My name is Claire Steen; my husband and I came to Zambia in April 2006 for 6 months. My husband wrote a development policy for the Anglican Diocese of Lusaka; he spent his time visiting projects and meeting Priests to discuss development. At first I had no work to do. The Bishop took me to Makeni Ecumenical Centre and introduced me to Mrs Dil.
My first impressions of the centre were very positive and these feelings never went away. The centre is doing so much positive work for the local community from education to health care. I was amazed at the work and enthusiasm that the Dils had put into the centre for so many years. They started from a plot of land with one house on and from that developed an orphanage, health centre and education facilities. I could really see God at work in the centre and with all of its staff.
I really enjoyed working at the orphanage. I went there for two days a week to hear readers and do craft work with the children. I tried my best to help with reading and practised words with the children and helped them with their homework. I hope they will continue studying now I have gone! The children really enjoyed craft work; we did colouring, painting, collages, bracelets and made play dough. I also enjoyed talking to the children and learning about their culture. I was very shocked the first time I saw them bring home live chickens from the market. They killed them, plucked them and gutted them ready for eating. The children were very happy to do this and sang as they worked. I helped other children to sort beans and chop vegetables, most of the children enjoyed helping with all the chores.
Mrs Passmore was a lovely carer and even looked after me. She told me stories of how children came to the orphanage traumatised and refusing to eat. I did not see any evidence of that, I saw many happy children who reguarded the orphanage as their home. I can only think this is down to the wonderful caregivers. I wish Christine, the new live in carer all the best in her job; I know the children love her already.
My last day at Makeni was very emotional. I came to the orphanage feeling very sad to be leaving and thinking that no-one would notice me go. I spent most of the day holding back tears. I was then called to the dining hall; where a cake had been made for me and all the children were lined up ready to sing songs. It was great to say a special goodbye to the children, even if I was in tears the whole time!
Now I am back in England catching up with old friends and getting settled back into work. I have shown everyone my pictures of the orphanage; I will never forget them. I wish all the staff and children well in the future and would love to keep in touch, maybe one day I will come back and visit.