Doing good work

Since we don’t have internet at our home and our office is located in a Federal building which is closed on Sundays, I will now be posting my weekly blog on Mondays.

This past week saw the rains come with a vengeance. After three days of heavy downpour, Livingstone made the national news due to flooding in the compounds and over some of the bridges. This picture (below) shows the grasses that piled up along the side of the bridge after the water receded. A whole section of the city, called Lubuyu, was cut off for a day. We had two drummers who couldn’t get to our Thursday dance workshop.

Bridge to Lubuyu

The rains stopped on Saturday and it is amazing how quickly the water drains from the Maramba river to the Zambezi and then over Victoria Falls. I haven’t been to the falls since we returned but the mist rising 40 meters into the sky is evidence that it is flowing with full veracity. The wet weather also caused some problems for us in terms of drying our costumes. We had to take three loads to a laundry and pay for their dryer. It is quite expensive so the remainder we hung inside our porch. The geometric pattern of hanging the strings is scientifically the maximum use of clothes line (at least Marilyn thinks so and she did it.)

Drying Costumes Inside

Our big push this past month is to see if we can get more people coming to our shows from the Zambezi Sun Resort. In February, we had almost as many people travel to the Sun from other lodges and resorts as we had guests who were actually staying at the Sun.  In February we held a special show for all the staff of the Sun in the hope that they would begin to understand the nature of our musical theatre production and how it differs from other dance groups. Now we are waiting to see if there is more promotion done by staff.

Marilyn has also been meeting with the General Manager who has been helpful in suggesting ways to promote the show. This includes getting Sun International to advertise the shows when people are booking rooms, banners at the airport and other strategic locations, information on the Zambezi Sun web site, and better promotion by the events department for groups looking for entertainment.

Dancing Around Zambia

Marilyn met with the events departmentlast week and we are hopeful something will come of it. Last year we didn’t receive even one booking through the events department which meant something was obviously wrong. Now we will wait and see if there is any measurable difference in the coming months.

We are seeing much more enthusiasm for LiPAF around Livingstone. At last Monday’s show, we had the President of the Livingstone Tourism Association (www.livingstonetourism. com) and the owners of two lodges in attendance as well as the Executive Director of the Mukuni Development Trust.  Mr. Brian Mwagye, President of the College and School Arts Association was at our show last Saturday.

Speaking of Brian and the Arts Association, this is the organization which holds school festivals in categories such as  choirs, drama, traditional dance, drumming, and poetry. At the end of February, we had two of our staff leave to pursue other jobs and Brian managed to help us recruit some excellent talent to replace them. The next two day festival is being held on March 20 and 21 and the Arts Association has invited me to be the guest of honour. I’ll actually find out today just exactly what that means but working with others in arts and culture is a big goal of ours.

That brings me to another exciting development which we have kept somewhat under wraps until we had more news. As far back as November 2009, LiPAF developed a proposal and outline for the establishment of an Arts Cafe. In brief, the idea was to have a place where tourists and locals can meet and mingle while enjoying entertainment six nights each week.

This is the concept – create a welcoming and inspirational environment which will support the developmental and creative needs of individual artists and allow them a space where they can likewise support and inspire each other in their learning.

This past month we met with a European Development Agency and they are going to provide consultation and help link us with other potential supporters of our Arts Cafe concept. We have also identified two excellent locations and have obtained estimates to renovate the buildings. I’ll have more on this in future blogs.

Vocational Training Program for Disabled Persons

Earlier in the week, I met with Maggie who heads up a program to work with disabled children and adults. One can barely imagine the difficulties for disabled persons in a country where there is already 65% unemployment and virtually no social safety net. Marilyn met Maggie some time ago while walking back to our house on Maramba farm and they became instant friends.

LiPAF has helped sponsor this program by providing some funding but this week we took some of the remaining donated items (clothes and shoes) to distribute to the clients. Those who came to Maggie’s small office are some parents, their children, and some individuals. That’s Maggie – third from the left in the back row (barely visible).

Another program we are assisting is the Maanu Mbwami Community School in Lubuyu. You may recall, I wrote about the school last year when we went with clothes, shoes, and school supplies for the students. Community schools get no government funding and often rely on volunteers to do the teaching. Pastor Smoke Chewe who started the school is extremely dedicated and has managed to get two new classrooms built.

When we were home at Christmas, we received donations from our families as a gesture in lieu of them buying gifts. We really appreciate this kind of support for our project. We also received a donation from a school where Marilyn’s cousin Nicole got her class to do some fundraising.  We decided to use the Christmas money and the school  money from Nicole to help Maanu Mbwami School.

Old Original Mud Classroom

When I met with Smoke, he first wanted to use the money to install windows in classrooms. This would help keep the classroom warmer as winter approaches and also keep out mosquitoes. However, as we talked, we decided on another way to use the money which can help them generate some revenue.

The school is in possession of a “hammer mill” which is sitting in a small building. Unfortunately, the building was damaged in a wind storm over a year ago and Smoke has been unable to repair it. It also requires electrical connections in order to work.

A hammer mill is for grinding maize into mealie meal (the staple in every Zambian’s diet). If the roof is repaired and the electricity connected, the school can earn money grinding maize for local farmers. This money can then be put back into the school’s operating budget.

Thanks to Nicole’s class of 2009 from Blantyre Public School in Toronto, Canada, and our family – Aunt Mel and Uncle Wayne Crossley, Nicole and Mark Butkovich, Dave and Leanne Blackwell, Ryan and Sally, Sean and Makiko, Michele Davis and Frank Brewster – the mill should be up and running within a couple of weeks and ready for the maize harvest.

New Classrooms

Pastor Smoke wants to build another classroom, outfit the existing classrooms with desks and supplies, and they also have a broken pump on their borehole which needs fixing. I hope we can generate money through our shows to help again in the future.

New teaching space but no desks yet

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