Ten years ago today I boarded a flight in Livingstone after spending an amazing week in one of the most stunning parts of Africa. The magnificent Victoria Falls is a World Heritage site and one of the Seven Wonders of the Natural World. The area has an abundance of activities including game drives, elephant back safaris, river cruises and a cultural visit to Mukuni Village.
Little did I know that a visit to this renowned village would have such an impact on me and that I would be running a charity to support orphans and vulnerable children. Nor did I imagine that I would have a global following of volunteers and supporters and be working in over one hundred villages in remote areas of Zambia.
Three weeks later I returned to Mukuni Village with my son younger son David. Inspired by three little girls, and after seeing so much need, The Butterfly Tree Charity was born. The following year we registered as an NGO in Zambia, which included the UK team and some remarkable local people who are still with me.
What started as a project to sponsor a few orphans, followed by the construction of a high school, developed far beyond any of my expectations. My motto has always been ‘I do not expect anything so everything is a bonus.’ The bonus seems to get bigger every year and the reward is being able to reach out to ‘communities that need only the essentials in life – Water, Food, Health and Education‘.
Raising funds and awareness is not always easy, especially when there are so many good causes to support. Sadly charity in the UK has become big business and vast amounts of money are needed for salaries and administration costs. From its concept I insisted that The Butterfly Tree would be run entirely by volunteers in both the UK and Zambia. This has enabled all donations and grant aid to go directly into the grass root projects – this principle is still in place.
Our projects include the development of some thirty schools and ten clinics. We have installed seventeen bore holes, constructed over eighty latrines and built seventy community houses. We have worked tirelessly to help with the prevention of HIV, training school leavers in peer education. We have sponsored several hundred orphans and helped thousands more to gain a sound basic education. We introduced the first special education units into Zambia and opened the nation’s first rural maternity clinic.
In 2014 I was offered the opportunity to introduce a safe new malaria prevention initiative into Zambia. Up until then we had only worked at District level. It was a gamble, but after months of working with the Ministry of Health and the National Malaria Control Centre the method was accepted and we were given the licence to import and distribute the products. We started distribution into remote village in November 2015, and the reports coming in are quite remarkable.
The Butterfly Tree is the first charity in the world to use this superior form of malaria prevention. Our involvement has enabled the UK company to use our name and reports to introduce the products into other countries, not only to help the fight against malaria, but also Zika, Dengue Fever and Chikungunya.
I am so grateful to all the people who have helped me to achieve so much, most especially my sons Mike and David (a trustee), and trustees Miranda de Freston and Wendy Calloway. A special thanks to all the volunteers, sponsors, donors and fundraisers who have given up their free time and a considerable amount of money to support The Butterfly Tree. None of the success could have been accomplished without our dedicated team in Zambia.
With much appreciation,