Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Constancy and Change

In just over three weeks I will return to the USA. I've been reflecting on some of the projects and activities that have been part of my service here in Zambia. Some things have changed, some have been constant, many have had aspects of both constancy and change.

Yesterday I gave out more than 30 peanut butter and jam sandwiches. I know because toward the end of the afternoon I had to send one of the boys to the tuck shop to buy a third loaf of brown bread. Not a crumb was left at 18 hours (6 o'clock), when my kitchen closed. Each loaf makes 10 sandwiches, or 11 if you use the heels. At first ten or twelve boys would come to get cold water and a sandwich each day after school or mid-day on the weekends. Then more boys came, friends of the first ones. The ages range from 4 to 14. I wondered why no girls came. It seems that not only were they busy at home helping their mothers, but they were scared away by the boys. After we discussed this problem, a group of four little girls started coming. Then about two months ago, another group, seven girls and one little brother, all from the Police Camp compound, started coming. They get sandwiches on Friday through Monday. On Tuesday and Thursday it is biscuits and juice, and on Wednesday I give them homemade cookies. The schedule is because Tuesdays through Thursdays are my heavy teaching days, when I don't have time to make sandwiches.

The boys who come mainly run around the yard and climb trees and play ball before and after eating sandwiches. They imitate Michael Jackson as often as they demonstrate the traditional dances children do when they are in a wedding party. The girls want to color or to read. I keep art supplies, books, balls, Frisbees, and a few other things for them. I let them use the toilet, one at a time. Most of them don't have indoor plumbing where they live. The girls have sometimes asked if they could take a bath, and I have had to say no for a variety of reasons. But I see how they care about their appearance and want to be clean and neat.

The trouble with this ministry is that when I leave, it will end. And I feel bad about that. I wish Zambia had a school breakfast or lunch program. One of my community development students did a research project on nutrition in Ipusukilo Compound. She found that none of the families she surveyed at the government clinic ate three meals a day on a regular basis. Two meals was typical, and some families ate only once a day. One positive development recently is that a group of Canadian church women established a feeding program at Trust Community School. They have committed funds to run the program for two years. It's only porridge, but the teachers report that the students are more attentive and productive since the feeding program started.

Change and constancy characterizes my life with students, as well. The first group of students I taught have now finished the program, received their diplomas, and are seeking positions as social workers in government services or non-governmental organizations. But jobs are scarce. I wrote a blog about Kabutu Kabutu, a graduate who is starting his own program, Heart of Care Services for the Aged. He came to consult with me on developing a constitution, bylaws, and a project proposal. Now he is about to get the organization formally registered. He has received initial funding through some local community leaders and a church, and he will be presenting his proposal to a potential donor next week. Persweden, the student whose husband died suddenly last year, is now completing the program thanks to support from several people who heard her story and provided sponsorship. I plan to donate the proceeds of my "going home" sale (computer, camera, kitchen equipment, sheets and towels, etc) to our scholarship fund for social work and community development students. My packets of class handouts developed to supplement lectures will be passed on to the next lecturers for each of the classes I taught here.

Twenty-two months is longer than I planned to stay, but not enough time to do everything I wanted here in Zambia. My efforts to learn Bemba and to master the traditional dance steps reflected more good-humored effort than actual success. It would have been interesting to travel and see more of the country. My choice instead was to fully integrate into the life of a community, to join in its daily life, its celebrations, and its interactions.

My weekly schedule had a rhythm: daily chapel, teaching, Sunday worship, Monday movie night with the ex-patriate community, Tuesday night prayer sharing, Wednesday night singing group, Thursday evening Bible study, Friday morning shopping in town, and Saturday night Game Night with the students. I gave cooking lessons for students and community women who wanted to learn to bake cakes and cookies and prepare American dishes. Caroline's "drivers' wives" self-help group came to learn and is using cake baking as an income-generating project. I was invited to kitchen parties, weddings, fundraisers, holiday celebrations, family dinners, sports events, talent shows, and baby showers, and taken to visit projects in several compounds. Various people would stop by my house just to "visit." My time here in Zambia, full of activities and relationships, has been a meaningful way to start the new phase of my life that began with retirement two years ago.

I am sure that more adventures still await, but Zambia will always have a special place in my heart. And there is a namesake here. Moses, who tends my garden, named his newborn baby daughter Ann!

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