Inverness County Cares

Partners in Development

New Bus for St Mary School

By Wyclef Kaunda, July 2021

Our struggle was real before the coming of the newly acquired bus transport. The school used to hire local transporters to drive pupils to school and back to their home villages. Many were the times when the school was disappointed by the local transporters who were not coming for the assigned task. I remember one time when I was a pupil at St. Mary’s Special School, we closed school and it was the time to be taken to our various destinations. As pupils we got up early around 4 AM to wait for the bus to transport us.  We waited and waited until 9 AM that’s when the bus came to pick us up.  It was really a frustrating experience for pupils who are so excited to go to our homes, only to be delayed by the transporter. Many are the times the local transport hired would breakdown along the way before reaching the destination. It was always a worry for the school authorities to make sure that learners reached their destination safely and on time.

As time went by and after long pleading with the government of the Republic of Zambia to help the school with the transport system, Chalice (an aid organization based in Bedford, Nova Scotia, Canada) stepped in and helped the school with the purchase of a small minibus which came as a relief to the school. Transportation remained a challenge despite the coming in of the small minibus because the seating capacity was limited to 15 pupils.  This made it necessary to make multiple trips when picking up students at their homes and on the trip back to school. The gravel roads in areas where the pupils come from, are not standard and the small minibus would fail to reach those areas because of its low undercarriage. Sr Bwalya continued to petition Chalice to help the school solve our transportation problems. In May 2021 Chalice and their partners Inverness County Cares, answered her plea and helped the school by purchasing the new Mitsubishi Rosa bus with 28 seater capacity. This larger load size enabled more children to be transported per trip reducing the number of trips needed.

I was the first person to behold the newly purchased bus and what my eyes saw was magical. I thought I was dreaming! I tried to pinch myself to see if I was dreaming, but nah it was reality or I can say is that it was a dream come true. I was more than happy and I captured the pictures and sent them to Sr. Bwalya telling her how delighted I was. I reached the bus and inquired on how it all come to pass that the school had a stable and reliable transport. They told me Chalice and Inverness County Cares had provided the bus.

When our Bishop, entered the school grounds driving the new bus, the entire school community come to a standstill unable to believe our good fortune.  There were many screams of joy as the pupils jumped up and down in gladness and some ended up crying tears of joy. This moment was of great jubilation and appreciation by both the members of staff, the pupil’s populace and the community at large. The Bishop sounded the horn all the way, as he drove the bus into our school compound. He was met by cheers, songs, tears and lively festive dancing. Pupils were taken on a celebratory first drive on the bus and were driven around the town waving excitedly with beaming smiles. Our whole community celebrated with enthusiastic singing and dancing to express our joy and happiness.

We would like to extend our sincere gratitude to Chalice and Inverness County Cares for the help given to the school. Surely God as seen your works and will continue blessing you for helping the most vulnerable in societies. The delivery of the new school bus has helped the school in many ways. Just recently the government of the republic of Zambia closed schools due to the increase of Covid-19. It came at the end of our term and pupils were transported to their homes in style with the new bus, feeling like VIPs. Thanks very much to our supporters in Canada, we truly appreciate the amazing gift of the bus. Thank you also for all the help given to our school. God will continue blessing you and adding more years to your lives. Once again thank you.

Inverness County Cares always welcomes new members. Those who wish to donate, can use the donate button on our website     https://invernesscountycares.com

When using E-transfer, please include your mailing address for CRA tax receipts and a thank you.   E-transfer address:  invernesscountycares@gmail.com

or send a cheque to Inverness County Cares Box 99, Judique, NS, Canada, B0E1P0. Taxation receipts provided for USA and Canada.

Blind Student Gains Mobility

By: James Mupito and Sr Agnes Bwalya

I am 13 years old and in Grade one at St Mary’s Special School in Kawambwa. There are six children in my family, two children are blind and my grandma and grandpa are both totally blind, however we are not albino. I am from the remotest area in Zambia where education is a luxury not all can obtain. Our roads are very basic and only government vehicles occasionally visit this area. In my village, people failed to accept me, because they think blindness is a curse, and they think I may bring bad luck on their families. I was not accepted and felt very lonely.

There were many limitations in what I could do and I had no option but to stay at home doing nothing. My posture was poor from lack of exercise and in order to move a distance, someone has to look for a stick and I would hold the far end and my friend would guide me to my destination. I did not pay much attention to my movements, I just followed where the stick took me.   Sometimes I would fall and hurt myself but I desperately wanted to move and visit other places and people in the village.  As I navigated our community, people watched me and shouted loudly to warn me when I was in danger of falling or bumping into an obstacle. Their yelling created fear in me, which caused me to startle, even if that sound has nothing to do with me. This fear destroyed my confidence and I limited my excursions beyond my home. 

In my isolation I realized how fear was limiting my independence and self-confidence.  One day I was home alone, and I thought, “Today, I must visit the nearby school by myself”. There was a small boy drawing water from our well and he gave me directions.  Slowly but surely and expecting that I would fall, I navigated my way to the school and returned home. This was the beginning of my liberation and I started building a new world for myself. I learned that, people are very helpful, some could hold me by the hand while others taught me by talking to me. My cousin and friend started teaching me how to count numbers, the alphabet and I developed an interest in listening to music. This gave me a thirst for learning and I started asking about school …but no one had an answer.

One day, as I was at the roadside, a man spoke to me. He asked me my name and said, “I am a teacher of the blind!”  He explained the need for education and how I could become a teacher like him. I excitedly said yes. Immediately we went to the village headman, where my new friend introduced himself and left his contact information. That was in 2018. In 2019, January, he came back and we walked hand in hand with the village headman and talked nicely to my parents concerning my attendance at St Mary’s Special School in Kawambwa. They agreed on the condition that, he would be fully responsible for me. At that moment a light started shinning in the darkness and I was very happy.

After a long journey we reached St Mary’s School and we were welcomed warmly. At first it was difficult as I could not navigate easily and had not learned to care for myself very well. I had to learn how to eat, wash myself and walk with confidence. The cooks helped me, especially Mum Ivy, who is a patient woman and she was very kind to me.

When I entered class, it was my first time as a student. That first day I didn’t like it, but my teacher was patient with me. Stephen one of my classmates (who became my friend), encouraged me in all areas by saying, “James, soon you’ll be independent”, but I found it hard to believe. I lived at the school and in the evenings, the house parents or caregivers, worked with me on orientation.

One day, I realized, “Here at St. Mary’s, everyone loves me”. My teacher Rabecca, sings a song in our local language every morning that inspires me. “God Loves little children”, then she whispers, “God Loves you”, to each pupil. Teacher Rabecca become my model, she also told me “Your inner self is ever strong” This became my inspiration when everything became too much for me. This teacher of mine is lovely. Her good treatment of me, is the source of my inner strength.

 Initially my fingers were soft and not very sensitive. My teacher gave me a bucket of sand and asked me to rub the sand in my hands. I did this two times every day for three months to increase sensitivity when learning Braille. I practiced ‘trailing’, in order to differentiate the smoothness and roughness and help to locate direction when moving without a white cane. I did finger manipulation exercises for flexibility and physical fitness exercises for strength and balance. These exercises drove out fear, and I started feeling good about myself. The wonderful white cane helped me walk straight, improved my posture and built confidence. Education is key to overcome my limitations, both for myself and the people of the villages.

St Mary’s School gave me many gifts, especially the love of my care givers especially from Mum Ivy who is so dear to me. The school is a friendly environment, where everyone is your friend and I felt accepted, loved and appreciated. I give thanks to everyone who made my new life possible. 

Inverness County Cares always welcomes new members. Those who wish to donate, can use the donate button on our website     https://invernesscountycares.com

When using E-transfer, please include your mailing address for CRA tax receipts and a thank you.   E-transfer address:  invernesscountycares@gmail.com

or send a cheque to Inverness County Cares Box 99, Judique, NS, Canada, B0E1P0. Taxation receipts provided for USA and Canada.

 

Stop the Stigma: An Albino’s Story

By Wyclef Raphael Kaunda

In 1995 Wyclef Raphael Kaunda was born in Mansa, 950 km north of the Zambian capital city of Lusaka, the third child in a family of four.  He was born with an absence of melanin in his skin, caused by Albinism, a condition which caused his vision to be severely impaired. In 2002 when he was seven, tragedy struck when both his parents were killed in a car accident, leaving their four children orphans. All properties and belongings of the family including their home, were confiscated by people who took advantage of the vulnerable situation of the children. This left the children without a home or guardians.

Wyclef and his siblings became beggars and were rejected by their community. Their widowed elderly grandmother took the children to live with her, despite her own dire poverty. Life was very difficult and often they would go to sleep with an empty stomach and no blankets. Their clothing was tattered but despite all these hardships their grandmother managed to send them to school where Wyclef proved to be a bright, hard-working child.

Mr. and Mrs. Smith Botha came to his rescue when they found him on the streets asking for help to buy books to support his education. They were moved by his situation and especially by his love of learning. They decided to adopt him and his siblings (and grandmother) and pay for their education. In the year 2005, at the age of 10, Wyclef started attending St. Mary’s Special School in Kawambwa, which is run by the Sisters of the Child Jesus. He studied there from 2005 to 2010 and gained many valuable life skills. St. Mary’s played an important role in shaping his future and he remains forever indebted to his guardians and school staff, especially Sr Agnes Bwalya.

Wyclef worked extra hard academically knowing that the only equalizer in life was education. He excelled in Junior High and the government of Zambia recognized him as the best performing pupil in Grade 9 National Examinations. Wyclef took part in many extracurricular activities during his secondary school years; debating, quiz, jets (junior engineering and technicians’ scientist), poetry and drama which gave him a broader understanding of the world. He continued on to perform exceptionally well into Grade 12 levels. He is now a graduate of Mansa College of Education and is currently tutoring students to earn money for his grandmother’s medical bills. Wyclef has many ambitions and a love of learning. He is interested in medicine, creating software and working on website design.

He is grateful for his good fortune and plans to be the voice of the voiceless in society. The help given to him by the Botha family has greatly changed his life and inspired him to help others. He values the support of his best friend Nathan Botha who has been there for him through thick and thin and Sr Agnes Bwalya at the Kawambwa School who is so very proud of all he has accomplished.

Wyclef’s albinism has made his life extremely difficult. Where ever he went he was called terrible names and people, would boo him and spit on him. Living with albinism is quite a challenge in Africa for people believe the superstitions that Albinos are spirits of the living dead and Albinism can be caught through close contact. Many of his friends have been murdered due to the promotion of the myth that Albino body parts and blood are a good luck charm capable of generating great wealth.

In the city where superstitious beliefs concerning Albinos are less, Wyclef feels somewhat safer, especially when he is out with his most trusted friends, but every night he lives in fear of attack. When in his home village the fear is magnified because a lot of people in that area living with Albinism have already been killed, (to supply the body parts black market). Although he never feels totally safe, he is most secure when in his own home with people he trusts most. 

My voice must be heard by Wyclef Raphael Kaunda

I felt anxious last year when we were being poached like wild animals and I wrote the words below:

Each and every moment I walk in fear because I do not know who will take away my life.

It is not like I am a fugitive No! But because I am an albino,

Some do not even want to seat next to me,

Eating with me is like they are feeding on vomit,

They do not want to rub shoulders with me, as if a am a curse from God,

But listen to me even as I speak with tears in my eyes,

My tears shall no longer be in a bottle, I am spitting out the bitter truth.

Let the silence be broken now, we will no longer be silent like a rock cost hit by the waves.

Segregation is bad; we are humans like you are

God created man in his own image and likeness, of which we all know.

Why kill albinos for rituals, why discriminate and laugh at us?

We say we are a Christian nation and our deeds to people living with albinism are destroying the Christian name….

Love us, care for us and hear our cry.

To all the parents out there, remember that having an albino child isn’t a curse but a full blessing from God, and to all those who kill albino children please change for better, because God is not a God of discrimination but a God of love to everyone….

Blessed are those that are close to people living with albinism. Remember we are not ghosts, but normal people just like you.

My fellows are living in fear because of knowing not about their safety.

The government seems to be silent or pays a deaf ear over the same issue and the cry of innocent albinos who have been brutally slaughtered because of being albino.

My voice must be heard we have taken it upon ourselves to fight because the system seems to be busy with its work of governing, forgetting albinos

Clergy men are busy preaching about prosperity, forgetting preaching on love and care for one another

Wyclef Raphael Kaunda

 

Zambian Visit 2020

In January-February 2020 (pre Covid) three Inverness County Cares members visited the site of the Kawambwa schools in Kawambwa and Mporokosa, Zambia. John MacInnis, Charlotte Rankin and Betty Jane Cameron personally paid for all their expenses and spent approximately a month working and living in the Kawambwa compound. Their trip provided Inverness County Cares (ICC) with a wealth of information and has promoted much interest, understanding and goodwill toward the Kawambwa project. This series of photographs and commentary will bring an understanding as to why we feel so passionate about the well being of these children. 

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The Life Story of Blessings

 

Blessings is a nine-year-old boy, who, although living with Albinism, is full of life and has the potential to do great things. At the age of three, his parents separated, and Blessings’ mother moved away, leaving him with his father.  At his young age, he realized that his home is not a happy one mainly because two of the children live with Albinism. Blessings says, “I can tell that the face of my father is ever sad I wonder if my father ever smiles and my mother stays in another village with my stepfather.” Blessings older brother, Albert, was taken away when he was young and did not know until later, that his parents had another boy with albinism.

Blessings has been shunned by his village and his interactions with anyone outside of his family has been restricted. Sometimes he would be permitted to go to a neighbouring house to play with young friends. They enjoyed traditional dances and games. One of these friends was, Jane, the same age as Blessings, who was in grade one at that time. She taught him the alphabet and some songs and some of the elders in the community noticed his potential since was able to quickly remember the alphabet, songs and stories.

At this time, he lived with his father and step mother, where according to Blessings, “No age was considered when it comes to work”.  Blessings despite his young age and small stature, was expected to do the work of a much older person and was continually overworked and exhausted. His work schedule, “which was beyond my power” fetching water with a big bucket, weeding and slashing brush, left him so fatigued, he was unable to attend school or even study on his own.

As a child living with Albinism, working in the hot sun is life threatening. Blessings tells us “Honest, I really suffered when drawing water from the only borehole we have in the village. It is in an open space where sunlight shines directly on us as we wait our turn”. For anyone with albinism, the direct rays of the hot sun can lead to skin cancer lesions because of the lack of melanin on their skin. Blessings did not have access to sunscreen or protective clothing to shield him from the sun every day. The only way he could cope was to, “Cover my head with a piece of cloth or my old shirt”.  From photos of Blessings, we can see he is already developing lesions in areas exposed to the sun.

According to Blessings, “One day a miracle happened in our home. A teacher gave homework to my step brother who was in grade two. He could not get the concept, but I got it and everyone was surprised”. His family began to realize his potential, and this coincided with the visit from

Mr. Simeo, who is pursuing his studies in education, with a focus on children with disabilities.

Mr.  Simeo took a special interest in Blessings for he saw the potential in this overworked little boy.  According to Blessings, his friend said, “From today I will accompany you in everything,” and again he lifted me and laughed. Inside my heart I was very happy because I wanted to see a man in the range of my father’s age with a smile on his face.”

From then on, he visited Blessings’ family and helped him in the fetching of water and other strenuous work.  Blessings’ parents came to love his friend so much that he become part of the family. Due to this influence, his parents permitted Blessings to go to school with is friend, where he started teaching him simple mathematics. Mr. Simeo talked to Blessings’ father about taking him to a special school that could really enrich Blessings’ life and his father permitted Blessings to go to St Mary’s Special School in Kawambwa, which is 178 kms away from their home. There he found so much comfort with his loving and caring friends, teachers and care givers, some of whom also live with albinism. He started learning Braille was happy to study and work toward his educational goals.

His teacher, Madam Winifridah introduced him to computers which has ignited his curiosity toward technology and mechanical operations. His potential has been recognized and at this time, he can read, write, recite poems and dance. He is a dependable student who realizes the importance of education as a path toward his ambitions.

There are many more children in a similar situation as Blessings, but they are hidden away in villages, shunned by their people because of fear and superstition. St. Mary’s and St Odilia schools, the two schools of the Kawambwa Project, provide a haven for these children, where they can learn to cope with their disabilities and feel safe, valued and protected.

Inverness County Cares always welcomes new members. Individuals who wish to donate, can use the donate button on our website     https://invernesscountycares.com

When using E-transfer, please include your mailing address for CRA tax receipts and a thank you.   E-transfer address:  invernesscountycares@gmail.com

or send a cheque to Inverness County Cares Box 99, Judique, NS, Canada, B0E1P0. Taxation receipts provided for USA and Canada.

March 2021, Transportation

TRANSPORTATION IS A GREAT CHALLENGE AT ST. MARY’S SPECIAL SCHOOL – KAWAMBWA.

St. Mary’s Special school serves children between the age of 5 to 25 years who come from diverse parts of Zambia. The school caters to children with multiple disabilities; blind and visually impaired, deaf, special needs and physically disabled. The present teaching staff also includes teachers with visual impairments; six totally blind, eight partially sighted and two teachers with albinism.

Mr. Chisembe Mwansa, one of the blind teachers, tells us how the school community must strive to accommodate staff and students with varying levels of visual impairment as well as physical and intellectual needs. The school must maintain and upgrade the infrastructure of the school grounds to protect the staff and students from the ever-present threat of kidnapping and abduction. This security extends beyond the walls of the school as the children must be protected on their long journeys to and from the school to their homes in remote villages, towns, and cities.

  “I’m a blind teacher and have lived in this area for many years. I have been teaching at St. Mary’s school for 22 years.” says Mr. Mwansa. “My major contribution to the school is to be the chairperson of transport. At present we use a twelve-seater bus with two main purposes; class trips to help visually impaired children become familiar with their environments and to bring students to and from school.”

The educational tours and class trips serve to help the children build a foundation on how they will navigate their environment when they leave the safe confines of the enclosed school grounds. Many of the students live in remote locations, as much as 4-5 hours away from the school in Kawambwa. Always keeping safety from abduction as a priority, the bus must have a minimum of three adults on board when traveling to gather students. The twelve-seater bus becomes very cramped with the students and their luggage as they live at the school and go home only on holidays. This means making four to five trips to transport all the children, increasing gas consumption, and exposing the students to the dangers of being abducted. 

“I have personally travelled with different drivers and I have experienced all a person can experience in this rural part of Zambia. Our roads are not tarred and most of the commodities and children are found in places where roads are very bad, full of potholes and water pools. The van often gets stuck in the mud and pushing needs to be done” says Mr. Mwansa. Requiring the adults and children to push the small van to free it from the mud puts them at risk of getting injured. But when the van is too deep in the mud, they must stay there for many hours, sometimes sleeping in the van overnight and trying to free the van in the morning. This happens not only in the rainy season, but also in the dry season as most areas are sandy.

On occasions where there are children with albinism in the van, many villagers will gather around; not to help, but rather intimidate and mock the children. These long journeys are demanding and stressful for the children, especially for the smaller, more vulnerable ones.

The struggles at St. Mary’s Special school are unquestionable. “Words cannot really explain the real situation, but people’s hearts grasp it in a special way that cannot be expressed in words” says Mr. Mwansa. “My blindness tells me that mobility and orientation are the only way that can bring the world closer to a blind person.’

Note: Inverness County Cares has been supporting the needs of St. Mary’s Special School for the past two years in partnership with Chalice (Canada). Chalice has just approved a request for funding from Kawambwa to purchase a large bus to transport students safely.  Inverness County Cares will be assisting in raising funds for this purpose.

 Inverness County Cares always welcomes new members. Individuals who wish to donate, can use the donate button on our website https://invernesscountycares.com

When using E-transfer, please include your mailing address for CRA tax receipts and thank you.   E-transfer address:  invernesscountycares@gmail.com

or send a cheque to Inverness County Cares Box 99, Judique, NS, Canada, B0E1P0. Taxation receipts provided for USA and Canada.

Inverness County Cares Gives Thanks

Inverness County Cares (ICC) is a registered charity, established in 2012 and based in Inverness County, NS, Canada. ICC was created by a group of local people who wanted to bring a better life to those in desperate need, with a focus on children in developing countries. Our first project was working with a school for street children, in Nairobi, Kenya for six years. The next project was the development of a water collection system for Ngeza village in Uganda. The current project is the Kawambwa project in Zambia, two schools which cater to albino, blind and visually impaired children as well as those with other physical and intellectual disabilities.

ICC members meet monthly and we work toward providing funds for our projects. Covid 19 restrictions have impacted our usual methods of fundraising but we are still encouraged by the generosity of our supporters. Our most successful project involves collection of refundable beverage containers. Two box trailers are available for people to drop off these items. One location is in Mabou at the Freshmart parking lot and the other is located at the corner in Port Hood at 209 Main Street (Ted and Hermina Van Zutphen’s lane). We thank the many generous people who drop off their containers and also extend our gratitude to Ted Van Zutphen, Stanley Beaton and Raymond DeBont for managing the containers and taking them to the depot to be counted.  We thank Wayne and Karen Beaton and Ted and Hermina Van Zutphen for providing the space to park the collection vehicles. Each Christmas season ICC donates the December proceeds from our two collection sites to the local food bank to serve those in need in our local area.

This past summer, ICC members, John and Theresa MacInnis, and Bill Murphy planted a large field with assorted varieties of potatoes. Good weather, fertile soil, lots of hoeing and irrigation equipment from Marlanda Strawberry Fields (Joanie and Angus MacDonell) resulted in a beautiful bumper crop of diverse species of potatoes.  In October ICC members gathered to harvest the bountiful crop and in one weekend they were sold at a substantial profit, all of which went to benefit the vulnerable students at the two Zambian schools.

Each Christmas season ICC sends out an appeal letter to ask assistance for our project. This Christmas season our supporters responded very generously and we thank them so much. Our local business community and faith-based organizations have also provided tremendous support, which we greatly appreciate.

ICC works in partnership with Chalice.ca. This is a very beneficial relationship as Chalice provides ICC with accounting services, CRA income tax receipts and very importantly supplies auditing and onsite supervision of our projects. We consider ourselves very fortunate to have access to the guidance and support provided by Chalice personnel at their Halifax head office and their field staff in East Africa.

We also want to give very sincere thanks to our own membership of ICC, who meet at least once a month and spend much more additional time and effort on outreach and support of initiatives to bring a better life to the students. We are always available share the Kawambwa story with our community (following safety protocols or by Zoom) and provide first-hand accounts of life at the Kawambwa Schools.

 Inverness County Cares always welcomes new members. 

 Individuals who wish to donate, can use the donate button on our website https://invernesscountycares.com

E-transfer address:  invernesscountycares@gmail.com  Please include mailing address for CRA tax receipts and thank you, when using E-transfer.  

or send a cheque to Inverness County Cares Box 99, Judique, NS, Canada, B0E1P0. Taxation receipts provided for USA and Canada.

January: Elizabeth, an Albino Child Tells her Story

Elizabeth an Albino Child, Tells her Story

By: Elizabeth Mulenga, Sr Agnes Bwalya and Mr. Telesphore 

 Albinism is a hereditary condition, resulting in the absence of melanin pigment causing an individual being born with the white skin, light hair and vision problems. There are two types of albinism. Oculocutaneous albinism involves the eyes, hair and skin and Ocular albinism which is less common involving only the eyes, while skin and hair may appear similar or slightly lighter than that of the other family members.

I am Elizabeth born from two parents with very light skin, (Ocular Albinism). We are seven in the family, 5 are black but with light skin and 2 (*John and myself) are Oculocutaneous, with very light skin and hair. My eyes are not stable the eyeballs move and sometimes even my head shakes involuntarily.

My family surname is Mulenga but now my nickname is my surname…”Manda”, in English it means grave, meaning my brother *John and I are already dead, in other words we are not human beings. People in society continued calling us this, at first secretly but as days went by, it became a famous surname.

When I was born my parents were separated but my father could visit my mother, however when my youngest brother was born, my father ran away and he told my mother that,” I will go now forever”. My mother was disturbed and she dumped us. My widowed grandmother from my father’s side came to our rescue, she took us and we stayed with her for some years, where the care was not up to date. When I was ten years old my grandmother died and we went back to our mother who couldn’t manage because she was sickly and she died when I was 13yrs old. I started staying with my aunty to my mother’s side.

People in the village where we were living didn’t accept us and we were considered as “Ghosts”, because only “Ghosts” are found in the grave. When we were passing, especially a pregnant woman she would spit saliva on her chest “pupuu”, which they believed prevented them from having an albino child, even elderly women and young girls did the same.

As an albino we can’t share plates with others, I should eat alone and my plate should not be mixed with other plates. My bedding (an old coat of my grandmother) was kept outside the house and it was a bad experience with no shelter in the rainy season. I was denied family socialization and no one will touch any object that I touched or eat the food or drink I have prepared, because they believed Albinism is contagious.

I will never forget this day: I went to the river to draw water, and as I was coming back a middle-aged woman called me and said “Elizabeth from today onwards do not pass here or touch my children because when you pass here, they dream of you and hallucinate at night”, I didn’t say anything, I cried the whole night, and said to my God, “God why create me as a Ghost! Why?” That was how I vowed not to visit any home in the village, I was living in isolation, I felt lonely, unloved, useless and unworthy to live.

When I entered the classroom in our village, the female teacher never accepted me, she never talked to me or give me any work. That time I had sores on my body and one day I heard her telling others that, she cannot stand the situation it’s better she teaches other classes, her negativity made me more passive and I decided to stop school.

One day the light shone, I was called by an old lady in the village and she asked me to help her wash plates, at the river side. She held me by the hand and whispered in my ears “Elizabeth, one day your problems will flow away like the waters in the river and they will never come back again. Look at this water as it flows it will never turn back and flow in a different direction, this is how life is, once you understand life, you will not be the same and the solution is education. This old woman made me feel loved, comforted, accepted and fully human.

A few days later, she decided to take me to St. Mary’s Special School (Sponsored by Chalice.ca) with the help of St Vincent de Paul Movement. When I reached school, I saw my friends wearing shoes, sleeping on beds, eating while sitting on a bench/chair, within myself I couldn’t believe it.

I was happy, in fact more than happy, especially when I saw other Albino children. To be sincere it is St. Mary’s Special School that introduced me to the wearing of shoes and sandals, I really felt uncomfortable, since eating while sitting on the chair was something I never thought of and many other traits that makes a human being feel human and comfortable.

Today I am so positive about my life, I am in grade 9 and just finished writing my junior secondary final examination. I promise the world that I will pass. * John has also found peace at the St Mary’s school and is in grade 3. I remain a good dancer, I live healthy with no sores on my body, I wear decent clothes, I have Braille and Braillo paper for my education.

An albino child is fully human, fully alive, we send thanks to you so many people.


Inverness County Cares always welcomes new members. Individuals who wish to donate, can use the donate button on our website https://invernesscountycares.com

Please include mailing address for CRA tax receipts and thank you, when using E-transfer.   E-transfer address:  invernesscountycares@gmail.com  

or send a cheque to Inverness County Cares Box 99, Judique, NS, Canada, B0E1P0. Taxation receipts provided for USA and Canada.

 

Christmas at the Kawambwa schools

Kawambwa site sends  Christmas and New year greetings to the Inverness County Cares team, donors, sponsors, and volunteers. May the New Born Christ give you all the graces you need in your lives. We love you all. Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year. Sr Agnes and Kawambwa team.


THE HIDDEN JOY OF CHRISTMAS. 

By: Sr Agnes Bwalya, Kawambwa, Zambia

Christmas is a season that everyone waits for and is the Hidden Joy of Christmas that we long for!

Christmas is celebrated with a lot of symbols and its celebration starts with a lot of preparations.  In the village and at every home, parents start by preparing what to eat and what their children will wear. The children, they think of what they will receive from their parents and what they will give to others. Village chickens, goats, cow, dried fish, local beer and local drinks are set aside just for Christmas. Everyone thinks of what will be shared with others.

The asking of a gift is done in a symbolic way, very early in the morning, one will move with branches and visit a home, knock and shout “Christmas” and leave a branch at the door. The owner of the house comes out, gives the one who brought the branch anything she/he has. If one doesn’t have any food to give, he/she will come out with a cup of water, the other person receives it and drinks, and the games continue.

On the very day of Christmas, families, friends will visit and eat together during the family meal. It is the responsibility of an elderly person to explain to others about the importance of sharing. Food is served and visiting of grandparents is commonly done. The old grandparent will prepare something for whoever visits them, if they do not have anything to give at the end of their visit, they will bless their children by touching their forehead and saying, “Be disciplined and grow old as I am.” It is now that grand children get wrappers and bracelets from their grandmothers, who has been receiving but not wearing. Grandparents feel happy for the visits by young ones. During the visit what is avoided, is to recall any conflict that occurred before, to individuals or among family members. Each one makes sure that joy of Christmas is maintained. It is very common that a dress, shirt, wrapper, shoes, is kept in a suitcase for so many months, just waiting to be put on at Christmas. It is a long preparation which calls for patience as well.

In some areas like Kawambwa and in other parts of Zambia there is a flower which is named ‘Christmas flower’ because it grows and blossoms during the early rains. This is a precious flower that young adults look for and gives to their loved ones as an engagement for marriage. It is commonly done in our village during Christmas and New Year time. When a young girl is given a Christmas flower by a young boy, the girl takes it to her grandparents or aunties. It is self-explanatory that the boy wants to marry their daughter.

The celebration of the New Year starts at Christmas, parents bless their children by word of mouth and by exchange of gifts. The size of the gift does not matter, what matters is the exchange and the eating of food together.

At our two schools, the traditional way of celebrating Christmas and New Year is practiced, and it is a long preparation for everyone. On the last day of the term, each child has to look for something good to do to the other child, or to a friend. Exchanging of branches is done (it must be a branch from a tree that gives us food; such as from a mango tree or a guava tree.) It means a sign of taking care of my friend, giving him/her fruit that can sustain one’s life. Each person finds time to help a friend in some way by washing clothes, sweeping, helping with lessons, but without someone asking for help. Members of staff teach students the importance of sharing. Sometimes elder children on behalf of small children go out to help old parents in the nearby village, visiting the hospital and other charitable works. In the evening they come together for social recreation, sharing of water is commonly done and everyone longs for this time. Small actions are performed to one another silently the main aim of doing these actions is to tell another person that I can help with my free will.

At church, the traditional way of making a kraal (a traditional African village of huts, typically enclosed by a fence) is done as we do at home. Banana leaves and plants surrounds the kraal and model of Jesus, Joseph and Mary and the stars are inserted. It is a sacred and holy place for us, because it reminds us of the place where Jesus was born. During Mass a basket of assorted fruits and seeds covered by branches is offered. It is a good sign of sharing the togetherness and oneness as we worship, EMMANUEL meaning GOD IS WITH US AND AMONG US FULL OF LIFE.


Inverness County Cares always welcomes new members. Individuals who wish to donate, can use the donate button on our website https://invernesscountycares.com

e-transfer to invernesscountycares@gmail.com

or send a cheque to Inverness County Cares Box 99, Judique, NS, Canada, B0E1P0. Taxation receipts provided for USA and Canada.

 

November 2020, Sister Agnes’ Story

By: Sr Agnes Bwalya

Kawambwa Site is a project under Chalice, which works with,  two schools, catering to visually impaired children. St Mary’s is in the Luapula Province and St. Odilia is in the Northern Provence of Zambia. The two schools have one site director (Sr Agnes) who co-ordinates all the activities of the sites.

Dealing with disabled children or those with visual impairment, one should have a smiling face, though totally blind pupils cannot see you, one’s facial smile picks what is in the heart, it is something that one needs to learn. At first, my smile was not even felt by the parents, and society, because of their negative attitude. Whenever an albino child or teacher was passing, they would create a distance, and once asked, they could openly say, and I quote, “I’m afraid of having a disabled child.” My heart was filled with sorrow, and I could cry the whole night, my eyes always were full of tears. However, when I’m with the blind children we could laugh, dance and sing, the laughing, the dancing and the singing was from deep my heart and children’s heart.

One day, I fainted when an albino child was kidnapped during the evening study and taken to the witchdoctor (very possibly to be murdered). An old woman was coming from the river, where she went to fetch water and she saw a huge man with a sisal sack with something inside. She saw the head of a person. The watchman reported and the police were alerted, luckily enough, the police officers passed through her home and got the news, and she also narrated and helped in locating the house of the huge man. The police officers used their skills and an albino child was found behind the house. The man was arrested and jailed for 4 years. (The child is fine and still a student at a Kawambwa school). My heart and mind could not believe and be convinced that a normal person can do such a thing. It came into my mind that, “A child protection policy should be formulated and followed in the two schools.” It was created and learnt in a hurry and under a critical situation.

Outreach programmes were made and we asked the congregation and the diocese to help us provide a safe method of conveyance as transporting the children safely is a critical challenge. St. Mary’s needs a bigger bus for moving children. (Albino children are always in danger of kidnapping, so security is very important as they travel to and from school.) We started in our local environment district and provincial level and we also made use of our local radio station. We advocate for the importance of life of disabled children and also for an increased awareness of the Zambian disability Act of 2012.

As a site director, the issue of raising the wall fence at St. Mary’s Special School, and the construction of a wall fence at St. Odilia Special School are of great importance in the prevention of student kidnapping. We hope the fulfillment of this idea will be made possible by many people of good will. (Note: the walls are under construction, completion depending on funds available.)

Travelling from Kawambwa to Mporokoso is not easy, the road (144 km total) is not tarred and full of pot holes, when I start off, for my monthly monitoring of the site, it often takes me 5-6 hours to reach Mporokoso on a good day and if public transport is used and the vehicle is not in good condition, one must stop to sleep on the way and arrive the following day. I reach the place very tired and when it comes to outreach in Mporokoso (family visits), it is not also easy, the land is very mountainous and sloppy. I walk, ride a bicycle and I do not mind where I sleep, what is in me is to see that, parents appreciate the education of their disabled children. Long distances for me is part of my prayer for people with good will who are trying to help the two schools that I sacrifice myself, so that God can soften their heart and help these disabled children.

How will a smile be on the faces of the albino and blind children? The answer is that, “a shared smile lies in your heart and in my heart.” Let us all stand up and join hands.  I need your smile. God bless.

Inverness County Cares 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, Canada, B0E1P0. Taxation receipts provided.

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