ZamZimBot 2017

By Sarah Bramble

After successful visits to Lubasi Home in 2013 and 2015 a team of 15 new adventurers, led by Mrs Bramble and Mrs Whitehead, set off from St Mary’s on Friday 30th June for a 16-day journey centred on getting to know the children of the Home and the challenges and opportunities of life in Zambia today. After 18 months of fundraising we took nearly £7,000 in cash with us, much of it to be spent on a refurbishment and rebuilding project at Lubasi Home. The Catholic orphanage is home to around 50 children between 2-18 years old. We also took with us letters, photos and cards from current pupils and past St Mary’s visitors to Livingstone; we knew we’d be received by loving and kind children and ‘aunties and uncles’ who run the home, who were excited about our visit and keen for us to spend time with them.

Mrs Bramble had put together an action-packed schedule to show the current 6 UVI, 2 LVI and 2 UV girls, Mrs Dixon, Fr Andrew and Mr Bramble the highlights of an ‘off the beaten track’ experience of southern Africa. During this autumn term the 10 students will be presenting an assembly and an evening slide show talk to explain their ZamZimBot experience – further details will go out in an Eshot newsletter.

In previous years the groups have undertaken a physical practical building or renovation project. The request from Lubasi Home this year was too big an undertaking so Mrs Bramble enlisted Fred and his team of builders to knock down walls of the kitchen and dining room, build a new outside kitchen and renovate the outside laundry. Our funds paid for all this in addition to new kitchen accessories, redecoration, new curtains, tables and chairs to seat 50 people in the multi-purpose dining room. This project is near completion and once Mrs Bramble has the final photos she will prepare a ‘before and after’ report.

Though the key focus is to spend as much time with the children at Lubasi Home, including the unique opportunity to walk to and spend the day in classes with them at school (some St Mary’s girls walked nearly an hour to school with an 8.30am start in the chilly Zambian winter!) the other ingredients of the visit provide a memorable insight. The first Sunday we attended children’s mass at St Theresa’s Cathedral, across the road from our ‘home’ of Fawlty Towers, where a guest children’s choir was the highlight of a lively mass. This was in complete contrast to the following Sunday when Fr Andrew led a beautiful service in our Chobe safari camp; Cressida and Caro read to the accompaniment of reverberating lion calls and our Botswana guides also joined us.

Some thoughts from two of the students, Megan and Mary: “A 6.30am start on Tue 4th (a public holiday in Zambia), we set off on an Elephant safari, and wondered at the awesome majesty of such beautiful animals and the wild plains from great heights. On the evening of Mon 10th, we watched the Moonbow (a unique lunar rainbow formed by the scattering of light when it hits the spray of the droplets) on the Zambian side of the Victoria Falls with some of the girls from Lubasi Home. They had never visited the Falls at night, were mystified to witness this phenomenon but were equally excited to be out in the dark and take home their special souvenir ticket – our treat (we hosted our four trusty taxi drivers for this trip too!).” Visits to the curio and Maramba markets, choosing chitenga fabrics from a shop filled to the rafters with bright local material, wandering through the local Livingstone Museum and seeing David Livingstone’s own handwritten letters were also on the itinerary. A cycle tour with the ‘Cowboy team’ around Livingstone townships offered insight into the daily life of the people who live in the area, and we had the opportunity to meet many of the village children, who were very excited to meet us!” Away from the bustle of Livingstone we dressed in our finest outfits, enjoyed ‘high tea’ at the five-star Royal Livingstone Hotel, fed the giraffes and zebra in the compound with the local gamekeeper and drank mocktails whilst watching the sun set over the Zambezi River.

Another ‘first’ for 2017 was the opportunity to walk across the famous arched Victoria Falls Bridge spanning the Zambezi river and spend the day in Zimbabwe. Vic Falls is geared towards tourism and was a complete contrast to life in Livingstone ‘city’. After getting completely soaked by spray from the Zimbabwe viewing area of the ‘smoke that thunders’ waterfall, we dried out walking back across the border and bridge home towards Zambia, where our taxi drivers – Sembe, Charles, Ishmael & Roy – awaited our return.

Despite persistent requests from some of the group no one bungeed off the bridge, though we did watch some tourists zip wiring. Those who venture back to Zambia can add this activity to their next trip.

Through Mrs Bramble’s time volunteer-teaching on the British Bookbus project in Livingstone she got to know Kelly Geoghegan, who is now coordinating a ten year project to build a new school in the village of Siandunda, further up the Zambezi river from the Falls. The project has been funded by Waterberry Lodge where our journey began. Once we had a guided tour of the luxury eco-lodge we got into boats and headed through the rapids of the ‘crocodile infested’ river! (This wasn’t on Mrs Bramble’s risk assessment!). Local guides Webby and Sheldrake gave us a tour of the village, culminating in time spent with some of the preschool children in their new classrooms.

Thank you to all those who supported the 2017 visit through generous donations of money, clothing, gifts etc. Aside from the building project we also took 50 sets of single sheets and pillow cases and 100 packets of ladies’ underwear for the ongoing sanitary pad project which is being coordinated through Kelly and Waterberry Lodge. Newby House will continue to raise money to fund future projects at Lubasi and Lushomo Homes in Livingstone and Grace Centre in Kazungula. Please attend the evening presentation to hear more about the 2017 visit and future plans.