ZAMDA Annual Summary for 2016
2016 was another excellent year for ZAMDA; a year of progress on all fronts, in particular on the educational front and a year which saw considerable expansion and consolidation in all other areas.
This was our first full year in “Sables Nua” as distinct from “Old Sables” and the benefits of the move to the new location are plain to be seen at this stage.
Environment and Infrastructure:
In a year which was filled with non-stop building, maintenance, alterations and improvements there seemed to be constant activity in the area of environment and infrastructure.
By the year’s end we had the New Shelter and the four main blocks fully finished – a wonderful testament to our local builders, their Irish (and other) volunteers and of course to those at home who funded it all.
During the year:
- the classrooms in the ‘old’ blocks have had the internal walls re-arranged and now have six separate and soundproofed classrooms in those blocks making the teaching and learning an awful lot more comfortable for all concerned.
- the new block consisting of two classrooms, an office / counselling room for our Social Worker, a utility room and an ablution block consisting of girls’, boys’ and staff toilets and a shower block, has been completed and is in full use. This new block now houses our first ever Grade Seven class.
- the old rubble footpaths have been removed, grassed over and replaced by new concrete footpaths. (Each of the new paths was constructed by a different volunteer group and the groups signed the footpaths for posterity.)
- The ‘high insaka’ was roofed and had bench seating built into it; it is now a wonderful resource area with no end to uses – outdoor classroom, choir room, meeting room etc. New steps up to the insaka were also built, a big improvement in health and safety.
- The lower, smaller insaka also had a bench built in and had a sand floor added.
- The Night Shelter received a gift of much-needed ceiling fans and these were installed in time for the hot weather.
- With the increase in numbers (see below) more benches and tables were required for the dining hall and these were constructed by local craftsman.
- Our Chungololo Club, (in Ireland this would be known as a ‘Green School Committee’), was extremely active during the year and, thanks mainly to our local friend and benefactor Mr. Raj, a fruit grove of orange, lemon, lime and custard apple trees has been planted and should be a sight to behold in three or four years. The Chungololos also planted flower beds outside the new block.
- In preparation for hosting State Examinations for our Grade Seven class we were obliged by DEBS (Dept. of Education) to construct a safe facility for storing examination paper. A concrete ‘strong room’ was constructed and has been approved by DEBS.
Once again it was an extremely busy years for Sables Nua in terms of visitors. In 2016 we hosted a total of 82 visitors from four countries; these were mainly short-term visitors but three were long-stay (Belgian social workers and German volunteer on six month placement). Of the 82, 14 stayed with us in the Zamda House; the others stayed in Ghana Motion Backpackers and in Safari Lodge. The Ghana Motion Backpackers, by common consent, is now the preferred accommodation for group visits.
I think we can say that every volunteer firstly had a great experience and, secondly, most of them became immersed in what we’re about and participated fully in the “Sables Experience”.
We must also look at our ‘retention rate’ of visitors. I estimate that say two years after their visit, less than 10% of our volunteers are still with us, in any meaningful way. We must be more discerning in who we allow travel with us or else find a mechanism which ties in volunteers to us on a longer term basis.
It has been a year of considerable change in terms of Staff. We were accepted into the Zambian Government school system as an ‘Independent Community School’ and by the end of 2016 the Government had provided us with a School Manager (Head Teacher) and five classroom teachers with a promise of more to come.
As regards ‘general workers’ we have also expanded, hiring a dedicated Day Carer for the Shelter, and an extra groundsman / staff cover.
Today, in addition to School Manager and seven teachers we have a general staff of eleven full time plus two Irish volunteers and a German volunteer.
We also have the part-time services of a Choir teacher, a visiting nurse, a tennis coach and a Judo Sensei. All in all a very active and vibrant staff.
Our Sables Nua Choir and Drumming Troupe actually took to the recording studio in November and recorded the “Sounds of Sables” and what a production it is!
Ours is a big operation now and the Government has promised us a ‘floating’ teacher soon . A ‘floater’ is a teacher who can be used whatever way the school decides – covering for absences, working as an extra teacher in a particularly big class, assigned to a specific area e.g. science ).
As of Friday 20th January 2017 we had 211 pupils and a very big staff. It is now time to stop growing; we must keep the operation at this size; anything bigger risks becomes unmanageable
Activities and Extra-Curricular Involvement.
Sables Nua is unique in the amount and scope of extra-activities in which the children engage. Our raison d’etre is to provide the most vulnerable and marginalised children with the best education possible in the circumstances but also to give them opportunities to develop, express and enjoy themselves outside the classroom. Accordingly, athletics, soccer, rugby, knitting, choir, tailoring, chess, ‘culture” (dancing and drumming), netball, arts and crafts and cooking classes are all on offer to the children of Sables Nua thanks to the generosity of our staff and volunteers. Long may it last.
A separate word about the newest addition to our extra-curricular armoury – Judo.
In April 2016, with a bit of sponsorship from Judo Ireland we founded the Sables Nua Judo Club and what a success it has been, not just in the dojos of Zambia but within Sables too. The children enjoy judo immensely which is great but the effect it has had on the discipline and attitude of the participants has been marked.
What goes on in Kabwe wouldn’t be possible with the continued and continuing backing of all our supporters at home, and abroad.
Once again a hard-working sub-committee undertook the time-consuming task of formulating ZAMDA’s compliance with the Cómhlámh Code of Good Practice and succeeded admirably.
Our Volunteer Committee worked overtime (see above!) and ensured the preparation of prospective volunteers prior to departure for Zambia.
Fundraising wasn’t on the same level as in 2015 but our supermarket bag-packing, our 2017 Calendar and our annual Christmas dinner all brought in a decent level of funds.. A wonderful, and lucrative, Barbecue and Garden Party was held in August thanks to John and Maggsie Gore (Rotary) and Rotary, led by Ba Donald once again contributed handsomely to the bank balance!
We were very fortunate to benefit from a number of sizeable windfall donations during the year. These see our finances in a very healthy position. However, these donations were once-off contributions and won’t be repeated.
Our costs are rising substantially: today mealie meal reached 105 Kwacha a bag which is a 100% increase on two years ago; fuel prices went up 40% recently with a consequent knock-on increase for everything else; electricity prices went up 50% and the price of just about everything in the markets rises noticeably each month. As a small organisation with very limited fundraising opportunities, these price increases are not good news. We will also be under pressure for pay increases from the staff whose income is being seriously eroded by the current inflation.
Keeping our supporters up to speed with what is happening on the ground in Sables Nua is essential. The weekly “Letter From Kabwe” has had a great re-action. This email letter goes directly to, at last count, 251 of our friends and supporters and is, I believe, forwarded by a lot of those to many others too. As well as keeping the Sables Nua family ceangailte le chéile the ‘letter’ has also been very successful at bringing in financial, and other, donations including a few of the windfalls mentioned above.
A hard working team of three has been labouring over our website and the all new, singing and dancing website is now up and running. The challenge will be to maintain the site, keep it live and lively. We need people to provide material for the site, on an ongoing basis – volunteers’ stories, photographs; maybe also something from the kids in Sables Nua. Now that we have a site we need to keep it active.
A big plus of the new website is the facility available to people to donate directly via the website and already a decent amount has come in through the website via ‘paypal’.
The facebook page continues to attract a lot of interest and has grown its “friends” to over a thousand.
The donation of materials continued and all materials were taken to Sables Nua by the various volunteer groups – clothing, including First Communion wear, footwear, sports equipment, educational materials in copious amounts were donated, transported to Kabwe and gratefully received there. Míle buíochas.
As mentioned above, wonderful highlights during the year were the donation of substantial sums of money by a number of individuals and groups including, of course, our old friends in the Dublin Rotary Club.
Speaking of donations, we’ve suffered a serious setback just this week. My garden shed has been used to store mountains of donated materials and this week workmen building a house next door somehow managed to set fire to the shed; one workman was badly burned and the shed, and everything in it, was totally destroyed. Donated materials, due to be taken to Kabwe by the June groups, and lost in the fire include fifty schoolbags, bags and bags of new clothes, footballs, judo suits, school materials and first aid supplies. I presume that, eventually, the insurance company will reimburse us for some of the value anyway but nonetheless it’s a bad blow.
Our primary focus for the coming year will be two-fold: improving the standard of education in Sables Nua and beginning the work of improving the infrastucture in the rural community of Kangombe.
In Sables Nua we will open our Grade Seven class, open a home economics / catering school room, host our first ever state examinations and identify pupils to be sponsored to Secondary schools at the end of Grade Seven.
In Kangombe we will effect essential repairs to the existing school rooms, construct toilets for the school and carry out repairs and maintenance on the bore hole and pump.
Ar aghaidh linn le chéile.
P.Ó Fainín, Kabwe 15/01/17