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Our trip to Zambia

Our trip to Zambia

After a 10-hour flight we finally got to Lusaka, at 6 am. His Excellency Mons Girasoli, Papal Nuncio for Zambia e Malawi, met us at the airport with the official car, flying the unmistakable Vatican Flag.

This was our first encounter with Africa: a beautiful dawn, long lines of people walking to work, children holding hands in pristine uniforms, walking to school.

A short drive brought us to the Vatican embassy; a big white marbled house with a luscious, colourful garden. We were shown to our rooms, they were filled with fresh flowers and fruit, bottled water and drinks… then the white mosquito net hanging over the bed reminded me of where I was.

On our desk we found our very busy schedule for the week, the visits to some of the projects supported by Mons Girasoli: Mother Theresa’s hospice, The City of Hope, Kasisi orphanage, Saint Lawrence Community School, Chirundu orphanage.

There was no time to lose, on the first day Mons Girasoli took us to the brand new Catholic Cathedral, modern and imposing. The Anglican Cathedral was older, and boasted a very important organ. A plaque on the wall informed us that the dioceses of Bath and Wells had donated some money.

Nothing could have prepared us for our first visit, Mother Theresa’s hospice for terminally sick people with HIV and AIDS. The Mother Superior led us inside their home, into a courtyard where hundreds of little children with smiling faces were gathered singing “welcome, welcome…” It was overwhelming, I looked at Father Christopher for strength and courage but he was also visibly touched, tears falling down his face. The children sang, they performed little poems for us and curtsied, and presented us with flowers.

We were led into the dormitories where we saw the sick children, lying there in their little cots; there were several rows of cots filling the small room. As we passed through the children smiled and stretched their little arms towards us, looking for a little attention, a little love. And then the adults: the men and women were both suffering, but while the men had slipped into sadness and despair, the women seemed to be more resilient, they sang with courage, about wanting to get better and return to their families.

On day 3 we went to “the City of Hope”, a home for “girls at risk”, girls who have been orphaned by aids, abandoned, abused, sold by their parents.

We were shown around and met some of the girls, as well as the teachers, nuns and volunteers. Sister Maria Mazzone, the founder of City of Hope, talked about the financial difficulties of running the home, and the practicalities of dealing with 80 teenagers! The girls seemed shy but they improvised a little show for us. Their singing was lovely – our British pop stars are not half as good. The school also takes in day students and in total the City of hope welcomed so many more than we ever imagined.

Our next visit was to Saint Lawrence Community School, situated just outside one of the poorest “compounds” in Lusaka, the school cares for 1100 boys and girls. We met the inspiring and charismatic Father Oswald, he had a big white smile, and vigorous hand shake. Inside, the classrooms were small but well looked after and lively with about 45 students per class.

When we left, Father Oswald asked if we wanted to see where all the children came from. He took us to the compound: It was a place beyond description, but its images are still so vivid in my mind. We both felt uneasy; we had never seen such degradation. Father Oswald had a kind word for each one of the hundreds of people there, He listened to a grandmother who had to look after so many grandchildren and her legs are not what they used to be…

As we moved from place to place, the ‘shopping list of needs’ simply grew.

Zambia, and indeed, Africa, is a huge problem and we realised that we could not solve the problem alone. All we had the opportunity to do was offer a few little drops into a rather big ocean…but drops that would mean so much.

We came away resolved to help each of the projects that had welcomed us, a little something to help them where they needed it most. At the school in the St Lawrence project, we pledged enough money to pay for a teacher for one year; for Mother Theresa’s orphanage, we would pay for food and for a ‘mami’ for one year; for the City of Hope, likewise; and also for the Project at Kasisi – supplies for their classrooms as well as the staff to help the children to learn.

Already we have been fortunate to be able to start raising the money we pledged. Gordon Hodgson has already cycled along the northern route of the pilgrimage to Santiago in September. He raised £1100 through sponsorship.

We have other events planned that will enable us to reach our little targets.

We were fortunate to welcome Sr Maria Mazzone, the superior of the City of Hope, to Whitchurch in November. Our school gave her £260 for the children of her school when she visited. They raised the money through their October Harvest Cake Sale.

We’re hoping that this page on the website will keep you up to speed on how we are doing, the money we are raising, and keeping you in touch with the projects we are sponsoring.

Keep watching!

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