Monday, May 11, 2009


Finally, enough people have kicked me to go check whats the deal with this rash that occurs from time-to-time on my arm, so today I jumped in the vehicle and went with Mr. Matulu to the Kelene Mission Hospital. 

An amazing women named Rachel greeted us and offered to have us over at her home for lunch.

The trip is about 100km and it takes a good 2 or 3 hours to get there.  A secondary goal on the trip was to buy cassava chips for people to eat at lunch at the factory.  I quickly learned first hand why buying from rural farmers here is not least for such a one-off purchase.  First people tell you that you can buy it 15km down this road, but you drive down this terrible road, and its hot and the vehicle is complaining but you get there only to find out there is nothing to buy.  Then when you do find someone selling, they have to run off and collect the food, then count each little bit one-by-one and it takes the whole day to buy just $100 worth.  These farmers have to be organized and given the large distances and inability to communicate using phones or radio…the only way to do it is through repeated visits. 

Anyway, we managed to buy some cassava and Rachel took me to see the doctor and it seems my arm will be back to normal again with this medicine he gave me.

We bought 50kg of dry cassava chips from this lady.

Fairly average day right?

Not really.  The lesson learned on working with small holder farmers is HUGE.  And I feel I learned something else first hand that is equally important, something that has been right in front of my nose all these months.  My experience was this;

While sitting at Rachel’s having lunch, her daughter who must be about 11 years-old, contributed to our conversation in a way that floored me.   Same with Rachel’s son who is even younger still.  We weren’t just joking around, the conversation was a bit serious and they were helping to answer  my real questions and doing it in a methodical, intelligent way!  And they spoke with confidence.

Rachel’s kids attend a school called Sakege, which costs over $2000 per year, and its known that everything about the school is top notch (including volunteer teachers from Europe).  So as I’m enjoying my meal, I almost had to stop because I wanted to cry.  For the first time in my life I could see the glaring difference between a world class education system and one that can only be described as a failed attempt.

It was beautiful but sad.  Of course Zambians are fully capable but most just don’t get the chance.  The government here isn’t in a position to provide a good education.  They cant even afford to put paper in their USAID funded printers.

All that being said, something is better than nothing.  I live with a family who has adopted a girl who’s mother died.  Mary sits at home while the other kids go to school.  I managed to convince the school headmaster to enroll her into grade 1.  Mary is 8 years old and has never been to school before.  Even though I know the education she is getting is a sham – it is a hundred times better than sitting at home.  At least she can feel like she belongs to something big.  We bought her uniform and school supplies and she is so excited it melts my heart.

This is Mary - we have a tres cool secret handshake

(as I spoke to the headmaster and paid the $5 to register her, there was an old man next in line hoping to register his grandson who had to be 10 years old, but they didn’t have the $5 to register, and I didn’t have a dime in my pocket to help them out – the fate of this boy was being played out in front of my eyes)

some kids where we bought cassava

I had all the kids dancing to music (railroad earth) 

this guy was really into it

1 comment:

Mina Shahid said...

witnessing the lack of education, and the desire amongst kids to go to school has the most profound impact on me while I was in Zambia. There was Samisa who was soooo witty, so intelligent, that if she was born in Canada she would become a lawyer, and than there was Imata, very mature, extremely polite, honest, and a good son, who would become an engineering. It kills me every time I think about it, how geography dictates who succeeds and who fails. Thanks for posting this Mark, it brings the realities of rural poverty to the forefront.