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TANWORTH STARFISH FUND ‘Belmoor’ Blackheath Road, Wenhaston, Suffolk. IP19 9DH

TEL: 01502 478 503    CHRISTMAS 2012

Reg. charity no.1101416



Hopefully, you’re not surprised to learn we don’t spend all our time in Zambia working! Weekends and public holidays generally allow time to get around a bit. In June 2012, a long weekend allowed time to revisit the Victoria Falls. Over the years we’ve visited several times, both in the rainy season when all you can see is rain teeming from the heavens and continuous spray thundering up from the bottom of the Falls. Locals call it: Mosi oa tunya – the smoke that thunders! Walking around can prove a very wet experience! In the dry season, water levels drop considerably making rock formations visible, even right down into the gorge hundreds of feet below. You can supposedly walk across the mile wide rim from Zambia to Zimbabwe, even stopping to bathe in a huge natural basin called the ‘armchair’. So far we’ve not taken up either challenge!

This year we went in June, two months after the end of the rainy season. Since it was ten years since our last visit, we weren’t sure what to expect. We’d been told the Falls were ruined nowadays by the constant buzz of micro-lights overhead. So, were we in for another been there, done that, got the T-shirt experiences? Approaching along a narrow gravel path, you come upon the Falls quite suddenly, almost as David Livingstone must have done. This time, I stopped, completely bowled over by the sight and the sound. It’s hardly surprising that same sight caused explorer, David Livingstone, to record that: ‘scenes so lovely must have been gazed upon by angels in their flight.’ Many of you will have enjoyed similar experiences elsewhere in the world or closer to home. The sort of experience where heaven draws nearer to earth, and we gain a greater understanding of what our faith is all about. It was then also the words of that great hymn came unbidden to mind: O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder, consider all the works thy hand has made . . .


Although June in Zambia is the dry season and ideal for building work, we generally avoid it, because it’s incredibly cold then! We travelled with no clear plan as to what we intended doing. Building projects last year had reached a point where we could have said, that’s that. However, things are never that simple in Zambia!

We headed first for SIMOOYA near Choma, where it was even colder than we’d anticipated! At Simooya we previously completed a health clinic and house for the resident nurse. Our intention was simply to check the clinic was up and running and the nurse happy with her new house and job. However, since last year, Milden, the Zambian living in the UK, who started the clinic project, had begun building a three class room school for local children. So, we promised to take a look, nothing more, just to see how they were progressing! We arrived to find the foundation slab completed, but villagers had no money to proceed further and work had ground to a halt. Starfish to the rescue!  By the end of the week, we’d purchased cement, door and window frames and other building materials, having first worked out ourselves what exactly was required and in what quantities, to take the building up to ring beam level. The ring beam is solid concrete cast within a wooden frame. It then runs above door and window level continuously around the entire building. Casting it is a skilful and time-consuming job because, on the strength of the ring beam, Zambian buildings stand or indeed, as can happen, fall!!!

Having met with villagers, shaken hands with various headmen and even one chief, as well as having my photo taken with the first baby to be born at the clinic, we then set off for Kitwe, promising to return in a couple of weeks to see how they were getting on! We didn’t add that, depending on their progress, there might be money for more materials. The reason being, we’d no more idea what we were going to do up in Kitwe than we’d had down in Choma! Though at least it would be warmer!

Of the three projects we still have links with in KITWE, contact had been intermittent over the past nine months. We therefore had no idea whether they were expecting us, or even which ones to proceed with. Firstly there was KAPUTULA where we’d completed a seven classroom school in 2008. Every year since, we’ve revisited to check the school was functioning satisfactorily, to provide support for orphan carers and assess the viability of building a teacher’s house If you read the first book, you will recall the run-around the Kaputula community gave us during the building of the school. Understandably, we’ve been reluctant to start further building work there. However, this time we arrived to find the school was thriving. The new head had things back under control. A new PTA had been elected. Four thousand bricks had been moulded for a teacher’s house. The bush had been cleared ready for work to begin. They’d even opened a bank account to receive funding! How things can change in a few short years! Both Mr Mbai, former project supervisor, and Mr Chama, building supervisor, were raring to go. So, we took a deep breath and said, “Right, we’ll provide materials for the foundation slab for a teacher’s house.” Then we asked ourselves, ‘Are we completely mad!’ So we added, “But you won’t get any more money until the slab is completed and photos of work sent to the UK.” We have learnt a thing or two by now! By the end of the week, they were excavating the foundation trenches and materials for the foundation slab were on site!

On to CHILUMBA, our poorest centre, where we run an individual orphan sponsorship programme and also completed a three classroom school last year. There had been little contact for almost nine months, so how was the new school progressing? Also several older boy orphans declined to have photos taken last year, so what to do about that? Also we needed to inspect new pit toilets for which money was forwarded last October. Sometimes in Zambia, there are more questions than answers. Lack of contact was due to a dreadful experience with a Canadian church volunteer who tried to seize control in Kitwe, ran off with their car and almost brought the director to her knees! The new classrooms were operating, just not quite how we’d expected! One contained a grade one class, another pre-school children, while the third was being used as sleeping accommodation for two unqualified teachers! Some of the older boys had left the centre, one fifteen year old girl was pregnant and married to an older man, while another had been taken to an uncle’s farm, supposedly to work there. Of the two toilet blocks, one still had paint drying on it, while another had been constructed as a pit toilet with washroom for the same teachers living in the classroom! We decided to fund the second pit toilet there, but nothing more. They also need a teacher’s house, but management issues need resolving first. Sometimes these decisions are hard!

This left SALEM centre for street kids in Kitwe, where we’ve given a lot of support in the past, though not for a few years. However, we still catch up each trip. We went there on our last morning, wishing it had been earlier, because we found a sad situation. Due to the recession, many big aid organisations have reduced overseas funding, badly affecting places like Salem. We identified several urgent needs: complete renovation of boys’ dormitories, replacement of security wall, fencing and enhanced classroom security, an urgent need for 40 new desks and complete repainting of all buildings. They didn’t have money for any of it, but again we needed space to reflect before giving anything . . .

All that was left then, was the 400 mile trip back to SIMOOYA and yes, all work was done! So it was another village meeting with more calculations, then more buying in Choma of materials to construct the ring beam and take internal and external walls to ‘gable end’ which supports the roof. Then on to Vic Falls and back to the UK where, unbelievably, in July it was still raining!

Photos have since arrived of the completed foundation slab for the teacher’s house at KAPUTULA and money forwarded to take this also to ring beam then gable end level. Milden has since visited to check on progress at SIMOOYA, and price materials to roof the three classroom school block. We hope to complete this next year. Money has also been sent to SALEM Centre for Street Kids for 40 new desks and renovation of the boys’ sleeping accommodation. We’ve heard nothing further from CHILUMBA, which doesn’t worry us. After the new school opened at Kaputula, it took two or three years to get into the swing of things. After all, what Starfish provides does, in many ways, revolutionise their lives. And that can take some getting used to!

THANKS to all who continue to support Starfish by donation, standing order and Gift Aid. Thanks also to Halesworth Mothers Union and Wenhaston Methodist Ladies for opportunities to speak recently.

A most successful COFFEE MORNING, held on Nov 10th at Belmoor in aid of our on-going projects, raised £525.80. Our sincere thanks to all who helped on the day! In particular Joan Horbury who brought a special Starfish cake to be enjoyed by all. Many people commented on the wonderful mix of Christians from various local churches as well as people from Halesworth and neighbouring villages.

BOOKS: ‘BWANAKULA THANDI & A HEART FOR AFRICA can currently be ordered for the price of £15 for the two plus £5 P&P (free in Halesworth area). Ideal Christmas gift! Hurry while stocks!

Our BEST WISHES go to all of you. We pray you will find something to donate to STARFISH over the coming Christmas period. There is still much work to be done!

Yours in faith Moira and Bob Cooke for:

The Tanworth Starfish Fund ‘Belmoor’ Blackheath Road Wenhaston Suffolk IP19 9DH Tel: 01502 478503

Email addresses: moiracooke@belmoor.plus.com or robert@belmoor.plus.com Also keep up to date online with what we are doing at: www.tanworthstarfishfund.co.uk






posted 23 Mar 2011, 02:46 by robert@belmoor.plus.com   [ updated 24 Mar 2011, 01:54 ]

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