It is a joy turning into the property each day and being greeted by all the little pre-school children that are about to eat lunch. The smiles on their faces are infectious and mischievous, and we prepare ourselves for more “trouble.”

The musungus emerge from the car.

A morning greeter

We visited Joy’s classroom where she was working with Susan and Mary Mwansa, both students in Grade 8. Today, Joy was teaching them how to read a mathematical word problem and learn which operation is required. She wrote a sentence on the chalkboard and underlined the words “from” and “left.” This indicated that the problem requires subtraction. The problem also had fractions in it, so both Susan and Mary are learning how to subtract fractions. We looked at the book they are using and enquired if it is their schoolbook. Joy said no, that she brought the book in for the girls to learn extra lessons. We are constantly delighted (though not surprised) at the dedication of teachers to improve the student learning.

Joy, Susan and Mary

Before the staff meeting at noon, Jen and Theresa went off to meet, while Beth and Sreedevi were beckoned by some of the older girls to come read with them. What a lovely moment—to be invited by the girls to participate. This is new this year! The children have always been fascinated by us, but it is only now that there is the confidence and language ability to seek us out, especially by the girls. Out came the books, featuring Jelita and Mulenga (the Bemba equivalent of Dick and Jane). As the girls read, we worked with them on pronunciation. “H” is not used in Bemba, so the girls say “ouse” instead of “house.” Similarly, the letter L is pronounced with an “R” sound. They say “rooking” instead of “looking.” As we worked with them, we noticed that many “site read;” they have memorized most of the words, but when they come across a word they don’t know, they tend to guess what it is, as they have not yet learned how to read phonetically. We made a note to ourselves to check in with the teachers to find out what the current reading teaching methodology is in Zambia. We started working with the girls on identifying the letters and the sounds. We also saw how diligent the teachers are in making sure the girls pronounce the words correctly. Joy, for example, will have one of the girls say a word several times in a row until she has said it correctly! Again, an example of how committed the teachers are.

Sreedevi and friends

Beth works with Jen.

Sreedevi and company move outdoors into the beautiful summer air. Susan, in the middle, a delightful and, we project, brave young woman in a wheelchair, turns out to be one of the strongest readers. She is in Charles’s class. Charles has the students whose families do not have the funds to put them into government school. Given how well they read, it is clear they are getting a good education!

We had a few minutes to visit with the cooking staff.

Charity getting ready for the next round of cooking.

The servers, left to right: Christine, Joanne, Mirriam

At noon, we met with the teachers to continue the conversation about the girls program, identifying the areas of the program and the various components of each one. Often a theme emerges during a trip, and this time the Bemba proverb “panono, panono,” (slowly, slowly) comes up repeatedly. As we talk about the girls program in our meetings, we have been using the metaphor of building a house, all agreeing that if the foundation is not strong, and we are in a hurry to get somewhere, the house may well fall down in the first big storm (a true and real story here!) While there are countless NGOs (non-governmental organizations) doing similar work all over Africa, it is quite rare to have the entire project administered from within the community, at least in a community as poor at Kantolomba. No “experts” have been brought in, no one trained in development; the whole project stands on the shoulders of a group of incredibly determined, strong, huge-hearted women (and a few great men). When we meet we speak slowly, we repeat ideas, we make points in many different ways until everyone in the room is with us. “I am behind,” someone will say when they are not tracking what we are talking about. We stop and find another way to phrase the point. It is a lovely practice. Where would we be going if we did not have the time to bring everyone with us?

Sreedevi reiterating a point

Notes from the meeting

After the meeting, we went on a walk with some of the girls. As we had been sitting, reading and talking for most of the late morning, getting out and moving the body was in order! We headed off to the left of the property and began walking up the hill. As we ascended we began to see the beautiful view of all of Kantolomba—but we also saw many ominous looking clouds! It was likely that rain was coming, and we quickly turned back. We felt the raindrops and quickly sprinted to the property—several dozen of us—kids, grown-ups, Zambians, Americans, all running, smiling, laughing as we dashed to keep ahead of the rain quickly barreling towards us. Big high fives all around as we scurried into the building just as the giant drops began their beautiful drumming on the tin roof. It is wonderful how a simple shared moment such as this can so quickly build trust and respect and connection.

Heading up the hill

Cheri poses along the way.

A view of the Living Compassion building from the top of the hill just before the rain appeared

Racing back!

A bit later, as we were finishing up our lunch, we began to hear voices in song! The women were practicing a song for Mama Cheri. Tomorrow, if the technology gods are smiling on us, will be a momentous day. We have a plan to be with Cheri via Skype! There has been a lot of excitement around the property at this opportunity. Joy also informed us that some of the girls had written poems to read. We all began to feel the buzz of excitement listening to the women, and what joy there is in singing overall! However, the singing was brought to a halt as the clouds decided a bit more rain was needed. It started off small, but quickly turned into a downpour! Rain that heavy on the tin roofs is too loud to speak over. We used the opportunity to sit quietly and just enjoy the moment.

Veronica gets the singing practice started.

Sharing a quiet moment listening to the rain

Once the rain had quieted again, the women resumed singing, but this time there was an additional component—dancing! Soon Josephine was sent to fetch some “drums” (empty buckets). Josephine and Mirriam started to drum, but there was quite a lot of negotiation about how to do it. After some back and forth, the women decided we need the “professionals,” and two of the older girls were brought in to do the drumming, Jen and Margaret! What fun! The best drummer on the team, Brenda, is away attending to her sick father in her village. Apparently Jen and Margaret, even at their relatively young age, have a reputation as excellent drummers! After a quick conversation, they began. Both the song and drumbeats began to work together as the dancing started. It was a treat to watch these two young girls masterfully setting the beat for the dancing, especially seeing how they worked together. Jen would take the lead and let Margaret know when to come in. This is the second day we finished the day with song and dance; perhaps it will become a tradition! It is certainly providing for some good sleep at night!

Jen on the red drum (hard to get a non-blurry shot with that kind of movement!)

Joanne enjoying the rhythm

Peels of laughter when Theresa brings Peter up to dance

Margaret does her best to show (musungu) Jen how to dance.

Josephine holds the drum for Jen.

Two final treats as we waited out the rain and before saying our goodbyes…

We saw two of our favorite friends we had not yet seen this trip: Felistus, right, Charles’s daughter and Dorothy, Peter’s daughter.

Children around the world inventively create toys that mimic the things the grown ups in their lives use. This girl is making a mini-size Zambian style broom out of grasses. It is beautiful!


Before going back to Castle Lodge, we stopped off to pick up some chitenge in town. It is lovely to see how vibrant and diverse the chitenge is. After some careful consideration, we headed back to Castle Lodge, chitenge in hand. Another full day!