Name: Carmel McCarron
Home Town: Dromore
At 6.30am on Monday 27th July 2009 I left home on the first leg of my journey to Lusaka in Zambia. I was feeling very apprehensive, having no idea of what lay ahead when I arrived there.
Fr Jim O’Kane met us at Lusaka airport at 6.30am on Tuesday morning and brought us to our base in the SMA grounds on the outskirts of Lusaka. Accommodation in the cottage there was basic but very secure with the four German Shepherd dogs on duty day and night. To our surprise it was cold and we were glad of our fleece and trousers. After breakfast we headed to Chainda to see the multipurpose hall and have a look at the task that lay ahead of us. The tar roads soon disappeared and we became aware of the red dust blowing in the cool wind. The centre was easy to see as it commands a prominent position on the outskirts of the Chainda compound. The building is very impressive and after a tour of the building we were brought to the proposed library. The room was stacked high with boxes and trays of books and one side of the room was shelved in preparation. We requested more shelving and were introduced to Alex and his team who would be working along side us putting up the extra shelving.
Over the next two weeks we handled hundreds of dirty, dusty books but at the end of the two weeks we had completed the task and the centre now has a library as well as a computer suite and various classrooms including a special needs unit.
The Spirit of Paul McGirr website gives information about Chainda: the size, population, living conditions, poverty and the prevalence of Aids and the resultant number of orphans and vulnerable children. However, it is only when you see it and visit the homes of the poor and sick that the reality of it all hits home. The conditions these people live in are impossible to describe or imagine and the scale of the poverty is hard to believe. Most of them are lucky to have one ‘meal’ a day and that meal is likely to be the basic wheat based staple food with no fruit, vegetables or meat.
So much is being done to help the poor and sick but the scale of need is so immense that it appears like a drop in the ocean.
My journey to Zambia was a great, if sometimes distressing, experience. I met so many lovely people and saw so many sights. I am very glad I took the plunge and made the decision to go and I would not rule out the possibility of going back some day.