Saturday, 5 December 2015

Joseph begging for a place to stay
Yesterday the grade 2 class performed their nativity play and made me very proud with their hard work and great performance.

Today at Taonga School we had end of year parties and Santa had made an early trip to Zambia - because he is going to be so busy on Christmas eve!

Angels talking to the shepherds
We played musical bumps, the chocolate game, had a sweet scramble, ate snacks and gave out presents and veg. A few children declared it the best party ever and lots of the children came to say a big thank you for the presents - hugs and kisses all round! They were very excited and so happy. Thank you to those that made it happen including Memo and Natalia for coming shopping with me and helping wrap the 100+ gifts and Uncle George and Auntie Elsie and the other people who donated money for presents as I wasn't able to do the usual donated toy collection.

Grade 3
We also said goodbye to the grade 3 children as there will be no grade 4 class next year. Some of these children have been with me for 5 years so it was emotional!

Christmas party outfits. New clothes that were given out on Monday.

Here are a few party pics to enjoy!

Santa has been!!

Vegetable bags being prepared

Ready to party
The chocolate game

Saying goodbye to Grade 3

Handing out gifts

Marcus was my little elf

Opening excitement

Dancing and cheering

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Oats and beans and barley grow…..

(…. Well, less of the oats and barley but cassava, beans and bondwe (pronounced ondwe) doesn’t have quite the same ring to it!)

Yesterday we harvested the first vegetables from the school garden. We have planted a school garden before a few years ago but most of the produce got eaten by people who shouldn’t have been taking it! This year we have a fence around the school and Grade 2 have been working really hard grow some vegetables. First they cleared the patch, hoeing and adding manure then they planted the seeds. They took good care of it watering every day as soon as they got to school, usually without needing to be reminded.  Last week there was great excitement as the beans had begun to grow over half term and today some of them were ready to pick.

Over the next few months I hope to be able to pick a few vegetables every day and the Grade 2 children will get to take turns to take them home.  The children chose to plant ocra, eggplant and green beans then found the bondwe and cassava growing as self sets. Four children went home today with enough veg for their families. I was very impressed with their carefulness in only taking what they thought they would need and not being selfish.

We also had rain on Monday. This was a great relief as temperatures had been rising. Since then the sky has been grey but no more rain. We hope it starts again soon.

Monday, 19 October 2015

6 Years and counting!

Lessons in the bedroom. 2009

Seven weeks ago I returned to Zambia to start my 7th year living here. 27 August 2009 I landed in Lusaka International Airport at around 6.30 am, I thought 1 year was going to be a long time, little did I know….

Looking back over the last 6 years lots has happened and changed. Looking back over the last 7 weeks the same can be said but through it all God has been constant. 

My role here has changed a lot since moving. Originally I was here to work along side Don and Christine teaching around 14 boys who had come into Old MacDonalds home and needed to settle into home life, come off drugs and catch up on school work. Now I am running a school with just over 100 pupils from the local area and only 2 boys that stay with us are in school with me.

Lessons in the hall. 2009
There were no dorm buildings, the boys use to live in the house with us when I moved,  30+ boys and the family in 1 house. Now they are all at the dorm. 

There was no school building, even the little building we used was a house for a worker and her family. 

The longest I spent in 1 room without moving to a different room in the first year was 5 weeks. Now I have my own room which is big enough for a comfy chair/desk and has my own bathroom. (without hot water but thats a power/water pressure issue, it could work one day, maybe!) 

We used to have a fairly steady electricity supply except in rainy season, now we have daily power cuts for at least 8 hours. 

The first classroom at Taonga school.
Internet was hopeless - it still is! Between power cuts and the internet having ‘a fault on the line’ we have had a working connection for 2 days out of the last 10.

The exchange rate was K5-£1 now its K18-£1 and climbing daily as is the price of everything. 

This is just the beginning of the list for the last 6 years, but looking over the last 7 weeks there have also been many changes.  Changes of plans, expectations and jobs.

Since coming from the UK Christine has been in South Africa for 5 weeks suffering from encephalitis and an auto immune virus which left her very weak and unable to even lift a fork. She has been slowly improving but it has lead to a reassessment of all the things we are doing. 

The bakery is scaling back its work for now. No more tea parties, just bread and simple orders. We need a full time manager to be able to take over what Christine was doing.

The first class of Taonga School.
We are no longer adding another grade to school next year. Instead we will take a year to consolidate what is there and make it a great school! This reduces the pressure to build and find reliable staff.

So, plans change but the work continues. 
None of us know what is in the future.

Thank you for your support over the last 6 years, through all the changes and decisions that have been made. 

Saturday, 27 June 2015

Taken for granted

The other day while I was in town with someone who works with us we were talking about what the UK was like. We have this conversation fairly regularly. Either I will point something out that absolutely, totally, would never, ever happen in the UK or he will ask if we have dirt roads, question why you can't buy live chickens...  or something like that. It got me thinking. There are so many things here that are different, yet after living here a while its just normal. 

This time our UK vs Zambia conversation started driving through a compound. (Township) This was the edge of the road. Look at the white line, you can see how close the cars pass by the market tables. Imagine the health and safety and risk assessment paperwork on that!! 

If you need credit for your phone, fruit, a newspaper, cockroach killer, dog leads, games, posters, CDs or a wide selection of clothes all you need to do is wind down your window as you pass by. You don't even have to get out of the car to fill your car up with fuel. Just wind the window down, wait for the man (or woman) to fill the car and hand over the cash.

There is advertising everywhere. Big and small billboards, tv screens, adverts painted on walls, signs... you are bombarded! 

Shops can be made of pretty much anything. Old pallets, plastic bags and asbestos sheets taken off the last building to be pulled down. (The wooden poles stacked on the first level of the building are scaffolding poles.)

Scaffolding is not always made of metal, doesn't have safety nets and doesn't look that sturdy. 

You can also buy ANYTHING you need or want on the side of the road. 
Live chickens so they can be eaten fresh.
Ornamental concrete ducks. (Or flowers/vases if you prefer)
Some tyres for your car... brand new second hand!
 An armchair..... 
or 3 piece suite, if orange is your colour!
Drawers or baskets
A school bag, hand bag, man bag or clutch.
Bricks to build your house, or school. Actually, any building material you can imagine can probably be bought from the road. Roof sheets, building sand, cement, concrete pillars, stones...

it really is very different to 'back home' but you get used to it and now, having to get out of the car at a petrol station seems very inconvenient! 

and just as a side note... check out the clear blue sky! You get use to that as well!

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Back in the classroom

Last week, for the first time in almost 6 years, I have had a classroom of my own, with a single year group of children, and have not been worried about training someone who is watching me! (except the children) It has been so much fun! The teacher who started in January decided he wanted to go back to the village and as he was on trial didn't have to give a notice period. We have 'gone on a bear hunt', made our own story books, designed a false roof for the classroom, learnt about recycling, set up class jobs, practiced lots and lots of English speaking and I have learnt more Nyanja.

In the next few weeks I will be looking for a teacher in Grade 2. There are a few different options with pros and cons to each one.

  • I could find a trained teacher.  You can end up having to un-train them to retrain. However they should have some basic teaching knowledge, depending on their experience. 
  • I could find an untrained person and train them myself. This means investing a lot of hours back in one classroom which would take away some of the time I spend doing other teachers training. However I can train them how I want them to teach. 
  • I could share the teaching with Sam who could do 2 days and I will do the other 3. That means I don't have time in the school day for the other admin/training that desperately needs to happen, so it's not really an option. 
Currently I am sitting on two applications for people in the middle category. Next week we will call them for interview and be quite strict about the level of English and their own knowledge before considering that option. 

The container arriving
Other than teaching we have been busy with emptying a container. We were gifted a 40ft container a few weeks ago that was stuffed full of all kinds of things. From bikes to bookcases, clothes and computers. It really was a treasure trove of goodies. The understanding is that we will share out the contents with vulnerable children and families throughout Lusaka so we have started doing that. Some things will be kept for when we have new classrooms, the boys all got new mattresses and are looking forward to sharing out some clothes. The garage, the assembly area at school and pretty much every available space has stuff stored in it. 

Both at school and around home there had been a lot of sickness. I am back to serving cough mixture as though it is a nice drink at school. At home a couple of the boys have had a string of illnesses, coughs, colds, upset stomachs and things that seem to be lingering. 

Please pray for:
- A new teacher who is trainable.
- The Grade 2 children with the changes in the classroom.
- Me juggling teaching and managing for the time being.
- Health of everyone.

Friday revision maths game

Beginning to unload the container

Oscars glasses!

Friday treat, learning how to make puzzles.


Big Art


Contents from the container going to its new home.

Unloading the container