During a visit of iChange team members and volunteers in summer 2010 contact was established to Mr Mukotoka, who provides volunteer support to a remote bush village outside of Ndola. Somewhat aware of the humanitarian situation in this village as well as the logistical challenges of even gaining access to this area (transportation), the iChange team initially took time to discuss and evaluate the merit of such a visit. One major concern was to avoid raising any unjustified expectations among the population there.
In the end, the decision was made to accept the invitation extended to the team and visit Kapalu. While only 11km east from Ndola city center near the border to Congo, lack of road infrastructure turned the trip to Kapalu into a 25km drive which, given road conditions (or the lack thereof), took almost two hours.
Upon arrival in Kapalu a brief meeting with the village elder served as an official introduction for the team. A subsequent town hall meeting allowed for the team to experience first-hand the villagers' struggles in trying to find solutions for three of their most fundamental humanitarian challenges:
While Mr Mukotoka already had made inroads with regards to the educational situation, the villagers were still looking for ways to address and improve their water and health care situation.
Early in 2011 the villagers presented a written project plan, detailing their commitment and planned contributions to a potential health post project. Given that many of them are illiterate and only a handful speak reasonable English this accomplishment by the villagers and Mr Mukotoka in and by itself was already impressive.
After further open and constructive discussions between iChange representatives, Mr Mukotoka and villagers it was agreed to explore a possible future project via the granting of a community microcredit. This microcredit, supervised and managed by the village council, was used to set up and operate a chicken hatching program. The expected proceeds from this program would serve as a proof of concept for the village's ongoing ability to fund the overhead cost of a possible health post.
After a promising start, however, political turmoil cut the village off their usual clean water supply, forcing them to use contaminated local bracken water to feed the chicken. As a result, most of the chicken died, stalling the project.
After a careful analysis of the aforementioned situation and upon receiving further guidance and support from the tribal chief in this area, a decision was made to restart the relationship with the community. Unlike in the beginning, six villages are now participating in this project. As a result it was renamed to 'Twatasha Community Project'.
Our test project in Kapalu was terminated in 2013, after one last attempt to address various challenges. In the end, both sides realized that a much more hands-on and ongoing support and coaching structure would be needed to ensure success. While many of the challenges we encountered, like geographical distances, cultural barriers and communication difficulties, seemed manageable when looked at on a stand-alone basis, the cumulative effect of these circumstances in the end proved insurmountable for iChange in light of our current resource levels. As we were well aware of these risks from the beginning of this project such an outcome was always clearly communicated and transparently defined. This was a necessary pre-requirement for our initial engagement in Kapalu so as not to risk other major iChange projects in the end. Nevertheless, actually taking this difficult step was a deeply emotional decision for us; at the same time we realize and know that as a team and organization we have gained credibility and decision-making strength from this experience.