It's now my fifth day in Africa. Yesterday we travelled by air to Livingstone then we had another two hour pot hole ride to Mwandi. This is a Mission Station built on the bank of the Zambezi River originally supported by the Paris Mission and the Freed Church, eventually bringing in the support of the Church of Scotland along with others in the 1930s.
It's early Wednesday morning the fridge in the Mission Guest House continues to make that noise that only fridges make and the fan in the ceiling of the room joins in to give the background sound a beat. The view from the window is stunning, standing on the bank of the river, I see two dug out canoes and a group of fishermen preparing their nets singing as they go down the river. Today I really feel that I'm in Africa.
This is the Zambezi River the first place where Livingstone stopped off to preach the gospel. The setting is idealic and I can imagine the great man standing on the embankment holding forth.
For the next 36 hours we are the guest of Eda and Keith Waddell Church of Scotland Missionaries in the Mwandi Mission They are working as Church of Scotland partners with the the United Zambian Church. Eda is a nurse with immense experience and contributes a great deal to the ongoing medical work of the hospital. Her training as a theatre nurse makes her an invaluable asset to the hospital. She is the longest serving member of staff which again makes her a source of valuable information for the ongoing continuity of the Mission.
Keith is a teacher and works in the school teaching children from primary to secondary. He is a quiet spoken Scot from Cambuslang. He is proud of the fact that his great great grandfather's brother was one of the first pioneering missionaries to come to this part of Mwandi. As he moves around he points out the School which has over 1800 pupils. He teaches history at the school and is the driving force behind the whole development. He points to the new science lab and to class rooms that have been built all since he and Eda arrived here some eight years ago. The secondary school has recently been established and he now has of 300 pupils study Maths, Science, English and World History. He takes me to meet the Head Teacher. I discover that the school has made some excellent grades and is now seen as the best in the region. He tells me he needs more teachers but hasn't enough accommodation for the teachers to come to live in this rural part of Zambia. Keith is working on this and is hopeful he can raise £8,000 to build a house so that a teacher can be recruited.
As I move around the compound I meet Ruraidh Waddell Keith's son. Ruraidh and his Australian wife Fiona are working on developing a self sustaining farm for the mission. He has over 40 head of cattle, including beef and dairy. They have their own butchery and are now able to supply not only meat for the mission including the school and the hospital but also for the surrounding areas. We walk past the hen house with dozens upon dozen of laying hens, near by a young man is cleaning out the pigs. Ruraidh points out the fish farm with its circular pools. In some of the pools he tells me he has up to 1500 fish. He explains to me how he aims to train others to develop this part of the farm over the next year.
Much of the food Ruraidh and his team are producing is to sustain the vulnerable children who are being brought up in the surrounding villages. These are children who have been orphaned because of the AIDS. He tells me how the village leaders and the church leaders mainly the women have worked to keep children in family units by fostering. The project he runs is all about feeding the children. If the village will look after a child then the project will feed the child. He points to another building being erected. In passing he tells me his friends have helped him erect this to save the teenagers for wandering off to the bars and getting into trouble. He's hoping for a satellite dish, a pool table and all the equipment that goes to make up a youth club.
We turned the corner and found ourselves in the pre-school around 25 beautiful African children were singing their songs, for them the future is looking a lot brighter if the Waddell's get their way. One thing that seemed to me to be essential for the success of all this is a commitment in time from the present leadership and a good deal of additional support.
I came away full of admiration for the working going on in this place. They face challenges. They have a state of the art generator which they cannot use to power the hospital electricity because they can't afford the diesel. They are badly in need of operating instruments some of the ones they have are rusty. They need money to help pay cleaners to keep the hospital free of infection. There are a great shortage of doctors and trained nurses in Zambia. The hospital needs another doctor. If the farm is to continue Ruraidh will need extra support in the future. All this got me thinking the opportunities to get involved in this amazing work must surely be of interest to some of my readers. If you want to know more get in touch.