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Two ZOA groups visited the ‘Serenje Orphans School Home’. ZOA Geneva (Collège du Léman) worked on various projects identified by orphanage Management from 3 July to 15 July. ZOA Rome (St George’s British International School) arrived on 13 July and completed unfinished items as well as building two playgrounds for local schools.

All 36 volunteers met together with Orphanage Management (Mr Alouis Mwansa and Mr Kamandete Chuma) at the local Mapontela restaurant for an historic meal together on 13 July, and then we spent 14 July on a ‘hand-over’ of projects and ideas, as well as establishment of the orphanage budget for 1 October 2010 to 30 September 2011. A list of priorities for future capital works was also drawn up.

Here is a link to a brief slideshow showing some of the activities and achievements of the ZOA Geneva group: 

And here is a link to a description with photos of the achievements of the ZOA Rome group:

However, there are a few key general issues that have emerged from these recent visits:

1) The orphanage construction program has reached a stage where the essential buildings are finally in place (i.e. dormitories, lounge, washrooms, canteen, laundry, storeroom). It is now essential to properly and regularly maintain these items, including the orphanage truck, which is clearly demonstrating its versatility and value.

2) The site is far more secure than in the past, but the complete fencing of the property remains a high priority. This can only be done when final boundaries have been officially defined by the Department of Lands – this outcome should be forthcoming soon.

3) Routines are now in place for children and staff, and it is clear that the children are happy and healthy, and attending school regularly. These routines will evolve as the children grow older and need more time for study, develop greater responsibility in their chores (e.g. vegetable garden work) and commence skills training (e.g. sewing, woodwork, etc). The provision in the budget for an annual clothing allowance for each child will allow the routine purchase of local clothing (or making thereof using local material and the sewing machines) without waiting each year for donated clothing to arrive with visiting groups.

4) Electricity supply from the ZESCO grid is now connected, and this should provide greater learning opportunities for the children through reading, educational DVDs, and computer training.

5) The FAO water furrow is now complete, and there are now great opportunities for vegetable production as well as the possibility of a fish farm (a grant application for this has been submitted to ECIS). Once the boundaries are known, and orphanage layout decided, then a chicken-run will also be established.

6) Improving the quality of the education of our children has become possibly our most important priority. Moves are now underway to transfer our children to more established schools, as well as our provision of better resources (e.g. textbooks etc) to these local Serenje schools. A regular reading program has been established at the orphanage using books brought out with our groups. A part-time teacher has been hired to give support to this program. Skills training for the older children will become a major priority over the next few years, and therefore construction of a Skills Centre has been prioritized. Children will from now on begin to receive regular pocket-money with which they will learn how to save for the future.

7) The Managing Director (Kamandete Chuma) is clearly a key component of the ongoing success of the project. It therefore appears necessary to find a long-term solution to ongoing friction with the owner of the leased ‘Volunteer House’ in which Kamandete resides. Construction of a suitable house for the Managing Director on orphanage land appears to be essential. Part of this building will contain a sick-bay in which to isolate infectious children, and this part will be built first.

8) The running budget for the next 12 months has risen by about €3,000 to a total of €21,000 for the year. This amount is impressive when one considers that this covers the cost of food and education for 44 children and wages for 9 staff. This money is mainly raised by the school students and staff of two schools, Collège du Léman (Geneva) and St George’s (Rome).

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