Paul Darwin joined our Holiday Club at Pizz in August. This was his first visit. He writes:
Prior to going, preparations included a range of inoculations and an induction day which covered some background to the charity, country and the school along with the purpose of the trip and understanding some of the challenges we might face. We also picked up extra luggage which we were taking out to the school on our journey.
We were met by Killian the manager for Pizz School. The 115 mile journey to Monze took at least 6 hours on punishing roads with constant traffic and some hair-raising driving. By the time we got to Monze it was dark. We arrived at the ‘Relax’ guesthouse where we met the Siangas, the school directors. Our welcome meal was Nshima (a kind of savoury maize semolina) with chicken. An exhausting day!
The following morning Killian took us on a tour of the town. The school is spread across three sites, and looks a bit run down, in need of some basic maintenance, but with some new buildings under construction. It was nearing the end of the term and the kids we met were fantastic from the start, very happy to see us and clearly delighted to be in school.
On the Monday morning we started at the holiday club, set up to support the children, partly to ensure that all children had at least one meal a day. We played games with the children, sorted the computer room and helped out with the school’s incubator project. Games popular with the kids included football, sack races and hopscotch. Myfanwy turned out to be a star organiser with many ideas, activities and materials to keep the children occupied.
We had been also asked to help gather data on height and weight of all of the children which we did – the children had a good laugh when I tried out the weighing scales!
The charity provides support for 400+ kids but there were more when we were there, with food and resources shared and stretched to match… Due to limited funds, teachers are paid less than government equivalents, so retention and staff turnover is an ongoing issue. The children are supported by a network of volunteer caregivers in their home environments. The children were surprisingly happy and excited to be there and were very inquisitive towards us. They were clearly making the most of their situation, and always smiling. Those preparing for exams were diligent and hardworking and appreciative of all of the support they received.
It was a very rewarding experience. It felt like we could make a real difference and we tried to make some time to reflect on each day and plan what we could do the next… We felt safe and welcome in the town and enjoyed wandering through the markets and shops. It was very humbling to hear about the history of the school and what has been achieved so far. There is a clear, genuine desire to help the children at the school. It seemed that the school was well regarded in the local community whenever we mentioned what we were doing in Monze.
We did experience frustrations. Money was needed wherever you looked. Some of the initiatives, while well intentioned, were not always fully thought through…
I left the project, all too soon, with mixed feelings. I was so looking forward to seeing my own family but it felt like the job was only partly done with a clear need for more support going forward. With the hard work and dedication of the school and the charity I know things will continue to improve and I hope that I have made a positive contribution so far and will continue to do so in the future. I currently sponsor a child at the school through the charity’s ‘Hand in Hand’ scheme and would encourage others to do the same. It is easy to get wrapped up in our own busy lives and issues but so much of it seems trivial given the real problems that many around the world face every day.
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