Four years in the making, over 100 local people from twelve different churches in Chipata were welcomed to the Family Centre for the start of the Chipata Community Impact Project. The project, aimed at reaching widows and orphans in the compounds surrounding Chipata, started with these people joining for three days of intensive training.
Geoff and Martha Muvumbo, Project HOPE’s partners in Chipata, hosted the gathering. Working with Executive Director Christopher Graves, the Muvumbo’s and the rest of the local leadership team, spent a year assembling the community care teams in preparation for the launch of this five year pilot project. “Geoff and I spent many years gearing up for this significant project” Graves said recently “without this incredible partnership with all the local churches this would not be possible”. The overwhelming numbers of widows and orphans in the nine compounds of Chipata lack any voice or advocate in the community. Hundreds of kids are just existing without school, connection or hope. The Muvumbo’s and Project HOPE knew they had to find a solution to start making an impact in the lives of so many vulnerable people and after much searching the Chipata Community Impact Project came to life.
“We have a lot of work ahead of us” commented Geoff Muvumbo “but Project HOPE and our leadership team, along with the many hands participating as community care teams has ignited a lot of excitement to start reaching the compounds”.
461 students and counting. That is an increase from 412 and another 150 still to be added. The classes are stacked with kids and there are three shifts of classes each day. The same five dedicated teachers volunteer to teach all these orphans. Still they want to add another 150 that would mean every orphan in the area would be in school.
It is a daunting task but the teachers are determined. The feeding program is still humming along but more plates, spoons and cups need to be added to meet the numbers and the rising cost of food in Zambia has put pressure on keeping up.
The joy at this school is infectious and children are doing very well in their studies. The commitment of the teachers continues to be a huge encouragement. There is much work to be done and we need resources to meet all the needs but the Saikalo School is caring for orphans and providing excellent education.
The promise was made last year. A 90th birthday party complete with a cake. That was the deal and Project HOPE Executive Director Christopher Graves made good on that promise. Louisa, a widow that Project HOPE has worked with for many years, celebrated her 90th birthday. Born in 1927 in Lusaka, she grew up in various areas before settling in Chipata with her husband, a prominent doctor.
Her husband passed away many years ago and Louisa set up house on a farm outside Kasama, Zambia. Over the years she has cared for countless orphans and widows dying of HIV-Aids. In the photo with her is one of the orphans she adopted when he was just young and now he, his wife and two boys still live with her. Together they maintain the farm and care for many other vulnerable people. Louisa has been an inspiration and steady encouragement to Christopher for the past seven years.
At the end of every meeting Christopher would say to Louisa “see you next time” to which she would reply “no, I’ll be dead before you get back”. Last year, knowing her 90th birthday would be in 2017, Christopher again said to Louisa “see you next year” to which she made her usual reply. This time though he told her “you have to be here since I am bringing you a birthday cake”. Several times through the year Louisa asked Francis Chileshe, Project HOPE’s manager in this region, if that cake was coming. He assured her Christopher would keep his promise and just recently the party was held. Cake, candles and lots of laughter.
This time before Christopher could tell her he would see her next time Louisa told him “you better promise to come to my funeral”. Again laughter all around but Christopher told her “I think we’ll be celebrating a few more birthdays first!”
At least it’s not a snake, however, despite the harmless appearance, this little creature packs quite a punch. Although the photograph does not indicate, this bug is actually almost 8 inches long and is covered in sharp barbs that if touched, delivers a severe sting not unlike a bee sting but multiple hits.
This is just one of the many interesting creatures you encounter at Nyangombe. Whether caterpiller, spider, gecko or the more famous varieties of snakes including mambas, puff adders and boom slangs, you just have to look long enough and you will see an amazing and unending biology of creatures. Many, like the snakes, are quite deadly so sharp eyes are necessary. Several of the spiders, although as big as an outstretched hand, are great mosquito catchers. The fire ants add to menagerie.
Just recently one of the women of Nyangombe was bitten five times by a snake while walking on a Saturday night. At the first strike she thought it was ants biting her so she jumped up and down not realizing that she was landing on the same snake that struck four more times. Help came but she soon passed out. No one thought she would survive but early the next morning she awoke and continues to heal. It could have been fatal. Once her rescuers were done with the snake it was not recognizable so no one is really sure what type it was!
Such is life in the bush. The creatures really are incredible. While a bit much for some, and yes the danger is real, each has a job to do.