Wednesday, August 4, 2010

A Zambian Hero

Forty years ago, a quick thinking Zambian man saved the life of a one year old child from a spitting cobra, poised to strike. That man was Christopher Ngoma and the little boy was Kevin, our son. We have never forgotten this act of courage and have kept in touch with Christopher and his family over the years assisting them whenever possible.

In 2001 we met Christopher and his wife, Elfrieda, in person again and realized that their strong faith and Christian values have kept the family strong in spite of the difficulties. Life in Zambia is hard and the Ngomas have struggled to feed their extended family at least one meal a day. Subsistence farming is difficult. Without shelter to store tools and crops after a harvest, a year’s food supply is reduced. When the rains fail, families starve.

Christopher is now almost 70 years old, twice the life expectancy of the average Zambian but still young by Canadian statistics. He is almost blind in one eye which he thought was the result of an accident when he was repairing the roof of his house. We arranged to have an appointment and tests for him at the eye clinic and we learned he needed cataract surgery instead. The highly subsidized medical system in Zambia covered most of the cost. Surgery to remove the clouded lens took place while the team was in Kitwe and a new lens will be inserted in August. The complete process cost fifteen dollars!

The team was powerfully moved by Christopher’s story. We had a delicious meal with the Ngomas and shared a special time with his family on July 10. The family also provided us with ‘food for the journey’ back to Canada – individual bags of popped corn and a five KG bag of fresh ground nuts ready for roasting. We shall long remember their friendship and hospitality – our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Posted by: Eleanor and Ray

Back to School

The first week we did our workshop while the other teams began their work. We met the students on the road to school (Monday of week 2) and the warm welcome was a sign of things to come.

Mary Anne and Sarah are almost at a loss for words when talking about Lifesong. Compared to what we see in Thunder Bay, the teachers work with minimal resources and in tiny classrooms with many students seated at tables or sharing desks (see photo). The rooms have four walls, no bulletin boards, and one storage cupboard. When we organised and wanted to distribute the materials we brought them, a big concern was that the items may be stolen from their classrooms. There is a curriculum in place but we didn't have access to it; our Zambian colleagues indicated that it was a huge challenge to deliver to the students because there are many different levels and ages in each classroom.

Outside of the classroom, the students face challenges too. They walk great distances to come to school and some of them have no food in the evening (or on the weekends). We briefly visited a couple homes and learned that the students come from very poor households; many of them live with extended family members following the death(s) of parent(s). The parents or guardians support their children the best they know how, but with a high rate of illiteracy and lack of formal schooling they can't always provide the specific help that their child may need.

When we last wrote, we had completed one day of our workshop - and it only got better! They received a Canada pin and certificate indicating completion (see photo); Mary Anne and Sarah, though chuffed, were alarmed that their workshop would be appearing on the teachers' resumes!!! We feel very fortunate to have met and been able to work with such amazing, passionate teachers. Their appreciation and engagement, both in the workshop and during our in-class time, was very affirming for us.

Spending some time "teaching" (see photos) gave us a small idea of the added challenges the teachers face. During the second week we were able to visit each classroom at least twice, giving a hands-on opportunity for the teachers to experience some of the teaching strategies we'd discussed during the workshops. Most of the children at the school speak English only as a second language, with Bemba being their mother tongue so this was a challenge; when in doubt, however, the 'fearless' Canadian teachers launched into what was like a standup routine doing gestures and talking about Canada and sounds.

Overheard in classroom: "Mary Anne, is it cold in Canada?"
(shivering) "Brrr .... yes, it's very cold!"
"Sarah, can you say b-b-ball?"

Both Sarah and Mary Anne have learned that they have a distinct talent for reciting "Who Took the Farmer's Hat" - - since each class was treated to an exciting readaloud of this story. Joking aside, though, we were amazed that it appealed to all the children in the school, including Martin, a grade four student (about 12 years old) who delighted in re-reading the story to his classmates at recess time.

But . . . it's a wonderful place to be. We both made plenty of young friends who gave us countless hugs, sang songs and danced with/for us, told us of their future goals and ambitions, and told us they loved us. We got very emotional with our teacher friends: they do amazing things with, by Canadian standards, very little, and we felt we were more alike than we were different. The children love the school for both the learning and loving aspects (they receive two meals a day, clothing when it has been donated, and lots of love and affection). The teachers, employees and students welcomed us warmly and always treated us with great respect. Put it this way: it was hard to say goodbye!

We have been blessed by our time at Lifesong School more than we can say.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Adventures in Travel - Tanzania group

I see that the Victoria Falls-bound group posted an update, so I thought that I should tell everyone about what happened after they bid us farewell at the Lusaka Airport. Stan - time to get your atlas out again!

Sarah and I were supposed to fly from Lusaka to Nairobi (with a quick touch-down in Lilongwe, Malawi) and then on to Entebbe (Uganda). Well, after landing in Lilongwe and sitting on the tarmac for 1 1/2 hours, we learned that the runway was "broken" and that we would have to wait for an inspection and approval before we could take off. 2 hours after that (at approximately the same time as we were supposed to be leaving Nairobi for Entebbe), we finally departed. Having missed our connecting flight, we joined the queue with everyone else in the same situation, and were re-booked on a flight the next morning.

Kenya Airways then told us that they would cover our costs for the night, and paid for our stay in a 5-star hotel in downtown Nairobi, plus dinner, plus transportation to and from the hotel! Much nicer (and cheaper for us) than the guesthouse we had planned in Entebbe!

Our flight got in to Entebbe late-morning, and we didn't want to risk trying to make the journey by bus as it is a full-day trip from Kampala (Uganda) to Bukoba (Tanzania). So we splurged on a taxi to the border, arriving at about 3:45 pm, where we met up with the Kampala-Bukoba bus, arriving in Bukoba, safely and with all of our luggage (!) at about 6:45pm last night.

So we are now visiting friends for the week, and have our return bus tickets to Kampala booked for next Wednesday, where we will catch our flights back to Canada!

Posted by: Kate.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


The group is now on their way to Victoria Falls. We said goodbye to Kate and Sarah, who are on their way to Tanzania. Our time spent in Lusaka was great. We have not been blogging because internet access was limited and very slow.


The group is now on their way to Victoria Falls. We said goodbye to Kate and Sarah, who are on their way to Tanzania. Our time spent in Lusaka was great. We have not been blogging because internet access was limited and very slow.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

No Internet!

Good morning, to all of our faithful followers! I just wanted to let you know that the internet at the Friars has been down since Monday, so we have been unable to post updates here. I am using Dru's computer and internet here at Lifesong shool, but she has very limited bandwidth. As soon as we are able, we will post another update.

We are all still healthy and having fun. We will be leaving Garneton on Sunday to drive back to Lusaka, and will miss all of our friends here at Lifesong School and in the community.

Posted by: Kate.

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Welcoming Committee

As we walked to the school this morning, we were greeted on the road very warmly with cheers and hands to hold! Each one of us had a chain of children to walk with.

Playground Equipment

The swingset is now in the ground!

Dental Pictures

Glenna and Diane started their work today with a pair of Zambian Dental Therapists, checking the teeth of all of the students at Lifesong School, and doing the necessary dental work. As you can see, the work environment is slightly different than at home!
The day started with "Opening Ceremonies" to which the District Medical Officer of Health was invited, and ZNBC (Zambian National Broadcasting Corporation) was present filming! We are going to watch for ourselves on television later this week.
Posted by Diane, Sarah, and Kate (with Cody listening to music on his cell phone next to us)

Sunday, July 11, 2010


1. The famed roadside bathroom break, en route from Lusaka to Kitwe
2. How to transport a toilet seat? Kate figures it out by ... using her head!!

More Pictures

1. At the Dag Hammarskjold Memorial site
2. A sunset where we're staying


1. Construction work at Lifesong School
2. Our "chartered" Bearskin flight to Ottawa from Thunder Bay


(if you're looking for the guesthouse, please go back to the Google search)

In Zambia, most people speak English but there are a variety of tribal languages also. The local language is Bemba; the Bemba was a tribe from Northern Zambia - nearer the Congo - and many of them came to settle in the Copperbelt area. Initially, the Lamba people were displaced by their arrival. As a result, the dominant language in area is Bemba. (There are 72 languages in Zambia alone!)
That's it for the history lesson. Now, for our "Language lesson." Today the gang had lunch at a Guesthouse called Shamabinga. It's down the road from Lifesong, and the food was nice, but Sarah was more intrigued by the name than the food (and that's saying something). She henceforth declares that Shamabinga is a great word and ought to be used to convey expression.

example: "Shamabinga, that tea's hot!" (surprise)
example: "Shamabinga, it's great to see you!" (great pleasure) *see photo of Dru at Kafakumba*

example: "I stubbed my toe - shamabinga!" (pain or displeasure)
Give it a try! Shamabinga, it's great fun!

posted by: Sarah

Weekend in the Copperbelt

8:00 am we were all ready to go and low and behold bus problems. A delay of 1 hour. Finally on the road, our first stop was at the Dag Hammarskjold Memorial. To those of you who do not know he was instrumental with the United Nations in trying to establish peace. This memorial site marks the location of the tragic 1961 plane crash that mysteriously claimed his life.

The next stop of our whirl wind tour of the Copperbelt was to Dru's house in Kafakumba for a bathroom break. In case we have not mentioned, Dru is an American missionary/Eleanor's friend who was our contact for this trip. It was great to see her house.

The touring continued to Chamboli for lunch with Christopher and his family (Eleanor will be sharing Christopher's story later, but the lunch was an unforgettable experience).

Back to Kitwe to vist the Providence Guest House which is run by the United Church of Zambia and received partial funding from the United Church of Canada. The income from the guest house allows them to fund their program, combatting gender based violence in Zambia.

Now half of us split and went to the school to paint the playground equipment, and the others to Mindolo Ecumenical Centre. This is where Ray and Eleanor lived and worked from 1967 to 1975. Eleanor enjoyed revisiting old memories of their time there.

Back to the ranch for the evening and we all somehow forgot about the scheduled power outage on Wednesday and Saturday evenings. The power goes out for conservation purposes for about 2 hours. The brothers very generously lent us their electric lanterns so we could see our supper.

While the others were watching football, and blogging, the very young ones in the group(Cody, Meagan, Rachel, and Diane) had a great party.

July 11 2010

Sunday was a day of worship, work and rest.

Some of the group attended 7:00am mass here on site. The others went to the 8:30am service at the United Church of Zambia and 2 of us did a double header. Guess Who??? The service was very lively, with an amazing choir, and a great experience overall. During the service 4 others were finishing the painting at Lifesong.

After churches we visited the home of John (the director of Lifesong), had a nice lunch at a very posh Shamabinga Guest House, and relaxed for the rest of the afternoon.

It is now 8:30pm and we are going to watch the world cup finals. So that is it.

Posted by Diane, Rachel, and Sarah

Saturday, July 10, 2010

A Poetic Post

We have been treated to a variety of poetic efforts since we began our journey.

Our first poem was written by Stan, father of Sarah and an active member of Knox Shuniah United Church, who read this to us as we awaited our departure in Thunder Bay...

An Ode to the Zambian Team

After days of long, arduous and fulfilling of many a task
The Zambian team will work and in the African sun bask
Be it teaching, dental work, or building of a swing
With them they shall many other talents bring

Their long flight will land on African soil
To assist God's people in their daily toil
In helping to make the earth a better place
With pride, dignity and perpetual grace

For it is in giving that we truly receive
With the Lord our helper we do believe
So let us salute the crew, each and every one
May God guide all this fine team of Eleanor and Ray Dunn.

As you may recall from a previous post, we had quite a long wait at the Thunder Bay Airport while waiting to depart. While Erin (Delta Airlines) and Amelia (Bearskin Airlines) worked hard to re-book our onward flights in order to meet up with Walter and Meagan in Amsterdam, we passed the time by writing some Haiku and Limericks. Here is a sample of our efforts!

Will it be Bearskin
Hurry - let's call Jasminka
Raymond is still Ray*

* Thank you to Brian for his insight into his parents' relationship!

Oh those Delta girls
Erin's printing the tickets
Don't lose them en route!

Amelia waits
We're going to Ottawa
Don't let that plane leave!

There once was a group from Nu Vision
Who thought they were going on a mission
But instead of Lusaka
They ate some moussaka
And now it's a Greek expedition!*

* Composed at a time when we didn't know where our route would take us!

I've saved the best for last. Mary is a Zambian woman who works here for the Franciscan Friars, and her third daughter, Susan, is 13 years old. She has written this poem to recite in a competition next Saturday. She recited this for us on Friday as we returned to the school, and I was moved to tears. Please try to imagine her standing in front of us reading this in her strong voice and Zambian accent.


Everyone cries out for love
Everyone needs love
Everyone deserves to be loved

But eh!!
Love is rare
It is not easy to be found

I went to the East
To the West
To the North and the South
To look for love
I did not find love

I looked on the streets
All I found
Were street kids
Who were looking for love

There I found love
And God's love is
In the hearts of people
Who love and desire God

In the days
Of my tomorrow
When my school is behind me

I want
To be a loving person
I want
To be a caring person
Caring for others
Those who most need love

I want to reach out
To the needs
Of the most needy

And to show love
To the most unloved

Only then
Will I be
The loving Susan
That I desire to be.

Posted by Kate.

Our Hosts

What a great place this is! The Franciscan Friars of Garneton, Zambia are superb hosts. They have provided us with clean and comfortable accommodation; hot showers; delicious breakfasts and suppers; and, thrilling to those of us with computers, free internet!

Every day here brings a new experience. Several times the brothers have welcomed us into their living room to watch FIFA World Cup games with them. Sarah set out on Thursday morning for mass, but the guard dogs scared her away. Having been assured that the dogs would not bite, she bravely tried again on Friday. Yes! The dogs were friendly - so friendly that they jumped up on her and tore her skirt. She did attend the mass.

Mary, a Zambian woman employed here, launders our clothes; and we get them back ironed and folded. Cody has not learned to like the Zambian greens but has become quite fond of the nshima. And last night, we had ice cream for dessert!

Thank you Brother Tony, Father Pio, Brothers Andrew, Brother Evans, Brother Patrick and all the rest.

Posted by Mary Anne and Cody

Friday, July 9, 2010

News from the Dental Team

So far we've had a busy week, helping unpack all of the teaching supplies to get ready for Sara and Mary Anne workshops with the teachers.
Then the huge job of unpacking hundreds of boxes of clothes that came over in a container from the United Methodist Church in the US
We started by sorting into boys,girls, babies,women and men and then broke it down further into the summer and winter.
Yesterday in the afternoon, we went with Dru into Kitwe to do some grocery shopping and then went to "Mama Africa"- Kitwe's version of Sam's Club. After our shopping, we went to the Kano Clinic to meet Nolias and Naomi Kalinga. They are not dentists. They are "Dental Therapists" trained in Lusaka and then they both went to Japan where they did more extensive training. Clinic is small-but very well supplied. No such thing as hygienists in Zambia.

Friday July 9

Up at 7:00 and back to school. We sorted more clothes today. Diane and Kate sorting and Glenna and Eleanor sorting into sizes. We see daylight!!!! This afternoon Naomi and one of the other therapists came out to Lifesong and picked up most of the supplies we brought. It was a very productive day and we are all very excited about starting on the dental program Monday.

Tomorrow off on a tour.

Posted by Glenna and Diane

Thursday, July 8, 2010

School Days at Lifesong

Yesterday (Wednesday) marked our first visit to Lifesong, the school for orphans and vulnerable children in Garneton. (As we write that, we are in disbelief that it was only a day ago!) Mary Anne, Sarah and Maxine are the educational team; Maxine (hi Maxine! we're tugging our ears for you) was instrumental in planning and preparing for a workshop, and Mary Anne and Sarah delivered it.

Our group spent early Wednesday morning during a sort of orientation at the school, meeting various members of the school and related community. The staff were gracious and welcoming (hugs and kisses - Sarah was reminded of France) and we knew we were in the presence of some wonderful people. We met the Guardians of the Garden ("manned" by four very capable women, they are mothers or guardians of students and in order to keep things equitable, they are hired for a three-month stint; all the gorgeous food feeds the school community), teachers, kitchen staff (Sarah was instrumental in helping stir the cement-like Nshima, national dish), maintenance staff, and some children of the employees. Later on we received our schedule for our time here and then prepped for today's workshop.

This morning, it was back to school for a bunch of grownups: 7 teachers from Lifesong, and 12 staff members from Cedric's (another school nearby), as well as nervous Sarah and Mary Anne. We felt very humbled by the situation and wanted to do our best to give them some new ideas without seeming overbearing.

Our prayers were truly answered. We felt great about our interactions with our fellow (Zambian) teachers and we received some great feedback, especially after we let them "play" with some of the many resources we had collected, received as donations and bought back home. The word on the street? The children are lucky to have such dedicated teachers, and we can't wait to continue our workshop tomorrow! (And maybe Sarah will get to ring the bell again, which was one of her highlights.)

Posted by Mrs Fossum and Mlle Polowski

Building Begins

Ray, Cody, Kubasa, Jameson, John and Walter drove into town this morning to purchase the playground material needed to begin building.

Ray, Cody and Walter were planning a "Quick Trip" to the local building supply centre to purchase our steel tubing, welding rods, elbows and other similar supplies. We left at 9.00 am and returned at 2.00 pm. Some quick trip! After visiting seven stores, and re-visiting three of them, we finally purchased all of the supplies. We had to change our design in a few places, not being able to purchase certain items, and we had to hire a person to drive our purchased items back to Lifesong. How he carried 20 six-metre steel tubes on a small pickup truck is beyond us! You need to be an expert knot maker or Scout to do it. By the way, do not complain to ANY of us about potholes in Canada. Here we have craters (literally). And many.

When we arrived back at Lifesong and finally had a bite to eat, we began building the swing and by 5.15 we had the four-seater swing assembled, welded and ready to cement into the ground.

Posted by: Walter and Cody

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

First Day in Zambia

Tuesday 6 July, 2010

Having arrived safely on African soil, we thought our traveling days may be over for the timebeing... but they continued again today, much to our surprise. After a rest and breakfast (for most people - sorry Eleanor) at the guesthouse, we were treated to a visit of the Lusaka International Airport. Several of us changed some money over to local Zambian currency, instantly becoming millionaires ($1 equals roughly 5000 Kwacha). Meanwhile, Kate the Clothing Recipient discovered that her missing bags were still missing and that she'd be therefore borrowing a bit longer. As we left Lusaka, we were treated to our first daylight views of Zambia seeing many buildings, people, and vehicles.

The journey was a long one indeed. Theoretically, Lusaka to Garneton (outskirts of Kitwe, in the Copperbelt) should not take a long tiem. A day after our 10-hour bus journey, we learn the following:

a) Our driver respected us and cared greatly for the safety of his visiting human cargo (this was our interpretation).
b) Our driver was very prudent, probably due to the fact that his driver's license was temporarily suspended following a prior speeding infraction.
c) Our driver had taped over the illegal license plate and was fined en route.
d) Our driver did not wish to put us behind "schedule" so we improvised with a roadside washroom stop. (picture to follow at a later date)

All in all, we arrived at the Fransiscan Friars' Guesthouse where we had a beautiful meal, watched the Netherlands beat Uruguay in the FIFA Semifinals, narrowly escaped an oil fire (Brother Evans had also found himself engrossed in the football match) and settled in to our clean and comfortable rooms for a good night's sleep!

Posted by: Sarah

Adventures in Travel

Sunday July 4 (from Sarah's journal)

5:30am - Thunder Bay International Airport; group check-in

The group in the Thunder Bay Airport

7am - "depart" for Minneapolis... or so we think!

8:30am - learn that the plane is broken and we will not be leaving for Minneapolis.

11:20am - depart on the 11am Bearskin flight for Ottawa via Sault Ste Marie and Sudbury. Sudbury airport has free internet, unlike Thunder Bay!

2:45pm - Thanks top our pilots, Allison and Steve, we arrive safely in Ottawa with all of our luggage (note this for later - this will become important as our story unfolds). Run across airport to catch our Air Canada flight to Boston, which we then have to wait ages for.

4:30pm - Fly to Boston. A fellow passenger thinks that we are a family going on vacation together. Let's hope that this is a sign of things to come!

6pm - Arrive in Boston. We hear ourselves being paged and Sarah sprints across the airport to the Delta desk that we will be departing from. Receive our next set of boarding passes.

7pm - Depart for Amsterdam. Our patriotic flight attendants serve us an orange mousse decorated with the Dutch colours and a football. Long live the World Cup!

8am (Monday morning, GMT+1) - Arrive in Amsterdam. Cody has lost one bag; however we found Meagan and Walter (who flew from Toronto and were starting to worry when we didn't get off our flight from Minneapolis). To counteract possible Deep Vein Thrombosis, we sprint across the Amsterdam airport and barely make our flight.

10:30am - Depart in a very cramped airplane on our KLM flight for Nairobi.

7:30pm (GMT+2) - arrive in Nairobi as a group. Meagan collects her next boarding pass. 6 flights down, 1 left to go!

9pm - Depart from Nairobi on our Kenya Airways flight.

11pm (GMT+1) Arrive in Lusaka. Clear Immigration and Customs. Collect our baggage. Kate has lost both of her bags in order to keep Cody company. Sarah offers Kate a pair of clean quick-dry gitch! We are welcomed by Dru, a long-time friend of Ray and Eleanor, who is going to be our host at Lifesong School.

1am - Arrive at our guesthouse for showers (Diane - "Some of us never had hot showers, since I didn't realise that there was hot water until after my shower.") and beds!!!!!

Travel Summary:
Number of flights: 7 (3 for Meagan and Walter)
Number of airlines: 5
Number of lost bags: 3
Number of lst people: 0!
Total number of hours in transit: 37 1/2
Adventure?: Priceless!

Posted by: The team (typed diligently and patiently by Kate)

We did try to upload more pictures, but the internet speed is waaaay too slow tonight. We will try to add them later.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Preparing to depart

We did experiment with some creative packing strategies for the heavier items. Do you think that she would be able to get through security like this?

Vacuum-sealing the blankets we are taking for the children at the school.

Unfortunately, two of our team members who have been preparing with us since last September will be unable to travel with us to Zambia. We will miss them, and will be thinking of them when we are there. We are, however, happy to welcome Walter, who decided a week ago that he would like to travel with us and he was able to get a last-minute ticket.

So we are down to the final few days until we depart. Early next Sunday morning, we will leave from here, and late next Monday night, we will arrive in Zambia!

Posted by: Kate.

Friday, June 18, 2010


Welcome to the blog of the Zambia 2010 Workteam! We are now just over two weeks away from departure, and are busy sorting out the last minute details.

So who are we?
We are an intergenerational, interdenominational, group of 12 people from the city of Thunder Bay who feel called to travel to Zambia to help the people of Lifesong School in the town of Kitwe. We come from a variety of backgrounds - students, teachers, people working in healthcare, and grandparents. In fact, we even have 2 high school students who will be traveling with their grandparents to Zambia as a part of our group! This project is co-sponsored by Nu-Vision Ministry Canada and Knox Shuniah United Church.

What will we be doing in Zambia?
One of the projects on the wish-list of Lifesong School is a playground for the children to use, and so we have been fundraising for the past year in order to be able to buy the necessary parts and then hire labourers in Zambia to build this equipment. Our fundraising has been extremely successful, and has included a Breakfast Fundraiser with guest speaker Dale Shippam; a balcony fundraiser in partnership with the Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestra; an African Dinner with guest speaker Omega Bula, the Executive Minister for Justice, Global, and Ecumenical Relations with the United Church of Canada; and a grant from the United Church of Canada.
In addition to the playground equipment, we also have several teachers and retired teachers in our group who will be doing some training sessions with the Zambian teachers; as well as two Dental Assistants who will work with a Zambian Dentist to check the teeth of all students at the school.

What is Lifesong School?
Lifesong School is located in Kitwe, Zambia, and it cares for 230 orphans and other vulnerable children. With 20% of the population of Zambia being HIV Positive, the need is great. It is estimated that 50% of the population is under the age of 15, that there are over 1,000,000 orphans in the country, and that only 10% of children are able to attend school regularly. The children who attend Lifesong School are receiving an education, as well as 2 meals per day.

So we are very excited at this point in time, and maybe a little bit nervous about the experiences that we are going to have on the other side of the world; and we look forward to keeping you updated as we go along!

Posted by: Kate.