Welcome to The Wye Valley Zambia Project
Making friends and changing lives through working together
The Wye Valley Zambia Project
The Wye Valley School was invited, in 2006, to set up a partnership with a school in Lusaka, Zambia. That school is called Libala High School. The aim of the partnership was to develop young leaders in both schools and to give them opportunities to work together, thereby promoting understanding between young people from very different cultures.
The project has grown over the years and now has many different aspects to it.
For the first four years Sixth Form students went to visit Libala High School to train their students to be Sports Leaders and Student Mentors.
We also supported the school by taking out 24 computers to enable them to set up an IT suite. The next year we took a range of equipment and resources to enable them to deliver practical Science lessons throughout the school. To make this possible we also donated a laptop and projector to allow them to access the many programmes and resources that our students use on a daily basis.
At the end of each of the visits the Libala students would organise a sports festival for the children of their local Basic (Primary) Schools. There would be over 200 children at these festivals and for them this was their only opportunity to do any organised Physical Education as this subject is not a part of their curriculum. Through these festivals both schools began to set up links with the local Basic Schools.
After four years we decided that our programme was not a partnership. We had been going to Zambia but the Libala students had not had the opportunity to come to the UK and to visit Wye Valley. There was no chance of them being able to raise the money to pay for their flights to come here so we decided to take on the challenge to raise that money and invited them to come and stay in our homes.
February 2011 saw the arrival at Wye Valley of the first group of 15 students and 2 teachers from Libala High. While they were with us they visited local Primary Schools, they spoke at the District Rotary Conference in Birmingham, they visited many of the sights of London and saw the sea for the first time at Brighton. They also spoke to students at Wye Valley and performed at an assembly to the whole school that was truly memorable. For them the visit to the UK was a life-changing experience as the visits to their school have been for our students. This successful occasion set the pattern for our programme which we now feel is a true partnership.
As part of the development of the programme the Libala students went in to their local Basic Schools and run Sports Days. One time when we were out there they delivered programmes in four Basic schools, working with over 300 children in each school. We have now set up a partnership between Libala Basic School and Carrington Junior School. One of the aspects of this partnership is the introduction of the Rotakids Clubs which is an initiative that is part of the Rotary programme. One of our students, Rachel Gerrish, went out to Zambia in July 2011 and set up four Rotakids Clubs, one in each of the four Basic Schools that we had worked with. We are now hoping to partner each of these schools with one of our feeder Primary Schools.
In 2012 we went back to Libala and continued to develop all the programmes that we had set up. Throughout our partnership we have always appreciated the considerable help and support that we have received from the Rotary Club of Bourne End and Cookham and in recognition of this took Mike Ware with us who is Chair of the New Generations section of the club. His presence acted like an ‘Open Sesame’. We had struggled to get the Rotary Clubs in Lusaka on board with the programme and prepared to work with Libala to support them but when Mike was there they made contact before we travelled, met us at the airport, invited Mike and the Head to their meetings and arranged for us to visit a crocodile farm. They were very interested to hear about the Rotakids Clubs and the Interact Club that Libala had set up in partnership with our own Interact Club at Wye Valley. It is also good to see that they have maintained the links they set up and are now working with Libala High. This has also led to a new partnership between our Rotaract Club and a new club to be set up for former friends of the partnership, led by Sean Ngawme – ‘Our Man in Africa’ who came to the UK in 2013.
Also while we were in Lusaka in 2012 we visited the Luyando Orphanage for the first time. This is an orphanage that the students in the Libala Interact Club, led by their teacher Patricia Zulu, visit on a regular basis. The students grow vegetables at school and then take them to the orphanage to help them. When we went to visit them we were horrified at the poverty and hardship that the children had to suffer. The orphanage caters for 180 children from the ages of one to eighteen. During the day one room is stacked with mattresses that are spread into the other four rooms at night for the girls and young children to sleep on. The older boys just sleep on the concrete floor. They had no chairs or tables for eating at and in the room that is used as a classroom there were two small wooden stools and an old piece of plywood that had been painted black to be used as a blackboard. Despite all this the children were happy, they sang and danced for us and played on the stony open bit of ground that was their play area.
And now to 2013. 20th February saw the arrival of the group at Heathrow. Eleven current students, one former student, Sean and three teachers, two from Libala High and one from Libala Basic School. It was really exciting to see them again. Susan from Libala Basic came over to stay with staff from Carrington Junior School and spent a lot of time developing the partnership between their two schools. The first day, in the cold we went up to London. We had been invited to the Zambian High Commission for lunch and to meet the High Commissioner. Once they had got used to the cold our guests were really pleased to go and meet the High Commissioner and get back on Zambian soil for a while!
The next day seemed even colder so we went to the seaside. Even the most hardened among us couldn’t cope with sitting on the beach for fish and chips so we headed for a nice warm cafe on the pier to taste these special seaside delicacies. It was also the first time our friends had seen the sea. A great day all round.
We took them on other visits – Reading Football Club to watch a Premiership game, Reading lost! To Windsor Castle but without an invitation to tea, Ice Skating, Ten Pin Bowling and into local Primary Schools to work with the children and to introduce them to their cultural songs and dances.
The important day of the visit was to travel to Bournemouth to be part of the District 1090 Rotary Conference. Here we talked to a large audience about the project and how it has grown over the years. We explained about the development of the Rotakids, Interact Club and the new Rotaract Club, all of which are programmes initiated by the Rotary organisation. While we were at the Conference we also received four Literacy boxes to be taken back to the orphanage from money raised by our Rotaract club and supported by the Literacy Box Trust. In these boxes are enough resources to allow each child in the orphanage to have exercise books, pens, pencils, rulers, etc. to allow them to be able to learn more effectively. We were also very pleased that BA allowed them to take the boxes back without being charged excess baggage for them. Our friends performed their songs and dances to a packed audience where they actually overran by 30 minutes but nobody seemed concerned and the feedback we received after indicated that they were the highlight of the day.
A final Farewell Dinner on the last night attended by so many of the friends that had been part of this visit, including visitors from the Zambian High Commission and numerous Rotary District Governors brought the event to a close. Tearful goodbyes before the return visit to Terminal 5 convinced us that this partnership will continue to grow and flourish. It is a great experience to see these youngsters from different cultures working together, learning from each other and building friendships that will last a long time.
We next travelled to Lusaka in 2014. We ran the visit through the Rotary Club rather than through the school. All the people that went were either members of Interact, Rotaract or Rotarians along with two staff from Carrington School and a teacher from Bardwell Special Needs School in Bicester. This is our newest partnership – between Bardwell School and Chilenje School Special Needs department and we were pleased to take one of their teachers, Matthew Selsdon, with us to work with the staff there. Much of the story of our trip can be found in the Rotary article that has been included in the website and the video of the trip that can be found in the trips and visits section.
We have set up the project as a charity. Whether it is raising money for things to take out to Lusaka or to pay for the new refurbishments at Chilenje there is always a challenge to be met and to become a charity is one way that we feel we can do this. From our first visit to Zambia all those years ago to where we are now the project has grown tremendously, so many people are involved and supporting us that we feel this has to be our next step.
We are now applying for people to be able to Gift Aid money for us and once we have gained £5000 will apply for Charity status.