Since my last blog entry I have moved to the beautiful shores of Lake Kariba, about four hours east of Livingstone along the Zambezi river. It is a man-made lake created by damming the Zambezi in the 1950’s, causing the displacement of thousands of the Tonga people. It’s hard to imagine now that all the islands in the lake used to be the peaks of mountains and there are still some local people alive who remember their now submerged homes. At night, the lake sparkles with lights from the kapenta rigs where fishermen haul in the tiny fish by attracting them with bright bulbs, later drying them on long benches in the morning sun.
I am staying at the lakeside bush club where there are two resident goats, Pongo and Stevie who like to sit outside my little thatched cottage at night, raiding my toilet paper as a midnight snack! Zebras graze on the lawns and bush buck and impala bound through the trees at night.
Alongside the Kariba Bush Club is the Zongwe crocodile farm which has over 9,000 crocodiles, farmed mainly for hand bags and belts. This week I went on a tour of the farm to see some terrifying monsters up to 4 meters long and can weigh up to 5tonnes! Apparently crocs never stop growing their whole lives and they can live up to 150 years so no one knows just how big the largest one can be. Two albino crocodiles live in a fenced pond right outside the office where I am working and follow me around hungrily – I’m keeping my distance!
For two weeks I am working with the School Club Zambia on their budgeting and also with a small community school in the nearby Siansowa village. We went into Siansowa for a school committee meeting this week which was an amazing experience like nothing I have ever experienced before. The school is a thatched mud hut which doubles up as a church and is ran by the village Pastor. There are just a few rows of rough wooden benches and a blackboard at the front. About 20 people turned up for the meeting which was held in Tonga so Stanley (a SCZ employee and gardener) had to translate for us! We wore our Chitenges (long bright-coloured pieces of Africa fabric worn as a skirt) and I was complemented for tying mine perfectly! The meeting was to discuss the chickens that were getting into the school garden and eating all the cabbages, so people were debating the most effective fencing methods. We then moved onto talking about financing the school and explaining that the school needs the projects like the garden and a tannery in order to earn money and then re-invest that into resources.
I introduced myself and explained that I will be coming back next Wednesday to hold a meeting on basic financial control and recordkeeping. Because Siansowa is in the early stages of development and self-sufficiency the SCZ is keen to get their records in order from the start. I will be teaching basic examples such as recording sales of vegetables and purchasing seeds but because most people are either illiterate or have only completed primary school (and don’t speak English) it is going to be a real challenge. I am going to have to make my tutoring very visual.
This weekend a few other volunteers from Livingstone are visiting lake Kariba so we are all going out to one of the islands for some luxury camping (permanent tents with private bathrooms), a sunset cruise, BBQ and some lake fishing. I’m hoping to spot some hippo and elephant on the island and not to catch a crocodile!
It is the beginning of my second week in Africa and I am already getting used to life here. People are never in a rush to get anywhere and will always stop to speak, ask how you are, find out where you are from and how you are finding Zambia. So far I can say that it has been incredible.
I have taken a trip to Victoria Falls which is about 8km away from where I’m staying. It was the most awesome sight I have ever seen. It is just at the end of the rainy season so the Zambezi is at its highest and as you approach you can see the giant spray from the road and hear the thunderous roar when you get out of the car. The power and size of the falls are unbelievable. Water crashes down as far as you can see and the spray is so dense that you can’t see the river below. When crossing the bridge it is like torrential rain pouring down and I was drenched from head to toe! In some parts you can see Zimbabwe across the river. I am going to try to go across to Zim next week to see the falls from that side.
I spent the weekend on a safari in the Botswana Chobe national park. Botswana is only a 1 hour bus journey from Livingstone so as I have a multiple entry visa I thought I may as well make the most of it!
We spent the morning on a boat safari on the Chobe river. It was just stunning. As the boat cruised along under the perfect clear blue sky we saw hippo basking in the shallow reeds and baboon, elephant, antelope and crocodile on the shore. On the afternoon game drive we spotted more elephant, some so close to the van that you could almost touch them! Impala, Kudu, giraffe, warthog, buffalo…….. so many! I absolutely loved it.
After a night camping in the bush (I thought there was a warthog right next to my tent so didn’t sleep that well) we got up at 6 for our early morning game drive. It was incredible, we saw a pack of lions out hunting in the early morning cool air. They were fascinating and actually not scary at all even though they came right up in the road between two 4x4s at one point. We also saw a huge group of zebra down by the water. I love how they are so un-camouflaged and how their ears twitch round in all directions to hear because their eyesight is so bad! Although not camouflaged, their stripes are to keep off the mosquitos because apparently mozzies can’t see stripes. I’m considering dressing in only stripes from now on they have already feasted on my legs.
On the way back a fridge just flew off the back of the truck in front of us and was about a meter from hitting the front of our bus! Pretty scary but you just have to laugh at these things here I guess. No health and safety!
As well as all of these excursions I have actually done some work this week! The School Club Zambia (SCZ) are looking to apply for tax exemption as an NGO so on Wednesday we went to see a local accountant in his nearby office. He chatted to us and explained that SCZ must register with the tax authorities, submit an annual return and apply for tax exemption at the ministry in Lusaka. I might be able to help with getting some of the documents in order that they need to apply for the exemption.
Also this week we have counted every asset in the school and given the office a good tidy so now all the books are in one place! It was a pretty laborious process but by having a good stock listing and fixed asset register Indeco can put a value to its resources and budget for what it needs in the future. We have also seen that the Divine Hands tailoring department has bags and uniforms in stock that can hopefully be sold soon to raise money for the school.
I have also begun the process of transferring the paper based Indeco School accounts to excel by setting up a simple cash book and income and expenditure ledgers so that the school has all of its finances in one place. This will not only help for budgeting but also for reporting to donors who want transparency. I will be spending the next few days talking Kay through the process and being on hand for any questions on how to record data. I hope that what I have put in place will make the accounts easier to record in the future.
Today is my second day in Livingstone and I think I am beginning to relax into Zambian life. It took about 24 hours and three flights to get here yesterday. When my plane was landing in Lusaka I saw the most beautiful burnt orange sunrise. It was just like you would see in a classic picture of Africa. It was funny walking off the BA plane (bearing in mind this is an International airport) straight across the runway, no tunnel or pick up bus – I knew I was in Africa! Flying from Lusaka to Livingstone was beautiful – There were a lot of circular crop patterns in the fields and a few fires where people were burning maize after the rainy season. As we approached Livingstone I could see the mist from the falls rising high into the air. The Zambezi river was a stunning sight. The plane was tiny so there was so much turbulence that I was lifted off my seat on a couple of occasions- good job I don’t get travel sick!
I am staying with Indeco Community School’s head teacher Kay Litebele and her family in a compound called Dambwa North not far from the school. They have been extremely welcoming and are going out of their way to make sure that my stay is comfortable. Kay is an amazing woman who has set up Indeco community school and now is head teacher. She also works in Indeco Divine Hands sewing bags and uniforms and funds herself through Victoria Falls University where she is studying a degree in Education. She said to me that she wants to continue studying for all of her life. She strikes me as an extremely driven women with a passion for educating children from deprived backgrounds who works tirelessly to improve Indeco.
I am working with The School Club Zambia which is run by Lois Cochrane and supports community schools in Livingstone (Indeco) and by Lake Kariba (Siansowa) through financial management, networking and securing donors. Lois hopes that in the near future they will be able to role out the model of these two schools to other community schools in the area.
Indeco is based in an old abattoir and still bears the name on the wall. There is a small office where I will be based, one large classroom, one small classroom and some housing for a teacher. The classroom is very basic with wooden desks and a chalk board and not many pictures or posters on the walls. Students either come in in the morning or the afternoon depending on their grade because there aren’t enough teachers or room to teach them all at once. The books are quite scarce and Kay was saying that sometimes 5 children share one exercise book.
As well as Indeco school there is Indeco Divine Hands which is a sewing workshop just off the larger classroom. Three ladies (Conceptor, Damalass and Chimuneya) work here to make the handbags and uniforms which are sold for profit. At the moment this profit is being re-invested in the business but it is hoped in the future that it will be used to keep Indeco school self – sufficient. The school struggles to maintain teachers who are not paid so their aim is to take a small wage from some of the upcoming income generation projects. Chimuneya and Kay have been working today to make new curtains to make Divine hands truly divine! It’s amazing how some colourful material has really transformed the sewing room and it displays the handbags beautifully.
My first full day at Indeco has been very productive. Lois and I sat down to talk through the organisation and its finances. We have worked out that there are several areas that I can help with, particularly transferring Indeco accounts to excel, creating a fixed asset register and counting stock, costing items so that an accurate budget can be created and planning workshops with the LIWOMADI (Livingstone women make a difference) women. We began the process of drawing up organisational charts both to help my understanding and so that they can include these in the reports that they will soon have to produce for their donors.
I feel like there is a tremendous amount of work to be done in the next two weeks that I am in Livingstone, I just hope that there is time for me to help Lois and Kay with everything they need me for!