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Disasters at St Mary’s Special School

By: Sr Agnes Bwalya, school administrator

The two severe weather events which happened at St Mary’s Special School have left a great impact on me, (Sr Agnes) the administrator, my staff and the blind children who study and live at our school. I can’t understand how God saved the lives of all our children and staff, for me it is a miracle.

The first time It was around 12:15 hrs on the 24th of September 2022, on Saturday, when strong winds came and blew off the roof. Four pupils were in the dining room arranging plates for lunch. In no time the girls’ dining roof was blown off. Pupils screamed and one male cook ran to rescue them. He then heard another big sound, which meant the boy’s dining hall roof had blown off. Mr. Leonard the cook was confused, but he managed to run with the pupils.

Hooo! Hooo! I saw the roof had blown off!

The second disaster happened on the 18th of November 2022, when we experienced heavy rains with huge hailstones falling and very strong winds. Grade nine pupils were in class studying and myself and three teachers we were busy writing reports. The rains were so heavy that no one could run through it. A strong gust of wind was heard and in a short time light was seen through the office roof. I immediately realized that pupils are studying for their final examinations in the next room. I rushed and others rushed and the pupils were rescued. We were all soaked like anything.

After a good two hours, the rains stopped and we experienced some sunshine. School books and supplies were picked up and put in the library and other classrooms that were not affected. The last room I entered was the grade nine class. I looked in horror and disbelief at their subject notes on special Brailon papers. They were soaked! These notes are written on Brailon or Braille papers which are a bit thick, but when in contact with water or moisture, the embossed dots become flat and cannot be felt using fingers.

Now trouble came, the exams were on the 24th of November. The question was, “How can we replace the reading materials?” The staff and pupils actually cried many tears!!!!  Pupils were disturbed, everyone was speechless. What next?  Teachers organized themselves and made a new time table to coach the pupils. Teachers were working up to 18 hrs a day including Saturdays and Sundays until the end of the examinations. To me it was a clear sign of unconditional Love.

Pupils now are in the different world with the following challenges:

  1. Distance– it is now a challenge for the cooks to carry food from the kitchen and distribute it to children. This means our timetable had to change to accommodate the location of the cafeteria space. Blind children sometimes have their precious food fall off their plate as they walk because they hit into another person. Every meal is confusion with children crying for their fallen food.

2.Sun sensitivity: since the dining hall is unsafe the children must now eat outside in the bright sun. Albino children are sun sensitive as it hurts their eyes and burns their skin because of their lack of melanin.

3.Wind: the wind also affects the children and causes their eyes to cry because of the sun and dust blowing in the courtyard. Their tears fall uncontrollably, which was very painful, unhygienic and very disturbing… these poor innocent souls.

4.Mobility issues: Children with additional disabilities suffer much because they require more assistance. The working staff rota had to be changed because more help was needed to assist those with additional mobility needs.

  1.  Rains- The rains which started in the month of October make the whole situation much more serious. If someone is near, looking at this situation their tears will be flowing as they see blind children looking for a place to put her/his plate full of food, or witnessing the falling of the food off the plate!

A Student by the name of Gershom Mwansa, a grade nine pupil was saved as an iron sheet flew through the air. He fell down and the iron sheet flew over him. He could not sleep well for weeks because of nightmares. We ended up asking for one teacher to keep him at her home for some days until he felt more secure and confident.

All of us are grateful that no life was lost. As administration, we even asked for a blessing from our priest. Really it has been days of mediation. All staff and children praise the greatness of God’s love and mercy for sparing the children from death or injury.

The situation where the students must eat outside is a huge challenge. Our solution is to increase the number of staff on duty and to extend the working hours even on weekends. Caregivers or house parents are working day and night and teachers on duty for many extra hours. The situation is not ok.

[Note: It is important to remember these events happened at a school for the blind, where storms of this magnitude would be especially terrifying.]

Today the class has no braille text books for pupils or teachers. How will learning and teaching take place in 2023? Our situation is very grave.

Asking and begging for people with good will to come to our aid.

Come and be my security in this difficult moment, I am looking for a solution so that the situation can come back to normal. God bless our supporters at Chalice and Inverness County Cares. We appreciate everything you do for us.

Inverness County Cares (ICC) is a local charitable organization, founded in 2012 and based in Inverness County, NS, Canada. ICC works in partnership with Chalice.ca, a Canadian charity, based in Bedford, Nova Scotia. Chalice provides guidance and assistance to help us provide a better life for the children at the Kawambwa schools. The Kawambwa Project involves supporting two schools for albino and visually impaired students, in Northern Zambia. 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 message.   E-transfer address:  invernesscountycares@gmail.com or send a cheque to Inverness County Cares, 5414 Route 19, Judique, NS, Canada, B0E1P0. Taxation receipts provided for USA and Canada.

Setbacks

By:Florence Mumba

There has been another disaster at St Mary’s Special School in Kawambwa, the grade 8 and grade 9 classrooms and two administration offices had their roofs ripped off. They were all in one block. This is in addition to the winds of September 2022, which tore the roof off the dining hall. It happened on Monday 21st November 2022 around 16:15hrs, when heavy rains and high winds came up suddenly. The rain was so heavy that no one could see out the windows. Sr Agnes was in the office with three teachers and five grade nine pupils were in class studying. One grade eight pupil was sweeping the classroom. The wind came and ripped the roof off, but all were rescued and are safe. The major disaster is that, all our precious braille notes were soaked and pupils have no way to refer to these notes for their national examinations which start very soon. Florence Mumba is a student at St Mary’s School and has been severely impacted by the storm and the loss of the teaching aids and student learning materials.

Florence’s Story

I, Florence Mumba, am the fourth born in the family of six, two girls and four boys. My mother is blind and my father is partially sighted and in total, five in our family are blind.  We all depend on Braille for all our notes and study aids. This loss of our braille notes because of the damaged roof, has greatly impacted our ability to study for exams as most of our learning is by memorization.

My father is very practical and can do any handiwork. He went to Mozambique where he worked as a cook, house keeper and gardener for Mr. Mooyo. The skills he acquired there are the same skills he used to bring us up. He taught us everything he knew, from personal hygiene, cooking, to gardening. Many people are surprised to see the varied types of work we can do. My father had very good experiences in Mozambique and was helped by a lady there who was blind. I think his positive experience in that country with visually impaired people influenced him to choose our mother as his wife, although she was blind.

Father John a Catholic priest was the main person who insisted that my sister and I start school at St Mary’s Special School, where we were welcomed by teachers and caregivers. I didn’t have any problems with manual work but I had major problems with classwork. My class teacher Madam Maureen, did her very best to teach me how to read and write…in summary am a slow learner. This year I am in Grade 8 but in reality, I should be in Grade eleven, for I repeated three times. I am good in practical subjects like Home Economics but below average in English and Mathematics. My immediate sister is in Grade 11 at St Mary’s Girls Secondary school, she is blind and has sickle cell.

Our family has accepted our situation, because of the education we were given about genes, from the health workers. I am very out-going because I have accepted my condition. Additional health problems are also a challenge, my brother is asthmatic. We know that education is the only key to success, which is why I try so hard to succeed despite disappointments.

Inverness County Cares (ICC) is a local charitable organization, founded in 2012 and based in Inverness County, NS, Canada. ICC works in partnership with Chalice.ca, a Canadian charity, based in Bedford, Nova Scotia. Chalice provides guidance and assistance to help us provide a better life for the children at the Kawambwa schools. The Kawambwa Project involves supporting two schools for albino and visually impaired students, in Northern Zambia. 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 message.   E-transfer address:  invernesscountycares@gmail.com or send a cheque to Inverness County Cares, 5414 Route 19, Judique, NS, Canada, B0E1P0. Taxation receipts provided for USA and Canada.

 

Set Free

By Beauty Ngonga

 Today my mind is full of joy!

No one could believe that one-day I will come out in the open and associate with society like a normal person. I have always wondered what would have happened to me if not for St Mary’s Special School. Listen to me and I will explain!

I am Beauty Ngonga, 14 years old and a Grade 5 pupil at St Mary’s Special School in Kawambwa. I am from a family of six, two girls and four boys. When I was born, both my parents were extremely disappointed and my mother vowed not to take me out of the house because of the shame she felt, since I was albino.

According to Beauty’s sister, Deosphister, “Beauty stayed in the house for almost two years”.  The only time Beauty was allowed out of the house was after dark. This forced isolation and deprivation of stimulus created delays in Beauty’s mental, social and physical development.

As years passed my mother had a baby boy, another albino child by the name of Ronald. He was treated well, because my mother was afraid of the community who had seen how badly I was treated. Their disapproval taught her a lesson. However, my father decided to marry another woman and moved to his new wife’s house, which was very near to our family house. From that time up to today, my father did not support or care for us.

My eldest sister Deosphister has taken on the responsibility of taking care of our family, my biological mother, myself and younger brother Ronald who is also Albino.

My isolation was a routine and I was used to it. But when I was nine, I started asking myself why? Why can’t I play with the village children? Why can’t I explore our village and meet and interact with our neighbors? I asked my elder sister who failed to give me an answer. But one day, my question was answered in a miraculous way.

At church where I congregate with Seventh Day Adventists, they had an annual gathering, which means Christians from many places gather at one point and spend days of worship at the same place. It was a lucky gathering for me.

Mr. John Mpundu who is a general worker at St Mary’s Special School was among those people who came for the annual gathering. I am sure some unknown person pointed out my case to Mr. John.

A well is a deep dug hole where water is found, and people fetch water from this well for domestic works and bathing. This well was near my home.

Mr. John visited the well near my home with a bucket in his hand. He fetched water and put a bucket under a fruit tree and knocked at the door to my house. My mother welcomed him and straight out he said, “I have come for your child who is supposed to go to school”. Everyone was very surprised. My mother asked, “Who?” Mr. John replied, “Your girl child”.

 My sister Deosphister told my mother, “This man means Beauty! He is from Kawambwa, he works at the special school, where even albino children are taught there.” My mother was very hesitant but Mr. John ended up making an appointment to come again. After a day, Mr. John came with the pastor, they explained to my mother about disability and albinism and the importance of education and the effects of lack of exposure to other people and situations. I was called for and the pastor emphasized God’s love and I was told that, I would go with Mr. John to Kawambwa and start school. My parents were not prepared with the articles I needed for school, but the church members contributed toiletries, shoes and assorted second hand clothing and items. I was afraid but also very excited.

It was a real surprise to find other albino children at school, who welcomed me with joy. The caregivers are wonderful and kind. I started school with a lot of difficulties. I was a student in everything, eating habits, toileting, walking, sitting on a desk, mobility in general and in addition a bit short tempered and anxious.

My social life and interaction with people, started at St Mary’s Special School. The caregivers at St Mary’s have performed wonders on my mobility and social skills. They have helped me and still are helping me to be more sociable. When my first holiday came and I was able to go back home, everyone in the village came to see me. They were surprised to see how I was navigating about my house and in the village paths, handling social issues and even doing some household chores.

My parents had nothing to say. My elder sister then took on the responsibility of taking me to school because for her she knew that albinism is from both parents. From my mother’s side a great grandmother and from my father’s side an uncle whom Deosphister saw when she was young and but he has passed on. We are also so happy Ronald my brother is also at St Mary’s Special School in Kawambwa in Grade one. I am inviting everyone to be an advocate for persons or children living with Albinism.

Inverness County Cares (ICC) is a local charitable organization, founded in 2012 and based in Inverness County, NS, Canada. ICC works in partnership with Chalice.ca, a Canadian charity, based in Bedford, Nova Scotia. Chalice provides guidance and assistance to help us provide a better life for the children at the Kawambwa schools. The Kawambwa Project involves supporting two schools for albino and visually impaired students, in Northern Zambia. 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 message.   E-transfer address:  invernesscountycares@gmail.com or send a cheque to Inverness County Cares, 5414 Route 19, Judique, NS, Canada, B0E1P0. Taxation receipts provided for USA and Canada.

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Garlic Planting Season! 

Inverness-County-Cares has Judique, NS grown ORGANIC GARLIC, excellent for eating or planting.

 Large garlic bulbs -$2.00

Medium bulbs- $1.50

Small bulbs – $1.00

Contact Charlotte Rankin in Judique – 902 631-0918, 45 River Denys Road, Judique

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