Settled in at school

Seems ages since I posted. The fact is that I’m now living in a Welsh hilltop ashram and everyday life seems so far away. But we’re a busy place, established and run by a renowned Yoga Master, Swami Nishchalananda Saraswati, so there are courses and many people passing through. Many of them now know of Ketty and the community of friends in Eastern Zambia as I have a small poster up on our notice board, so the net of helpers spreads wider. Thanks again to all who have become involved in this lovely project.

Alice putting in hair extensions for Ketty to look cool at school

So to Ketty. My previous post was after we’d been to see her for the very first time at school. Her mum, Alice, sends me messages nearly every day via whatsapp (I gave her my old smartphone and use some of my contribution money to pay for airtime as she gets so little money from the NGO where she works. Like… none! right now).

are you leaving?

Anyway Ketty loves school. We left her, at the end of that previous post, hardly looking at us as we drove off, sad at us leaving, as we were at leaving her. Then she returned home for her first holiday… signing so fast that Alice couldn’t keep up. Her teacher says she’s little miss popular (of course); when she saw some of the young kids in the dorm didn’t have soft toys to cuddle as they went to sleep, she organised a rota to make sure everyone had one for a few nights a week, including in the rota her own little ‘Storm’, the husky dog I’d bought for her to soften her transition to boarding school.

signing ‘I love you’ to me during the school hols

I tell you, she’s special!!

So then back to school for her second term, and so happy to go back. Not that she’s had a bad time at home, her grandparents were so happy to see her as well as Alice and her friends in the compound. She was looking for me, even though we’d explained I was away until summer (our winter)… she was looking in the room at Tikondane, that NGO where I used to stay, just to check if I was hiding.

So my friends, I have to keep the dynamic going, year after year I will ask anyone who wants to share this delightful adventure to help me pay for the coming years of schooling. Just if you get pleasure from following this story and just if you get pleasure from knowing that you change the life not just of Ketty, but of her whole family. Why?

Because Ketty is also their pride and joy; when she’s happy and fulfilled, it brings sunshine into the lives of her family (Zambian families are very close and ‘organic’).

Alice, and her mum and dad, ask me to send their gratitude to all of you who have contributed.

I’m soon booking my trip out in December to take fees for Ketty’s second year of schooling. The first year was to learn sign language. Next year she will be starting an education proper, in that sign language, with both deaf and hearing teachers.

 

Love to all, Tony

Ketty’s first month at Magwero school for the deaf.

Ketty at Magwero
Ketty at Magwero

We managed to keep away for a month! After we dropped Ketty off for her first taste of school (https://ulingana.wordpress.com/2017/01/17/a-very-special-school/)  we only had one communication from the head, that Ketty was doing fine.

Alice & Catherine bought loads of vegetables & stuff in Chipata, on the way, then we went to the school. Saturday, day off, kids playing everywhere, then we spot Ketty…they hadn’t told her and she runs over to us, surprised and happy to see us.

A beautiful day then kind staff lend us a stove & charcoal, and we cook her favourite; chips!!! plus a feast… sausages, cabbage salad, green beans in tomato sauce.

It’s still very much the rainy season here so we were lucky… a hot sunny play and eat… then the heavens opened and we rush for cover.

So so sad to go…. Ketty hardly looking at us, shuffling around. I took her aside for a mo and explained I was flying away, not to see her for a year…. finally she looked at me and we had a little goodbye. I was so sad driving away, then I thought, ‘this is actually beautiful… having someone I care about this much and being loved in return…. how fortunate to be so sad on parting’.

Alice told me on the way back… the teacher told her that Ketty had cried for her mother the first two nights of her stay. I’m glad I didn’t know that! But now we know she’s settled and is proudly showing us the sign language she’s learned already.

Once again, to those generous souls, friends of mine, who have donated money, please be proud of how much you have changed the life of a beautiful young person. Not only her, but her whole family… Alice’s father and mother both said ‘God bless you’ to which I replied, please also give your thoughts and blessings to my friends who make this possible.

love to you all, from us.

Magwero School for the Deaf

magwero 4This post is what the fundraising for my young friend Ketty is all about. This is the school which holds our future hopes. Difference between an education, and zero prospects for a young deaf girl who is not understood by anyone in the community except her close relatives.

Magwero school is right on the Zambia – Malawi border, a sprawling collection of buildings at the end of 20 or 30 km of dirt road in a valley that looks suspiciously like Paradise. I mean in a country, a province, where the rains had failed and crops withered, this valley was green, lush, even had a lake!!

Alice asked me to go and check it out when we were having a boys day out in Chipata, the big town of the province, near the Malawi border. She’d already seen it and hoped that somehow she could find a sponsor to pay the fees. Although we just rolled up without any appointment (well…this is Africa), I had a long talk with Nora, the principal and she accepted Ketty on the basis of the hospital records confirming her total deafness.

People from western schools would think the amenities very basic. But things here are different, the kids here want to learn! They know that without education they’re sunk. And most of them are used to sleeping on a mat on the ground and eating basic nutritious food. I love the life here in Zambia, prefer it to Europe (though my old bones would have a problem sleeping on the ground, I’m used to a mattress).

So Ketty will board during term time, but she’ll only be seven by the time she starts and that’s young. So I want to raise enough to pay for at least two trips during each term for Alice to go and visit. Sounds like they do lots of activity stuff though, as well as learning ASL (American sign language), English, and a comprehensive education like children with hearing.

COSTS

These are the current costs. They may go up in  January 2017 when Ketty starts. Which may not affect us. Why? Because the Zambian economy is in a bad way and the Kwacha falls against most other currencies. The fees are set at a meeting between the Principal, and the parents later this year. I’m in regular contact with Nora, vice-Principal, currently acting Principal.

£160                  Tuition fees, accommodation and food (! no there’s no mistake here.)

£55                   ‘Groceries’ – means stuff like toiletries and extras (my estimate)

£370                 Travel has to be taxi, there are no buses as it’s way out in the bush past Chipata. So There and back each of the three terms is 6 x £31. Then Alice has to be able to visit at least twice a term, so another 6 trips. The driver is a friend, so he will keep the price as good as he can for us.

Grand total  = £585 per year

So 12 years = £7020   that’s what we’re aiming for.

If you’d like to donate to help me with fees, please go to the donate page from the menu. Thanks.


Climbing Everest barefoot for charity (not)

climbing Everest barefoot.... not much further
climbing Everest barefoot…. not much further

People doing fundraising often do some challenge. My friend Bryony (who is involved in the charitable website ‘ulingana’ with me) has just run a half marathon. But she’s young! And my knee cartilage (skiing legacy!) will not allow me to run.

I could spend money to raise money (!) by …say….jumping out of an aeroplane dressed only in a furry rabbit suit, or climbing Everest barefoot without oxygen.

But I have a great idea that will actually add money to the fund, and avoid those irritating side effects of such ventures, like broken back or pulmonary oedema.

I WILL EAT VERY simply and live on £20 pounds a week. I will eat like my friends in Zambia do. They live on about a dollar a day. The cost of living here is much higher but I’m vegetarian so should be easy. No going out; I ‘m a recluse anyway, but this also means no going across to the yoga ashram in Wales. No chocolate, no ice cream, no luxuries at all. Basic food, rice, dahl, veg. Fruit if I can afford it. Solidarity with my sisters & brothers!

(I’ve sent out £200 to my friend Musa in Zambia, so his & Ketty’s families can buy enough maize to survive this year as the harvest failed. Again. People living too far out in the bush won’t even get hunger help. Some of them will die of starvation).

Swami Nischalananda Saraswati said to me a year ago that the way to get through the place where I was stuck in my yogic progress, was to go and serve my fellow humans. That’s what I’m trying to do with my life now. And this project arose directly from that. So I appreciate totally that it’s my project and I can’t expect anyone to connect with it in the way I do.

But at the same time, I could really use some help.

If you feel inclined to help, then I, and Alice (Ketty’s mum) thank you from our hearts.

love Tony

ps I have been invited to go and stay in Zambia later this year, so I will be taking Ketty’s first year of school fees as it’s cheaper than doing bank transfers. Also Alice’s first year of taxi charges to get them there (or term if I can’t afford a year) as there are no buses out into the bush!

Tales of a firefly – early days of an artist?

In the same way that a blind person’s sense of hearings is often greatly enhanced, so with Ketty her sense of ‘seeing things’ is much more acute than the average person. The first time we met, we went for IMG_0873a walk through the garden and orchard of the NGO. I loved that everything, we had to stop for a look; an insect,  a leaf, or just a pattern of shadows. I’ve seen this with good photography also… the photo just reproduces ‘what’s there’ but actually a great photo makes you see what’s there either in more detail, or differently, or causes you to process the information differently.

Whether Ketty will choose to become an artist is only written in the future. Pointless to speculate. Alice is keen and helps her daughter to draw and paint as much as she’s able, and I have sent her practical, and inspirational, stuff. What more can you do. Even for normal hearing kids the prospects in Eastern province are limited. For girls? Have children, work in the fields. This is a tribal and very traditional culture. But I suspect that Ketty needs something to enable her to shine, to express herself.

IMG_0955At my leaving party, so much was going on. Noise (which obviously Ketty could not hear), people dancing, walking about. That was my last night before returning to England. Suddenly, a tugging at my sleeve until I saw it. A single firefly painting tracks against the night sky darkness. We watched it until it came over and stopped on the table right in front of us, as if to say, ‘ah, you appreciate my beauty, have a closer look’.

Alice just sent me some pictures. There’s one active email account that they can go and use. Plus my friend Musa has WhatsApp that we use for day to day communication. We get so used to having our laptops, desktops, smartphones. Lots of people in Eastern province have mobiles of course, rarely a smartphone. But every other small business is a roadside place selling airtime. They get charged a fortune by  the network providers for pay as you go. But then I suppose, so do we!

So Ketty is drawing, from a very good ‘how to draw’ book, and also painting using water paints that we got from a Chipata supermarket for Ketty and Musa’s young daughter Martha. She hasn’t started using the acrylics I sent yet, I leave that to Alice’s judgement as to when she’s old enough.june 2016 a

Ketty painting 2