Thursday, May 14, 2009

Outreach projects focused on orphans and vulnerable children

In Zambia, like many other African countries, there is a long established tradition of the extended family looking after children who have been orphaned. In the vast majority of cases children who have lost both parents are then raised by their uncles and aunts or their grandparents. It is often said that there is no such thing as an orphan in Africa! To a large extent this old adage still rings true today despite the scourge of HIV and Aids, poverty and disease. Despite this many well meaning charities and NGO’s are setting up a plethora of orphanages across the African continent. This of course ensures that in some cases children who may be otherwise abandoned are cared for and looked after. However, unfortunately it may also lead to some families who otherwise may have taken responsibility for the children of their deceased relatives handing them over to the newly established orphanages. As part of our outreach programme we did consider establishing an orphanage as part of the ZIGS project but after conducting research in Zambia and seeking the opinions of local communities we concluded that this concept may not be as positives as it seems at face value. We have thus developed an outreach model that is designed to help the families of those children who have been orphaned.

It is an unfortunate truth that many of the children placed into orphanages by their extended families are victims of poverty. In most cases if finances permitted then the family would take care of the child(ren). In the light of this fact we aim to economically empower families to ensure that orphaned children do not become an economic millstone. As part of our outreach programmes the children from the wider community, whether in full time education or not, will be invited to attend our agricultural outreach scheme. As part of the scheme the children will be taught how to farm efficiently based upon the principles of environmental sustainability and organic farming. It is hoped that the skills that the children will learn and develop will be utilised on their own families land and thus ensure a greater level of self sufficiency. Moreover the children will grow their own crops whilst learning at ZIGS and will be allowed to take food and seeds home with them on a regular basis; after all it will be their hard work that has led to the crops growing! The beauty of this scheme is that the children will learn, develop skills and hopefully enjoy themselves whilst their families benefit in the short term from the food/seeds the children bring home and moreover in the long term due to the skills that the children will acquire and be able to apply on the homestead. We hope that when families recognise the value of the scheme they will want to be more involved and thus sign up for the adult education programmes….

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

My recent trip to Zambia

I recently spent two weeks in Zambia over the Easter holidays. The trip was incredibly fruitful and it is certainly true to say that we are a step nearer to fulfilling our dream.

Whilst in Zambia I was priviledged to visit the Kasisi Agricultural College. The agricultural college is part of a wider facility run by the Jesuits which includes a girls secondary school and an orphanage. It truly inspirational place. The agricultural college focuses its attention on organic farming and sustainable development and is a model of what we want to achieve at our school. The main difference being that the college focuses on adult education whereas we will focus upon the education of the young. (although our outreach projects will enable aspects of adult education.) The great news is that the people at Kasisi are willing to provide us with the necessary training and support to ensure that we can emulate their work on the banks of the Zambezi.

I am returning to Zambia in July and I will be spending the entire summer holiday working on developing our school. We are still confident that we can be ready to open in September 2010 but in order to do so we need to step up our fundraising efforts! There are a few 'fires in the oven' at the moment so hopefully ove the coming months we can boost our coffers and then commence building. We will of course be building the school with local materials that are freely available in the locality of the school which will of course minimise the cost of the project. That's the beauty of sustainable development - it makes economic sense as well as environmental sense!

Finally a big thank you to Laura and friends who are climbing Ben Nevis next month in order to rasie funds for the Thembinkosi Foundation and our project to build and sustain a school in Zambia. You can sponsor them in their efforts by visiting our Just Giving page Once again thanks for all your support. It is hugely appreciated!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The effective utilisation of water

Our proximity to the river will also ensure that we have a source of water. The Zambezi is a fresh water river and thus drinking water is readily available. Unfortunately at this time many villagers on the shores of the river have to run the gauntlet of crocodiles and hippopotamus’ in order to collect water. It is our aim at ZIGS to provide drinking water for our neighbours as well as our own community. We envisage the use of a combination of sand dams and sub surface dams both of which can be built using local labour and materials and thus prove to be cost effective. These dams are especially cost effective as once constructed they require very little maintenance and produce a high yield of water.

Furthermore, we will also seek to harvest and store rain water on our campus. Given our proximity to the Zambezi this is a necessity but as part of our model of sustainability we wish to demonstrate that peoples do not have to be dependent on bore holes and/or wells for their water as more than enough rain water falls within Zambia, and across Africa, on an annual basis for peoples to be able to harvest and store water during the rainy season, for use in the dry season. In order to demonstrate the principles of water harvesting in order to be a model for other communities we will roof some of our building with treated corrugated iron sheets. This will allow for a run of f of water that can be channelled into underground covered tanks for use across the year. Most water in this part of the world is lost to evaporation so hence the need for covered tanks. Again this is a relatively low cost method of collecting water as low cost materials are used in the construction of the storage tanks and catchment surfaces.

For more details on water harvesting and storage visit the wateraid website.

For more specific and detailed information on Water Harvesting.

Of course waste disposal will also be a priority at ZIGS. We will seek to recycle water and to utilise grey water in line with the ‘Earthship’ model that is popular within the ‘green community.’ Furthermore, we will seek to use modern eco friendly waste disposal technology in order to preserve our model of sustainability.

All of our buildings at ZIGS will be built from local materials and by local tradesmen. We will ensure that materials that have to be transported by road to our site are keep to an absolute minimum. The area is awash with timber (we will of course plant ten trees for every one we use in building) and stones cover the landscape. Naturally enough these will be the core materials with which we build! Of course we will have to go outside of the community for some materials such as glass but we will seek to minimise the distance that raw materials have to travel in order to reach our site.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Learning outside of the classroom

As much of the building and development of the ZIGS campus will continue after our opening our students will travel of the journey of sustainable development with the teachers and staff of the school. When new classrooms are built, to house our growing numbers of students, we will ensure that the student body are part of the process. All students at ZIGS will gain a depth of knowledge and understanding of sustainable development and conservation from their every day experiences as well as from text books or websites! Learning at ZIGS will certainly not be confined to the classroom…

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Sustainable development and renewable energies

Another core feature of ZIGS is our commitment to sustainable development and to living at one with the natural world. From the outset we have planned the building of ZIGS to embrace these principles. The site on which the school is to be built is on the banks of the Zambezi. It is our aim to utilise the water from the river to generate hydro electric power. This method of generating electricity is totally sustainable, clean and renewable. As well as providing power for our own campus we expect to produce a surplus of power which will be partly used to provide local communities with electricity! The use of renewable energy is not only eminently sensible from an environmental perspective it is also economically sustainable and will ensure that ZIGS has no bills for electricity!

A very detailed and technical description of small scale hydroelectricity available by following the link!

Not only will we use hydroelectric power but we will also use solar energy. Solar panels will be used to provide power in the more remote outposts of our campus. Like hydroelectric power solar energy is renewable and green.