In Tandem with Africa and Asia
Beyond the Bike goes Back to the Future in Zambia...
Beyond Cranleigh Zambia Trip II, October 22nd - 30th
OK, so the Tazara railway is not quite as high tech as Marty's Mcfly's souped up 'flux capacitor' but it was at least able to take me back to Zambia, where the main project that the ride & Cranleigh school are supporting this year and into the future. After nearly 4500 kms on the bike, it was a pleasure to be in same place for a week, back with familiar faces, from both Cranleigh & Kawama School...
Arriving in Mbeya 24 hours before the train gave me sufficient time to buy and ticket and orientate myself after 2 days of serious grade climbing from Lake Malawi through the Uporoto mountains. 1800m of vertical ascent in 75km isn't much fun on a 50kg tandem without a stoker! In Mbeya, I was hosted by Grassroots, an educational charity that Jodie Collin's, Beyond Ourselves director, used to work with. I visited 3 schools with them and was simultaneously heartened and disheartened. Heartened by the enthusiasm of the teachers but disheartened by their common frustrations about lack of funding and basic resources. It is all very well having schools, but if you don't have the resources to teach with, education can be ineffective at best and counter-productive at worst - building up expectations amongst students only for them to enter the workforce without sufficient skills to gain meaningful employment.
The Tazara Railway in the afternoon light
My expectation about the train were low so it was a pleasant surprise to roll out of Mbeya roughly on time. I had booked a first class ticket - only about £2 more expensive than 2nd class and with a bunk and window seat to enjoy the spectacular scenery. I shared the carriage with Bishop Christopher, a colorful Zambian missionary who likened me physically to Jesus Christ, thanks to my facial hair! Take a look at my video of the 1st 100 days to make your own judgement - it is his voice at the end!
I arrived in Zambia only 6 hours late after a delay in the middle of the night and it was great to see Jo Mackay, Beyond Ourselves project manager who kindly collected me from the 'New' Kapiri Mhposi station. Alongside the rest of the railway line, it was built with Chinese money in the 1970s. The architecture certainly seemed in keeping with 1970s Communism. 24 hours of R&R in Ndola, enjoying a bed and some excellent Zambeef, boosted my energy levels before meeting the next batch of Cranleigh students: my colleague Jon Ross was leading a trip of 16 U6th formers for the second Beyond Cranleigh trip to work with Kawama School in Kitwe.
Preparing for the Cranleigh School leavers ball? Independence day Celebrations in the old school.
It was another successful week of building the long-term partnership between the two schools that we started earlier this year, with the help of Beyond Ourselves. I was proud of the attitude of the Cranleigh students in getting stuck into both the painting and educational activities with the Kawama children and both parties learnt a lot from the experience. Watch the space on the Cranleigh School website for a full report on the trip.
It was also great to see Pastor Cephas, teacher Angel and their colleagues and friends. Members of the August trip will be pleased to know that they haven't been forgotten with kids regularly asking when Ollie, Eddie & Co will be coming back!
Teacher Angel Rev Parker & Pastor Cephas
As well as a most productive week painting the classrooms and working with the students, highlights included being treated to the Zambian Independence day celebrations, going to church (with a hymn from the Cranleigh students) and a visit to the local market.
The next stage of the programme is building up the child sponsorship programme. For £12.50 pcm, teachers will be paid, kids will get a school meal and uniform and proper resources. Forfeiting a main course in a London restuarant each month,you could give a child here a start in life - sign up at http://www.beyondourselves.co.uk/sponsor-a-child/.
Help these kids become tomorrow's leaders of Zambia
I said goodbye to them on the weekend and am now waiting for the train to get back to Tanzania. multi-day delays are not unheard of so I'm crossing my fingers: TIA ("This is Africa").