Inverness County Cares

Partners in Development

July 2020

The Kawambwa school in Northern Zambia is situated in an area of Africa with distinct wet and dry seasons. During the wet season crops grow abundantly and in the dry season crops are planted and irrigated, producing three crops a year.

Inverness county Cares visitors to the Kawambwa School — Betty Jane Cameron, Charlotte Rankin and John MacInnis — were impressed by the school gardens which cover 5000 square meters of fertile loam soil. These gardens are part of an ambitious sustainability plan. They ensure the school always has ample high-quality food for staff and students. The gardens are also a source of revenue and produce is sold in local markets.

The gardens are tended by staff member Mr Victor Nkandu, school gardener John Mpundu, as well as students, including those who are visually impaired. Despite the fact many have limited vision they maneuver nimbly among the plants as they work in the garden.  Betty Jane remarked, “The children are industrious workers and help cultivating and carrying pails to water the plants when needed”.

The soil is enriched by applications of compost and fertilizers. The cultivation and tilling of the garden are carried out totally by hand without any mechanical tools or livestock involved. People of all ages toil daily at this very strenuous and arduous type of work. Charlotte Rankin noted, “Every morning, a work force of men and women set out carrying their large, heavy grub hoes to work in the fields of maize (very tall white corn). The gardens are enclosed by skillfully woven bamboo poles which keep out human and animal poachers”.

John MacInnis stated, “The wide variety of vegetables grown make for a colourful looking garden as well as allowing for diversity in the students’ daily meals”. The main school garden crops include maize, cassava (tapioca), cabbage, rape, Chinese cabbage, carrots, eggplant, green peppers, pumpkin, peanuts and tomatoes. ‘Greens’ are an important part of the Zambian diet. Young leaves of the pumpkins, rape leaves (part of cabbage family but similar to swiss chard) and sweet potatoes leaves are used in many flavourful recipes.  These vegetables are usually cooked with tomato and onion, and sometimes in a groundnut (peanut) stew. In Nova Scotia our main starch food is potato. Nshima is the staple food of Zambia. It is basically a very thick porridge made from finely ground white corn (maize) meal. It is served in semi-solid form and eaten with the hands. The students also enjoy the bounty from lemon, mango and avocado trees and pineapples are also a special favourite.

In addition to the plant menu options Zambians enjoy a special treat… termites. They are harvested at a particular time of year and roasted crisp… a good source of protein and according to Betty Jane Cameron, John MacInnis and Charlotte Rankin, quite tasty too.

Inverness County Cares (ICC) always welcomes new members. Individuals who wish to donate can use the donate button on our website  https://invernesscountycares.com  or send a cheque to Inverness County Cares, Box 99, Judique, NS, B0E1P0. Tax receipts provided.

Groundnut (peanut) field with termite mound in the center background.
Watering one of the school gardens
Nshima corn porridge

June 2020

Inverness County Cares (ICC) members met many remarkable people at the Kawambwa School in Zambia. This month we have chosen Fancy, an albino teacher at the St Mary’s School. His autobiography gives a sense of the challenges of living as an albino in Sub-Saharan Africa.

 Many people in Africa still believe that giving birth to a child with albinism is a curse and that the child can only be used for sacrificial ritual purposes. Hence the parents will be blamed, condemned and isolated from the rest of the family and community which makes many parents of children with albinism neglect them.

I was a firstborn son in a family of five girls and the only child born with albinism. My birth in a northern province of Zambia, brought confusion and conflict to my family, for some members on both sides did not welcome me (because of my albinism) and later made my father and mother separate for some years.

I began my schooling but sadly due to my poor sight and how badly some of my peers treated me, my parents were forced to look for a school that would suit my condition. I moved to Saint Odilia Special School for the Visually Impaired (SOSS) in Mporokoso. I and my four younger sisters started living a difficult life as children of a single mother, whose only income at that time was selling tomatoes and vegetables at the market.

Grade 8, was a wonderful and memorable year, for I was adopted by Chalice (chalice.ca), it was a life changing experience and that same year my parents decided to live together and we celebrated the birth of our last-born sister.

I moved on to  Mporokosa Secondary School and completed my senior secondary education. I was accepted to study for a three-year teaching course of information and communication technology and visual impairment in special education, at Zambia Institute of Special Education in Lusaka. I am now in my third and final year of completing my course. Financially it has been difficult for me to pay college fees in full, but I have survived.

My education at SOSS, made me realize the importance of choosing a  career so that I can help my fellow brothers and sisters with visual impairment have equal opportunities. Eventually my dream of being a teacher did come true and I went for my first teaching experience at SOSS. Teaching learners with visual impairments is very satisfying and I am enjoying my work.                                                                                                                            I wish to thank everyone who has contributed positively to my life, despite all the negative attitudes towards children with albinism and visual impairment. My special thanks to you the reader of my story, thank you for taking your precious time to read this.

Betty Jane Cameron (ICC) adds, “The first time I saw Fancy was at a football/soccer game where he coached and ran effortlessly the length of the field. I had no idea he was visually impaired. Fancy talked about the difficulties of travel by bus and transferring or waiting in unfamiliar places; of walking on the streets and fearing someone would attack him, or taunt him as if he were worthless; and the ever-present anxiety, worrying every night that he may be attacked in his home and kidnapped or killed for body parts. He told us he has never felt safe except at SOSS. He wondered how albino folks were treated in Canada.

 ICC always welcomes new members. Individuals who wish to donate can use the donate button on our website  https://invernesscountycares.com  or send a cheque to Inverness County Cares, Box 99, Judique, NS, B0E1P0. Tax receipts provided.

 

Betty Jane Cameron and Fancy
This picture at the keyboard was on a day when all interested teachers could have lessons. 
, Lillian is -top left, Fancy- top center and Simion- bottom left.  Fancy could pick out tunes and taught BettyJane the Zambian National Anthem.
Fancy

May 2020

John MacInnis, Inverness County Cares (ICC) member reflects on his adventures in Zambia:

Our trip to Northern Zambia with the Chalice team was truly a trip of a lifetime! We received a warm welcome, in appreciation of the help provided by Chalice (Chalice.ca), who sponsor 420 children in the Kawambwa and Mporokoso communities. Our hosts were very hospitable and we were always safe and well looked after. 

We were honored to be invited into homes in the community where we experienced the realities of their daily routines. We saw 10 people living in a three-room home, with several generations sharing a very small space. Seventy percent of people live off the land and have very little money. It is a place where owning a bicycle is a distinct advantage.

The Chalice team moved on after five days and we settled into our schedule created by Sister Agnes at the St. Mary’s school. She is a very organized leader who laid out tasks for us each day. My first assignment was to work for two days with Joseph the braille transcriber. He began his work by scanning text books into a word program, then adding explanations of pictures, graphs, and visuals and lastly processing the word data through a braille printer to create a braille page. Joseph was also a talented operator of a braille six key typewriter.

Every student at the school is taught to read in braille, even if they have some vision, for many of the them experience deteriorating sight as they mature. The students read braille by running their fingers over the bumps as quickly as we can read with vision.

My next assignment was to paint one of the dorms. They are two large rooms each with a washroom and shower. One of the teachers, an assistant cook, and I were the painting team. ICC paid for the paint which was the best that could be obtained in the town, but was similar to our old white wash. We had to put three coats of paint on the walls and four coats on the window frames! It took us five days to complete one dorm building. Next we replaced about twenty windows, which were only about one third of the total broken. We also replaced damaged light fixtures and missing light bulbs. It is difficult for the children with poor vision to see in the dorms and classrooms, when the bulbs are missing or burnt out.

Trades persons or handymen are always appreciated at the two schools, as maintenance is always needed. Money for repairs never gets in the budget. When I asked Sister Marjory, the accountant, to put money in the budget on a regular basis for maintenance, her answer was “What do we do, fix the buildings… or feed the children?” Very hard to argue your point with that response!  

 ICC always welcomes new members. Individuals who wish to donate can use the donate button on our website  https://invernesscountycares.com  or send a cheque to Inverness County Cares, Box 99, Judique, NS, B0E1P0. Tax receipts provided.

 

This is a braille type writer.

John and his painting team
Children attending the St odilia School.

April 2020

Teachers in Nova Scotia have expectations as to a basic functioning classroom, sufficient supplies, text books, assistance for special needs and a spacious well-equipped room. The teachers at the St Mary and St Odilia schools in Zambia have much lower expectations. When Charlotte Rankin, Inverness County Cares member and retired  Inverness County teacher  visited St Mary and St Odilia schools in Zambia she encountered the blunt reality of a school system that is bare bones. However, she also saw a school with students eager to learn and a group of committed and hard-working teachers, the majority of both groups being blind, albino or visually impaired.

The classes in the Kawambwa Project schools are held in sparse (but clean) brick buildings with polished cement floors. Teaching aids are almost non-existent and consist mainly of a Braille slate which the children use to manually and painstakingly take notes on their lectures. Children have a stylus and must work on the reverse side of the paper to punch the correct combination of 6 holes  going right to left, to represent the braille letters.

In most classes they rely mainly on rote learning where students listen and repeat what the teacher is reading from the text book. Since most of the teachers are visually impaired or blind the text books need to be transcribed into Braille for the teacher. Charlotte tells us that one of her tasks was to read the written text to the teacher who transcribed the lessons into Braille.

The classrooms are very bare without any of the basic tactile learning manipulatives used in Canadian classrooms. We are well aware of the varied learning styles of students but because of the scarcity of all teaching supplies and aids the children rely mostly on auditory learning and their skill at memorizing the lectures.

Charlotte mentions one blind teacher in particular, Mr Chembe who is a Grade 7 teacher with a class of 14 students and 3 text books/readers. Charlotte helped in his class by reading  stories in his English class. Mr Chembe would lead a discussion on the story and when several students answered in unison, he was remarkably, able to recognize the voice of each individual student. Despite his inability to visually view his students, Chembe had a wonderful rapport with them. That says a lot!!

The school has a library but it is very under supplied. It has few English books or transcribed braille books, to encourage the students to research or acquire a love of reading. Books are not leveled and students just have their memories or scant notes to help them study for their exams.

There is WIFI available in the school office but it is very slow and this along with the high cost, limits its use. If faster internet and enough computers and tech support were available this could provide the school with many resources to enhance the learning of Braille and provide audio curriculum. The school operates with this bare minimum of supplies and staff not out of choice but by necessity. The school atmosphere is respectful and positive and much that is good is happening in the lives of these vulnerable students.

ICC welcomes new members to our monthly meetings. Those  wishing to donate can use the donate button on our website  https://invernesscountycares.com  or send a cheque to Inverness County Cares, Box 99, Judique, NS, B0E1P0. Tax receipts provided.

Charlotte Rankin teaching a class in Zambia.
The school library.
Students using the manual braille frames, to create braille notes for their lessons.

March 2020, ICC Report

Three Inverness County Cares (ICC) members and the Chalice (chalice.ca) African team began their journey to two of the Chalice/ICC sponsored schools in Zambia. They departed Wednesday January 15th , 2020 at 5:00 AM and reached the first school on the following Saturday. To reach their initial destination in Lusaka the capital of Zambia they took a total of five flights. On reaching Lusaka they met with the regional African Chalice audit team, then took a small twenty- seater Mahogany Airlines two-hour flight to Mansa and from there took ground transportation for 3.5 hours to Kawambwa. To reach the second school they had to maneuver past herds of goats and crowds of people as they detoured by impassable roads to reach their destination 6.5 hours later. Note: ICC members who visited Zambia, personally covered all their own travel and personal expenses.

John, Charlotte and Betty Jane were warmly welcomed by the students and staff at the Kawambwa site. The 17 staff are a remarkable group of teachers, two are albino, two are totally blind, two are sighted and the rest of the teachers are visually impaired. 

The students range from 4 years old to Grade 9. They are housed in dormitories where they are loved and protected by house parents in each building. The dorms are very basic with few of the amenities expected in our world.  Simple hygiene supplies we take for granted such as water, tooth brushes, toilet paper, soap, footwear and suitable clothing are luxuries.

The primary priority for all students is care and concern for each other, mobility in their environment and a knowledge of Braille.

Although John, Betty Jane and Charlotte noted a sense of a security and happiness in the schools they came to understand that the children and adults are all vulnerable in the wider community and face ongoing challenges. They spoke personally to a teacher who recounted his constant fear of abduction and the lack of safety in in his own home, (outside the school compound) especially at night.

Sr. Agnes, Head of the St Mary’s Special School for the Visually Impaired, Kawambwa, was delighted to receive the instruments purchased with the over $2000 donated by Inverness County friends. The school bought 4 guitars, 2 violins, 1 keyboard, 10 recorders, 1 drum and 2 sets of spoons, plus cases, strings, a tuner and adapters. Children of all ages and about 12 teachers all had the opportunity to learn the basics and 2 music teachers are confident in carrying on the program. Betty Jane compiled large print books (because of visual impairment) and huge, colourful posters to support the music program. Thanks to so many who contributed and who supported us with prayers and good wishes.

ICC welcomes new members to our monthly meeting where members exchange ideas, become informed on current developments and continue to work toward fundraising goals for the year.

Individuals who wish to donate can use the donate button on our website  https://invernesscountycares.com  or send a cheque to Inverness County Cares, Box 99, Judique, NS, B0E1P0. Tax receipts provided.

For more information contact

John Gillies 902 787 3441

John MacInnis 902 787 2475

Colleen MacDonald MacLeod 902 787 2251.

 

13 grade 10 boys have begun studies in a large sighted secondary school far from Kawambwa. ICC members visited and gave them gifts from Canada.
The four little girls (Grade 1&2) were playing and wanted to have their picture together. 
Betty Jane with Staff and students of Kawambwa school as they receive new musical instruments provided by Inverness County friends.

February: Zambia Visit

January 16th, 2020, Inverness County Cares (ICC) members Betty Jane Cameron (Mabou), John McInnis (Judique) and Charlotte Rankin (Judique) began their journey to the Kawambwa Project Schools in Zambia. (ICC members all are traveling totally at their own personal expense.) They are traveling with MaryAnne McKinnon’s Chalice team  www.chalice.ca who are conducting their bi-yearly site financial audits and operational reviews of project locations in Africa. Our two schools in Zambia are populated mainly by albino children and children with vision issues.

Betty Jane: This experience is amazing. The people are delightful, the countryside is lush and vibrant, the food great. We have done a little work at St Mary’s School but we are mostly learning from them and becoming familiar with the process of braille printing and reading. We are learning of their interests and skills in music and the needs of the albino children. The children are eager budding musicians and busy with teaching guitars, the keyboard and flutes. The challenges of teaching albino and blind students has been brought home to us through authentic experiences. We can see how fortunate the schools are to have teachers who understand the challenges of the students.

Travel is challenging for all of us, as journeys to any destination are long and demanding. We are beset with delays and at one time experienced a broken transmission in our van just as we reached the hotel. We are a resilient team and having a great time. Home visits in the villages were awesome, and we met with a community development circle group who were learning and discussing new farming possibilities. Where ever we go we hear lots of singing.

John MacInnis: We really enjoyed being with MaryAnne McKinnon of Chalice and the Chalice team They open doors for us that would not be possible if we were independent tourists.

We are very grateful to MaryAnne for the privilege of being on such a trip! We are enjoying the Kawambwa and Mporokoso sites and Betty Jane had her first full day teaching music and is loving it. Charlotte is working with a grade six teacher. I’m painting one of the dorm rooms and on the fourth coat of paint with just the windows left. I have made a list of needed repairs at the school and we have purchased a lot of light bulbs that will be installed in the classrooms before we leave if time permits. 

 It is amazing to see so many visually impaired children; we marvel at how they support each other and their navigational skills around the school. Everyone is so nice to us and the kids are so smart. Enjoying ourselves.

Charlotte Rankin: I’ve visited most of the classes and although their curriculum is much different than our Nova Scotia program, there are many marvelous things going on.
Most of the teachers have either low vision or none at all. It’s very interesting to see them operating in the classroom, greeting the children as they come in and calling on the children by name. The children will write their answers in braille, then the teacher will read it and correct it. Since many of the text books are not available in braille, I was asked yesterday to read a grade 4 math lesson for a teacher as she took notes in braille which she will later use! There are very few discipline problems, since they are very happy to be here!

Individuals who wish to donate can use the donate button on our website https://invernesscountycares.com  or send a cheque to Inverness County Cares, Box 99, Judique, NS, B0E1P0. Tax receipts provided. For more information contact ICC members John Gillies 902 787 3441, John MacInnis 902 787 2475 or Colleen MacDonald MacLeod 902 787 2251.

Below is a link to an interview with CBC’s Peter Mansbridge and Canadian Peter Ash of Under the Same Sun, a Canadian organization which helps albinos in Tanzania.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NibB68sIZGY

 

Charlotte Rankin, Inverness County Cares member, working with student.
John MacInnis chatting with 99 year old lady
Students school for visually impaired

January 2020

Inverness County Cares (ICC) is a local charitable organization, founded in 2012 and based in Inverness County, NS, with a mandate to assist children who are in desperate need.  Their current project involves supporting two schools for albino and visually impaired students in Northern Zambia.

These children face many life challenges. They are constantly in fear for their lives because their bodies and body parts can be sold to witchdoctors for very large amounts of money. Because of the hopeless poverty in this country many people are desperate enough to resort to murder to earn money in the marketing of albino body parts. In addition to these dangers they are often shunned by their families and the entire village because of witchcraft superstitions which lead people to believe that albinos are ghosts or enchanted. Paternity is often questioned especially in a community of colour, since they appear to be of a different race.

Albinism brings health problems that make life very difficult. Because of the lack of melanin, their eyes are very sensitive to light, they have poor depth perception, lazy eye (strabismus) and often are legally or completely blind. People with albinism have skin that is very sensitive to the sun. Sunburn is the most serious complication because it can increase the risk of developing skin cancer. A 2011 article published in the journal Dermatologic Clinics states: “Within Tanzania, less than 2% of albino children were expected to reach 40 years of age.” In order to protect persons with albinism from the sun’s UV rays sunglasses, protective clothing, hats and sunscreen are required. Some individuals may also need prescription eyeglasses to correct vision problems. Sunscreen is too expensive for many in sub Saharan Africa, forcing persons with albinism to stay in the shade or risk developing skin cancer. Albinism is a very misunderstood condition. There is a great need for education to de-stigmatize the condition, mitigate sun damage and correct public misconceptions.

With this appalling combination of circumstances most persons with albinism avoid leaving their homes during the day and fear being abducted if they venture out at night. Taking into account all of these challenges, persons with albinism are forced to live a very isolated life. 

Individuals who wish to donate can use the donate button on our website https://invernesscountycares.com  or send a cheque to Inverness County Cares, Box 99, Judique, NS, B0E1P0. Tax receipts provided. For more information contact ICC members John Gillies 902 787 3441, John MacInnis 902 787 2475 or Colleen MacDonald MacLeod 902 787 2251.

December

Inverness County Cares (ICC), founded in 2012, is a charitable organization, based in Inverness County, NS. Our mission is to provide for the needs of children in desperate need. Our current project is to assist two schools in Zambia where children with albinism (albino) are provided with food, shelter and an education.

In 2015 Inverness County Cares recognized there was a need for a global partner to provide assistance with accounting, taxation receipts, auditing and onsite supervision of projects. A decision was made to work cooperatively with Chalice Canada, a Nova Scotia charity based in Bedford, NS. Chalice is a Catholic international aid organization focused on child, family, and community development. Children and elders are selected for their sponsorship program based on need and family circumstances, regardless of race, age, ability, gender, or religion.
Chalice has 57 sponsor sites, spanning across 15 developing countries. In October 2019 Chalice was chosen by McLean’s Magazine as the top Canadian International charity for 2019.

This year ICC is currently working toward a fundraising goal of $30,000, to provide the schools with:

  • School programming resources: large print books, optical aids, audio-books, laptops, school supplies, etc.
  • Medical needs: payment for medical examinations, medications, sunscreen, sun hats and sun glasses, long sleeve cotton clothes etc.
  • General support for the needs of the schools. 

 

During this Christmas season consider giving someone on your list, a gift which will bring joy to the lives of albino children and embody the true meaning of Christmas. Individuals who wish to donate can use the donate button on our website https://invernesscountycares.com

or send a cheque to Inverness County Cares, Box 99, Judique, NS, B0E1P0. Tax receipts provided.

For more information contact ICC members John Gillies 902 787 3441, John MacInnis 902 787 2475 or Colleen MacDonald MacLeod 902 787 2251

 

This YouTube video gives a very realistic view of the challenges faced by persons with albinism in sub-Saharan Africa. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BiriyOxuKg0 

“Attacks on people with albinism are particularly prevalent in sub-Saharan Africa due to superstitious myths surrounding their nature. Albinos in these regions are often shunned by their communities, and viewed as non-human spirits or ghosts. Some believe that minerals within albino body parts bring wealth and luck. Many albinos, including infants and children, are killed or dismembered for these parts.” -(insideover.com)

 

Refundable Beverage Container Fundraiser

Inverness County Cares (ICC) a local volunteer society was formed in 2012. Since then ICC has worked to support children in the third world by providing food, shelter and education.

Initially after our previous Kenyan project was completed in 2018, ICC cooperated with ‘Wishing Wells’, a community organization in St Andrews, Antigonish County, to provide a Ugandan village with a water collection system.  (Story details later)

Our current project is to provide food, shelter and an education to children in the St. Odilia

 and St Mary schools in Zambia. These schools are refuges for children with albinism (albino) and visual impairment. People with albinism in Zambia live in fear for their lives because of the high value placed on their body parts by witch doctors. This leads to abduction, dismemberment and death at the hands of believers in witchcraft. The schools are one of the very few places where people with albinism can live without fear.

One of our most successful fundraisers is the collection of refundable beverage containers. Collection depots are located in a cube truck box parked by Ted and Hermina Van Zutphen’s lane at the Corner in Port Hood and a similar truck parked in the Freshmart parking lot in Mabou.  We sincerely appreciate the generosity of Ted and Hermina Van Zutphen, and Wayne and Karen Beaton at the Mabou Freshmart for providing the parking spaces for the trucks.

Thank you to the generous local people who drop off their refundable beverage containers at the trucks. The bags are arranged and stacked by Ted Van Zutphen in Port Hood and Raymond DeBont in Mabou, a task much appreciated by ICC. When the trucks are full, the beverage containers are sold to the local recycle depot.  

The proceeds from the present load will be donated to our local Knights of Columbus Food Banks in Mabou and Port Hood, to help during the Christmas season. The rest of the year the proceeds go to support the current ICC projects.

Guide to beverage container collection

  • Drink boxes plastic, glass or tin juice containers 
  • Soft drink containers 
  • Alcoholic beverage containers
  • Water and flavoured water containers 
  • Any other sealed drink container except milk and milk products 
  • Please remove the caps

Zambian Schools for Visually Impaired Children

Inverness County Cares (ICC), a local charitable society was formed in 2012 with the goal of providing for underprivileged children in the Third World. In their most recent project, ICC will continue to work with Chalice, an aid organization based in Bedford, Nova Scotia. (www.chalice.ca) This current project will provide support to the Kawambwa group of two schools, which are located in the Northern part of Zambia. The first school Saint Mary’s, located in Kawambwa, was opened in 1961 by Dutch sisters and partnered with Chalice in 1997. The second school Saint Odilia, located in Mporokoso, is 200 km away from the Saint Mary’s school. This school opened in 1962 and partnered with Chalice in 2012. These schools cater to a large number of children who are born with Albinism. In addition to this, many of the children have physical handicaps, HIV positive status, hearing disabilities, epilepsy, hydrocephalus and high rates of visual impairment.

The schools are home to a large number of children, often with parents living in distant communities of rural Zambia, Southern Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo. These children who have found refuge in the Kawambwa schools, are sent to the schools for protection from the dangers faced by persons with Albinism. They are in grave danger of kidnaping, mutilation and death from individuals who use the body parts of persons with Albinism for witchcraft rituals and other sorcery practices. This is common in parts of Zambia, Tanzania and some parts of the Congo and is one of the reasons many children escape their villages to find safety at the Kawambwa schools.  They cross dangerous rivers and walk through dense tropical forests to access the school’s protection. Sadly, many are lost on the journey, but those who succeed are finally in a place where they are protected and valued. The numbers grow every year because the persecution doesn’t end and is not likely to stop soon. The schools now have 420 children who are sponsored by Chalice.

For more information please contact ICC members at 902-782-3441, 902-787-2251 or 902-787-2475

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