I have just returned from Zambia after three full weeks overseeing The Butterfly Tree projects and sourcing new ones. We are now covering areas some 100 kilometres from Livingstone, reaching out to villages in very remote areas where progress is being made in both health and education. However much more needs to be done in areas where poverty is extreme, parents are dying from AIDS related illnesses and children are hungry. Mukuni Village, due to its location, close to Livingstone and the border of Zimbabwe, suffers more than most. The HIV and AIDS statistics are incredibly high and more and more children are orphaned through this destructive disease, stressing how essential it is to continue with the orphan sponsorship program.
I am pleased to report that it is not all ‘doom and gloom’ much progress is being made. The highlight of my trip was visiting the four new schools that we have constructed thanks to a hugely generous grant from the Jersey Overseas Aid Commission – three opened in January and one will open next term. All of these schools are complete with teachers’ houses and latrines with the addition of a bore hole at Malima. For the Mandandi community this is a real advancement, previously 46 children had never been to school and over 30 attended only once a week due to the long distance they had to walk to the nearest school. Each new school has received a substantial amount of stationary and equipment as a result of a grant from the British and Foreign School Society. We aim to make these schools sustainable by providing seeds to produce feeding programs as well as uniform making projects to create income generation.
Another highlight of the trip was when the new British High Commissioner, James Thornton, paid a visit to Mukuni Village. The Commission had selected The Butterfly Tree projects out of all the NGO’s operating in the Livingstone area.
Further improvements include a shelter for boarders, funded by Saga Charitable Trust, which means the older pupils can remain in Mukuni during the week. The special education project is so successful that the Provincial Department of Education has got involved. Fountaindale School has once again provided a teacher exchange program. During their recent visit the UK teachers hosted workshops for the Province, using Mukuni Special Education as a model for this exercise. It is a joy to see local children with both mental and physical disabilities receiving a sound education. The orphan sponsorship has recently had a boost, many sponsors have either visited Mukuni or found us on the internet with over twenty more children being able to join the program. Virtually 100% of our sponsored orphans recently passed to go to the high school and twenty orphans, who completed grade 12, have been able to participate in vocational courses, part of the grant from the British and Foreign School Society. A further teacher’s house at Mukuni High School has been completed as a part of a considerable donation from ENRC Marketing.
Mukuni Health Centre has had a ‘facelift’ with the inclusion of a women’s shelter, kindly funded by The Besom who also funded a teacher’s house at Ngandu Basic School. Major health issues persist and once again we have funded treatment for several children. I was saddened to learn that there has been an increase in new cases of malaria during this year’s rainy season. We distributed 400 of Saga’s mosquito nets to outreach villages targeting children under five and pregnant women. While attempting to reach an area in the Sikute Chiefdom, where we are to build a new school at Sibbulo, the journey proved to be too arduous. After several hours we failed to reach the village as the track was overgrown and many areas were water-logged. It was a very frustrating journey and when we got our second slashed tyre, we could go no further. By 7.30pm the mosquito were at large – despite having insect repellent, the insects attacked through our clothing. The three of us were covered in bites and it was hours later when the rescue vehicle arrived, eventually we touched base at 12.30am. This journey confirmed just how inaccessible some of these villages are and how lucky we are to have access to anti-malaria medication.
As always I hosted an event for International Women’s Day – over 100 women, including the Bedyango, Chieftainess of Mukuni, were in attendance. The theme was ‘Inspiring Futures, Connecting Girls’ and the agenda included topics on how to reduce the number of teenage pregnancies, women’s health issues and sustainable income-generating activities. A challenge was offered for groups of women to submit projects and the most original would be given start-up costs and advice. I was assisted by Wendy Calloway, an accountant who is both a donor and volunteer for The Butterfly Tree and kindly offered to give all the groups expert business advice. We have had a number of volunteers who have worked at both the school and clinic, most valuable are the seven-year medical students from Sydney University and Margaret and Casey from Oregon who returned for a fourth time to develop their goat’s milk project. We are very grateful to all our donors, fund raisers and volunteers who have helped us to reach out to many more rural communities. Funds are in place for the construction of a further school, a clinic and a Music Centre.
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