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A journal from Zambia trip

Below is the journal as kept by the group of girls that travelled to Zambia in July 2010.

While we were in Zambia we completed a group diary of every day we were there. As it would be impossible to go through every day, I have taken out a few paragraphs of different days that I feel will put across as best I can, how good an experience we had and hopefully if anyone reading this is on the fence about going on a trip with Granaghan Outreach this will convince you, it is an experience of a lifetime…..

Day 1, Tuesday the 6th July
After a long but safe journey we arrived in Lusaka airport to be met by a familiar friendly face, Fr Martin Mulholland. He took us to ‘Home of Joy’ Orphanage where we were going to be staying for the next 2/3 weeks. The girls in the orphanage aged between 5 and 16 were delighted to see us and insisted in carrying our big heavy suitcases for us. There are 5 wee houses with a mammy and 7 or 8 girls in each house, each home has a name, they are love, peace, care, truth and joy, this is to try and give them the atmosphere of a proper family. Later when we got settled in they had arranged a welcome party for us, at which they welcomed us by singing our national anthem, we were that shocked they had learned this for us coming that we forgot to stand up!!!

Day 2 Wednesday 7th July
Fr Martin collected us today and took us round the places we would work and visit for the next 2/3 weeks, Umoyo school, Little Assisi Special Needs School, Mother Theresa Hospice and St Faustina Parish and compound (Fr Martins Parish). The Mother Theresa Hospice was quite overwhelming, we saw row after row of cots with little children no older than 2 years of ages, standing up crying with their arms out. When we lifted them out we discovered they were wet and hadn’t been changed, it was hard to leave these children as all they wanted was to be held an shown love…..they needed so much more!!!

Day 4 Friday the 9th July
Katie, Denise and Margaret were at Umoyo school today for their last day there. Again they split into different classes and done a bit of teaching, Katie found today particularly sad, as it was their last day there they had bought sweets (flumps) to hand out to the children. She give each child a sweet and was shocked and saddened to watch them licking it and putting it back in their pocket, they didn’t want the sweet to end. The teacher had tears in her eyes and Katie offered her a sweet she took it and also put it in her pocket, not only the children were grateful for something so small as a sweet. The children then said something to the teacher in Zambian language, when Katie asked what did they say the teacher told her they said ‘she is a good person’.

Day 5 Saturday the 10th July
Today we all stayed at Home of Joy and arranged a sports day, we had told the girls about this the day before and myself, Ciara and Maggie had spent the previous day clearing the bumpy field of stones. The girls all landed out that morning in jerseys and we couldn’t believe it when we saw Memory, one of the older girls in a Slaughtneil jersey, Fr Martin had given them different jerseys previously. This day was a great success and fun day for everyone, the nuns were down cheering everyone on and we had a winner in every age group. That evening we had a prize giving, and done up wee bags with sweets, crisps and soaps and give one to each girl.

Day 7 Monday 12th July
Today was Ciara, Maggie and my first day in Umoyo and Margaret, Katie and Denise first day at Little Assisi special needs school. In Umoyo we found a lot of the teaching was through song as there was a serious lack of resources, the children all at this school lived in the local compounds. Sister Edna from Umoyo told us that the children get two meals with her, breakfast at 7.30 which is porridge and lunch at 12.30 which is shema. When the children go home at 13.00 they usually don’t see food until the next morning. Sr Edna told us that on a Monday morning the children are extra hungry as often they haven’t ate ALL weekend. They were amazed by the colour of our skin and kept touching our arms….they fought with each other to get holding our hands or get attention from us. In Little Assisi the other girls found it extremely tough for their first day, the teachers English wasn’t very good, in Denise class she had to correct the teacher when she pointed to her eyes and said ‘this is your ears’. Margaret class a little boy wet himself and no one changed him or even acknowledged this had happened. The girls seemed a bit upset tonight and after speaking to Fr Martin and Fr Paddy Barry we realised special needs children doesn’t have anywhere near the resources and facilities needed. Back at home of joy tonight we played games in the hall with the girls and taught them ‘lady of knock’ which they were so eager to learn.

Day 10 Thursday 15th July
Today was Katie, Denise and Margaret’s last day in little Assisi so they baked a cake for a farewell party. The children sang and danced for them and give them all a small gift. Over at Umoyo we held a sports day for our final day, it was funny to see how prepared and excited even the teachers got, all dressed in their tracksuits, this was the first school outing they had ever got and it was literally 200 yards up the road in a field. This evening at home of joy Sister Ruby and Sister Sihed wanted to take us to see the new project ‘Future in your hands’ a site that will hopefully become a home for the girls between 16 and 18 when they have to leave home of joy, here they can learn a trade before they have to return to the compounds.

Day 15 Tuesday 20th July
Today was an early start, Katie Margaret and Denise went home on Sunday night so it just the three of us now for the last week and the house is quieter! At Little Assisi today Sister Helen Decided to use the extra help and take the older children on a trip to the cinema. This was a big outing for the children, teacher and even the priest as none of them had ever been before!! Maggie went with them and bought everyone popcorn, this proved overwhelming for them and they savoured every bit of popcorn. I went out on home visits with the cook in from Little Assisi. I had to check on a child aged 2 who had cerebral palsy. The child was laying on the floor with sick on him and his mum was standing outside talking. Sr Helen wasn’t happy about this and said there would need to an increase on the number of home visits and there was obviously neglect to some of these children. Ciara spent the day at the school; she found some of the conditions of the children very sad. One example was a little 7 year old boy called Aaron, with learning difficulties and no power in his legs, he had to be carried everywhere, to and from school by his mum as his parents couldn’t afford a wheelchair. Another little girl Sister Helen told us about had aids, she was raped by her uncle as he was told by a witch doctor this would cure him from aids.

Day 18 Friday 23rd July
Today we got a bit of a lie in to 8.15 and it was great!!! Fr Paddy Barry who is an SMA priest took us to see the parish where he is based. Not only the chapel there impressed us but also a pre-school for special needs. I was amazed to see one little boy in a wheel chair, but it was a plastic summer seat with wheels stuck on to it!!! He then took us to a church which had a clinic on the same grounds, the clinic had vaccinated 100 children that week alone against measles and polio. We then went to another organisation that was originally set up by a nun from Ireland. This place was amazing; They had classes for special needs, knitting sewing and catering classes. It had a mushroom plant, vegetable plot, bakery, small pig farm and 260 hens. The bakery was used to help them become self-sufficient. The aim was to help employ people and help the special needs children learn the small things in life that could make them money. Within the premises was a house that allowed girls who had been victims of abuse to come and stay for a break. Fr Paddy invited us out for dinner tonight and of course we jumped at the chance for a decent meal!!!

Day 19 Saturday 24th July
We told Sr Ruby today that we would make an Irish meal for the girls and the house mothers. We headed off in to town to get the groceries and decided to make Irish stew…on arriving back we discovered the electric was out, great start!!! The girls soon showed us where there is a will there Is a way!! Out came the gas rings and we sat outside peeling spuds and carrots with a lot of eager helpers. Finally after a lot of stressing in the dark we had 2 big pots of Irish stew ready to serve. We had to dish it out quickly as it was getting cold and we had a lot to serve. However we soon discovered it didn’t matter as not one the girls was eating, everybody was sitting staring at us…..We panicked thinking there was something wrong with it but to our amazement we realised the girls were not prepared to eat until they had said grace before meals, putting us to shame!

Day 21 Monday 26th July
This day arrived and we couldn’t believe that our experience was over and we were heading home ☹. Sr Ruby give us each a letter and one for Fr O’Doherty on behalf of the parish. A few of the girls came with the nuns to the airport to see us off; as we were there quite early we took them up to show them the aeroplanes. At around half past 11 we said a heart breaking goodbye and headed through security for check in. A lot of the girls asked us to promise we would come back and visit them, we found this hard to do as they take promises so literally.

I hope you have enjoyed reading this as we have tried to keep it as accurate as we could. It is actually impossible to describe how this experience made us all feel and we agree it was a trip of a lifetime. We would advise anyone who can, take the opportunity and go, Granaghan Outreach will support you all the way!