After a two-year pause owing to the pandemic and ensuing travel restrictions, we were finally able to visit our sponsored projects in the South Luangwa Valley again this year on two separate occasions.
In April, when the rainy season was over, Neil Collen, one of our Spanish partners and his wife Ree Gillett, who head our Foundation took a trip to assess the post-Covid situation in rural Zambia, accompanied by donors from the United States. And they returned to the valley again in October, this time with a team of Livingstonians and their families, including Agnes Winkelmann from the Düsseldorf office who was awarded the Livingstone International Player of the Year at the last pre-Covid international event and won a trip to visit the projects supported by the Foundation. The visits allowed us to be brought up to date on all the Livingstone-backed initiatives in the area as well as to allow some of our sponsors and our team members to experience first-hand the impact those initiatives have.
The area in Zambia that we focus on had been seriously affected by Covid disruptions. As tourism, the primary source of income in the region, dropped to virtually zero in 2020 and 2021, much of the local population had difficulty in covering the most basic nutritional and subsistence needs. The Livingstone Foundation provided food baskets to the most disadvantaged families and distributed sanitizing kits to ensure that schools are kept clean for the children. In addition, the salary payments of all our teachers were maintained during the pandemic on our part.
Our Elementary School in Kapita and the Edulution Classes
We also kept our projects moving forward. Kapita school, the elementary school that Livingstone Partners built and that remains our primary focus of support, was equipped with a water tank to collect drinking water from the rain and the school roof. The difference that the clean water makes to the school is wonderful to see and has the major benefit of reducing the stress placed on the local water well. The roof itself needed a new coat of paint that our donors sponsored to prevent rusting and leaks. Significant additions were also made to the school library, by now definitely the best endowed primary school library in the area. Livingstone continues to sponsor a revolutionary maths teaching program, Edulution and our Foundations also cover the costs of additional teachers for the 500 students that attend the school.
Whilst at Kapita, we also had the opportunity to see Edulution classes taking place, using solar powered tablets and trained coaches to re-educate and refresh basic mathematics for the children. The effect has been extraordinary and the results in state exams have improved dramatically. The dedication of the coaches and the commitment of the children to take these extra-curricular classes is inspiring.
In the months leading up to the visits, the Foundation also managed to secure sponsors for the poorest and brightest Kapita students to attend secondary schools in and around Mfuwe. Without this support there is no chance the children can advance their studies. During the April visit we managed to meet with two of our sponsored children that are now at university, studying Medicine and Engineering. It is a wonderful feeling to see children we have known from 2013, in the main orphans, progress from a rural primary school to university studies.
The Elementary School in Nsefu and the Vocational School in Chikowa
From Kapita we visited Nsefu, another primary school in the region that has had minimal financial support until now. The school has 500 students as well, but half of the buildings are unfit and dangerous to teach in. Livingstone has made the commitment to refurbish and rebuild the major classroom block.
Continuing our trips to see the rest of Livingstone’s education initiatives, we visited Chikowa, the only trade school in the region, where we sponsor students, provide funds for capital equipment for the farm and different trade classes and back a reforestation program.
Chikowa is very remote but travelling to it also allowed us to pass by one of the secondary schools that take our sponsored children as boarders. Seeing the children meet some of their sponsors in person was a wonderful and moving experience.
The NGOs Chipembele and Project Luangwa
As the final part of our tour of our education initiatives, we visited both Chipembele and Project Luangwa. Chipembele is an NGO focused on educating the local population on the importance of their flora and fauna both from their own centres as well as through visits to the remote areas of the region. They also find sponsorship for the brightest students to go on to University and College to study environmental and animal welfare. The Livingstone Foundation sponsors a specific program that prepares these students for life away from their rural, family-based surroundings.
Project Luangwa, our leading NGO partner in the region, helps co-ordinate all our initiatives at Kapita and the other schools. These initiatives include the supply of menstrual pads to young girls to help keep them in classes, financing boys and girls clubs to teach respect for girls and encourage them to remain studying, and the supply of Eco-stoves that radically reduce the consumption of wood but also reduce smoke induced illnesses. As a new project, Livingstone will also help establish a similar program to that of Chipembele for the wider group of sponsored students managed by Project Luangwa.
Clean Water Thanks to New Wells
We finished our trips with a visit to new boreholes drilled by Makolekole, our local specialist partner and financed by funds from the Livingstone Foundation. Wells are a life-changing development for the villagers living nearby, freeing women and children from having to fetch often contaminated water from distant hand dug wells and rivers, and significantly reducing waterborne diseases and attacks by wild animals, especially hippos and crocodiles.
As always, for those of us who have often visited the projects supported by Livingstone, the dedication of our local partners in creating the opportunities for the local population to progress is extraordinary and the commitment and willingness shown by the children and their parents to grasp these opportunities is humbling. But it is even better to see and hear the reaction of those who are experiencing what we are doing for the first time.
We asked Agnes to give her impressions:
“Nothing can quite prepare you for experiencing a visit to the Livingstone projects in person. All of us at Livingstone Partners are very proud of what we have achieved, but seeing the impact directly really brings home what we are doing.
Seeing the children come back to school to strengthen their maths skills through the Edulution program shows you how willing and keen they are to learn. And listening to them present at the boys and girls clubs and at Chipembele was wonderful. I never really appreciated how very shy the children and young adults are and then to see them bloom from the lessons and life skills they receive at these clubs is wonderful.
The other thing that I really liked was how we at Livingstone look very carefully at how to achieve the maximum impact from our sponsorship. For example, our funds sent to Nsefu primary school for rebuilding released funding from other donors that would not otherwise have happened. The same is happening at Chikowa. It is a very smart way of deploying funds. Indeed, we also try and maximize impact across our projects. When we bought new tables and chairs for Kapita school, many were produced by the carpentry school at Chikowa. And the new cooking classes at Chikowa will take on some of our sponsored students who can then find jobs at the local safari lodges, creating wealth in the area.
Seeing how important clean water is for the villages is also something that you can only really appreciate by visiting those areas and seeing the gratefulness of the local villagers, especially the women and children. But for me the image that sticks in my mind the most is the enthusiasm and happiness of the children. They are so grateful for all our help, no matter how small. As a family, we had the privilege of meeting our sponsored student at their boarding school, as did the other Livingstonians with us. There was laughter and tears and a lot of hugs. It made everything we are doing that much more personal.”
Every single donation makes a difference that changes lives in rural Zambia. We have returned from our trips with plenty of new ideas to get more Livingstonians involved in the Foundation’s work, more funds raised from even more sponsors and a lot more projects to be realized in 2023 to make an even bigger difference.
Zikomo! Thank you to all of you for supporting the Livingstone Foundation so far. We are looking forward to carrying on with our projects and will keep you informed about new developments.
We wish you all a Merry Christmas and a great start to a great New Year!
*Zikomo is a ubiquitous phrase to mean just about anything from “thank you” and “excuse me” to “you’re welcome” that can also be used as a greeting, a cry of pleasant surprise and many other things, always with a positive vibe.