News from Zambia

Missionary Newsletter February 2009

Dear church friends

A rather belated Happy New Year to you all. I have been hearing about the cold weather you have been having and hope it has been enjoyable rather than stressful. Here in Zambia it is the rainy season, hot and wet; the torrential rain can sometimes be ankle deep, but generally it doesn’t usually last very long; and although the rain is accompanied by a drop in temperature, it rarely gets below 20 centigrade

The current topic of conversation here however, is not the weather, but the economy and the increasing prices of food. The price of copper has plummeted so much that it may not be viable to keep open the mines, which are vital to the Zambian economy. Many hundreds of people have already been laid off, and many more are anxious about their job security, and of course this has a knock on effect those who work in other areas such as retail. There are noticeably less lorries rumbling along the road over laden with copper ore and other goods. Prices continue to rise in the shops and shelves are often empty. At present there is a shortage of maize meal, the Zambian staple for making Nshima, and, despite the government subsidies, the price is crawling back up over 70,000 kwacha for a 25kg bag (about £10.00) which will barely keep a family for a week. I must admit, my western taste buds have not taken to nshima in the same way most Zambians do. They say no matter how large the quantity of food you have on your plate, if you haven’t had nshima you haven’t really eaten. So culturally it is seen as vital, although nutritionally it can best be described as a “filler”.

I was talking about this with Samuel, and trying to persuade him to look at pasta or rice as a more economical carbohydrate instead. He remained, I think, politely unconvinced, although he did take a packet of spaghetti home to try.

Cutting the Cake
Cutting the Cake

Samuel, a lanky 6’3”, turned 20 in early February, and has never celebrated his birthday. He was orphaned at the age of four, and left the care of his grandmother in preference for the streets aged seven, as her new husband beat him. From there he was picked up by an orphanage where he stayed till he was almost eighteen. We arranged a small party, with a cake, snacks, balloons, games and presents and he was very happy. It is almost unthinkable for young people in the developed world to grow up without a card or present to mark their birthday, but it is often a fact of life over here.

Dipping the tied cloth
Dipping the tied cloth

After the Christmas break I began putting together a programme for the groups in Ipusukilo and Kamatipa. At present we are in the middle of two tie and dye sessions with the people from Kamatipa. A local trainer is working with 2 sets of 10 people. We are encouraging each group to form a small co-operative, and hoping for friendly competition between them. When I met with them, the Ipusukilo women prioritised a workshop on home remedies above income generation, so I will be making a simple honey, lemon and glycerine cough mixture and a tea tree antiseptic cream when I return at the end of the month.

February also sees the beginning of the new academic year and the Pan African participants have come a far away as from Nigeria, Lesotho, Rwanda and Uganda. Though the Pan African contingent seems to shrink each year, campus will still be busy as MEF is running 3 other courses in social work, development and education. These are targeted specifically at Zambians, and have added over 80 to the numbers being taught this year.

Items for prayer:

  • The world wide economic situation, and especially its effects on Zambia
  • The settling in of the new intake of participants
  • Success in the income generation projects of the groups in Kamatipa and Ipusukilo

and praise:

  • For the safe arrival of all the Pan African students

With very best wishes to you all,


News from March 2009

The two orphan boys I oversee (Samuel and Richard) are struggling, as are the workers at MEF. Their circumstances have been severely restricted due to wage problems and many are finding it hard to make ends meet.

I was discussing this with Adrian Hendy (the chaplain who hails from Cornwall) and we are wondering how we could help. I am also trying to put into place tailoring and carpentry programmes for the Kamatipa group, and my eventual aim for the women of Ipusuko is that they should have their own building. I am also hoping to visit the children and the farm this week with a few more blankets and a back door to secure their second house so that they can make it habitable.

I also have some good news - tinged with sadness though as it involved Colin Johnstone leaving in June. He had been in Zambia for 14 years and will be greatly missed. He is going to sell me his small van/pick up truck however, so that means I will have wheels and will not have to rely on public transport or others to get around. Thank you again and very best wishes to you all.