Today was the day of the truck tour… WOW! What an amazing day. Unbelievable. Exciting doesn’t cover it! We started the day like yesterday, toast and a malaria tablet! Although I did upgrade to jam on toast! Off we went to Hilltop bus stop, it’s the nearest stop to the house. Note there’s no official signage or shelter or anything like that! It’s an area on the side of the road where you wait for a bus to eventually stop. The conductor shouts “town” or “townieee” repetitively, that’s when you know it’s the one you need. We got the bus to Long Acres where we then had to get off and on to another one called “hospital” or “SDA”, either of those head in the same direction. We then had to jump off at Kwacha which is just across the road from Sport in Action. It’s funny to get the driver to stop you have to tap the bus, or catch contact with the conductor who then bangs on the side of the bus to tell the driver to make a stop.
We arrived at Sport in Action to meet Gift who was taking us on the truck tour of the placement sites. First stop was Kabwata. It’s a newly opened site that will be a Wallace Group placement next year. It has a beach football and volleyball pitch, basketball court, swings, slide, roundabout and climbing frame, plus a free space for generic games and socialising.
Next up was Fountain of Hope. En route to Fountain we were being paraded on the back of the truck like we were celebrities. “Mizungu, Mizungu” shouted at us with smiles and waves. It means rich white person. I mean I’m white but not rich. Or so I thought, I guess my life in England is richer than I realised. I’m so lucky to have my family, shelter, and opportunities. All things I take for granted way too much. Whilst on the truck Claire received a marriage proposal and Corey received some kisses. Safe to say we had such a laugh about it all.
When we arrived at Fountain, straight away it stole my heart. It’s a space to take the most deprived street children and young adults off the streets and provide them with shelter, health, and education. It was such a heart breaker moment when the realisation of the facility and its multi purpose function of a shelter, education,sport, sanitation, food, protection that was previously exclusive to boys and young men being housed there, to the new dormitories that would allow the most deprived girls and young women to also be housed there, helping them escape the troubles of the streets. To know this could be a place that could save so many women for the first time was truly incredible. Hearing the stories, and hearing the plans, we all were silent.
Seeing the dorm almost ready to be moved in was so amazing, although we all really want to help hurry up the process. We as a group have been given a task to help clear the rubbish and rubble near the dorm and transform it into a sustainable vegetable patch to allow the women and girls to produce their own fruit and vegetables for themselves, and to sell. They also hope to build a bakery, which will provide more opportunities for women and girls to become more employable, and self-sufficient, escaping their previous realities.
If you wonder how Fountain of Hope started, well luckily, we were told! In the style of Sir Isaac Newton (minus an apple falling), a man who wanted to make a difference sat under a tree (which is still there) and the idea came into his head and he never looked back. Let’s hope we as a group keep the momentum going and transform this place into the place they want it to be.
The third site was the Olympic Youth Development Centre (OYDC). A whole new world! This site was unbelievable, so unreal. The development was something that contrasted with the poverty that was very much present across the road. It kind of made me feel uncomfortable knowing how developed and incredible this space was whilst opposite there were people living in cardboard shacks, and very small buildings.
We went on a tour around the site and this included the new football pitches, sports hall, hockey pitches, swimming pool, athletic track and a range of courts. It was all very impressive. Jokingly we laughed about how we should all jump into the pool because it was so hot. It was no longer a joke. We all queued up and ran and jumped into the pool, it was freezing yet refreshing. First team bonding exercise completed! We didn’t stay wet long as the African sun dried us!
Next to OYDC is the National Heroes Stadium and it just seems so surreal. It’s stunning, the whole place is so inspirational. It’s a definite escape from the reality which most face within the areas we visited.
Then, we went to Chipata which was just across the road. This was definitely not an affluent area. I ended up playing football with the children whose faces lit up as soon as we all got involved. None of the children had shoes, and the pitch was covered in glass. It was heartbreaking to see, yet for these children, its normal and they really didn’t care. They got so stuck in, and the level was impressive…even if it was just meant to be a kick about!
From Chipata we went on to Kalingalinga, also known by the Wallace group as K-Town. Again a similar story but different faces. We managed to organise a mini football game in the short period we were there. My team vs Cieran’s team. The children were so lovely and they said I was always welcomed to come back. So I guess that means I did alright! Especially when I nutmegged Cieran amusing a group of lads “ooooh.” Nutmegging has now turned into a running house game between Cieran, Mark and me!
We then went to Munali. It appears so structured there. We witnessed a peer leader session of basketball. The coach looked competent and appeared to have an engaged group who was loving his drills. The facilities here are huge, loads of open space. It was quite quiet there, with only basketball taking place today.
The final placement site was Mtendere. We had to walk through a market, where flies were flying onto meat, and the stench of the meat in the heat was something my stomach was starting to feel slightly dodge about! Through a gated area into a school grounds, we were presented with a concrete court and a small gravel area. Warning, cute moment coming…. A group of children distracted me during the talk peeping through a hole in the gate, so naturally, I went over and ended up playing with them. They were giggling and saying “Mizungu” then giggling some more.
Finally, we went to Kabulonga Mall where the KFC, Pizza Hut etc is located to get food for the night. Mark cooked us all up risotto. It was lovely. I was also picked up a chocolate bar. They have so many Dairy Milk variations here, so much more than at home, it makes me slightly jealous! I had a Top Deck, which is white chocolate on top of milk chocolate and wow…. I’m addicted!