Wednesday, 20 July 2011

On a sunny afternoon in Meheba

A report from Aurore and Julia - 2 french volunteers currently in Meheba.

After a full week of advertising, we’ve finally managed to set up and organize our afternoon English and French classes for adults. School C’s headmaster had very kindly agreed to lend us somes rooms for our classes. We now have four regular students, coming every afternoon, even though they are not as punctual as we would like (see “Being a refugee”).
Of course, we wish we had more students but due to the particular circumstances of a refugee camp, organising english classes has proven difficult. The main reason why people wouldn’t show up to our classes is that Meheba is a very large camp, meaning that the refugees would have to walk for around two hours to get there. This amount of time travelling is often not compatible with peoples work hours or familly obligations.
In a sense, it shows the dedication of our students; Fiston, for instance, has to walk 8km every day for a one or two hour lesson, while Prosper lives in block G, the furthest part of the camp. Cornestone, who is fluent in English and 5 other dialects, has come to us for French classes in order to communicate with the newly arrived Congolese, while w cxe have given our last student, Jean-Jacques, seven English lessons so far. He has improved exponentially in the last weeks considering that he started with no knowledge of the English language.

It is wonderfull to see their progress, from week to week and their willingness to learn a language that might help them to improve their futures.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Through the eyes of a volunteer

zaA volunteers story by Helen Davies.

I volunteered with the Book Bus in 2009. The project was in its early stages then but it is now in it’s 4th year running and Kelly, the leader is in her third year and has really helped the project to move forward, establishing lots of links within the community.

On a day to day basis you visit schools and occasionally orphanages. When there we would read books with the children and do activities around the books ie; if we read a book about a butterfly we might make butterflies, that kind of thing.

The project brings a lot of joy to the people of Livingstone. You will never get tired of seeing the smiling faces of the children, waving and shouting hello as you make the trip along the dirt tracks to school. It is the most wonderful feeling when you step off the bus on your first day and the children swarm you!!! I smiled so much, my face hurt!!! The children are so grateful for your attention and time. They are often jam packed into a classroom so receive very little one on one time from the teacher. Working with the Book Bus really helps the children to build their confidence, allows them to be creative and gives them access to books that are fun and engaging. I've done quite a bit of teaching and youth work over the years and from my experience, children learn much better when learning is 'fun'!

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Our 2 New Contrasting Schools

Written June 2011

So the 2011 season is well under way and we have already established some close links with the 2 new schools that have become part of our program this year.

Mondays now see us visit Libuyu community school. This is a school similar to that at Linda which used to be Mondays destination. It is in the heart of one of Livingstone’s busiest, nosiest and poorest suburbs. It’s close to a huge market and health centre and driving there you get a real sense of African everyday living. It has around 400 pupils from grades 1 to 7. The teaching takes place in one large hall (it used to be some kind of depo) There are some plywood partitions but you can just imagine the noise when there are 5 classes taking place at once.

The staff here are all volunteers, except the head, who is a paid government teacher. Mr Matenga is a quiet, smiling man who beams when he talks about his job. He is absolutely thrilled to have the Book Bus visit his school and he always comes walking around, hands clasped behind his back, seeing what we are doing, praising the students and offering encouragement. He is one of the most involved heads that I have met during my time in Africa. His staff also have an obvious and open respect for him.

Classes here are relatively big and we start our week off teaching an hour each of grade 4, 5, 6 and 7. Volunteer numbers have been relatively low for the past few weeks so we are getting experts at what works well when you have 20 kids on your mat!! (Top tip – avoid glitter (oh -and sequins!!) Quizzes have become very popular with the older groups. It ensures that they have to read through the book, because with so many you cant listen to them all read individually and they love working in teams and competing with their classes mates. Although there is an obvious rivalry they always conclude with a “clap for the winner!” Here in Zambia the pupils always help each other if someone is stuck and they rarely seem to make fun or laugh at the less able students.

The pupils also love having us and now they are used to this weekly ritual, even suggesting which topics they would like to do next week and regularly asking why we can’t come everyday! We teach outside in a small courtyard with fruit trees as shade, although chasing the shade still does occur. The soil is a deep shade of terracotta and we always climb aboard the bus exhausted and covered in red sand....who has the dirtiest feet is often a topic of conversation on the way home!! (another top tip – don’t wear white trousers!!!)

On Tuesday, in direct contrast, we visit Chileleko (Tonga for Blessings) Community School. We drive right through Libuyu and exit Livingstone and, although we are only a few kilometres from town, it feels like we are really out in the bush. It is so peaceful here. There is no electricity or water in the area (which is called Mapensi – most Livingstonians don’t even know where it is.) and people live mostly in traditional mud and thatch houses The school is situated right next to the Maramba river, which eventually flows into the Zambezi and we teach outside, behind the school, under trees with views of nothing but wilderness.

There are about 280 pupils here and they come from surrounding villages. The children here are the politest I have met during BookBus, this comes from the head teacher and founder of the school, Emmanuel. He and his brother, James, run the school which has 6 teachers, all of whom are volunteers. Emmanuel and James are both trained teachers but they have refused paid government posts because they want to continue working here. Emmanuel hopes that one day the position of head teacher of Chileleko will be recognised by the government and will attract some kind of salary (as is happening in more and more community schools). It is rare to see such sacrifice and dedication to a cause and when myself and other volunteers complimented him on the behaviour of his pupils, he smiled and said, “Hearing things like that makes all the hardships worthwhile.”

We teach grades 5, 6 and 7 and it really is a pleasure to be here. The pupils, the teachers and the setting all make for a relaxed morning. And just for your information the soil here is light brown and although you get dusty (especially with the wind that doesn’t seem to reach town blowing the dust around) it doesn’t generate the same type of feet related conversations on the way home as Monday!!

It is a great feeling to have found two such worthy schools to continue the Livingstone Book Bus in 2011. I’m sure you will be hearing more about them from me as the season continues.

2011 - The year of giant origami!

Written May 2011

So after a 3 week break in UK I find myself back in Livingstone, Zambia with 5 days to prepare for the 2011 Book Bus season. The truck is back from Malawi and after a good wash and a new alternator it’s almost ready to roll, there is only the mammoth task of unpacking all the books/supplies left from last season as well as the huge stack of boxes we picked up from a container in Malawi. When I open the truck I had forgotten how many boxes there were, no floor space to be seen and only me and the new, but very obliging, guard at the grotto, Chris to plough through them. Unpacking new supplies is always exciting and 3 days of starting at 6am to avoid the unseasonably oppressive heat were very well spent. We have also had some enormous thunderstorms and torrential downpours which are also rare for this time of year.

On Friday Edward, our driver, and I put up the new tents that had finally been released from customs in Lusaka airport and they were promptly christened with a thunderstorm that afternoon. I was expecting no rains once the volunteers arrived but that was not to be, we had rain over the arrival weekend, and I’m sure that I annoyed everyone with my constant, “it shouldn’t rain at this time of year” comments! It feels great to be back leading the Bookbus and introducing people to “Real Zambian life.” It has been nice going around the schools and telling them that the project is back on and seeing the positive reactions! Coming back to Livingstone really feels like coming home now and it is so friendly and welcoming, something which is even more evident after a few days in London!!

So week one of project we are visiting Lubasi home again! I was surprised to find a number of new children when I visited to arrange the program. I leant that they are Congolese children of people caught attempting cross the border illegally. The parents were detained in jail and the children were brought to Lubasi. They range in age from 2 to 9 and speak French, Swahili and other Congolese languages but they are all intelligent and quickly pick up some English and Nyanja – the Zambian language most commonly used! Unfortunately nobody seems to know what will happen to these children or their parents and after a few days one little girl is missing from class and the others tell us she has “gone back”.

We divide the children into 3 age groups and do an hour long session with each group! The children are so happy to see the truck again and each day they await us more eagerly! Our first group is a real mix of ages and experience but we get on fantastically and have great times together at school and in our free time! After a week you can see the attachement of the volunteers and the children in their small groups. We even visit on Saturday afternoon to play football and just “hang” out with the girls. They are delighted to see us even with the Book bus and it’s cargo of entrancing supplies.

Some of the funniest moments that I can ever remember happen in this week, including some amazing games of “the saucepan game” which have altered the images of Nelson Mandela and Spiderman irreparably in the minds of those involved, confused Captain Hook/Cook, introduced us to some bizarre Pianist that I still don’t remember the name of, made “Gollum” a one handed gesture and proved that nobody actually knew who Hans Zimmer actually was!! (this will only make sense to those who were actually there – sorry but I had to include it for historic value!!)

Origami has been the hit of the week at Lubasi, with penguins, flowers, birds, frogs and ball being made after reading books of these themes! Only when the kids decided that they wanted a lily did things get complicated, so one free session it took 3 of us “adults” to finally make a lily! But so impressed were we with our efforts that that night after dinner we got out the big sugar paper and had a “Giant” origami evening! I must say it has to be one of the most surreal nights in Book bus history and I think the other people on the campsite thought we were bonkers! But we are known as the “Librarians” by everyone thanks to Grubby, so I think we are known for doing “strange” things that wouldn’t usually be found on a campsite in the heart of Africa!!

Friday, 1 July 2011

Over 10,000 books for Malawi!

Whooosh!  Yippeeee!  Cabooom!

We did it!  We did it!  We did it!

Over 10,000 books are packed and are now beginning their journey to Malawi.

(10,118 books in total)

Many thanks to the recent donations from publishers Autumn Publishers, HarperCollins, Random House, Templar Publishers and Usborne Books for their very generous gifts.

Many thanks to staff and customers of Warwick Books and Kenilworth Books who have given generously throughout the appeal – I shall miss skipping over the Market Square to pick up boxes of books.

And many, many thanks to the children and staff of Coten End Primary School (Warwick), St Mary’s Immaculate School (Warwick), St Nicholas C of E School (Kenilworth) and St Pauls C of E School (Leamington) where the children gave their own books towards the appeal.  We look forward to visiting the schools in the autumn term to share the stories of where their books have gone.

A big thank you to all individuals and groups that have contributed… DHL and The Book Barn International (Hallatrow).

A very special thank you to one individual - I very nearly fainted when we received an unexpected donation which covered the entire costs of the shipment.  A miracle!

Next stop is Malawi.

Whooosh!  Yippeeee!  Cabooom!

Diane Maybey