Hi there everyone, Happy New Year !
It’s been good to be here. I’m a bit split between Monze and Siavonga – the reality of trying to get on our financial feet here in Zambia as well as roll on with our projects. The first part has not happened – so far we just spend money. The second part much easier…

I have started teaching the woman who works for us (Maureen) how to do rug hooking – with the idea of rugs as an income generating group. She is choosing other women to join with her and she is teaching them. I think I will suggest each woman works individually rather than a cooperative as I have found my papier mache group (works individually) more motivated and better at problem solving than our cooperative group. She is a good teacher has been in the community a long time. So far she has some ladies who don’t speak English – so it works well that she can help me with translations.

I am starting with fabric donated from set dec – so the start up expense is mostly time and designs, not money luckily as we don’t have much. They are proud as punch with what they are doing – nice to see – though they are all rather dubious regarding if things will sell. While the people in the village are intrigued – they also think it a waste of time – so we shall see.

There is a market day this coming Saturday and I will take up the pieces the women have made and do some market research and then we shall be able to evaluate. I am also experimenting with a paper pulp idea (very low monetary input). As we have this base in Siavonga which is tourist oriented (but no craft industry), and because unemployment is huge, I thought being self employed making and selling things might work well. We have spoken to council regarding a plot suitable for a common craft market – but this is really a far hope. But there are enough hotels around for people to flog their wears.

A kind contact has lent us some large earth moving equipment for 2 weeks with 3 drivers to level the ground and pick up rocks, sand and cement. This has motivated John to expand his project list. It has also resulted in us hiring a lot of people – we have about 16 guys now, and each morning we have a huge crowd at the gate asking for work. It’s hard to say no – I feel bad for them. Such a huge need for jobs. And the people we have now work very hard, come early and leave late. John figured out what he thought minimium should be so people can cover living expenses and education costs for kids and so we pay accordingly. The minimum rate here is not livable – as you probably know.

We have Heidi coming out mid month next month. So I prepare for that. John and I working on getting all the customs papers for the container she has sent full of musical instruments for the music school.

I have touched base with our 4 income generating groups. Our chicken ladies need to expand – they sell out regularly and the villagers complain that there are not enough eggs. So we have strategised how to do this. We have to wait until August when the next group of chicks will be ready.

The papier mache goes very well as well – total sell out every time – so that too is expanding. They are also asking for input on designs as a British woman has asked for an order of 45 bowls with butterflies. So I go down later today to work this out with them. A second international order has just come in as well.

The original textile group has had a bit of a rocky time as leadership has been up and down with the effects of AIDs – but they are on treatment now so things improve I hope – though they have a big burden trying to do this while ill, and all of life’s other difficulties. We have quite a few orders for them so things get busy.

We are also going to train 2 more young women in pattern making and tailoring with a view to broaden and improve the product line for this group. Of the original group, about 14 old ladies remain and then we have a large number of women in their early 20’s. I wish we had funds for a VSO volunteer who could help us, or a volunteer in design and marketing. I applied last year and they were keen to give us a volunteer but as the global economy has tightened, they now want the indigenous organization to pay the wages which is beyond us. However the work load is large and I still have this ticking over in my mind.

Our last group also thrives. Last year a woman I work with funded a young 19 year old in a year long training in tailoring. She has now completed, and has returned to this group – and their works improves by leaps and bounds – tho she still needs more training. So from this we have decided to send a couple more young women who can perhaps help the original group improve too. This also helps balance that there are few girls being further educated as the schools expel them when they get pregnant. So the drop out rate for girls is high (include the fact that parents support boys more fully than girls for further education).

The scholarship program takes a lot of work. I get the more enjoyable part of it as participants just want to chat to me and let me know how they are doing. It’s fabulous seeing how well they do. Later I will be going tho the book keeping and trying to do a bit of a breakdown on what our graduates from past years are doing now. As I am between Siavonga and Monze I can’t help much this year as I loose all the threads on the applications.

John also takes on projects. He is busy trying to figure out how to get a pump donated and transported here to take water up from the lake to the large village next to us who have very little access to water (I’d think about 3000 plus people). He also is working on a second container to come over in a year, with hospital equipment for Monze hospital, the paraplegic center in Monze and a handicapped center in Mazabuka which my sister and a friend have started building.

I am getting to know a Zambian Open Community School – just near by in Siavonga. Hopefully we will start supporting what they do too. Plus the child headed house holds school in Monze…So we are busy! All round. Trying to balance how to live here as well as all the projects. Makes things interesting.

Hope you are all well…

J


Malambo Grassroots website