During my cycle across Africa, I’ve been lucky enough to meet other cyclists undertaking extraordinary adventures. Whilst my path & volunteer work covers just Africa, others encompass additional continents and in the case of Matthew Blake, the entire globe.
I met Matt in Kampala (capital of Uganda), at which point he was half way through his final [non-European] continent, Africa. His tour would eventually travel an unbelievable 74,320km around the World ending on April 7th this year in Banbury, UK.
Matt was cycling on behalf of SOS Children’s Villages, raising money for the construction of a new Village in Chipata, Zambia. During my time in Lilongwe, Malawi’s capital, I sent out a message explaining that I was looking for a worthwhile project whilst being stationed there awaiting replacement parts for my Rohloff Gear Hub.
Matt replied, putting me in contact with Clare and the team at the Children’s Village in Chipata, just over the border in neighbouring Zambia.
Once Habesha (my bike) had grown new gears, I cycled the short distance to Chipata where I was given a warm welcome by Clare, Rosalia & Patricia. Clare, the Village director, kindly took me on a tour of the site which has been under construction since October 2010 (it’s due to finish in July 2012 – much like my African Cycle tour).
Complete with 13 Family homes, each house will play sanctuary to a maximum of 12 Children (4 at time of Village opening). Each home is complete with a Mother & Father figure, whilst for staff four additional homes have been established – each evenly split and distributed throughout the Village to ensure an even (yet natural) distribution.
SOS are keen to make the Village a natural setting. Rather than a uniform design for each house, there are three different internal layouts, each marked by roofing colour – blue, red and green.
Each house has the same welcoming internal space & components, just with a different, well thought-out design & layout. Mains electricity connects each house, as does solar heated water with charcoal backup for cooking when the power is unavailable. Unlike other countries I’ve visited, power is fairly reliable in Zambia with evening candle-time not as common as I’ve experienced in other cities of relative size.
As with any “normal” village, education & nursery is critical for the development of the children; here that’s no exception. SOS typically constructs their own school within the Village boundary, but this Village has partnered with a neighbouring government-run school enabling the children to integrate into the wider community a little easier.
This approach also prevents rivalries between neighbouring children whilst being cost effective. For the existing school, SOS have built additional classrooms, modernised the ablution facilities (flushing latrines) whilst installing an electrical water pump. The agreement being the government will cover the additional teacher resources.
The School lies just 100 meters from the Village and is connected by the enormous sports field being landscaped for the kids. The School will cater for children aged 5 and above; for the younger children (0 –5) a Kindergarten (Nursery) has been built within the SOS Village to ensure the kids get the care they need to develop up to infant/primary level.
The Village also contains a Medical Clinic (also open to the local community) and a two bedroomed Guest House for visitors/volunteers. Central to the Village is a large, open Recreational Centre.
SOS is a huge international organisation currently operating in over 130 countries; the Chipata Village will be their fourth in Zambia. It doesn’t take long to see why they’ve become so successful (for want of a better word); with such attention to detail and forward planning for the care of the children, they inspire many others to help.
At time of writing, Matt has already raised £12,620.39 for SOS, a life changing amount for many children and one which is hugely appreciate by SOS. My role during my brief visit was to assist Matt with up-to-date photos, but as I toured the grounds and talked with Clare and the team, I too wondered how, potentially, myself & Better Life Cycle could assist.
Then, Clare mentioned these magic words: “We’re keen to put an IT Centre in here, though we’re not quite sure how that will work at the moment”. Perfect.
Following on from the success of the IT Centre at Naivasha Children’s Shelter in Kenya, I was keen to undertake a similar project. In just a day, Zambia had impacted me with its friendly people and I’d been so impressed & inspired by the SOS team, I really wanted to help.
As I have stressed to all the projects I been fortunate enough to visit, my work and volunteering capacity will not end when I leave, rather they’ll be projects I hope to support longer term in varying capacities. Whilst I’m not able to undertake the IT Centre Project during my cycle, I hope to return to Zambia after the Village is completed and do what I & Better Life Cycle can do to help. It’s a very exciting project for the future; and win-win for all involved.
My cycle now continues towards Lusaka (Zambia’s Capital), but in the meanwhile huge congratulations to Matthew Blake on his life-changing 74,320km round-the world adventure, with the very best of supportive wishes for the inspiring team at SOS in Chipata, Zambia.
We wish the staff and children every success for the future.
To be continued...
Note: This Blog Post at time of writing is out of sync. Due to having my previous laptop stolen in Dar es Salaam (Tanzania) I’m missing posts which will be uploaded over the coming weeks. I was keen to get this post online to coincide with Matt’s return to the UK hence why it’s skipped the queue!