of your support and emails. They have been greatly appreciated!