News from Zambia

Missionary Newsletter September 2015

Dear Church friends,

Please forgive the long silence, this year has been incredibly busy for me but that is no real excuse for my absence!

Recently I heard about a water scare in Britain where a certain area had to boil drinking water. I smiled to myself to think this could make national news, as I have been doing it here in Zambia since 2007! The safest water supply we have here is bore hole water which is pumped up from many metres deep. Even our water companies (SWASCO for Southern province) do not treat water to UK standards and tummy upsets are frequent.

But water is not the main problem at the moment, - it is the electricity supply. In a country which has 1/3 of the water in sub Saharan Africa, and 3 major hydroelectric plants you may think “what’s the problem?” Our 50 year old dam wall on lake Kariba is unstable and the hydroelectric turbines not in good condition, thus the water levels are kept low to put less strain on the dam. This, plus naturally low water levels, has triggered a huge power crisis which will probably last till the new year when the rains are established again. It is not just the 8 hour a day power cuts (yes, that is 8 hours a day 7 days a week) that are the problem, many people cope with this by using charcoal to cook and candles or kerosene lamps in the dark. It is the knock on effect on the economy that is the looming disaster for Zambia. Mines and agriculture need electricity, but so do small shops, supermarkets, small industries like our carpentry production at Chodort and of course hospitals and schools.

The waterfall on the right of picture hardly has any water now
The waterfall on the right of picture hardly has any water now

One effect close to home was that a misplaced candle set fire to clothes in the house of one of our workers, Mr Chavula. His wife lost all her clothes and the kids their school uniforms. In fact it is probably the poor who will feel the pinch most. Fuel prices have begun to rise again, a huge increase in inflation (K14 to the pound instead of K10 at the beginning of the year) means that all imported goods have gone up. Shops have to use generators to keep open in working hours and are passing on all these increased costs to their customers.

Moira on her last visit helping judge the tailoring competition at
Moira on her last visit helping judge the tailoring competition at graduation

It is not all gloom and doom however, our lives at Chodort have been brightened by a succession of visitors. Vicky Williams came over for a couple of months and helped enormously with marketing and general business advice, she was followed by Rev Robin McAlpine from Bennochy, one of our supporting churches in Kirkcaldy Scotland who was interested in seeing first-hand how everything works here. Moira Lee is a most welcome visitor, returning for the 3rd time to support Play4all and be a pair of helping hands with useful things like updating the website (

Still to come is a short visit from Bunmi Olaysiade our Methodist world church representative for Africa, and visitors from Germany and Ireland, including David Nixon, my predecessor, who are coming for the official opening of our new classrooms in October.

I must hurry to finish this however, as the power cut is from 6.00 to 2.00pm today and I need to email this before the power goes!

Items for Praise:

  • For the enthusiasm of all our volunteer / visitors
  • For safe journeys so far on Zambia’s notoriously accident ridden roads
  • For continued orders for our production units
  • For good partnership relations with churches in the UK

Items for Prayer:

  • The most effective way to get around the electricity cuts for our production team
  • For inflation to slow down and level off
  • For a national solution to the power crisis
  • For wisdom in how we use the new classrooms
  • For a successful launch of the classrooms in October
  • For the success of the bid to Comic relief for funding vulnerable students next year

With every good wish to you all,

Jenny Featherstone

October 2015 Update

Thank you and the congregation at Bennochy so much for the Harvest contribution of an amazing £452.12 considering there were other concerns too.

The table tennis sounds a good idea, I am not sure for Play4all though because of age differences, storage and crime, but I am sure our students could be very entertained!

I think the money from Harvest will go towards the subsidies for student fees. We have cleared all the fees of our vulnerable students (9 at K2,700 and 4 at K2,400) but still have not met the actual cost which is around K5,200 per student, so I think we have to find around K33,000 to break even. Some of that will come from any profits we make in Carpentry production, but your money K8,428 at current rates will go a long way to help. As you must realise the exchange rate has soared to 18.6 to the £ as opposed to around 11 at the beginning of the year, and this and the 8 hour a day electricity cuts are causing a lot of problems for businesses. Prices of imported (and in some cases not imported!) goods are rising every week. I paid K155 for a celebration cake in April and the same size for our new classroom celebrations next Tuesday now costs K395!

The greatest knock on effect is on those who have very little. Mealie meal, the staple diet, is now K90 a bag as opposed to K60 a few months ago. I thank God we were able to give our lower paid workers a 40% rise this year to meet government requirements, but I fear it will soon be all swallowed up!

Please give my heartfelt thanks to all at Bennochy and maybe we can skype in a week or two when I am less busy? every good wish


I am sending a couple of pics, one is of the wedding of Michael Tute which we attended a couple of months ago. The other white person in the picture is Vicky Williams a volunteer sent out through Church of Scotland, and a picture of some of the bounty from my garden!

Wedding of Michael Tute
Wedding of Michael Tute
Some of the bounty from my garden
Some of the bounty from my garden

November 2015 Update

Letter of thanks from Zambia - received from Jenny Featherstone in response to our second recent special collection.

Lovely to hear from you again, and thank you so much for the monies collected. We really feel supported by you.

I have just had a word with Gershom in IT and we will need new batteries for the solar panels as they are quite run down now (they have lasted 5 years!) and with the power cuts set to continue till March we need a reliable power source for our IT classes. The old ones are likely to work less well too now as the rainy season is almost upon us and that means a lot more cloud. At current rates your gift converts to around K6,000 which is just K1,500 short of a new set of batteries so I think we will go with that.

Many thanks again, sorry this is a short note but power goes in a few minutes.