During two weeks in August a team of Cranleigh students and staff flew out to Zambia to participate in the construction of a new school at Kawama in the town of Kitwe. This was the first trip for Beyond Cranleigh, Cranleigh School’s joint venture with the charity Beyond Ourselves, which seeks to involve Cranleigh students in charitable activity both in the UK and abroad.
In support of the project, Stuart Block, an economics master at Cranleigh, had been cycling from Johannesburg through South Africa, Botswana and Zambia to Kitwe where he and his cyclists joined the students on the construction site. Stuart is now cycling through Africa back to London in time for the 2012 Olympics, raising money for a number of charities as he goes, including Beyond Ourselves.
Kawama district is an example of a very poor, suburban residential area in Zambia where poverty, unemployment and HIV/AIDS are commonplace. The charity Beyond Ourselves seeks to work in these communities to provide free education to the communities to help them break out of the cycle of poverty and move towards a better standard of living. Education is supposedly free in Zambia, through the system of Government Schools, but school construction has not kept pace with the nation’s population growth. Also, there are many hidden costs to Government School attendance that the poorest families simply cannot afford – a “commitment fee” and charges for uniforms and books. Hence Beyond Ourselves works to provide truly free education in the areas of greatest need. This is done by working in partnership with the community and the local Church.
As is common in many poor communities across the world the Church is the only form of social support available to people, and in Kawama, schooling was being provided within the walls of the Pentecostal Holiness Church. However, the building is not in a good state of repair and the facility was far too small and crowded to teach over 200 children in one room. Pastor Cephas, the Church leader, has worked with the charity to galvanise community support for the new school building. On the building site we were joined by the teachers, Church lay-workers and congregation, all of whom were wielding shovels, mixing cement and helping lay blocks side by side with Cranleigh students and staff, as well as Jodie Collins, director of the charity Beyond Ourselves.
The Cranleigh team stayed in Kitwe town and travelled each day by bus to the building site. There they split into two teams, one of which worked on the building site and the other would run classroom activities. These would range from sports and games, with resources brought out from the UK, to mathematics and reading lessons with the children. At lunch the two groups would swap roles, sustaining both the activity programme and the construction work throughout the day. The construction team was guided by Garret Jahnke, a Canadian living permanently in Zambia with his family, whose construction company have completed several schools with Beyond Ourselves. Garret, Tim Block (Stuart Block’s father) and Duncan Collins (Jodie Collins’ father) provided site foreman skills using their previous experiences in the building and engineering trades. Rob Lane, Richard Humes and Mark Jenkins were the Cranleigh staff members supervising the students and their safety, and were joined by some of the cyclists who had joined Stuart for some or all of the long ride from Johannesburg.
The 17 students plus Cranleigh staff worked with local volunteers to construct 4 classrooms and a library to the stage where the building was ready for its roof to be added. This will take place over the next few months in time for the October trip to finish the classroom interiors. The work has been funded largely by the money raised in last summer’s Sponsored Walk and marks the start of a long term relationship between Cranleigh and Kawama School over the coming years. We are now working to develop the Child Sponsorship Programme at the school which will provide a salary for the staff (allowing them to complete their teaching qualifications) plus a lunch time meal and school uniform for every child. The feeding programme which provides a meal is particularly important as it not only provides employment for local women in the kitchen, but vitally it means that the children are receiving at least one square meal per day. In a region where the HIV/AIDS rate is very high, and many children are on ARV’s (antiretroviral drugs), being adequately nourished is essential for this medication to work effectively.
For a further insight into the students’ work and the Beyond Cranleigh project, watch this video: