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July 2008 Orphanage Visit: Achievements

The 2008 Zambia trip by a party of 15 staff and students from St George’s British International School (also included 3 students from Peebles School Scotland and one from Cleeve School England, took place from 30 June 2008 to 20 July 2008. For 2 weeks, the group tackled various projects in the rural town of Serenje at an orphanage called ‘Serenje Orphans School Home’ which is supported by fund-raising activities organized by the ZOA (Zambian Orphans Appeal) Committee at St George’s and other donors. ZOA also received a generous Outreach Grant from the ECIS to help with the projects.

After the work at the orphanage, we went on a 3 day canoeing safari on the Zambezi River.

Plenty of photos from the recent trip have been included now on this website and their significance may be gauged from the following summary of some of what was achieved during our time in Zambia:

Interviews with the children All 35 children were photographed and interviewed using a uniform questionnaire and with an interpreter – details include names and ages of their siblings, their school attended, etc

Health Assessment

a) All 35 children were screened voluntarily (and with permission of guardians) at an on-site clinic organized by our accompanying Nurse in collaboration with the local Serenje Hospital. The health assessment cost was partly sponsored through a grant by the European Council of International Schools (ECIS).

b) All 35 children were washed in turn by the Nurse and others, examined for disease, weighed and measured. Details were recorded.

c) Guardians were consulted about all vaccinations undergone by the 35 children and these details also recorded. Administration of missing vaccinations was programmed.

d) Those children identified as needing vaccinations are to be vaccinated soon. A follow-up HIV testing clinic will occur in 6 months time.

e) The Nurse brought out much useful donated equipment for the hospital, thereby fostering strong links between the local health authorities and our orphanage.

Record Keeping

a) Using the donated laptop computer, records of health assessment and interviews and photos of each child, were entered on the computer

b) These records are to be updated regularly by the ‘Communication Facilitator’ (described below under the section entitled: ‘Communication Improvements’)

Clothing and footwear

a) The 15 suitcases of donated clothing brought out by the group were sorted and issued to each child after they had been washed.

b) Since most of the children did not have any shoes, cheap sturdy footwear was purchased using ZOA funds from a local market vendor, and every child was issued with a set of shoes

Playground additions

a) Repairs to existing playground equipment were made

b) New playground equipment was installed at the site (i.e. a second swing, and an above-ground playhouse.) Original designs by Grade 6 students had to be modified due to local problems with materials etc

Succession Planning

a) The young Malawian who was sponsored by ZOA to join our group trip to Zambia is to come back to Zambia in May 2009 (once he has completed his Teaching degree) to be groomed as a possible successor to the present Manager.

b) He may live in a ‘Sponsor House’ which one of the sponsors is planning to build in Serenje.

Decoration of the orphanage building

a) The orphanage lounge (or common room) walls have been decorated beautifully with scenes representing Zambia and the countries of the ZOA Partner Schools and other significant donors (i.e. Italy, England, Scotland, Portugal, Australia and Ireland). Funding for the painting was provided by the ECIS grant.

b) ‘Serenje Orphans School Home’ has been painted on the outer wall of the new dormitory building to identify the site

CoCommunication improvements

a)  a) A young local man has been employed by ZOA as a ‘Communication Facilitator’ – this job to include computer training – see below.

     He is to email to ZOA a monthly progress report plus key photos on improvements to the orphanage

c) He will relay email messages to and from the Manager.

d) Internet access for him has been negotiated with HMP (Help Ministries Project) Chibobo Orphanage Managing Director.

e) An old laptop computer (with DVD burning capability) was given to him, and a new digital camera loaned to him for the year

f) A new cellphone plus MTN simcard purchased for the Manager – this enables 2-way sms messages between himself and ZOA

g) We obtained several other telephone numbers of key Serenje orphanage management members.


Our students and staff interacted with and played a great variety of games with the children at the orphanage – e.g. using donated footballs, jigsaw puzzles, cards, board games, and of course, on the playground. Towards the end of our visit, we handed out the ZOA bags of gifts donated from St George’s classes (see below).

Computer training of management and children

a) The ‘Communication Facilitator’ to come to orphanage for 3 hours per week to update computer records and to train staff and/or children

b) a recently donated laptop computer to be used to keep master records of orphanage – it will be stored at the Manager’s home

c) a PC is to be placed permanently at the orphanage for training of staff and students

d) the ECIS grant allowed the purchase of computer items (USB storage, CDs, DVDs etc)

Gifts from St George’s classes and responses from children

a) Every child was presented with a ‘ZOA Gift Pack’ containing simple items (e.g. stationery, toothbrush and paste, soap, toy, bag of sweets, etc plus a message to the child from that class) provided through the Junior schools and Key Stage3 classes at St George’s.

b) Each child was given an opportunity to respond to the St George’s classes either through a short written statement and/or drawing or through a videotaped scene. These responses have been brought back for the St George’s classes to view.

Land boundaries resolution

a) Meetings were held with the Serenje District Council about the land boundary disputes which have arisen over the past year since significant progress was made with the orphanage building. These disputes involved the Department of Fisheries on one side of the orphanage (illegal fish ponds had been built by the latter!) and a neighbour on the other side (poorly drawn Council maps confused the issue). As a result of these disputes, the orphanage staff had been unable to commence the clearing and planting of a planned large vegetable garden to be sponsored mainly through an FAO Telefood grant.

b) These disputes appear now to have been resolved by the Council, and the Orphanage Management will now place markers (ideally in the form of a fence or eventually trees/hedge) on the newly demarcated boundaries. A start has already been made now to the vegetable garden (see next item).

Vegetable garden and fruit trees planning

a) As a result of the recent land demarcation discussions, the Department of Agriculture has offered (through the DACO, the Serenje District Agricultural Officer) to d divert an existing water furrow so that it flows through orphanage land, thereby providing our site with an invaluable source of irrigation water.

b) A site for a vegetable garden has now been identified, and this is now being cleared and then a garden established under a local gardener employed for the next year (under the FAO Telefood Project grant). This gardener will train and supervise orphanage children in the regular watering and weeding of the garden.

c) Ten (10) fruit trees (avocado and mango) have already been purchased and planted on the site (using the ECIS grant).

d) We have acted as facilitators for the FAO Telefood Project grant by organizing a meeting between the DACO and the orphanage accountant, Mr Hara, and then relaying the details of their meeting to FAO, Lusaka.

Emergency electrical lighting

a) Although the orphanage is wired for electricity, the state provider ZESCO has been slow to connect the site to the grid. Therefore, the purchase of a 5.5kVA diesel electricity generator (using the ECIS grant) has been invaluable in providing the newly opened orphanage dormitory with night-time lighting, and will be a great back-up for the ever frequent power black-outs which now occurring throughout southern Africa.

b) Two solar powered security flood lights have been installed on the ends of the new dormitory building to enhance security at night. – these were also part of the ECIS grant.

Chicken-run planning

a) There is significant funding for a large chicken-run as a result of the UNWG (United Nations Womens’ Group) grant and the FAO Telefood project. There is also significant local Management Committee experience in such a project .

b) A suitable location has been identified (on the site of the existing temporary shelter which allows prevailing winds to blow away from the orphanage buildings). Once a traditional cooking shelter has been built, then the existing temporary shelter will be knocked down and a new chicken run built of bricks and galvanized iron roofing.

c) Batches of about 70 chickens at a time will be housed in the shelter. These will be at different stages of development so as to have a continuous supply of fresh meat.

TV and DVD facilities

We left the orphanage with a TV and DVD donated by St George's Nomentana Junior School, plus many childrens’ DVDs. These will be used in the lounge once a security grill has been installed to prevent theft.

Mosquito nets

Just before we left Serenje, the Nurse was able to obtain a promise of a supply of 35 treated nets from the hospital. It is hoped that these will be in place within a week or two, since there is some urgency due to approaching warmer weather which will increase the chances of mosquito bites, and hence, malaria.

Cabinets in the dormitories

a) A prototype wooden cabinet was designed, ordered and paid for. This would allow 2 children to store their clothing etc close to their beds. Unfortunately, this n prototype proved to be of poor quality, and the Manager has gone back to the drawing board. Once he is happy with a design, 20 such cabinets will be ordered.

b) The above prototype is now being used to store games and jigsaws etc in the dormitory lounge

Rationalization of orphanage size

a) Although intended to house 64 children, it was quite obvious that the 32 bunk beds are just too close, thereby presenting possible health risks in the even to outbreaks of disease. So, after careful measurement, it was decided to limit the dormitory block to house 40 children, 20 boys and 20 girls. The excess beds were given to the HMP Chibobo Orphanage which is seeking expansion from 65 to 100 children – this was a first step towards establishing good working relations between both orphanages which share similar philosophies.

b) At a later date in the future, a second dormitory should be built to increase capacity to the original 64 children. It should be designed to cater for the increasing privacy needed by young adolescents (e.g. like the ‘sectioned’ dormitories we saw at the HMP Chibobo Orphanage) – so, once built, the second dorm will accommodate older children as opposed to the existing dorm which is great for supervision of smaller children.

Education for all

a) As a result of a visit to local schools by members of our group and, places have been found at a local community school for the several orphans who have not until now being attending school. The Manager will ensure that no financial nor other obstacles present themselves to hinder school attendance by all children at our orphanage.

b) At the same time, it is felt that the children themselves must be encouraged to seize every opportunity to advance their own education since it is their one way to escape from poverty. Therefore, their school results are to be monitored closely and poor performance investigated – i.e. their accountability is important.

Visit to HMP Chibobo Orphanage

We met a group led by the Australian Mike Lampard which sponsors the Chibobo orphanage – they had built yet another playground in the Chibobo area and were repairing broken equipment (e.g. generators etc) at Chibobo. Chibobo appears to be flourishing under its dynamic young Managing Director, Staivous, who is also keen to work closely with the Serenje orphanageA visit to the HMP Chibobo orphanage located some 30km away from Serenje in the bush proved to be extremely valuable. This orphanage (established in 2003 by the late Abeauty Chibuye and Kevin Gilbert) is much further down the path of self-sustainability than the newly opened Serenje one; it has its own large farm which has produced a bumper harvest this year

Advice on Procedures, building, etc

a) Emergency exit doors are to be installed in both dormitories

b) A draft written procedure for the selection of future children for the orphanage was produced.

c) Suggestions were provided as to the location and security and safety of the new emergency generator

d) Security doors are to be installed on the storerooms, and grills on the TV 

e) Draft rules for staff at the orphanage and draft Rules for children were drawn up.

Establishing immediate priorities

At the end of the second week in Serenje, a general meeting was held with the Manager and Accountant to establish spending priorities and to set a budget for 2009 for running the orphanage. Here is the list in descending order of perceived priorities, although the making of bricks for the Canteen has already started.

1. Water and Electricity connection

2. Marking of boundaries with fence or shrubs or trees….

3. Selection and employment of good permanent staff

4. Construction of temporary African cooking shelter

5. Purchase of a 3 tonne truck (from the internet using local experience)

6. Erection of Chicken Run (UNWG grant) and Vegetable Garden (FAO Telefood grant)

7. Construction of Canteen.

8. Digging of water well (during dry season, October), purchase of submersible pump and large storage tank

9. Applying for good farming land from the Council (for future moves towards a degree of self-sustainability.


a) During our visit, it became clear that the orphanage has need of a woman in the key role of ‘Matron’. This person would be responsible for the health and welfare of the children (e.g. ensuring that medication is correctly administered, etc), the cleanliness and hygiene of the children and facilities, and act as direct overseer of  the 3 female Carers.

b) Similarly, the important position of ‘Station Hand’ has been created at the suggestion of the Manager. This person will be responsible for the security of the site during the day, with the two male nightwatchmen also reporting to him. He will be the person in charge at the orphanage whilst the Manager is offsite.

c) The proposed salaried staffing is thus: 2 Cooks, 2 Nightwatchmen, 1 Matron, 1 Station Hand, and 3 Carers.

d) The Accountant is given a maximum monthly allowance for expenses.

e) The Communication Facilitator is given a maximum monthly allowance for expenses.

f) Draft Job descriptions have been produced for all these positions.

g) The Manager of course does not receive a salary from the orphanage, but receives a confidential ‘honorarium’ offered to him by ZOA. Now that the orphanage is up and running, we plan to develop a detailed job description for the Manager over the next few months.

Orphanage Budget for 2009

a) Feeding costs were calculated by the Accountant based on an ideal balanced diet for the meals at the orphanage. In particular, more fruit is to be introduced to the diet. Children will stay at the orphanage from Sunday night to Friday lunchtime, with 3 meals per day – a total of 15 meals for the week at the orphanage. During school holidays when the children do not sleep at the orphanage, 3 lunchtime meals per week will still be provided at the orphanage.

b) Salaried costs were based on the official minimum wage being provided for the Carers who will continue to be employed at the orphanage during school holidays.

c) The total orphanage budget for 2009 comes to approximately €16,000 p.a.

d) Since the grand total to be raised by overseas donors (i.e. ZOA) is €16,000 p.a., it would be ideal if the five ZOA Partner schools (St George’s, Aquinas, Peebles, Cleeve, St Peter’s) could each target themselves to raise at least €3,000 during the next calendar year to cover the running costs for the year. Anything in excess will go towards the capital costs of constructing the Canteen and the digging of a well to safeguard water supplies at the site.

Excursion to Kasanka National Park

A relaxing weekend away from Serenje just before our final day in town – we visited (and swam in its icy waters!) the beautiful Kundalila Falls (‘sound of the dove’) on our way to the rather tame, but beautiful Kasanka Park. There, we did a game walk and a game drive (some were lucky enough to see elephants but most saw only puku and sitatunga!), enjoyed a super BBQ and a cold evening around a roaring outdoors log fire, before adjourning to delightful self-contained chalets.

Safari to Lower Zambezi National Park

After the hard work at Serenje, it was time to unwind….if you can call ‘unwinding’ to be hours of paddling the mighty Zambezi River, switching direction often to avoid hippos or to get closer to wild elephants, knowing all the time that there are crocs lurking on each river bank, or close to your canoes! We camped in tents (which we had to erect each night) on islands in the Zambezi, enjoyed great camp food and spectacular sunsets, sunrises and even the setting of a full moon! The scenery was superb, with mountain ranges on the Zambian side of the river, and a lush tree-lined Zimbabwean bank on the opposite side. On our last day, we did a short canoe hop, then a game drive to a lonely airstrip from which we were flown back in two small planes to Lusaka airport.

What a trip!



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