Holiday time

So it is now school holiday time here in Zambia, which means us carrying on working, but doing holiday clubs instead of school time sessions. These are voluntary for the kids, so unpredictable numbers, and more flexible planning. It is also variable between schools. At Zwelopili, a community school in a built up area on the edge of Livingstone, we arrived to find masses of children! I was in the “baby” group with 3 other volunteers, based inside the Reading Room (the Book Bus Library there), with abut 50 children, and baby is not far off the mark.

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As well as the Grade 1 and 2 pupils, there were toddlers, babies carried on the backs of tiny but walking sisters, and a fair amount of chaos. We did 2 sessions of Going on a Bear Hunt, with lots of actions and teddy bears to colour. and survived. Repeat next day with similar numbers and different books.

Then we had 3 days, 2 different schools, a bit more remote, where numbers were lower. On Thursday, our group was just 5 Grade 4s, with 2 volunteers and the head teacher of the school to translate – which made the kids very quiet and shy as I think they are in awe of her! But we could do a lot more one to one, checking their understanding, and really doing some in depth work, which with 50 is obviously not quite so easy.

Our lovey little Kamatanda group working hard

We have met some really inspirational Zambian people in schools. All the staff in the schools and libraries we have been to are so incredibly grateful, and yet we are only spending a few weeks here, and enjoying a holiday while we’re here, and then going back to our own relatively priviledged lives. They work here all year round, and achieve amazing things for some very vulnerable children. Like Teacher Ann, the head at Kamatanda School, a long drive out into the country from Livingstone. A retired teacher, she set up a school for the community 5 years ago, under a tree, and now has 3 good buildings on the site (including a new library), as well as running a feeding programme, which gets kids to attend, as well as helping the families. Parents pay 15 Kwacha a month which covers materals and salaries (when there is enough money – many teachers in community schools are volunteers). 15 Kwacha is about 1.50 pounds. We met a family nearby, and the son was one of Ann’s first class. Now 18, he is at secondary school in Grade 8, and aims to be an engineer. Without Kamatanda School he would never have been to school as there is nowhere else nearby. Kids walk up to 5Km to school, and are taught in 2 shifts – some 7AM till midday, others in the afternoon.

Teacher Ann deonstrating the local well

And then at Zwelopili (where there is also a Reading Room, i.e. Library – please take note, UK schools who are closing their libraries!) the founder of the school recently died. His brother came one day to thank us for our work, and his niece and nephew Claudia and James work as vounteers at the Reading Room. Claudia told me that the school’s future is in doubt now, though they will do everyhing they can to carry on. It is a tiny school, with 120 ish kids from a poor area, with no water or electricity – but lots of enthusiasm!

And then we have the Book Bus staff, Bwalya (who does a great job organising and looking after us), Rachael (who does everything around the camp and in schools with us) and Edward (our driver – also brilliant at spotting interesting animals on the way to schools). They work hard with no time off, and give us all the support we need, and after 2 weeks feel like real friends.

It isn’t all hard work, and I’ll put more about our extra curricular activities in another post – but highlights this week have been swimming at the Devils Pool, i.e. at the very edge of the huge Victoria Falls, and seeing elephants, zebras, a giraffe, and impala on the morning commute.

On our way to school yesterday
Five crazy English women on the edge – of Vic Falls at Devil’s Pool
Bwalya, our leader, lifting a full 20 litre water bottle onto her head – to the amusement of the local ladies
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One week down

So, my first week is done, with visits to 3 schools and one library session. One school, Chilileko, had 3 visits, which is good as you start to get to know the children, as we take the same groups each time.

Chilileko was where I got the kids writing and drawing postcards, which went really well with Grade 6 and OK with Grade 4. They were fascinated with my photos of home I’d brought out – I was really trying to show them pictures of Nottingham, but they loved the ones of my family, especially me dwarfed by my tall husband and sons.

Here I am demonstrating the concept of a postcard with the British royal family – the only postcard on the bus!

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First two schools 

I’m not finding much time to blog, as we are pretty busy – yesterday was 2 sessions at one school plus a library visit in the afternoon, back to base at 5, planning for the next day… and it gets dark at 6!

So here I am at 7AM sitting in the campsite bar (at the best table for wi-fi!) by the beautiful Zambezi River, with spray from the Vic Falls in the distance, feeling decidedly chilly in my fleece. Gloves maybe would have been a good idea!

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Bags of books

Nearly ready for the off, I’ve been doing a dummy run of packing – don’t want any last minute panics on Friday morning when I find it won’t all fit!

My fundraising went so well that not only am I taking a bag full of books and stationery to Zambia for the Book Bus, but John is bringing some out when he comes at the end of August. This is what we need to fit in our bags (as well as our personal luggage of course, and keeping it all within South Africa Airways admittedly generous allowance):


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A cornucopia of books

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Managing a Youth Hostel – thought we’d finished with working!

The YHA Volunteer Manager scheme is something we had heard about before retiring, and thought sounded worth a go.

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The idea is that about 20 of the smaller more rural hostels, which the YHA wouldn’t be able to afford to run with paid staff, are run by volunteers who do a week at a time. It’s a sort of working holiday as you get to stay somewhere interesting, meet new people, and help keep these little hostels going.The YHA Volunteer Manager scheme is something we had heard about before retiring, and thought sounded worth a go. The idea is that about 20 of the smaller more rural hostels, which the YHA wouldn’t be able to afford to run with paid staff, are run by volunteers who do a week at a time. It’s a sort of working holiday as you get to stay somewhere interesting, meet new people, and help keep these little hostels going.

Carry on Reading