OkaZHI: Okanagan-Zambia Health Initiative

Mongu Matters – More than I first thought


Aug 12


Significant synergies are emerging for us with respect to Zambia’s Western Province.

The fact that many of the activities are being matched from British

Columbia, our western province, is quite likely by complete chance.

However, I recognize serendipity when I see it and I know how to capitalize on it.

Mayor Shepherd and her Kelowna City Council recently signed off on sister city status for Kelowna and Senanga, Western Province’s second largest town.

VIDEA, the Victoria based NGO, with the support of KaZ, the Kelowna Zambia community support group, are providing aid and infrastructure for Senanga.

As part of our now operational Memorandum of Understanding between UBC Okanagan and University of Zambia, and at Margaret Maimbolwa’s suggestion, Jessica and Lianne will be going to Mongu, Western Province’s capital town, to teach at the community nursing school.

If we are to put two medical/surgical/nursing teams on the ground in rural Zambia for a month each year, why not deploy them in Mongu and Senanga and create a combined synergy with the other BC based activities?

‘A comprehensive collaboration between Canada and Zambia’s respective Western Provinces.’

The theme will play out well with the media, and, perhaps with fund-raisers.

I haven’t forgotten Rebeccah’s exhortation that all activities must begin and end with ‘evaluation’.

After luncheon with Lusaka Central Rotary, I head off to Mongu again.

The details regarding Jessica and Lianne’s tour remain incomplete. Mr Alfred Mandona, the Principal of the Lewanika Nursing School was away when I visited last. I need to compete J&L’s arrangements.

The Rotary lunch runs late, so the 6-hour drive to Mongu will put me there after dark.

This time I see live elephants on the road, rather than their evidence of tree destruction and their dung. The women are again cautiously washing clothing on the river’s bank.

Again, the same guard at the game reserve checkpoint stops me.

Having neither fish for the market, nor sisters for the next village, he waves me through. Judging from the width of his smile and the vigour of his wave, he’s obviously forgiven me for not hauling his smelly fish last time I passed this way. I’m most recognizable. How many white men travel this stretch of road alone in any given month, or year for that matter?

Dusk descends whist I’m still some 100 kms from Mongu. With blinding effect, the sun sets in the west directly in my line of view. I apply the window wipers to clear the grease from the dead moths and flying ants that have splattered on my windshield during the day. To my dismay, with the first wipe, I learn that there is no water or soap in my window washer bottle. Visibility is completely lost amidst a blur of fragmented wings and smeared insect oil.

Arriving late at Cheshire Home for Physically Challenged Children in

Mongu, I receive another warm handshake from Sister Cathy, and the key to my now familiar room.

As Western Province suffers from yet another power outage, I dine with the nuns by candle light, red wine in hand, capturing one of those unforgettable ‘Out of Africa’ moments.

Jessica and Lianne, they are all primed and pumped for your arrival in Mongu. Andrew Silumesii, Alfred Mandona, the other two teachers, the four clinical instructors and all of the students will receive you with open arms.

With a copy of the now famous Memorandum of Understanding in his hand, Mr Mandona, without prompting from me, proceeds to interrupt a first year student lecture in progress. He marches me up to the blackboard and announces to the startled and surprised student body;

‘We are embarking on an international collaboration.’

A prolonged ‘oooooh’ can be heard arising from the students, followed by a respectful silence.

Some jaws hang in disbelief. Some eyes squint, wanting more information.

The drooped shoulders of some express perhaps a little anxiety. But, make no mistake, all of the students are riveted by this news.

‘You’re going to love your Canadian instructors’, I enthuse.

As Mr Mandona and I leave the classroom, the entrance door still open, an outburst of chatter and the clapping of hands tell me that the international collaboration already has it’s beat!

Margaret’s on to it Beccah. She has an evaluation plan in mind with

Respect to the nursing school status prior to our nurses’ teaching activities there. She wants to talk to you about it.

Cameron O’Connor, should you choose to accept the challenge, there is a 6-week volunteer job awaiting you in Mongu. Your assignment: Teach computer skills to the first year nursing students.

The good news, Cameron O, is that there will be two very attractive young Canadian nurses on site.

The bad news; you’ll all be staying with the nuns!!

More later, Bill

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