We're all on the same road, it's just a very long one (ZAM) (UK)

Oliver Westmancott is the non-medical member of a team from The Forge, UK on a short-term, well, medical trip to Hands at Work communities in ZambiaToday we visited two different schools on the same day. This begged the obvious question: How far is it between the two?

The reply was insightful: "They're on the same road, it's just a very long road."

Two schools. Both on the same road. Both community schools. This basically means that they are run by volunteers and get no money from the government, but are, crucially, free to attend.

We have to feed the kids before we deworm them. They don’t eat everyday and if a kid is properly full of worms it's not good to give them the tablets. It is worth giving that a second thought: They don’t eat everyday. It's not that sometimes they skip breakfast, it's that some days they don’t eat. At all. The food we provide gives the tablet something to work on.

The food is appreciated, but is just so temporary. It probably doesn't last much longer than our visit. Even the deworming needs to be repeated in six months. On its own it's not going to transform their worlds.

The Lunch QueueSchool One: We arrived, we fed the hungry kids. School Two: We arrive to find the children queuing for their lunch [provided by the school] and this isn't a snack, this is full-on nshima and soya chunks in sauce.

Same road, worlds apart. And the difference? Fifteen British pounds.

School Two is sponsored £15 per child per month by a church from Austrailia [through a partnership with Hands at Work] every month for years. The community can then choose how they budget that spending to cover three essentials services: food, education and basic healthcare.

School Two feeds 55 children everyday. School One can't.

School Two is building a new school building to serve more children. School One can't.

School Two provides money to send children to the clinics when they need it. School One can't.

Photo of the DayThis day couldn't have highlighted more to me the difference that a small amount of money, coming through a community, and commitment can make to a generation. It's exciting stuff and I so want to be part of it, but it only works if we're in it for the long haul.

You can argue that we're all on the same road in some way, it's just a very long one. Perhaps it's time we move a little closer to our neighbours, we might just find that we're able to help each other out.


Oliver Westmancott is the non-medical member of a visiting team from The Forge, UK. The team is visiting seven community schools to carry out a deworming programme and is conducting two training days to equip volunteer teachers and home-base care workers.

Oliver is updating a blog, specially set up for his tour of Zambia, daily. Also follow him on Twitter here.