We are in the process of having a Beyond Ourselves office (affectionately known as the Boffice) built here in Zambia.
I am excited (understatement!)
Since moving here the Beyond Ourselves office has lived in our home, doubling as a spare bedroom. It’s not the biggest of rooms to begin with and it houses a desk, bunkbeds, a big photocopier, countless school resources, all our important files (and many not so important ones) and loads of random work and personal things. It’s tight.
And only one person can work in there at a time. Which poses a problem when our team is comprised of five people. Yes, a lot of our time is spent at the schools, in the communities and generally out and about in meetings and the like but a one person office hasn’t been working so well for our team. And our living room being the overspill of the office hasn’t been working so well for us as a family.
So a couple of months ago our very kind landlords scoped out the property we live on and suggested we convert a carport, that wasn’t being used much on site, into an office. Jodie, our director, was up for it and in a few short weeks everything was agreed and the building started! The roof was put on this week and we should be able to move in the next couple of months.
When we moved to Zambia in 2013 we crossed paths with a lovely British family that were just packing up as we were arriving. They had lived and worked here for about ten years and had loads of wisdom and experience that, as newcomers, we were keen to learn from. We asked them outright what were the things they wished they had known when they first arrived, what were the most important things they had learned.
They had a list of four or five things, nuggets of wisdom, but the one that has stuck with me the most has always been – help those who want to be helped.
I had to chew on this for a while if I’m honest because it’s difficult to understand why someone in a place of poverty (in every way, physically, spiritually and emotionally) doesn’t want a hand up. But it is true and actually trying to help those who don’t want to be helped is going to be frustrating and fruitless.
I’ve been learning this lesson recently. It’s not a fun one. In the last few weeks we had the opportunity to give someone a huge hand up. For years we’ve been giving them handouts, they’ve needed them, they are in a desperate situation. But a few weeks ago we had work (on-the-job training, leading to potential long term work) for a member of the family and after giving it a go for a few days, decided he didn’t want to work, he didn’t want the opportunity.
It’s hard to understand why someone wouldn’t want help. It’s harder yet to accept that someone doesn’t want to accept a potentially life changing opportunity.
But it happens. And it is hard. There are a multitude of reasons this happens, none of them good ones (that I can think of) but nevertheless not everyone wants help. Sometimes we have to accept this reality. Today is one of those days.
We have a woman that does some cleaning for us, helps us when we have lots of visitors and sometimes helps take care of the boys. She’s very pregnant at the moment and we have many conversations about the baby as she anticipates her new arrival soon. It’s been fascinating finding out more about what is available to women who give birth at local clinics and hospitals here.
She has said it costs K50 ($5USD) to have a baby in a local clinic. A c-section is K100 ($10USD). With that, a woman gets a bed and access to a midwife and hopefully a doctor should one be needed. Women need to bring their own towels, clean water, bedding and and local chetenge material to clean up and wrap up her new baby.
When I think back to giving birth to Jacob in the UK and the ‘birthing room’ in the ‘birthing unit’ at Harlow Hospital, I think about how different women’s child birth experiences are around the world. I had a water birth with Jacob all the while listening to music through the iPod docking station that was provided. The lighting was dim and the walls were purposefully painted in muted colours, everything to done to create a calm birthing environment. What a contrast.
I saw this article a few months ago highlighting the different ways women prepare to have babies around the world. Fascinating!
I spent last week in Cape Town doing Dignity Campaign
training. The Dignity Campaign was started by Aukje Brouwer (also founder of Beautiful Gate) a few years ago. Aukje has a vision to train people to work with girls and women to help them find them identity, purpose and belonging in Christ and in community.
It was a fantastic week. The speakers were so inspiring and the content challenging and helpful. The group of women that came together for the training were also very inspiring. Hearing their stories and getting to know them was a real honour.
The week was full of so many good things and yet was truly heartbreaking at the same time. I know that girls and women have real challenges in many places around the world and Southern Africa is no exception. Hearing stories of rape and defilement, trafficking and abuse all the while knowing there is a general code of silence about these things in many cultures is heart wrenching. I am becoming increasingly aware of the challenges girls and women face. In the fabrics of many African cultures is a sense that girls and women are less than boys and men. This belief has implications into every area of life.
But one of the things that was truly the most impacting was hearing about what God can do, that he is bigger than the challenges and experiences people have. God can redeem the worse of stories, and he is doing just that in many women. It’s our hope that if girls and women can find their identity, purpose and belonging in Christ first and in a strong group of other girls and women, that God can do what sometimes looks to be impossible.
In addition to this there was lots of talk about menstrual management. I’ll save that for another time as I have lots to say(!) and perhaps that is a women’s only post 🙂
On a personal level, last week felt so timely. I felt I needed some time away and time to recharge and just be. The base where the training was is a five minute walk to the most beautiful beach so I had many walks in the mornings and evenings strolling the soft white sand beach. It was so good to have lots of time to process and pray. It was so refreshing. The week felt like a real gift for me personally.