Changing our faces can change nothing but facing our change can change everything. This is the reason Mahatma Gandhi said, ” We mirror the world, all the tendencies present and in the outer world are to be found in the world of our body. If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. We shall not wait to see what others can do but we can be that change that we need to see in others.
Out there are some individuals who desire to see that change in the most needy of society. The orphans and the vulnerable children of our society who have lost the feeling of being loved or cared for because of what life and society has taught them, hence some people have gone an extra mile to put a smile on the faces of these children.
At TOSF Mr James Phiri, Mr Subramanian, Mt Meru, Ramakrishna Mission Lusaka but to mention a few have been that change they desire to see in the lives of the orphans and vulnerable children the school serves. I am pretty sure you and I would want to know who these people and organizations are and how they have changed our learners and of course the staff.
Mr. James Phiri is the most active and contributing trustee of The Other Side Foundation School who is of Zambian origin and resides in the United Kingdom ((UK). He has been working with TOSF since 2016 and he has made major contributions to the foundation both to the learners’ education and staff at large. He has connected TOSF to different organizations for the benefit of the teachers and the students. For instance, phonics by phone through Sheena. Phonics by phone is a UK based literacy program which help learners who have problems with reading and writing. The application for phonics is installed on an Android phone which will have the names of all the pupils in your class. Your phone as a teacher will also be connected to a mini printer which has phonics assessments. To understand this program, Mr James Phiri had first organised a training for the teachers in phonics by phone (pbp) and the trainer was Sheena Campbell. The training was successful and now teachers are able to teach literacy lessons with less challenges. Through this program, most of our students have improved in reading and writing.
The introduction of computer lessons in creative and technology studies had made the teachers’ work difficult because there were no computers to use during ICT practicals. Like a dream, Mr Phiri, who is also the chairperson for Virtual Doctors brought in school mini computers called fizzbook and chromo which were donated by Virtual Doctors to be used during computer lessons and typing of each end of term tests. This has made our students to be more knowledgeable about ICT. Not only that, Mr Phiri has stocked our library with alot of educational books for the learners and staff so that the reading culture is enhanced. The library is of benefit to most of our busary students and of course our own grade 5,6 and 7 pupils. It is also interesting to mention that, some of the teachers who are upgrading their professional qualifications are also using the library whenever doing a research or assignments.
Living in the 21st century, one requires knowledge of the effectiveness of internet services. It is true to mention that, if not all then most of the organization are using internet to do their work hence computer literacy has become one of the qualifications. TOSF staff have not been left out in these internet services and the knowledge required. However, this knowledge requires training which is sometimes costly. Mr Phiri had to shoulder the cost to have the teachers at TOSF acquire the knowledge. The training was organized by Victor and Victors internet company which took place at Mulungushi Conference Center. Much was learnt at this training and some of the lessons learnt were cybercrime, enterprenureship and online networking but to mention afew. During the training,teaching staff at TOSF had a privilege to mingle with people of higher caliber and they felt so valued with this exposure.
Indeed Mr Phiri is and he has been a change in the lives of many souls. We salute his hard work towards the orphans and the vulnerable children.
Mr. Subramanian is an Indian who has been living in Zambia for 40 years now. He is the founder of Upakaar Initiative which feeds the prisoners’ children in Zambia and India and it also donates sanitary napkins, sanitizers and testing kits to Zambian hospitals. Mr Subramania, is a Chartered Accountant by profession and is currently the Director of Solar Treasures LTD, Upakaar investment and chairman of Bio Group which he founded.
40 years, you and I would think is a long time but the truth of the matter is, the history of Indians living in Zambia can be traced way back to 1905. It has been known to say, Indians arrived in what was then the British territory of North-Eastern Rhodesia ( later part of Northern Rhodesia and then Zambia in 1905). After Zambia achieved independence, the government started looking to India for material and moral support. Since then the Indian community has played a meaningful role in the Zambian economy.
Away from that, this gentleman has come forward to donate a solar cooker and a parabolic box and two bales of sanitary pads. The Girls Club at TOSF school encourages menstural hygiene and the use of sanitary pads which the school has been providing so far for girls who can not afford to buy them from our local shops. His donation helped us tremendously. Moreover Mr Subra has also intensified our feeding program by donating twice a week with nshima ( a thick porridge/puree made from ground maize) and cabbages on Tuesday, nshima with beans and bananas on Fridays. Children now have a varied nutritious diet besides just the protein porridge Tobwa and 2 slices of bread. They look forward to the Nshima meal because it is the Zambian staple food. Owing to the fact that the students are now getting more food, attendance has now improved from 90% to 99.9%.
We expect even the academic performance to improve because children will be more attentive and not abscond classes. Even if this may be the only food they may have for that day, we are rest assured that it would go a long way. Mr Subramania also supplied our school dispensary/clinic with some medicines which will last for a year. TOSF normally buys every year medicines according to the requirements list submitted by the school state registered nurse. He is currently in discussions with the founder Mrs Champ on repairing and redoing the plumbing for our two 5 cubic meter water tanks and 2 overhead storage tanks. Also aiding us with paper work to get tax exemption with ZRA (Zambian Revenue Authority). We are fortunate that he is helping TOSF move forward with many plans that Mrs Champ was having difficulty with due to limited funding and because of the Covid situation which has not enabled the directors to come to Lusaka. Moreover Mr Subra is discussing with the founder about future vocational schooling and other projects to aid TOSF with its grassroots work in the impoverished areas of Lusaka. The care and compassion for OVC is truly demonstrated by Mr & Mrs Subramanian of Upakaar Initiative. We are full of gratitude and admire them for being the change themselves that one wants to see in others.
Ramakrishna Mission & Vedanta Centre Lusaka
Ramakrishna Vedanta Centre in Lusaka has been a great help to our organization too. It is a branch of the Ramakrishna Order of India, a worldwide spiritual and welfare organization with branches in Europe, Africa, North & South America and Asia-Oceania. Their teachings are based on the System of Vedanta which combines both religion and philosophy of the Hindus, explained by the saint Sri Ramakrishna (1836-1886) and the society was founded in 1897 by Swami Vivekananda a disciple of Sri Ramakrishna. According to Vedanta, Truth is universal and all existence and humankind are one. It accepts every faith as a valid means for its own followers to realize the Truth. The monks from this Order give spiritual, moral, emotional, financial and social support to whoever who need it. It is also cardinal to mention that the centre in Lusaka was founded in 1967. Swami Devapriyananda was transferred from one of its branches in India to Lusaka in May 2017 as the Spiritual Director of the centre.
Swami Devapriyananda has garnered support from devotees of the RKVC to sponsor school fees of some of our bursary students both in junior and senior secondary Schools Furthermore, Swamiji organized and donated food hampers during the Coronavirus pandemic to the most vulnerable families of our students. Not once or twice but almost three times catering for one hundred fifty families feeding about 1500 mouths on average. Through RKVC Swami Devapriyananda also donated four(4) sewing machines to empower our single mothers and widows with a skill to avoid depending on alms always. This skill empowerment has seen one of our single mothers who headed the tailoring program, to be further trained and today employed by a company, all organized through the efforts of Swamiji. This single mother of four(4) children is now able to pay school fees for her children and also put food on the table.
Being our school spiritual Director swami Devapriyanda had oriented teachers during EHV( Education in Human) refresher workshops at the beginning of each term. His orientations have had great impact in the lives of Value Based Teachers at school, families and the community at large. Teachers are indeed grateful for the spiritual and moral support you rendered at TOSF.
Swamiji has been a guest speaker at our EHV (Education in Human Values) refresher workshops for teachers, held every term before schools reopen. Topics that he lectured on were: meditation and mindfulness
Ramakrishna Vedanta Centre usually celebrates Christmas in a colourful way yearly. Colourful in the sense that, it caters not only to Hindus but it embraces other religions too. TOSF students and staff were every year hosted at the centre for Christmas celebration. Children have learnt to value other religions rather than Christianity through this interaction. Swami use to ask students to prepare activities to present at the celebration and TOSF students would perform poems, christmas carols and a christmas play. This really cheered our students and they will really miss you Swami Devapriyanda for your tireless dedication towards the happiness of the orphans and vulnerable children. Indeed Swami Devapriyanda has made everlasting changes to many lives during his stay in Zambia. Currently Swamiji is back in India enroute to Gertz, France where he will be heading the Centre Vedantique Ramakrishna. The branch of Ramakrishna Mission was started in 1937 in Paris and later moved to Gertz, 30km from Paris. We the staff and students and numerous families will always have a special place in our hearts for Swami Devapriyananda.
Lastly but not the least is Mt Meru. Mt Meru group is a business conglomerate in Africa which is headquartered in Dubai, UAE, with operations in downstream petroleum business, manufacturing of edible oils, LPG lubricants, infrastructure (Real Estate) and logistics. Currently, the Mt Meru Group has its presence in several countries of the African continent. It is interesting to mention that Mt Meru Group of industries has been an active and involved member of the local community since its opening in 1979. Participating in monetary donations, non-profit events, school fundraising, sponsor scholarships, gift programs for orphanages and feeding program for many community schools. Mt Meru believes that everyone can work together to create a world where no child goes to bed hungry. Due to the above statement, Mt Meru has been sponsoring our feeding program for over 2 years now by supplying tobwa and bread for our students. Though TOSF started the feeding program in 2007 and has continuously fed over 1 million OVC, due to lack of funding in the recent years, was wondering if they can sustain, very often the only meal of the day for the majority of its students. With Mt Meru’s recent participation, the children value and appreciate it so much. It is hard to imagine that had it not been for this feeding program, what state would these children be in? The students sometimes even pack some of their share of tobwa for their siblings at home, knowing that at home even this meagre portion is not available. Mt Meru has made it possible for TOSF to continue feeding their students which encourages them to attend school. With their stomachs full they participate in class activities and are more attentive. Our students have stopped going to expired food dump sites to fill their stomachs which resulted in a lot of absenteeism at school. We acknowledge the statement which says and I quote ” we know it takes the power of many to end childhood hunger for good, but cannot wait to see a child die with hunger” . Hence “together we can”.
From all we have alluded, all of you will agree with me that the people and organisations mentioned above have been that change we desire in the lives of many especially the orphans and the vulnerables. I believe we are not going to sit down and watch the change in the lives of these marginalised children but join in to make the change big by adding to what others have already started. Together we will be proud to see that child you sponsored become a Doctor, that child you fed become a lawyer, that child you bought medicine for is alive and become a potential leader of a country or an organization. Always REMEMBER, together we can. Zikoma kwambili.