Gordon and Julia Lowes

Our Visit to Makeni

By Julia and Gordon Lowes

From our initial contact with Makeni as far back as December 2004 we had watched their web site with great interest.

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With the help of our friends we raised some funds, part of which was donated directly to Makeni, part used to purchase equipment for the agricultural school and the balance spent on various projects (including outings for the children) during our stay. Ted Krickan, a volunteer from Canada, wrote a report on his stay at Makeni, which ended in December 2006, and we found reading about his experiences very helpful and reassuring.

The UK Premier League very kindly donated football kits for the children and these were a great hit, being worn with pride on many of our outings, and of course for matches. During our stay we managed to print iron on numbers for the football team.

Arrival at Makeni

On arrival at Lusaka International Airport, we were met by Wenda Dil and Mr Njovu (the Makeni driver). At Makeni Ecumenical Centre, we spent a few hours to settle into our house and freshen up and then Wenda took us around the Makeni site introducing us to many of the people who worked and or lived there and of course to the children. Without exception, we received a warm welcome from all and a special welcome from the children.

We were also introduced to Cindy Shotte, a volunteer from Holland who would be staying for another 5 weeks. Cindy was a great help as she knew her way around and how things worked at Makeni.

Remembering everyone’s names was really hard for us and this was not aided by the regular changes of hair styles at the orphanage. Although there were only 26 children staying at the orphanage whilst we were there, another 15 or so children live with their families on the Makeni site.

Gordon has helped our son, Michael, to manage a little league team in the UK for a few years, and also qualified as a referee. We think that the children were expecting a trainer of at least Alex Ferguson’s standard, but they hid their disappointment well and had some great football times together.

It was very interesting distributing the donated football kits which we had brought with us and we eventually managed to fit out all the children in shirt, shorts and socks which, more or less, fit.

Working at Makeni

Julia worked for 3 days a week with Dapheen, the nurse at the Family Planning Clinic. She enjoyed helping out and also got on really well with Dapheen and Tina.

Gordon spent time with the accounts department and wrote a simple computer program which should make the accounts production much quicker. He also became the assistant Makeni driver.

Outings with the Children

Our first major outing with the children was to Adventure City, a water-park, which had recently been built in the outskirts of Lusaka. The outing was organised and funded by Cindy Shotte, so we were just along for the ride! The water was very cold and at first the children were apprehensive about going in. However, Gordon took the plunge and they soon followed as did Julia and Cindy. A great time was then had by all with most of the children asking for swimming lessons.

We made two trips to Sandy’s Creation, a garden centre a few miles along the Kafue road; to the 10 pin-bowling alley at the Arcades shopping centre; as well as numerous visits to the Cinema at the Arcades shopping centre. As it was easier to take small groups, we ended up watching some films 2 or 3 times with different children.

Our last outing was to Kalimba Farm, a crocodile and reptile farm situated 15 Kilometres from the Great East Road, about half way to the Lusaka Airport. We wanted to take all the children so hired a coach for this outing. We took some sandwiches and bought some chips and drinks at the farm.

We managed to take the older girls to Lilayi Lodge, which is a fairly up-market game reserve not far from Makeni. As always the children were helpful and polite, so we should be welcome back.

We also went on various shopping trips including taking some of the boys from the football team in search of tougher footballs, which may not burst on their first encounter with the trees and bushes surrounding the Makeni pitch. And an outing for all of the St Nicholas children to buy football boots for the team and trainers for everyone else. That trip was a challenge and we were grateful to have Wenda Dil, Ambuya and Cindy along to help.

Equipment and Projects

It is important to note that the funds spent were those raised or donated by our friends, family, colleagues and other people. We would like to thank all of those who contributed both time and money (or in many cases both) to this venture.

Following discussions with Anton Dil prior to our trip, we purchased a data projector for use by the agricultural school and other departments, along with a camcorder, which can take either movie or still photographs for inclusion in presentations etc. It was good to see the projector in use during our stay for a presentation regarding HIV/AIDS awareness – what better use?

We had a computer built in the UK, which was brought out by our children when they visited for a week. We then had a lockable work centre fabricated in steel and fitted in the children’s common/dining/play room. This protects the computer from damage or theft whilst providing a good work-station for the children. We purchased an Acer laptop for the accounts department and a printer for the Computer studies classroom.

We funded the upgrading of the butchery room where the students are taught to process the animals and make sausages etc. The upgrade included the provision of 2 sinks with running water, a large concrete and tiled workstation in the centre of the room, large enough for 4 to 6 students to work at and cupboards with locks and shelving for storage. The work was finished shortly before we left Makeni and was a vast improvement. It allows the equipment installed by the Dutch butchery expert, Mr Lindhorst, to be operated more easily on a solid clean base.

The children have the (monitored) use of a television with a DVD and a video player. However their video/DVD collection was, shall we say, very tired. So, a couple of weeks before our children came to visit, we set our daughter Becky, the task of purchasing some films to update their library.

Our daughter Catherine works at Coxlease school in Hampshire and the children there had donated football cards and stickers as well as some footballs, which were gratefully received by the children.

Our son Michael bought shin pads for Makeni FC as we now refer to the football team

Time with the Children

As well as taking the children on trips we spent a lot of time with them. We baked cakes, made jewellery and face masks, attempted clay modelling, played ball games, card-games and dominoes, did colouring, painting and some writing practice.

When our children visited for a week they exchanged dance styles with the children, learned (with limited success) to play Zambian drum and to make Nshima.

During our stay we joined the children for several meals and sometimes they entertained us with song and dance.

We very much enjoyed our late afternoon walks with the children and were sometimes joined by Wenda Dil.

Out and About

On many occasions during our stay Gordon drove one of the pick-ups enabling more agricultural students to be taken on visits to the outreach villages at one time. This enabled us to see a great deal of the surrounding area and to meet many of the settlers. We visited the villages of Chisamba, Kalwelwe and Mwomboshi as well as joining the students in a visit to Chipembe, where we learned about alternative forms of irrigation and crop management.

We were always well received by the settlers and entertained with traditional Zambian food and drink. For any future volunteers visiting the villages we would just say that a few balloons and a couple of bottles of bubbles go a long way with the children.

We also took 2 days to travel to the Eastern Province and visit Michael. We have corresponded with Michael for many years as part of the World Vision sponsorship program and spending a few precious hours with him was very special indeed.

In Conclusion

We feel very privileged to have been able to visit Makeni and meet so many Zambian people. The children at St Nicholas Orphanage are a delight to spend time with and a credit to (Judy Passmore), who is Ambuya (grandmother) to them all.

We have to thank Judy, Wenda and especially, Christine Allen for their support during our stay. We had a very active 3 months and are fully aware that everything we did impacted on their already busy workloads.

We are sure that our visit to Makeni was the beginning of a life-long relationship. We are planning to return to Zambia often and catch up with all our very good friends.

With our Love,

Gordon and Julia

About Makeni Webmaster

I spent most of my youth in Makeni, growing up at the centre as it emerged from the bush, one building at a time. I now work in the UK as a lecturer in computer science.
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