During the spring and summer months of 2014 two of our iChange team members joined various volunteers for more than two months 'on the ground' in Zambia. Their focus was on continuing existing projects as well as evaluating opportunities for new partnerships. In Mackenzie community, iChange has been active for more than five years now. In addition, we expanded our activities into Twapia, a larger community in the north of Ndola. Via selected partnerships with local organizations, NGOs, and public institutions iChange wants to support ongoing, existing project, thereby enabling the local population to make their visions and dreams become reality.
In the end it only took five weeks to implement and complete one of our largest projects in the past years. Based on an enormous amount of support from the local population and a wonderful and uncomplicated cooperation with the Ministry of Health, iChange was able to construct six fully functional restrooms, including necessary infrastructure, for Mackenzie Community School during this short timeframe. Contrary to the otherwise often typical pit latrines, these toilets offer greatly improved sanitary standards thanks to water flushing, electricity, and a separate septic tank.
It was very encouraging for us to see that not only for the duration of construction but also for the ongoing cleaning and maintenance needs the parents and teachers at Mackenzie Community School have been taking a lead role. Especially cleaning as well as procurement of necessary supplies like toilet paper have become the responsibility and contribution of a group of parents, whose children attend Mackenzie Community School.
Inspired by the rapid progress in building these restrooms, 'Tag Rugby Trust', a British NGO, offered to help with some of the finishing touches. As a result, a group of their volunteers joined for about a week and during this time further added to the appearance of the new restrooms by applying a beautiful coat of paint, inside as well as outside.
Besides constructing toilets and performing otherwise necessary smaller repairs at Mackenzie Community School we also improved the safety of the school. As a result of newly opened mining operations only a few kilometers outside of Mackenzie Community, the local population has seen a steady inflow of new residents; in addition, many more people pass through Mackenzie on a daily basis on their way to the mines and back. Unfortunately, this also brings with it an increased risk of break-ins and burglaries. In order to protect Mackenzie Community School new security bars were installed outside each of the school's windows.
Furthermore, we conducted various meetings with the teachers and representatives of the Ministry of Education in order to continue the process of improving the teaching quality at Mackenzie Community School.
With regards to the iChange Microfinance Program, new participants were evaluated and accepted. In addition, various successful participants from previous rounds were approved for a new loan. Altogether, eight women received new microloans. Furthermore, some organizational changes occurred in the program's management: until now, Teacher Charles from the Mackenzie Community School handled all administrative aspects of the program, including bookkeeping, applicant screening and loan payment collection. However, as Teacher Charles is increasingly playing a pivotal role at Mackenzie Community School, one of the program's most successful participants, Carol, was appointed as an administrative assistant to support Teacher Charles in the program's day-to-day management.
For the iChange Scholarship Program one of the most pressing issues at hand was to find solutions for the ongoing deterioration in teaching quality at the public schools which our participants attend. As a first measure, all Scholarship Program participants are being provided with additional free tutoring since the beginning of August, which takes place up to four times a week. An evaluation is planned at the end of 2014 to determine whether this is a suitable way of improving our students' performance and learning progress.
Parallel to the ongoing work in Mackenzie community, iChange also put fundamental structures and relationships in place to expand its project portfolio into Twapia, one of the largest communities in Ndola. In a first step, iChange signed a cooperation and support agreement with the 'Madalitso Wits Sports Academy', which was founded by Brian 20 years ago. To this day, Brian is still personally involved in managing most of the Academy's program. On a daily basis, between 80 and 100 children and young adults, ranging in age from 5 to 28 years, attend the offered physical education classes which focus on various types of sports. Not only does this allow the participants to engage in a meaningful and beneficial after-school activity, it also provides them with a safe and protected environment to do so. During classes, students also learn about associated topics like HIV/Aids and sanitary standards, among others.
Many children who participate in the daily classes at the Madalitso Wits Sports Academy come from challenging environments at home. One of Brian's goals was and is to also support these children in their education. However, in many cases students lack funding for school fees and supplies. iChange therefore has partnered with Madalitso Wits Sports Academy for a one-year test project, providing scholarships for up to six of Brian's most deserving students. After one year, iChange will analyze the results and decide whether to broaden its commitment and involvement.
While working with Brian on setting up the test project, iChange also came in contact with the 'Eagles Wings Community School'. Provided the school has enough space, the six participants from the test project with Madalitso Wits Sports Academy are scheduled to start attending Eagles Wings Community School in 2015. Impressed by the schools' professional management and successful growth over the past years, iChange seized on the opportunity to open discussions about a future cooperation. In a first step, all teachers from Mackenzie Community School were invited to a meeting with the staff of Eagles Wings Community School to exchange experiences and learn best practices. It is planned to continue these exchanges in the future as a source of professional inspiration and for reciprocal support.
Both partner organizations, Madalitso Wits Sports Academy as well as Eagles Wings Community School, provide a variety of new opportunities for our volunteers to engage. Those interested in sports are welcome to join and support the classes and activities at Madalitso Wits. Eagles Wings Community School not only welcomes help with their ongoing teaching activities, but also offers opportunities to support their adult education programs (e.g. tailoring workshops).