News from Zambia

Missionary Newsletter June 2014

Dear Church friends,

This is one of my favourite times of year in England, the foxgloves and bluebells are out and with the light nights you feel summer is just around the corner. Here in Zambia we are entering the cold season, the rain stopped about a month ago and the days are sunny and not too hot. We do not expect rain now till October and farmers depend, mostly on bore holes for water for their animals. The maize harvest is over and the crop this year (as was last year) is disappointing. Many small farmers grow maize for their own use and any surplus buys clothes or pays school fees, so a good harvest is always an important factor in the life of most rural Zambians.

The Chodort workers who have planted maize on the new college land have now harvested and we are starting to build the classrooms on June 24th with a ground breaking ceremony. To this end we are employing a local site manager, Andrew Siakasasa who has had experience in building schools and hospitals in the past. He is confident he can finish the work in 3 months provided all the materials are there, so to that end we are planning new courses for 2015. This will be an exciting (and a little scary!) development for Chodort as it will mean working on a split site, and employing new lecturers and making sure we have the correct market for students.

Victoria Falls – a view from the edge
Victoria Falls – a view from the edge

In March we welcomed another volunteer Jo Conchie, a freelance film producer and she has worked with us on our new Chodort video. Take a look at it, it is on the front page of our website, Jo is a bright person with many talents and we hope she will be able to visit again in the future. We will also be posting our 2013 accounts on the website soon for those who are interested in such things.

Another development has been introductory conversations with Galway and Mayo Institute of Technology, (GMIT). Ainslie Peters is coming out on 12th June to investigate forming a partnership, particularly in the area of carpentry where they would like to advise us on how to develop our carpentry production and also send undergraduates for work experience co- teaching in our carpentry & joinery course.

I am excited that my daughter Carol is coming over in late June to run the Victoria Falls marathon and bringing a friend, Binda, to cheer her on. I am also expecting a short visit from Bunmi Olysiade my boss in Methodist House when she comes over in mid-July. It will be great to see everyone again and catch up.

This year has been a year of visitors for me, beginning in September 2013, until July 2014 I will have been hosting guests, with the exception of May where, instead of hosting I have been “moving up and down” as we say in Zambia. Some of this “moving up and down “has been to visit Mr. Mwango in hospital in Lusaka where he spent most of April. His operation was delayed twice but eventually was successful, and I am pleased to say he is back at home recovering. This cause for joy is tinged with sadness however, as his wife was taken ill whilst at the bedside after the operation, and subsequently collapsed and died. It was an awful time for all, particularly as Mr Mwango was still too ill to attend the funeral. Chodort staff and Mr. Mwango’s family from Choma all piled into our battered canter truck and drove to Lusaka for the funeral.

Chodort housing estate
Chodort housing estate

Another awful event was that whilst guarding the new estate Eric Lubinda was attacked by 3 men with iron bars. It is no small miracle he is alive today, as he was held, arms behind his back by one thief whilst the other took a swipe at his head, missing and catching his colleague instead knocking him unconscious. A fracas then started between the remaining two, and when the third regained consciousness they dragged him off leaving Eric very badly beaten. I am pleased to say Eric is recovering well at home now, but will have many scars on his head to show for his ordeal.

On a lighter note I have swapped my old pickup truck for a small RAV4, which, although it is 14 years old goes like a dream and the air-con is bliss in the hot weather. I have named it Pegasus after the legendary flying horse. It has proved its stamina by covering over 20,000 kilometres of our dusty and pot holed Zambian roads in the first 6 months.

Items for Praise:

  • For the strength and endurance Eric showed and his speedy recovery.
  • For the return to work on light duties of Mr. Mwango.
  • For the finding of a Zambian project manager for the classroom project.
  • For a steady stream of orders for production, despite raising our prices.

Items for Prayer:

  • For Eric to have no lasting repercussions from his ordeal.
  • For Mr. Mwango and his family as they cope with their loss.
  • To make the right decisions about the courses for the new college classrooms.
  • For a good working relationship with GMIT which will be mutually beneficial.

With every good wish to you all,

Jenny Featherstone

October 2014 Update

Jenny would like to thank Robin and all who contributed to our generous donation of £300 from the Harvest Service.

Most of our students are doing well and those who have sponsors are managing to pay their fees, except for one person in tailoring, Bertha Lubinda. Her brother who was helping her has lost his job and she is left with arrears of K1,270 (about £125.00) I was only just talking about her today with Mr Simataa who handles student affairs.

She stays in Choma with a cousin who sells dried fish from a basket she carries about on her head. Her mother lives in the village, a pseudonym for an inaccessible place! This just about pays for the rent and food so there is no money left over to help with school fees. I suggested that Bertha try and find K50 a month from weekend work and we would not bar her from exams (which is the usual practice in some other schools). However, I think we may use £100 of the money given towards her fees this year as I fear she will not be able to manage K20 let alone K50. I have just talked to her and I think we, from such privileged backgrounds, find it hard to understand just how important education (or learning a trade in her case) is to our students. I am fairly sure the family in the village will be depending on Bertha's new found expertise to lift the family income. (she has 2 younger sisters and a younger brother & no father).

One thing we are doing at graduation this year which may help, is giving entrepreneurship prizes to our trade test classes (2 each class). These are on their way to us from which makes up gift boxes which we intend to give out as prizes to the 2 small groups with the best ideas for starting a business. We hope this will send them well on their way to making a good income for themselves.

Every good wish,