July 26

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So Much Less…Yet So Much More

2 weeks into life in Zambia, and I feel I can write with a better picture dear reader of what this assignment is all about.

Had I attempted to update you in week 1, I fear it would have been a fairly shallow review of

  • My battle with spiders trying to share the toilet paper roll with me (Yes – it turns out I have Ninja qualities when it comes to throwing a toilet paper roll in order to create distance between me and arachnoids)
  • Trying to understand the temperamental hot water system so as not to scold or freeze myself.
  • Discovering the delightful and welcoming people at Leonard Cheshire, the Mika Hotel and Zambia in general
  • Power, or more specifically not having it regularly and unexpectedly so.
  • Throwing myself into activities I know little about like Ultimate Frisbee in order to generate a social circle, and the trials and tribulations of doing what I now call Lusaka Urban Mountain Biking to work.

Whilst there has been a lot of amusement and/or joy in these stories, it is not why I packed up my belongings and headed to Africa. I came here to be the change and make a difference.

So it is as week 2 comes to an end, that I can share with you a meaningful adventure. After the finding my feet stage at Leonard Cheshire, we headed out on a field visit to review the progress of one of the branch’s projects.

Now before recounting the experience, I feel it would be helpful to better understand Leonard Cheshire as a man, and what the organisation he set up is all about.

Leonard Cheshire, before his days as a philanthropist, was a highly decorated RAF pilot during WWII. Among his many honours sits the Victoria Cross. In addition to continuously displaying courage and the determination of an exceptional leader, he cared about the people around him. One anecdote recounts him learning the name of every single man on the base he served on.

It was after his service in the RAF, in May of 1948, that Cheshire took a dying man, who had nowhere else to go, into his home. With no money, Leonard nursed the man himself. They became friends and this one act of kindness saw many more people coming to Leonard for help, people who were keen to share a home with others and all chip in together. By the summer of 1949 his home of Le Court, in Hampshire, had 24 residents with complex needs, illnesses and impairments, and so it began.

Why is this history lesson so important you ask? Because we stand here to serve the purpose that this kind man started over 67 years ago, with representation in 54 countries, the Leonard Cheshire name lives on by continuing to support those in need with organisations like Leonard Cheshire Disability, Cheshire Homes and Ryder-Cheshire.

The state of care for the disabled across the globe is distressing when you review the numbers:

  • There are 1 billion disabled people worldwide. That’s 15% of the world’s population.
  • 80% of people with disabilities live in developing countries.
  • 90% of children with disabilities in developing countries do not attend school.
  • Roughly one in three of the children around the world who do not have access to primary education have a disability
  • Over 400 million people with disabilities live below the poverty line.
  • Health and rehabilitation services are unaffordable for over 50% of people with disabilities in developing countries.

On Thursday and Friday of this week, I packed my bags and went for a field trip with my LCD (Leonard Cheshire Disability) colleagues to see what headway a project in the District of Kafue was making.

What I found is numbers on a paper can be distressing, meeting the people and seeing it in real life is gut wrenching. My next Blog will be posted tomorrow and cover the field trip in Kafue

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