News from Zambia

Missionary Newsletter December 2019

Dear Church friends,

First of all may I say I hope you have a blessed and peaceful Christmas this year and the meaning of Gods unspeakable gift to us is seen with a new freshness at the close of 2019.

2019 has brought about many changes to my life in Zambia, firstly I have moved house and now am living in a house on Chodort estate instead of the Principals manse. Secondly I have given up the job as Principal of Chodort, and been superseded By Rev Frank Bwalya, former Bishop of Muchinga province.

Deaconess Mukambo teaching about cash flow for small businesses
Deaconess Mukambo teaching about cash flow for small businesses
As part of my semi retirement I am now working part time alongside Deaconess Mukambo setting up Choma Alcohol Prevention Programme (Choma app) to be run in several churches along the lines of the Alcoholics Anonymous 12 steps programme. We also have set up something akin to Citizens Advice, where once a month throughout various church groups in Choma, there will be an open forum where the speaker can use their expertise. This could be a nurse talking about diabetes or child health, a business person discussing simple cash flow and bookkeeping, or a social worker talking about gender based violence. The aim is to inform the general public about issues that will help them in daily life.

Progress has been slow but steady, and a newly formed group Choma Alcohol and Drugs Rehabilitation Organisation (CADRO) is joining us in weekly sessions about how to start AA style groups using the 12 step materials.

Chodort has also received another German volunteer Amelie Weber, a fresh 19 year old who is helping with various administrative jobs. This meant we had to say a sad goodbye to Laurenz Kock in August. Laurenz visited play4all with me at the end of 2018, and was so overwhelmed by the kids and volunteers of my little project that he began to make it his own, He raised funds for a feeding programme for the most deprived children and to buy a plot of land nearby the original building and set up something similar on site. This was no mean feat considering the copious Zambian bureaucracy and the overseeing of the building of the new structure, in all he raised an amazing 11,000 euro for play4all – more than I have done in its entire existence! A very big than you to both Laurenz and Jane Mwenda ( Play4all project manager) who oversaw the project.

German volunteerAmelie  Weber
German volunteer Amelie Weber
Another big change at play for all is that Jane got married earlier this year to a teacher whom she had known for some time. He has been posted far away but hopes to come back in 2020 to teach chemistry at Copperbelt University in Kitwe.

We have also been following closely the plight of 2 brothers who are regular visitors to Play4all. Benson came with very severe burns on his hands which had been inflicted by his mother when she lost 10 kwacha (about 50p) and was accusing him of taking it. Mum is an uneducated lady with alcohol problems and was pregnant at the time, so after visits to the clinic and police, no further action was taken. Bennison, the younger brother, had huge goitre like protrusions on his neck and was operated on in October / November this year. Having a small baby meant mum was not allowed to stay with him in hospital and look after him as is traditionally practiced, so Jane took on much of that role, especially after his second operation, bringing him food and toys and general encouragement. I believe both boys are no longer living with their mother but with relatives in the villages.

This brings me to another factor, although food in hospitals is generally dire and relatives often bring in titbits or full meals for the patients, Jane tells me Kitwe hospital, for some time, has stopped providing meals altogether. Although I don’t know the facts I can only assume it is caused by high inflation / lack of funds. The pound is now 19 to the kwacha as opposed to 15 last year and mealie meal prices have risen from K62 a bag (typically 2 weeks supply) to K220 in Choma, with corresponding price rises in other goods.

The main cause of this, is the severe and ongoing drought which we are facing, particularly in southern province. The government say there is no national emergency, (therefore are not eligible for assistance from other countries) but have issued some of their food reserves at a half the price of a bag of mealie meal. The 2 drawbacks being that people have to produce their registration cards to receive 1 bag of dried cobs and have to find somewhere to mill them, the other drawback is that this is by no means a quick process, so many people do not bother. I heard of one person who waited in line 2 weeks before he got his bag of mealies.

Choma dam is still completely dry
Choma dam is still completely dry
Southern province is also the home of lake Kariba, the largest man-made lake in the world. Its main function has been to provide 50% of the electricity needs for the country. 4 Months ago it stopped working because with the low water its turbines were at 7% capacity. For almost a year we have had daily nationwide electricity cuts, currently they are between 10 and 18 hours a day and with very poor rain again this year it looks set to continue indefinitely.

I think most scientists say climate change will affect the African continent first, and perhaps 3 out of the last 5 years of drought are an indication of the future for Zambia. Already ex pat farmers from 6 farms in the area have sold up and left, and those that remain are struggling to feed and water their animals and crops. Dams (including Choma damn which should supply the town) are bone dry, and the local water company has sunk 30 bore holes in an effort to supply people. This will no doubt have a detrimental effect on the aquifers and water tables, but the ground water simply isn’t there.

Having said all this, for me, all is not gloom and doom. I have a solar water heater and solar panel which provides lights and internet when power is off and have built a primitive rocket stove which will boil water as quickly as any kettle once it gets going.

These are hard times though, and the new principal for Chodort has found it too much of a challenge and is leaving in a few weeks. So far, there is no suitable candidate to take over the job, and the situation is a matter of urgency. A new Principal will not find it easy, as morale is low, and, climate change and introductions of further taxes etc due to almost imsurmountable government debts, have made life very challenging for small colleges. However we believe God is in this situation, just as he was there with His people in all the troubled times in days gone past.

Items for Prayer:

  • That Chodort can find a suitable principal to carry their programmes forward in 2020
  • That Benson and Bennison, and all children at Play4all will flourish under the leadership of Jane and the volunteers
  • That the effects of climate change will not add further burdens to the people of Southern province this year
  • That my 2 projects in the community continue to gather momentum
  • For the failing economy of Zambia
  • For all those who are fearful or suffering because of high food prices and lack of drinking water

Items for Praise:

  • For the commitment of Laurenz to the children of Kamatipa and his unique fundraising ability
  • For the way Jane project managed the new building and all ensuing matters such as rates and security
  • For local initiatives like CADRO with which we can work hand in hand to help the addicted

With every good wish to you all for Peace, Grace and Joy this Christmas,

Jenny Featherstone