News from Zambia

Jute Williams

As a teacher and a mother of a 12 year old I was struck by the grace and eloquence of Mrs Nanja who we met at the end of October in Livingstone, Zambia.

I was lucky enough to meet her under a small, shady canopy with my husband Alun, two HHI supporters, Liz Scarisbrick and Stafford Sherlock, when we made a presentation of HHI mobility aids to the Provincial Board of Health.These included 100 pairs of crutches, 50 pneumatic boots, and most importantly, 5 wheelchairs.

Within the small official gathering of Health officials and reporters was Chipo, a boy of 12, who had sat quietly with his carer, dribbling. Chipo has severe Down’s Syndrome and other disabilities and he was present to highlight the desperate need for children’s mobility aids. His mother, Mrs Nanja breathlessly arrived having been invigilating home economic exams in the local school and when it was announced that Chipo would be the recipient of a child’s wheelchair there was a small round of applause and a look of delight on Mrs. Ninja’s face which was inspiring.

Spontaneously she made a ‘Thank you’ speech in which she recounted how for the last 11 years she had failed to obtain a wheelchair for her son. Resourcefully, she had even tried contacts in London who could only supply wheelchairs in bulk. Chipo had always been carried by Mrs Nanja on her back. He has never been to school, received therapy, or attended any support group. He has three sisters. He is unable to walk, feed himself or talk so when he was placed in the chair, which still bore the Torfaen Community Health sticker, we all felt there wasn’t a more deserving child in the whole of the Southern Province who needed our help. Mrs Nanja hugged me and said she would now wheel Chipo to church on Sunday.

All in all we have made 4 official donations totalling 525 pairs of crutches, 18 wheelchairs, 100 pneumatic boots, 50 walking canes and 9 Zimmer frames. The recipients include the University Teaching Hospital Lusaka, Provincial Boards of Health, Social Services and the Ministry of Education for the Southern Province. In turn all these departments have distributed the aids to the disability units and the needy thereby helping HHI to reach as many disabled and vulnerable groups as possible.

What is so impressive about all the donating we witnessed is that all the items were unwanted and given freely in the U.K and with the help of our supporters in generously funding the container costs, these items have been put to use by HHI. Like Mrs Nanja I would like to thank you all.

Another outstanding moment that comes to mind from our October trip and again could not have happened without the arrival of the container was the moment when 5 blind students; Savain, Lazarous, Frank, Bright and Busiku positioned themselves around a microphone in the dark, padded recording studio and on Alun’s instruction sang their first notes together.

Although we were fatigued with heat and humidity the sound was thrilling and I wanted to laugh out loud with sheer joy and amazement but was unable to as Alun was recording their beautiful voices as a test run of the recording equipment.

Needless to say it all works and if you would like to hear a sound bite you can log on to and click on ‘photographs’ followed by ‘Rusangu School’. The blind students have been well supported by HHI supporters in Penrith/Penruddock URC and the Church wanted to incorporate some of the students’ musicianship onto their web site. We hope to hear more of the music produced in due course as three of the blind students are going to be trained this year by Kelvine (our disabled printer) in Braille embossing, book binding and the production of Braille literature. They will be renting a home in Monze and visiting our printing department, and hopefully becoming more familiar with the recording studio. Lazarous really sums up what HHI has meant to him when he emailed these words to us just before the Christmas break; ‘I have enjoyed the studio which has quality and advanced equipment. I’ve learnt how to use computers and book-binding. All these things have improved my life.’ Not only have you supplied Monze with recording equipment and a studio but many of you have supported us by providing manual sewing machines, materials, thread and wool. These I saw being put to good use each day in our sewing department where they make school uniforms and items for sale in our catalogue and on -line shop However, a large number of our sewing machines are actually being used in a church hall about 15 miles outside Monze in the bush. Here I listened and watched our former tailor, Navy, deliver an excellent lesson in how to make a pattern for a bush-shirt! On benches, in groups with HHI sewing machines 25 disabled and vulnerable people were listening and learning in an enjoyable productive atmosphere. Patterns were drawn on paper resting on mealie-meal sacks and all achieved and progressed. It was a double pleasure to see some of the trainees having access to their learning as they had recently been fitted with a hearing aid by our audiology outreach programme. Finally, but by no means least it is good to report that the clinic in Monze under the careful and gentle expertise of Linus and Margaret works steadily and efficiently each day dispensing drugs, grading glasses, and treating patients like Moses who is HIV positive and has no income or home. They visit the open prison and the police cells providing medical care with compassion beyond the confines of the metal bars.