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Jan 2013

Hello world!

Posted by / in frontpage /

Welcome to WordPress. This is your first post. Edit or delete it, then start blogging!

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Aug 2012

Young gorillas observed destroying snares

Posted by / in Africa /

The staff at Diane Fossey Gorilla Fund have observed several young gorillas from Kuryama’s group destroying snares!

We knew that gorillas do this but all of the reported cases in the past were carried out by adult gorillas, mostly silverbacks. Today, two juveniles and one blackback from Kuryama’s group worked together to deactivate two snares and how they did it demonstrated an impressive cognitive skill.

John Ndayambaje, the field data coordinator, reported that he saw one snare very close to the group; since the gorillas were moving in that direction, he decided to deactivate it. Silverback Vuba pig-grunted at him (a vocalization of warning) and at the same time juveniles Dukore and Rwema together with blackback Tetero ran toward the snare and together pulled the branch used to hold the rope. They saw another snare nearby and as quickly as before they destroyed the second branch and pulled the rope out of the ground.

Four other snares were also removed by our trackers in the same area.

The battle to detect and destroy snares from the park is far from over, however, and the recent death of juvenile Ngwino, caused by snare injury, has given us all further motivation.

Today we can proudly confirm that gorillas are doing their part too!

Veronica – Diane Fossey Gorilla Fund.

See these amazing animals up close on a Gorilla adventure:

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Aug 2012

A Book in Every Hand – In Action!

Posted by / in The Book Bus /

After the shipment of books arrived we had the big job of sorting out the contents. Some of the books will be donated to school libraries, some we will help community schools begin their own libraries and reading clubs, others will become part of the Bookbus collection and yet others are destined to be part of the book in every hand appeal.

As last week was the final week of term we took the opportunity to give out books to the students we have been working with over the last 3 months. All the pupils at Twabuka were given books to take home. The younger grades each got their own picture story book whilst the older ones got a story book and one of the 8000 factual books very kindly donated by Miles Kelly publishing. The children were thrilled and couldn’t quite believe the books were actually their very own! As all the kids were getting different books both myself and the teachers encouraged them to swap amongst themselves once they had read, hopefully creating a circulation of the books.

Somebody asked me what would happen if a child got a book that was too difficult for them? I see this scheme as a way of getting books into the community. Hopefully not just the pupils will make use of them but maybe parents, siblings or friends. The village of SInde now had almost 300 books distributed throughout the homesteads so hopefully this will encourage more reading!

The teachers are very interested in the factual books we have received; they are fuelling lots of interesting conversations and discussions. The other day it was: How do hot air balloons work? Why don’t we feel the earth spinning? How do pine trees reproduce? We often give some teachers a ride from the village to town and we can really debate random things and swap interesting facts!

We also gave all the pupils at Indeco Community School their own books. The reaction was again one of joy and almost disbelief; many children came up to check with me that it really was ok to go home with the books!

Growing up with access to books is something that we take for granted, they are all around us. We asked a lot of the children if they had any books in their homes and most answered no or just the bible. We didn’t find a single pupil at either school who possessed their own book. But thanks to Book Bus and the Book in Every Hand appeal they now do!

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Jun 2012

Books, Books and more Books!

Posted by / in The Book Bus /

The consignemnet of books from the book in every hand campaign finally reached Livingstone yesterday! Yay!!!

We arrived home from school to find a truck full of books! 8 pallets to be precise! These pallets had been loaded by forklift truck in Lusaka but unfortunately we dont possess one…SO we had to unload box by box by hand! One hour later (and many cokes later!) we had made a box mountain in the carpark!! We are going to make good use of the 2 days public holiday next week and sort out the 24,000 books!!

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Jun 2012

Indeco and Twabuka – 2 new schools for 2012

Posted by / in The Book Bus /

Two new schools are on the Bookbus Livingstone timetable this year and both have proved to be great additions over the past 6 weeks. Both are community schools but one in located deep in Livingstone’s Dambwa compound and the other is almost an hour’s drive through the national park in a remote village. Last week on the drive to school we spotted 3 zebras and a giraffe, now not many people can say that on their daily drive to the office!

Indeco community school is located in Dambwa and is housed, believe it or not, in the former Livingstone abattoir. It has around 200 pupils and 4 teachers and has mixed grade classes that are taught in the big hall. Here we have met some of the most dedicated volunteer teachers I have encountered. They have real passion for their job and for the children in their care. Whenever we are teaching they are always around, joining in and doing some of the activities themselves. Last week one of the grade 7 boys beat his teacher on completing a quiz and word search based on comparing Zambian and the UK. Needless to say he was very happy!

We have been doing a lot of map work over the past month because we have had so many different nationalities on board. Already this year we have had volunteers from England, Scotland, France, Germany, Italy, China and Brunei. It certainly makes for very interesting lessons and discussions at school.

Last year in the summer holidays we visited the village of Sindi for a week and this year their school, Twabuka, has become one of our regular schools. It is very interesting for the volunteers to see the difference between town and country life. All children here come from homes without power or water. There is a water pump in the centre of the village for all their daily needs but many have to walk far to fetch and then carry home this precious commodity. Almost all homes are traditional mud and straw constructions and one hut may house up to 10 family members. Driving through the surrounding villages we are greeted with a smaile and wave by absolutely everyone from the tiny dusty toddlers dressed in rags to the old women cooking. There is a real sense of community out here.

The head teacher at Twabuka is one of the most forward thinking I have met in all my time with Bookbus. He has obvious respect from all the pupils and people in the village and he has very clear ideas about the best way to assist children to learn and the challenges teachers face within the Zambian education system. He is passionate about his job and about encouraging as many children to attend school as possible. In the villages, education is not seen as a priority, especially for girls. We have been on several walks around the village with him and he has explained so much about the hardships facing people living in rural areas of Zambia. Last week we were even invited for lunch after lessons and the volunteers had their first taste of nshima prepared by 2 of the teachers and served with many vegetables and extremely fresh fish caught that morning in the Zambezi.

This is a part government, part community school. 3 teachers are paid for by the government and the rest are volunteers, although the school runs a very successful chicken business, selling eggs to nearby tourist lodges, and then using the money from this to pay the teachers a salary. Helping schools that are already looking for ways to help themselves is immensely rewarding.

We are all really enjoying working with the enthusiastic pupils and staff of both of our new 2012 schools.

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Jun 2012

Malawi’s New Pride and Joy

Posted by / in Africa /

In August Majete Wildlife Reserve will become the proud recipient of four lions from South Africa, completing the return of the “Big Five” to this iconic reserve situated in Malawi¹s lower Shire River valley.

The reintroduction of lions marks a significant milestone in the rehabilitation of the 70 000 hectare Majete reserve. Historically lions were considered to be common in the Lower Shire Valley but by the early 1960s scouts in Majete were recording only one lion every 100 patrol days. Over the years poaching took its toll and there have been no reports of lions in the region since the 1980s.

The non-profit organisation African Parks has been systematically resurrecting Majete since assuming management of the park in 2003. Over the past nine years the park has been fenced, infrastructure developed and over 12 different species totalling over 2500 animals introduced. The safety that the perimeter fence and law enforcement programmes provides and the abundance of prey has now created an environment within which lions can once again thrive.

In August 2012 two male and two female lions provided by the North West Parks and Tourism Board in South Africa will be introduced to Majete ¬ sourced from South Africa as there are no suitable lion populations available in Malawi. Healthy animals at the beginning of their reproductive lives will be selected from Pilanesberg National Park and Madikwe Game Reserve, and the intricate relocation process will involve weeks of quarantine on both sides of the border. It will also be a costly operation with holding facilities having to be erected and flights chartered to transport the predators to their new home.

The reintroduction of lions to the Majete system will not only restore the park to a naturally functioning ecosystem but will also once again render Majete a “Big-5” reserve, as it already boasts the other four: elephant, rhino, buffalo and leopard. With the opening of the luxury Mkulumadzi Lodge last year and with the only Big Five game viewing experience to be offered in Malawi, Majete¹s future looks bright.

If you’re thinking of joining our Malawi Book Bus project then Majete Wildlife Reserve makes for a memorable weekend excursion.

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May 2012

“Chi Bookbussy, Chi Bookbussy!!”

Posted by / in The Book Bus /

So here we are well into the 2012 season of Livingstone Bookbus. The new truck has been out and about for 3 weeks now. Myself and Hannah, one of my first volunteers this year, spent the first weekend converting the plain white truck into the newest addition to the Bookbus fleet with Quentin Blake stickers, there are some more to come but already it’s looking the part. On the way to school children greeted us with chants of “chi Bookbussy, chi Bookbussy” last week , so the new truck has been officially baptised in true Zambian style. (chi means big in local language).

The first week of season was school holidays so we spent the week at Zweilopili in Dambwa area of town. It was so nice to see the children and teachers welcome us back with open arms. Every day the number of children increased as word spread. We read old favourites and new books, made masks, headbands and kites etc etc!! It feels so good to be back in the midst of the children and their enthusiasm for everything. You certainly notice how positive they are about absolutely everything when you have been back in the UK for a while. There is a marked contrast in people’s attitude to life. They may have nothing whatsoever but they are still smiling and thinking positive thoughts.

We are including some new schools in the program this year, including one in another area of Dambwa. Indeco community school is hidden away in the corner of the plot of a big government school. It is housed in the old Livingstone abattoir…strange but true. The head teacher is seriously committed to her 270 pupils and there was a nice atmosphere as soon as we arrived. They have a large yard full of mango trees so plenty of shade for our sessions. We taught almost the whole school on our first day and the children, although shy and reserved, enjoyed us being there and asked when we would be back. I can guarantee that within a few months the pupils will be much more open and creative once they get used to the presence of the Bookbus and the volunteers.

We went back out to Chilileko and it was great to see many of the children from last year. All the children from grade 7 passed their exams, which is a fantastic achievement and testament to the hard work of head teacher Emmanuel and his staff. Numbers were low in the first week of term as is always the case but the second week they had picked up dramatically. Whilst at Chilileko last week we had a surprise visit from the British High Commission who wanted to come out to see the work of the Bookbus first hand. They seemed very impressed by our small group set up and the direct hands on approach of our volunteers.

This week we will be going to another new school, Twabuku, which is out in Sindi village, where we held a week of holiday club last year. I went to visit the school the other day and lots of the smaller children started singing the banana song quietly when they saw me..that shows how catchy it is, we haven’t been there since August and then just for a couple of days. The head teacher is very keen for the program to begin. The drive out, through traditional villages, will be interesting for our volunteers, a real contrast to town life.

We were lucky enough to see the lunar rainbow at Victoria Falls when it was the super moon. It was spectacular. The falls looked like milk and were breathtakingly beautiful. There were no more than 20 other people there and it always astounds me that more people don’t come and take advantage of this amazing natural phenomenon.

I have a completely new set of volunteers this week and they are all busy on the truck preparing for tomorrows lessons before they go to the falls. Being part of the Bookbus team in Livingstone is such a rewarding experience which lets you see real Zambian life and interact with local people whilst helping the community but also having time for touristy activities. It’s the perfect mix of work and play! We just need more days in the week as there are so many schools that ask me to visit them with the Bookbus.

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Apr 2012

New Season ….. New Truck

Posted by / in The Book Bus /

So here we are at the start of the 2012 Zambia Bookbus Season, all the books have been unpacked and dusted off and are ready for the ever eager pupils.

Today was the first day out at school and the children were as excited as ever to see us.

We were also excited to be using our new Bookbus truck that I collected from Zimbabwe last week. Here is how it is looking at the moment although the Quentin Blake artwork has just been delivered so this weekend should see an amazing transformation.

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Mar 2012

“One Book, One Book!”

Posted by / in Featured Posts, The Book Bus /

Holiday time at school and the first week saw us at the rural village of Sinde, where we visit Twabuka School every Wednesday in term time. We told the children the last week of term that we would be coming but when we rolled into the village, where we wanted to park up, some of the volunteers looked concerned as we could only see a handful of children. However, true to form, within 5 minutes of arriving there were more than 50 and with 30 minutes we were almost up to 90! The turnout was around 100 each day with about 30 grade 5 to 7 and 70 grade 4 and below!

We had a very special week, getting to know the children and some of the parents. Driving through the villages on the way there we are always greeted with smiles and waves from everyone. We are always also followed by a band of children that grows steadily with each homestead we pass. The favourite chant is “one book, one book!” The shouts got more adventurous as the week went on “one book of colouring” “one book of lions”, “one atlas book!” and at the end of the week we gave all the children their own book to take home. They were thrilled. I met the head teacher of the neighbouring village school so hopefully we can begin to work with his pupils, in the near future, so they don’t just have to watch the bus pass through their village but can partake and benefit from the resources we have.

There were also some visitors to the village from another well known international charity and they were really impressed with what we were doing and how engaged the children were. They said it was so unusual to see the children being educated in a fun and proactive way, especially out in the villages. I’ve not met a Zambian child yet who prefers the holidays to term time. They have nothing to do in the 4 weeks so providing them with a week of fun educational activities is certainly a highlight of their break.

The volunteers went on a tour of the village, guided by one of the parents and really got to see where the children are living and to understand some of the challenges facing rural societies. Every day we did something fun and exciting and educational but everybody’s favourite day was when we made kites and windmills! It was fantastic to see the comprehension and joy on the children’s faces when they saw the square of paper turn into a working windmill or “fan” as they called them. From the smallest toddler to the 16 year olds everyone was walking around with their windmills. Lots of the kids were running laps of the village square to make them spin! It was a really memorable day.

It was sad to wave goodbye on Friday as all the kids were saying “see you tomorrow!” “Are you coming next week?” and we had to say no but the Bookbus will roll into another school in Livingstone for the second holiday week and bring our books and volunteers to another group of enthusiastic Zambian children!

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Feb 2012

Lake of Stars bed! Excited!!

Posted by / in Africa /

Coming soon – the Lake of Stars bed!
Situated on a private rock island 10 minutes from Nkwichi Lodge.

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