Sunday, March 28, 2010

Zambia Internet Cafés

Downloading on the porch at Kanjanji, on the roadside with the Prado, in the fallow field
with the motorcycle !

Finding a decent internet connection is always a challenge in Zambia and tends to be quite expensive. The Internet connections – and speed – are fairly good in the major centers so always okay when one can get to Lusaka – a 400km round trip though.

In the smaller cities and towns connectivity and speed are bad. Our closest city – Kabwe – has several Internet cafes but the bandwidth is jammed and so the speed is very slow. Definitely not worth the 100 km round trip unless you have other things to do – and some time to spare !

I did buy an Internet stick from Zain, one of the main cellular providers, and it works well for downloading and uploading e-mail but being pay-as-you-go it is far too pricey for any web browsing.

The challenge in our rural operating area is to find strong enough cell signal to connect and thus we ended up with some interesting localities for our own internet cafes – as seen in these photos !

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Sungula School

A meeting was held with the PTA to review things at the school. The new house that was built in 2008 by SPF is being lived in. They have also completed two new (pit) toilets for the students to replace the old ones which were falling into disrepair. For these they used funds raised by the community.

They were expecting us to come with funds for further development but we explained to them that we did not have any funding available due to the downturn in donations/fundraising. Also that our priority now is to get the water supply at the school sorted out as the lack of water was huge barrier to any further construction projects.

We also found that despite our previous requests to them the community has not been contribution to future construction projects by making the bricks that are required for building. So we advised that was another reason why we could not begin any further construction.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Micro Loan Fund

A full review was done of the existing funds in two areas of the community – the Kakulu Revolving Fund and the Chilunga Revolving Fund – with the trustees. A few anomalies and misunderstandings in managing the loans was sorted out and the trustees were pleased for that guidance. That being said the funds are both performing well and providing much needed support to the community for economic development. So far there have been no defaults and all the money is accounted for. This is very pleasing as several other organizations we have spoken to in Zambia have attempted micro loan funds and have failed

Much of the money was borrowed late in 2009 to buy seed and fertilizer for the new farming season so it is still outstanding. Milt and Gordon visited several fields belonging to people that had borrowed money for farming and saw that it has made a big difference to the quality of their crops, so that their yields will increase significantly.

We also visited a few people to see and hear about the businesses that they have started through having a loan. We were also asked to attend a meeting of several other loan beneficiaries to receive their letters of appreciation and hear some of them speak of their experience with the fund.

An additional 2.8 million Kwacha (US $ 600.00) was added to the fund bringing the total to 13 million Kwacha (US $ 2,800). With an average loan being 500,000 kwacha this means that 26 “loan units” are rotating on a 3-month cycle.

Sunday, March 21, 2010


Photos of three of the orphans

SPF Zambia Director, Justin Kalunga, manages the orphan support program and a full review was done with him of the 22 orphans that are currently on the program as well as the accounting records for the use of the funds that we provide for monthly support. With that money we ensure that they have school uniforms, school supplies and any school fees are paid so that they can attend school. They are given food each month and if they require medical treatment that is paid for if necessary.

Only one of the orphans has had to be removed due to poor performance and a replacement was chosen. Another of the orphans had left the community to stay with other relatives in Lusaka so he was replaced by his sister who is still living with their widowed grandmother.

We visited several of the group at their homes to see how they are doing and were happy that their relatives are taking good care of them. We met with four of the orphans from the Chilunga area of the community who had to come across the river as we could not get the vehicle through.

Several of the relatives asked for a group meeting which we held. During that meeting they expressed their gratitude for what we are doing to help their orphans. We also received two letters of appreciation.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Construction Method Improved

Above : a house constructed with interlocking bricks. Below : bricks made and waiting for construction

Through our new friends, Bob and Mary Sendgikoski of Every Orphans Hope, who very graciously hosted us in Lusaka whenever we needed a bed for a night or more, we learnt of a new construction method that Bob has perfected for buildings on the projects he does. This uses interlocking bricks which require no cement to hold together – they simply stack on top of each other – very much like lego ! This method reduces overall cost of materials by up to 40% over the traditional method of brick and mortar and is infinitely quicker too.

To make the bricks you need a machine with the form and he advised that we would have to put our names on a waiting list for such a machine because the demand is so high, and be prepared to spend US $ 1,500.00 on purchasing it. When we got to the farm and we describing this to Mike he told us that he had found such a machine when he bought his second farm and, not having any use for it himself, had assigned it to the scrap heap ! There we found it in perfect order except for a bit of oiling and greasing and he said that we could have it !

Bob has also offered to have our project supervisor, Tobias aka Mr Banda, come and work with him and his crew when they are next building (in late May and June) so that he can learn how to make the bricks and then use them for construction, and implement that method for SPF projects going forward.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Base of Operations

The owners of Kakulu Farms, Mike and Adriana Sandys-Thomas, who are now the only commercial farmers in the area very kindly hosted us in their home. Although they had agreed that we could continue to use the house previously owned by Simon’s uncle it was not in good enough state of repair to be used for accommodation at this time.

The Thomases expressed their appreciation for the work that SPF is doing to assist the Kakulu community which borders their farms and where they draw all of the labour for their operations.

They again confirmed their offer of ongoing assistance to SPF with : accommodation for SPF visitors to the project and many other general logistical needs we may have.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Zambia Visit – March/April 2010

In early March Gordon Poultney, Executive Director, and Milt Marchiel, an SPF Canada Director, flew to Zambia to visit the Isaiah Project – the Foundation’s community development project in Chibwelelo near Kapiri Mposhi.

Milt returned to Canada in early April and during April Elaine Duchesne, another long-time SPF supporter from Canada, visited the project for two weeks.

They all enjoyed re-connecting with many friends in the community as well as making excellent new contacts throughout Zambia.

The entries that follow will outline what transpired during that time.