Wednesday, 24 August 2011

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Monday, 2 May 2011

Dear all.

I have just been sitting on my sofa and been eating a bag of cheese and onion Mcoys - Mmm! This is a special treat as I have just had a visit from my cousin and her friend and they brought me a few bags! I also have a pile of chocolate which is slowly reducing in size. (I am looking for a new hiding place for it as some of the boys have realised where it is!)

Steph and Alana were here for 3 weeks helping with my school and tuition while some of the big guys were off school. On the last day of term we had a sports day, which the children really enjoyed. As a treat they had ice cream after completing the races.

It was a relief to reach the end of term and be able to plan a bit of a break. It has been nice to look back and see that the children have made some progress, they now know about looking at me when I am talking to them and usually manage not to talk and turn around. They are also beginning to understand some English. The oldest ones who can translate have been a very big help to me and repeating myself lots of times does seem to be working! Some of them are making very good progress in reading. One of the big difficulties is teaching them to read in a language they dont understand. Imagine, you dont know what a cat is but someone gives you that word to read and asks you about the cat in the picture. The picture is of a cat, a dog, a tree and a person. What do you do? It would be like me giving you some nyanja to read - chongo iwe - then telling you to do it! (It means be quite, direct translation is 'noise you')

In the last week of school, and after we closed, we had a very sad time here at the farm. One of the boys who was staying with us broke his leg. I took him to a small clinic and then had him transferred to the big hospital here for an operation to pin the bones. This kind of operation is not seen as an emergency so after lots of delaying and looking at possible time frames of 2-3 weeks for the operation to happen, (ignoring the fact that the hospital didnt actually have the pins they needed) we decided to transfer him to a private clinic where they had the pins and could operate much sooner. However during his 2 days at UTH (University teaching hospital) he had developed what they were calling bronchitis. We knew this would delay the operation but still decided to transfer him as he would receive better care at the clinic and be much closer to home for us to go and visit and take people to stay with him. (In hospitals here you always have someone with you to care for you) On Thursday lunchtime we moved him to the clinic and immediately they realised there was something seriously wrong. That didn’t take a doctor though. When I had reached UTH in the morning I had questioned what they were saying as he could hardly breathe but having no medical knowledge you have to trust what they are telling you. It turned out he had pneumonia and should have been in ICU. The only ICU unit in Zambia is at UTH where we had just shifted him from and the doctor that saw him a matter of hours earlier had been saying it was bronchitis. By 16.30 Kondwani looked to be picking up as the clinic had him on oxygen, a drip and had given him a lot of medicine, so I came home and left him with one of the older boys who doesn’t stay with us any more but had offered to spend the night there. At 18.30 in the evening I received a phone call to go back to clinic where, despite their best efforts, Kondwani had passed away. When Kondwani reached the clinic they had done blood tests which revealed very high blood sugars and a few other abnormalities. He hadn’t eaten properly for a few days as UTH kept telling us he might have the operation any time but it is fairly likely he had undiagnosed diabetes. His father died from diabetes and we know it runs in his family. Also there is a possibility there was another medical condition we didn’t know about. We are all still very shocked and keep wondering how an apparently healthy 18 year old, who had just passed his school leaving exams with exceptional results and was excited about studying to be a doctor can die from a broken leg. Although we understand some of the medical reasons and the possibilities of other complications help with our confusion it is still hard to get our heads around. Amongst all of this we have the comfort of knowing that just a few weeks before he passed away he gave his life to Jesus so is in a much better place now. We have to find comfort in that and pray that God will use his death to shake up others who are sleeping. Through this time Christine was in Scotland visiting family and friends. It has been particularly hard for her. As we who were here have been questioning our decisions about his treatment Christine is wondering if she was here would she have seen the signs earlier and managed to intervene in time. The boys have coped quite well. Most of them were away at church camp when he passed away but we had got a message to them through one of the pastors leading the camp. I think it really hit when they came home and he wasn’t around but they were all back together. Kondwani use to spend a lot of time helping them with school work and they all say he often could explain better than the teachers so I am sure that as they go back to school next week they will really miss his help.

Kondwani. Taken a week before he died

Kondwanis funeral was held in Kasama. It is about 11 hours drive from Lusaka. Kondwani had never been a street kid. He was a very bright boy from a poor family and had been chosen to go to a good school in Lusaka. We had been put in touch with him 3 years ago to see if we could help him go to school. He was one of 7 children and we are currently supporting he younger brother at the same school in Lusaka. Mr Banda travelled to the funeral to represent us and Conrad Mbewe (pastor at KBC) and his wife travelled with Penjani, who stays with us, and another brother who is at university here in Lusaka.

Over Easter weekend I was able to go away for a couple of nights. On Saturday morning I flew to Mfuwe with Steph and Alana for a safari holiday. I went on the first evenings safari drive with them where we were very lucky to watch two lions hunting and killing an impala. After that the girls went on 3 more safari drives but I decided to just stay at the lodge reading and relaxing by the pool. It was good to have a chance to go away for a couple of nights after the events of the previous week. Most of the big guys were away at church camp and the timing meant I was home to meet them on Monday afternoon.

This week most of the big guys go back to school. I am having another weeks holiday as we only closed last week. I have had to have the school treated again for termites. This time they decided to take some of the ceiling boards down so I need to replace and paint them then start clearing up all the mess. After that I will sort out what we are going to learn next term.

Church has continued to grow. We have now shifted to a local school to hold the morning service. It is about a 20 minute walk. All of our guys walk across but there is a big group of children who come for Sunday school and some grandmas from our road that we transport. After a couple of weeks in the new location it became clear that the room was not big enough so we are now using a tent. Please pray that people will continue coming and the outreach events that were organised over Easter will encourage people to come along. There are usually between 70 and 80 people coming now. About 40 come from our place. Some people are coming from Kabwata, the main church, to support the church plant, and the rest come from the local area.

Please pray for:
The whole family as we come to terms with Kondwanis death and that God would use it for his glory. Please also pray for his poor mother and the rest of the family.

The boys as they go back to school.

School here, that all the little ones will come back safely and have enjoyed a rest for a couple of weeks. Also for wisdom as I plan for next term.

Church, that it would continue to grow.

Thursday, 10 March 2011


Dear all

Last time I wrote to you I had 15 regular pupils at school and we were just about to shift to the new school building. I am amazed to realise over a month has gone by since I last wrote and also surprised that it really is a month since I last wrote.

Unfortunately 3 of my pupils have decided they don’t need to come to school in the last month. Blessing, Sunday and Donald live with their mum in a desperate situation. It is sad to realise that it is probably more to do with the mum than the children themselves that they have stopped coming to school but the mother was looking for money and didn’t like it when we told her to come to the house to eat rather than give her money to buy food that would likely be spent on alcohol.

However, I have had to make the decision that if they do come back they will not be able to join the class again, this is because currently I have 33 pupils coming regularly and about 13 on a waiting list! Just after I updated my blog last time I had 5 girls from a neighbouring house come and ask if they could come to school. We felt it was unwise to just bring them in so I told them they had to come back the following Tuesday, with the person they lived with, to talk to myself and Auntie Yvonne (Auntie Yvonne to translate between me and the parents). I told them to come at 8am but was expecting them to keep Zambian time and arrive sometime between 8.30 and 9, however when I went across to the school at 8am there were a crowd of parents and children, a few more than the 2 parents and 5 children I had told to come but not a total surprise. Seeing them all standing there I made a hasty retreat back to the house and grabbed Auntie Yvonne to come with me! We were able to talk to most parents that day and explained what they would be doing at school. Any children between the ages of 3 and 10 and below grade 2 were able to enrol. This bought the numbers up to 33 children, 5 of which can speak some English (3 are able to translate if there is a problem) and 2 more who understand most things… so 26 who have no English, most of which have never been to school and have been struggling with the concept of sitting on the floor and actually looking at the teacher instead of the back wall or laying down and gazing at the ceiling.

All of these changes are very exciting but also very daunting. We are preparing to talk to the ministry of education to see if we need to register as a community school. I feel slightly apprehensive about this - I never set out to be a ’head teacher’ in a school and certainly do not feel like I am experienced enough to do it - but we feel we must let them at least be aware of what is happening here to try and stop any problems we might have later on. It has also made it very clear to us the number of children who were not going to school for various reasons in our local area. It highlights the need, for many children, of a completely free education (No costs of uniforms, books, pencils etc) as we did not go out and advertise the school yet almost every day someone else comes begging for a place at school for their child and I have to turn them away.

In the last update I told you about the new school building. We moved in a few weeks ago and due to the number of children have already had to expand into the third room. It is not finished yet - I still need more shelves and the third room needs to be painted, but we are making it work. In the school we only have one table and a few chairs but we are managing with big pieces of cloth on the floor and a couple of smaller door mats to sit on.

Last week in school I was able to give every child 2 or 3 pieces of clothing. They all went away very, very happy and the next day most of them turned up wearing at least one of the things they had been given. It is nice to be able to give them these treats so that you to the people who donated the clothes.

Please pray for:

The children who have just started coming in - Thank God for bringing them in and pray that they would continue to come. That they would be enthusiastic to come and learn.

That I would have patience, especially with the difficulties that come from the lack of understanding each others languages

For Blessing, Sunday and Donald who have stopped coming to school, that they would find some other way of getting to school and that their mother would realise she is damaging the children with her constant drinking.

For wisdom in talking to the Ministry of Education.

For all of the things in the new school that need to be sorted out ranging from finding tables and chairs to sorting out paperwork. (I feel that I need to start keeping some now there are so many children!)

For wisdom knowing how to teach the vast range of abilities and ages effectively.

Classroom ready for school

New childrens names

Getting ready to go into school

Almost ready to listen

Saturday, 5 February 2011


Dear all

I want to take a moment to update you all on my little school as there have been a number of changes since the new year.

Firstly there has been a shift in the ages group I am teaching. Previously I have had a mixture of the guys who stay with us and the smaller children who are children of our workers. In January this year most of the older boys I taught have managed to go back to school. This is a great achievement and I am very proud of them! Gift is in Grade 9 which means he will be writing exams at the end of the year. I would have been happier for him to re-write Grade 8 as he struggled a lot when he was in Grade 8 but he has decided he can manage so we wait and see how his term 1 tests go. Thoko came out of school 2 years ago after deciding he was dull. He had finished writing Grade 5 and didn't want to carry on at school. When I came he started doing some lessons with me and after a lot of work he finally agreed to give school another go. He is in Grade 7 this year, also an exam year, and has been made head boy already despite only being there for 3 weeks. (It is the same school he decided to leave) Joshua has also gone back into school to write Grade 6. Donald, who lives with his mother, had started coming for lessons at the end of last term. We don't feel he is reliable enough yet to pay from him to go to school as in the last month he has only managed to arrive on time for school on 5 days and has been late on a further 3 days. The rest there has been no sign of him. Donald also believes he is Grade 6 but when I was working with him this week he was only able to read half of the Grade 1 words. Clifford wasn't making much progress at school, I think he has suffered some kind of brain damage from all of the drugs he has taken in the past, however this week he has gone to stay with his grandmother. Clifford has had a lot of warnings and 'last chances' because of bad behaviour and last weekend was asked to leave due to another incident. This is sad but he is now staying with his grandmother and hopefully will look for a practical course to take which we will help him with if he shows us he is serious.

Despite loosing these boys my school has grown in numbers even since the new year. In one of my previous blogs I commented on how it was growing, especially in the younger class, well there are even more children coming now from houses nearby and I have 4 more children who have been asking Auntie Yvonne about school this last week. As I don't have the older boys to teach any more I have started taking the younger children from 9 until 12. In the class I have from age 2 to age 11 and a whole mixture of pre-school to grade 2 ability. I have 15 regular attenders and a couple who have come once or twice as well as the 4 that are wanting to start. (I also have Donald, somewhere between Grade 1 and Grade 6, when he decides to turn up.) It can become very chaotic at times but somehow we seem to manage and the older children have been learning sight vocabulary very quickly and are beginning to understand about blending sounds together into words.

The younger children are mainly learning to speak and understand English as well as a scattering of simple maths, science, art and music - actually, music there is more than a scattering, we have great fun singing every day, sometimes very very loudly!

Another change that has come about this last week and is not yet complete is a new 'school'. Auntie Yvonne has moved to another house along our road as 13 people did not really fit where she was staying. This has left her house available for use. There are 4 rooms as well as a small 'kitchen'. The kitchen will be useful for preparing the snack which we have halfway through the morning and the 4 rooms will be a luxury compared to the 2 small rooms we have had with beds pushed up against the wall and hardly enough room to fit everyone in together. 1 room will be used as a computer room as our boys are going to have to start using them more regularly for school work. Another room will have the music equipment in and the last 2 rooms will be for school. It should work quite well as I can have the little ones in one room and the older ones next door with the door open so I can see and hear what is happening. It will also mean I have more room to store some of the things we have.

Before we can shift to the new school I have to give it all a good wash down, fill some holes in the wall and paint it. I started that job on Saturday and hope to finish it in the afternoons next week. While I was painting my mind was full of ideas of things to make and what to paint on the walls.

I hope that updates you all a bit. I am sorry it is a rather lengthy post with no pictures. My camera is broken at the moment, hopefully a new one should be arriving next week so I will post some photos as soon as I can of the new children and new school.

A couple of other pieces of news are Samson passed all of his grade 12 exams and is now looking for a suitable course. All of the guys who sat Grade 9 last year also passed and did well so are looking forward to starting school in a weeks time. Well done to all of them! Also for those of you that knew I have been having a lot of trouble with my back it seems to be much better. Thank you for your prayers. I am still going to the chiropractor. When I first went I was going twice a week, that continued for 3 months but we have gradually been reducing it and now I am going once a month. This is a great relief and although it is not perfect and I still have to be very careful I am very happy at how much better it is.

Please pray for
  • The move to the new school rooms and as the class grows that I would manage the age range and ability of the children. At the moment we dont have any visitors or helpers.
  • For the boys who have started back at school this year, that they would continue to be motivated to learn and not become discouraged.
  • For all of the boys who have started new school years.
  • Me next week as Don and Christine are away so I am left with a lot of responsibility!
  • The language difficulty. Lots of the new children dont speak any English and I only speak a little Nyanja. The older ones are good at translating, although sometimes things get lost. It can be very frustrating at times.