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A Full and Rewarding Visit

Once again our 3-week visit to FCTrelief in Zambia at the beginning of October was busy, people-intense and very worthwhile. Chris Merk reports.

Our second 3-week visit to Zambia this year was successful and rewarding. The team had achieved a lot in the 8 months since we were last there which was very encouraging to see. We were joined by friends for part of the time – Erich Vracko on his third and Judith Müller on her first visit and the Londino family returned after 6 years with their adopted Zambian daughters to see how FCTrelief, on the edge of Linda Compound, had grown and developed during these years. We also paid a couple of visits to FCT farm which is picking up again under the new management.

Daily life in noisy, crowded Linda compound, where most people live in poverty, often without running water and electricity, is challenging. In contrast, the atmosphere when entering the FCT plot is peaceful, welcoming and a safe haven. Most Zambians by nature are polite, humble and well-behaved , quietly spoken and respectful, which makes them so likeable.

It is a joy to see how our children are developing, stronger and healthier thanks to the 2 meals a day they receive and how this has a very positive affect on their academic progress and exam results. The pupils are polite, well-behaved and a credit to our 4 teachers who work well as a team and have a great heart for these vulnerable children. The teachers and Danny Chikopela, who joined us in July, are role models and treat the pupils with respect and courtesy as well as discipline, they are trustworthy and caring, interested in the lives and problems of the pupils in their care. On the last Saturday of our visit we invited the teachers, Danny and Marian (our head cook) out for lunch to show our appreciation, which was a real treat for them.

At weekends some of our old pupils who are now studying at college or University with our support and others who are working, come to visit and tell us how they are doing. FCTrelief is still like home to them and their gratitude for our support is touching.

Judith and I visited the college where our 2 nurses are studying and living, as well as the clinic where Dr Winnice works – she came to Switzerland for 3 weeks in May to see our medical service – what a difference! This time we managed to visit another plot in Linda where the Medical Container, donated to us in 2012 by the Swiss government, stands. It was satisfying to see that it is still being used for the purpose it was intended for – as a clinic to help many people and children from the compound weekly with various medical needs and is run by a charity Circle of Hope, who employ 6 members of staff and supply basic medication. It is in good condition, well used and appreciated by those who need it and those who work there.

As usual, the Swiss visitors were able to take extra luggage with them – 4 suitcases full of donations for FCTrelief that we had collected, sorted and packed since our last visit. These included one suitcase full of school material and clothes given by the generous people of Heart for Bulgaria for our children – this will all be distributed at Christmas, as well as Swiss donations of new underwear for the girls and new polo shirts for the boys – also for their Christmas present this year. Lots of good second hand clothing, small tubes of toothpaste from my sister in England, books, shoes and 6 footballs, donated by a Swiss teenager – these were blown up again and are already put to good use by our pupils – Friday afternoon on the plot is time for football, netball and games – a highlight on our grass field, planted 10 years ago by the children and the only grass playing field in the whole of Linda compound!

All in all, it was a very enjoyable, interesting and worthwhile visit and we returned home knowing we had done and seen all we could possibly do in the 3 weeks, and can monitor things from home until our next visit early in 2024.

We hope you enjoy reading the short report of her visit that Judith sent us:

"Zambia – a wonderful name like the people who live there. My first trip to Zambia was amazing and left deep impressions. It was very moving to see and get to know the people, as well as FCTrelief in Linda and FCT farm first hand. It wasn’t new to me as I had heard a lot and seen lots of photos, however, to be there and experience it all opens a big new dimension. To see how the teachers as well as the pupils treat one another with respect and kindness is wonderful and moving. In these Zambians there is a gentleness and love. They are filled with gratitude towards us. Despite having so little and living so simply, they are happy and content. This made such an impression on me. The fertile countryside and natural beauty is really fascinating. I was so touched by this wonderful country and its people, that I will certainly visit Zambia again. I would like to thank Heiner and Chris Merk wholeheartedly for the opportunity to join them and see this great project that has taken a lot of determination and effort to build over the past years, despite the challenges, and for their valuable investment into the foundation and lives of its people."


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