World AIDS Day is a way of people coming together to commemorate the loss of some 35.4 million of people who have died from this devastating disease, and to acknowledge the estimated 36.9 million people living with HIV. It is also a time to create further awareness – the theme for this year is ‘know your status’.
The reason why I founded The Butterfly Tree was because I was deeply disturbed after learning that there are so many orphans in Zambia – 1.2 million! In Mukuni Village over half the children have lost one or both parents. Since 2006 the core of our work has revolved around the orphans in Mukuni and throughout the Kazungula District.
Working with orphans is not always easy, but it’s something I embrace whenever I’m in Zambia. Many are living with elderly grandparents in dilapidated conditions. Our orphan sponsorship programme has funded the education of hundreds of orphans. To offer further support we hold workshops and mentoring sessions using our peer educators, some are orphans themselves and have been fully trained by UK volunteers. Today, these amazing young people held a workshop for those on our programme.
Twelve years down the line we have produced teachers, technicians, journalists, policemen, hotel managers and security guards to name but a few. Besides sponsoring individual orphans and vulnerable children, we have improved their living conditions, built schools and clinics to give them access to better education and healthcare, provided safe drinking water and feeding programmes, as well and initiating an advanced malaria prevention programme.
I am pleased to say that November was one of the best months in the history of the charity. Besides gaining recognition after being awarded with the Prime Minister’s Points of Light Award, the charity came second in the Aidex Aid Innovation Challenge for our malaria prevention initiative. As one of the finalists, I had to fly to Brussels to present the project to a team of experts at the event. Out of over fifty applicants I am delighted to inform you that we came second.
We also received some significant funding in November, which included a substantial grant from the British and Foreign School Society to advance Kawewa School, private donations for a new classroom block at River View Junior School and VIP latrines to add to the borehole for Muyunda School. Mukuni women’s shelter will also receive a VIP latrine.
The entire health centre at Sikaunzwe is almost complete and includes a main clinic, maternity unit, women’s shelter and latrines funded by a grant from GOAC. The grant also included mosquito nets, which have been given out to pupils and teachers at Sikaunzwe and Kawewa Schools as part of our pioneer programme donating ‘mosquito nets for schools’. River View Science Secondary School’s block is almost finished and one for Nyawa is currently under construction, both generously funded by the Hilary and Neil Charitable Trust. In addition to a boerhole and latrines, Nakawa Pre-school is getting a new classroom block thanks to the ATD Foundation.
Being able to achieve so much has helped so many disadvantaged children – we cannot help all the orphans in Zambia, but with your support we aim to reach out to many more!