I’m sorry that we missed last month’s blog post. October was a crazy month as I found my feet back in Zambia, and we completed distribution of 4,500 facemasks to schools, delivered 7.5 tonnes(!) of mealie-meal, along with other necessitates such as cooking oil, washing powder and salt, as well as handing out nearly 2,000 menstrual pads.
Despite our incredibly busy October, I did have a lot of time to reflect on the impact we’re having as a project, on the incredible challenges our community is striving to overcome, and on the inspirational people that we work with on a daily basis. It is on some of those inspiring women that I would like to dwell today.
It was early morning as we set off on the long drive down to Malama Chiefdom. The stifling late summer heat was already rising as we navigated the dusty roads and crossed dry river beds, taking in the sights and smells of the bush. While we think of Mfuwe as remote, the schools and communities in Malama are truly off-the-grid. Their distance from the ‘hub’ of Mfuwe means that they gain even less support, with no meals provided for the children, and little to no help with infrastructure or materials.
One of the small exceptions is Chilongozi, who have been supported by our member lodge, Kafunta Safaris. The staff there talk with pride about the new classroom blocks, and the toilet facilities that Kafunta has fundraised for.
It was at this school that I met Mwape Banda, the Deputy Headteacher. Mwape may be small of stature, with round glasses perched on a petite face, but she speaks with a clear and engaging energy that makes her seem larger than life. Mwape is one of our volunteer Gender Club mentors, and every week she walks an 18km round trip, through dense bush land, to deliver our programmes to the girls. Mwape’s husband, Jackson, is the headteacher of Kalengo School, so as a family they are committed to education. Mwape’s house is within the grounds of Chilongozi, and she was kind enough to show us around on our visit. As we walked away from the smart new school blocks, I was struck by the dilapidated nature of the boarding houses. Large cracks could be seen in the concrete, with daylight shining through the seams in the walls. One of the blocks is in such disrepair that it has been condemned, and the girls who would have been housed there, now stay in Mwape’s house with her, her husband, and her 4 year old son. The house has no power, and a single curtain is all that separates her family from the girls who share her space.
As the husband of a teacher, I can only imagine the challenges of staying with the children you teach, and I am awed by Mwape’s dedication and commitment. She is a truly inspiring figure, and a real role model for the girls and boys we are striving to empower.
She is not the only one. I’ve spent the last six weeks visiting schools throughout South Luangwa, and I am awed by the examples set by so many of the teachers. To name but a few in a sea of inspiring figures – Grace Nyendwa, who volunteers her time for free to teach at Malanga School. Irene Mulunda, the Headmistress at Katapila who only needs to start counting before the children rush off back obediently to their classrooms. Tryness Tembo from Chiutika, who is keen to speak out about challenges faced by the community and looks to bridge the gap by having other mentors open up and gain in confidence.
And let me not forget those even closer to home. Fwilane and Stu continue to be the spear casters for Project Luangwa, leading the way in our projects, and working tirelessly for the communities we support.
All of these inspiring women represent the lights we are trying to shine, and it has been my pleasure to get to know them all better.