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Ed's Blog
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Ed Stacey is a PEPAIDS volunteer who is part of the team helping to set up our Growing Futures project. In early November 2013 he headed out to Zambia to meet up with SAPEP and finalise our plans for Growing Futures. Ed, who lives in Oxfordshire, has been volunteering with PEPAIDS since September 2013 and hopes to go into a career in International Development after working with PEPAIDS. Ed has been helping bring the best that SAPEP and PEPAIDS have to offer together on this project and will keep us up to date with regular reports of his trip and the work he is doing on this page.



His parents died when he was young

Today I have been working on the data we collected during the camps, one thing we do is get the camp mentors and the SAPEP Project Officers to record the personal testimonies, stories if you like, of the children. The more testimonies I wrote up the more engrossed I became in them, to the point where I found myself glued to the page I was copying from – desperate to finish each story; barely looking up from the piece of paper in front of me to see what I had written on my computer. I would read the line of a story from a child I had spent 5 days with and it would often say something about how they lived with their grandparents. It was at this point, and only here, that I would pause and hope that they lived away from their parents because the parents could not afford to keep their children, that for some reason it was better for them to be staying with the grandparents; I was just hoping that the reason wasn't that their parents had died.

After reading and writing several similar stories and in the midst of reading another I realised that I had become used - even numb - to typing these stories out, stories like this:

"Jonah is 16 years of age and lives with his grandparents.

              His parents died when he was young.

                            He has the problem of school fees."

In so few words is a story full of sadness told; three lines, three sentences and two parents that will never be forgotten.

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Four became Three

So our weekend at Zambezi Breezers was the last time the four of us (Nicola, Laura, Elliot and I) would be together in Zambia. On Monday Nicola would have to leave us and return to the UK whilst Laura, Elliot and I were heading back down to Monze where I would continue to work on our Growing Futures project and the other two would spend a couple of weeks working in the Monze Mission Hospital.

It was so sad to see our little group split up like this, the last two weeks had flown by and yet at the same time the Monday morning that we all met for the first time could have been a lifetime ago. Back then we hadn't slept like four multi-coloured maggots in our sleeping bags by a fire that would occasionally spit holes in them under a moonless sky full of stars; we hadn't laughed or danced or cried as we did in the two weeks that were to follow. So in the end it seemed apt that the weeks had slipped past us as time will but that we could think of a hundred things that had happened to us all.

And so four became three.

End_of_Matimbia_UK_and_POsLeft to right: me, Nicola, Oliver, Kenneth, Elliot and Laura
 

Weekend tomfooleries!

The camps ran from Monday evening to Friday morning which means that the other volunteers and I had two weekends to see what Zambia has to offer 4 tourists and a guitar.

Where did we start? Victoria falls of course! So we spent our first weekend, between the two camps, in Livingstone. You can get a 4 hour bus from Monze down to Livingstone for £7 so Friday lunchtime our bags were loaded, our waterproofs were ready and we headed south to see one of the great natural wonders of the world. Arriving late afternoon we got a taxi to a backpacker's guest house named Jollyboys – boy were we in for a treat. Bearing in mind we had been sleeping on the floor by a camp fire eating nseema (maize mash potato) twice a day we found ourselves in a life if luxury with a pool, bed, Wi-Fi, bed, sofas, bed, a chill out zone, bed, dozens of restaurants around us, oh and did I mention we had beds? As is to be expected with this scale of luxury overload the temptation to spend the whole of Saturday resembling four of the finest Maris Piper's you have ever seen was almost overwhelming. However, after a sedate start to the morning we endeavoured to be more energetic than your common garden potato so around 11 o'clock we headed off to see what happens when up to 6 million litres of water a second falls off a cliff 1708m long and 108m high (as a geography graduate I feel obliged to tell you these kind of fun facts from time to time, sorry). Anyway safe to say the results are pretty spectacular...

Victoria_Falls_1

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Matimbia OVC camp, week 2

We are now two weeks into our Growing Futures project and the 13-16 year old OVC camp at a place called Matimbia finished last Friday, safe to say it was fantastic! Once again the children brought so much energy to the week that it was all I could do just to keep up. There is a school at Matimbia that has been running for some time and now features a number of government teachers. This means that there is a higher quality of education and lower school fees for the students when compared to unsupported community schools. As a result more children are able to attend the school and each lesson, as dictated by the syllabus, regardless of topic must feature at least 5 minutes of HIV/AIDS education. So on this camp, compared to the last at Kafwefwe, there was a greater level of existing knowledge so we were able to give more advanced information of HIV/AIDS; such as what HIV does to your white blood cells and the difference between HIV and AIDS.

Nicola_teaching_HIV

We often used the UK volunteers to help deliver the topics of the day. Here Nicola, one of the three other volunteers, explains the 3 main ways of HIV transmission: Mother to baby, infected blood and unprotected sex.

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The OVC camps have begun!

So here I am - out in Zambia for a second time - the planning is over and Growing Futures has begun! First things first, what is Growing Futures and who are OVCs? This year, Growing Futures is a project that aims to support orphan and vulnerable children (OVCs) through a series of activity camps in 7 communities in the Southern Province of Zambia. We are now one week into the project and have completed one camp for OVCs between the ages of 13 and 16 in the community of Kafwefwe (pronounced Ka-fway-fway). Each of the 7 communities will get 2 camps, one for 13-16 and one for 9-12 year olds.

Right so now you know what I am out here to do I can tell you a bit about what it is like to spend a week sleeping outside in the middle of the bush on the grass (roots and all) with 35 children, 3 other UK volunteers, 2 SAPEP staff, 2 community mentors, 2 drums and every star in the southern hemisphere for company.

The trip started off with a bang – or rather – a lack of them. The fuel gauge on the car was being temperamental and basically we ran out of fuel about an hour away from the camps on the main road from Lusaka. Waiting for someone to bring us some more fuel we gathered a crowd of local children who live close to the road. Elliot, one of the other 3 UK volunteers took his guitar out of the car and before long the kids were all having a go playing it.

Road_side_concert

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Monday the 2nd of December

World_AIDS_day_crowd

Today was the celebration of World AIDS Day in Monze which was actually yesterday (1st of December). It was held today as it was decided not to hold the celebrations on a Sunday. As always SAPEP was right in the middle of it all and one of the things the District AIDS Taskforce, a government initiative, had asked them to do was help set up the marquees and transport equipment around.

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