Archive for March, 2010

Voluntary Service Overseas!
March 30, 2010

Since January, as well as preparing for the Book Bus venture in Zambia, I have been exploring further possibilities for educational work in developing countries.

Having applied for consideration by VSO  I was called down to their London headquarters for a day of  fun and games (the interview procedure). Actually it was very thorough, a combination of  a an in-depth 1:1 interview with a whole range of role play scenarios just like a headship interview actually!

Following my acceptance I have been engaged in ongoing online training and  took part in an intensive  three-day residential course in Birmingham – lots more role play!  However we did get let out for good behaviour on the sunday night and having gate crashed the quiz night at the local pub, picked up first prize – a gallon of beer which of course we had to drink before leaving!

Over the last 3 weeks I’ve been considering the offer of a short term placement in Rwanda and today I’ve finally taken the plunge and accepted. All things being equal, I will be taking up the position of educational manager from September 4th and will be out there until just before Christmas.

The role involves supporting the development of the headteacher and staff in two rural schools. I will need to visit the schools daily and because of their remote location it will involve an exhilarating ride  along dirt tracks on the back of a motorbike taxi!

Accommodation, in the small township of Nyakarambi, will be basic, and this was the aspect that caused me to deliberate for so long. There will be no mains electricity or water and the height of luxury is a bucket shower (water delivered from the well by local boys on their bikes) and a pit latrine! However I have been in contact with three VSO  volunteers who have worked and lived in the same area, who have survived to tell the tale, and they have been very reassuring.

Rwanda, of course, has a devastating recent history but with a guilty international community pumping in lots of aid, has made great strides towards recovery over the last ten years. It is quite exciting to think I might, in some small way be part of that process.

VSO ask their volunteers to publicise the work they do and to try to raise £900 for the charity. Many friends and colleagues have already been very generous in supporting my Book Bus venture in Zambia but if you feel able to give a little more , not to fund me directly but to support the great work that VSO are involved in please visit: http://wwwjustgiving.com/Phil-Aldridge where you can find out more and perhaps make a small donation.      

 

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Why Zambia?
March 29, 2010

Although I’ve enjoyed visits to Egypt and Morocco this will be my first time in what I consider Africa  proper!

Tourism in Zambia is currently quite tiny, but developing. I’ve managed to pick up a few guide books though and I am busy gathering as much background information as possible!   

During my stay I do hope to enjoy some of the wonderful  sights and experiences that Zambia has to offer, however I will not be there primarily as  a tourist on this occasion  but as a volunteer charity worker.

So why Zambia?  Zambia  is a southern hemisphere country in the developing world.  It is known as the butterfly of Africa but that image does not fit some of the harsh realities facing its population.

The collapse of the economy in the mid-70’s, followed by a bout of political corruption has left  four out five people still living on less than $US1 a day.

Tragically AIDS/HIV has taken a tight grip on the population of Zambia. With one in seven loosing children losing one or both parents to the fatal infection this has now left just under half the population under 16 years of age. As a result many children have had to give up their chance of an education to run the family home or to find work to feed their brothers and sisters.

Coupled with an uphill financial struggle, communities are finding it hard to send their children to the government-run schools. School fees, uniforms and resources are all sadly out of financial reach for many children.

In response to this many communities set up their own schools, known as community schools. The Book Bus charity works with community schools as well as government schools .

Zambia is home to one of the Seven Wonders of the World, Victoria Falls, known in the local Kololo language as Mosi-oa-Tunya – ‘The Smoke that Thunders’.

The Book Bus is based in the frontier town of Livingstone just 10 Km from the falls.  In May the falls should be at their best so during my ‘down time’ I’m really looking forward to what I’m sure will be an awe-inspiring visit.

The borders of four countries converge near Victoria Falls (Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Zambia) .

Apparently Chobe National Park in Northern Botswana is close enough for a weekend safari . Although this will be quite expensive, such an opportunity to spot the ‘Big Five’ is one I would love to experience – so I’ve been saving up!

 

 And finally for today:

 10 things you did or didn’t know about Zambia !

  1. Zambia takes its name from the Zambezi which rises in the NW corner of the country and forms it southern border.
  2. Zambia is larger than you might think.  It is the size of France, the Netherlands, Belgium and Switzerland combined!
  3. Landlocked Zambia has eight neighbours, clockwise from the North : Congo, Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia and Angola.
  4. Zambia’s population is only 11.5 million (about the same as London).
  5. 72 dialects are spoken in Zambia but the official language is English!The Zambian currency is Kwacha (ZMK) with approximately 7000 to £1
  6. Zambia is one of the world’s poorest countries with a major national debt and a weak currency.  15% of its export earnings are through mining – mainly copper –  but 85%  of  its workforce are in agriculture.
  7. The magnificent Victoria Falls form the border with Zimbabwe.
  8. Lake Tanganyika extends into Zambia from neighbouring Tanzania and is the 2nd deepest natural lake in the World.
  9. Lake Kariba stretches along Zambia’s southern border. At 28okm long and 40km at its widest point it is the 2nd largest man-made lake in the world.
  10. Football is a national obsession. The national team are known as the Copper Migets. In 1993  the entire national team was wiped out in a fatal aircrash during the flight to a World Cup qualifying game.   

30 days to lift off!
March 28, 2010

In 30 days time I will be flying out to Zambia, via South Africa, to take up a month-long placement on  the Book Bus!

The Book Bus charity ( www.thebookbus.org ) provides a mobile children’s library and book distribution service for communities in need in Zambia. With the aid of volunteers , such as myself , the aim is to share with children the pleasure and value that books can bring and to inspire them to want to read. By using art, music and play to stimulate children’s imaginations, and encouraging them to associate books with enjoyment and creativity, hopefully the seeds of a life-long love of reading will be sown, that will benefit both the children and their communities.

Home for me during the month of May will be  Grubby’s Grotto on the outskirts of  Livingstone. I’ll be living under canvas, undertaking campsite  chores and travelling out to a different school each day.    

The Book Bus, a Leyland Tiger, was built-in the UK in 1980 and formerly in public service. In 2006, publisher and founder of the Booker Prize, Tom Maschler purchased the bus. The seats have been replaced with library shelves and storage space for books and resources. It has also been made ‘Africa-proof’ with the addition of rough terrain tyres and a tropical engine cooling system!

The most striking part of the refit, however, was the decoration of the bus by Quentin Blake, one of Britain’s best-loved children’s artists. Many of you will be familiar with his illustrations in Roald Dahl’s books.

Apparently Quentin has also designed a limited edition book bag which can currently be purchased from Waterstones, with proceeds to the Book Bus charity – so if you would like to help in some small way, why not  go out and buy one!

I have been very fortunate that this adventure I am about to embark upon has been made possible by the generous donations to my ‘retirement fund’, made by the children, parents and staff of Naunton Park Primary school in Cheltenham, when I left at Christmas.

The main reason I have set up this blog is to allow them, and anybody else who may be interested, to follow my exploits in Africa. I will be adding to it over the next 30 days to  let you know how my preparations are  going and more importantly to get into the blogging habit!

Once I arrive in Zambia, I understand there are internet cafes in Livingstone where I will try to make postings as and when time allows.

    

Hello world!
March 13, 2010

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