Thank you for all your love and support this year. I wish you a wonderful Christmas. May you and your family be blessed.

TIA moments for your entertainment:
  • When I went to the court office this week to get my passport stamped, the clerk offered me weed that had been confiscated in a case. I laughed and asked him if he had ever smoked any. He said no and eventually gave the bag to his colleague to destroy
  • When putting up posters for the Christmas Party we didn't have the right glue or tape so we bought bubble gum. It's hard to stop chewing it before it looses its flavour but it worked like a charm
  • When I go down to the village, this is generally what happens...I turn into the Pied Piper (see photo)
  • When transportation is scarce, even grown men will turn your vehicle into a clown car (see photo)
Love, blessings and hugs
Walking through the village
Clown Car 1: How many men can fit into a 2x5 foot space?

Clown Car 2: Answer--3!


Yesterday we interviewed Sydney for the bicycle program. Sydney actually travels between 15 km in each direction everyday!!! That's three hours in each direction. He's not the only one. His brother also travels about the same distance, but to another school.

Please consider supporting these young people by donating to Hope Ignited. Our bicycles need a little more TLC before we can distribute them for this program.

Local Projects

Community meeting in Give Hope school
This week we held the first of two community meetings. We are working together to initiate three programs: a co-operative sewing program, a co-operative knitting program and a bicycle program. We handed out questionnaires to people who were interested in becoming involved so that we might be able to start a screening process. Obviously, not everyone can participate in the initial launch of these programs, so we will be looking for people willing to make a commitment, take initiative and who have the desire to help their community grow.

We took some time during the meeting to talk about the blessings that come when others are blessed. There can be an underlying attitude of jealously in Zambia when others succeed--bad enough to include acts of sabotage. The result is that no one succeeds, everyone stays poor. So I taught from Jeremiah 29: Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.

Sydney walks a total of 3-4 hrs a day for school
The third program is aimed at youth. I was inspired by this young man whose name is Sydney. Sydney walks 1.5 - 2 hours each way, each day to go to the closest high school. This takes up much of his precious school time, study time and must be incredibly exhausting. We want to use the bicycles to help youth who want to attend high school or work. We will organize peer support (so that they don't end up doing beer delivery) and help them to find ways of generating income for bike maintenance.

We will hold one more meeting this week for those that could not attend the first one. The interview process is scheduled for the 16th and 17th of December with the hopes of having all the pre-work done by the end of 2011. This will put us in a good position to start the programs at the beginning of January. Time flies! 
Young girl selling charcoal

Stuck in the Mud

My grandfather used to play solitaire everyday (with real cards, not on the computer!). I remember him sitting there, rhythmically flipping cards, studying them intensely. When there were no more moves, he would say "stuck in the mud". He really knew what he was talking about...with mud, there is often no way out. With snow at least at some point you're going to hit concrete or hard ground if you keep digging. With mud, you just keep getting deeper, lower, and all the way to China (I'm sure grandpa said that too) if you're not careful. lol. Here's a pic of my mud adventure. It took 5 strong men and all the 4x4 could offer to get out.

On the other hand, our container preparations are not stuck in the mud. Our slab is finally finished. The rain is actually helping our purpose by keeping it drying slowly - 7 days is ideal for it to cure (as long as it took to make the earth). It should be done just in time for the arrival of the container (fingers crossed it's next week).

A busy day...

Things are certainly getting busy here now. This morning, I spoke at a youth conference. The conference was about marriage/love/sex from a Godly perspective. It was a lot of fun, and the young people were certainly interested in my Western perspective. They are really hungry and interested to know about building good relationships. Many people here get married too young (teens) and end up divorced and remarried many times. In the village, the situation is even lady I know of, has 8 different kids each with their own father. Education is essential to help break this cycle. I told the youth  all about waiting...waiting...waiting. Building a strong foundation in their relationships and waiting until they are sure they're with the right person--the stuff I learnt the hard way. lol

From the conference I jetted down to the village to follow up on day 3 of our construction project. The foundation is really starting to take shape. Here's a picture of the crew!

This morning our truck we organized was quite late in arriving, so I chipped in as much as I could to help make lunch for our hard workers. Life has changed and cooking has taken on a whole new meaning. This is the same "kitchen" the women use everyday to make porridge for the 300+ kids at the Luyando community school. I cleaned and scaled fish and made Nshima—a staple made from maize. It’s really thick and heavy and pretty hard to stir. I didn’t my best while the ladies laughed and I teared up from the smoke in my eyes. They are amazing women to do this everyday! 

On the downside there was a situation that happened that really struck my heart. A young man who had been faithfully coming everyday to help, was absent today. Just as we were leaving he came to the car. He was very drunk. In his broken words, he told me he had been there early but because we were late, he left. Had the truck arrived on time, this young man's day would have been very different. It made me feel very sad. Alcoholism is rampant in the village and I had just been discussing the issue that same morning. Out of sheer boredom and lack of direction, this small village of 300 families is overwhelmed everyday by drunkenness. Beer is cheap and provides an escape. 

There was a time a few years ago when a local football team had been sponsored for the community. It was such a good opportunity for these young men. They were really motivated by it. We have so many opportunities in our countries that sometimes we don't realize the importance of social programs like sports and arts.  I hope that we find new inspiration for these young (and old) people. I hope that in the container there is something to light a new fire in them. I pray that we find solutions in the long term to compel them to move towards healthy futures. 


Community Mobilization

This week the community came out and volunteered with the preparations for the container and some general improvements around the school. It was great to see how many people showed up (I'm sure the free lunch helped as well lol).

We had ladies cleaning one of the Give Hope houses that will be used as an office, the classrooms where we will store the goods while we sort them and tidying the grounds.

The men worked on (and are still working on) the container foundation and did all the heavy lifting--three guys to a bag of sand! My little Spirit truck groaned at carrying the heavy loads. 

The foundation will take a few days to complete but we are making progress. Thank goodness for the pastor I live with, Jonathan Sichilima. He's a construction engineer and came down this morning to make sure we're on track and doing everything properly. Living as a community has its benefits when you need help.

Here are some pictures from the last few days. Click on them to see the larger picture.

Cleaning the Give Hope classroom--complete with baby-on-back. 
Misheck fixing tap #1 and trying not to get wet
Clearing the area around tap #2--complete with baby-on-back

Gathering sand for the foundation
3 men to one bag--heavy!
Day one: foundation build
Day 2: bricklaying
Little promise rainbow at the end of day 1--look closely under the lowest branch. Rains are on their way...

A long awaited update...

Hello everyone. Sorry, for the long delay but here's the update you've been looking for.

I've been here for a month and a half already (is that it?) and things are going quite well. A lot of my time has been spent getting settled in and sorted out. Lots of paperwork, finding my way around and getting a routine going. I have to say that the transition, although slower than anticipated, has gone quite smoothly and I am very happy in my new environment and am making new friends (although, of course, there is no replacement for all you lovely folk back home!).

Other than working out logistics, I've been making trips down to the village about three times a week. There hasn't been too much to do until the container arrives so I try to manage my fuel costs by visiting just a few times a week.

I've engaged Misheck Ngambi, a local Zambian, to help me organize things on the ground and cover for me once I'm back home. We've been cleaning up one of the Give Hope houses to use as a temporary office and have done some minor repairs. He's also organizing a crew of volunteers to prepare the ground and build the foundation for the container. And while we wait, I've started training Misheck on basic computer skills so that he can manage the inventory of stuff once it arrives. Misheck has lived in the village for about three years now, and really has a heart to give people opportunities. He also likes working with youth and is an awesomely talented singer (Zambian "American" Idol, top 30--no joke!). I'm really excited to work with him.
Misheck (in red) with his family

We've had a few community meetings this week. One with the teachers at the Give Hope/Luyando Community School, one with the Parent-Teacher's Association and another today with the general community. I can't tell you how encouraging this was! The community leaders and I want to be as transparent as possible about what's in the container and what it will be used for. We hope that this will reduce theft, bickering and gossip. We also hope that this will help with community engagement. We had lots of good questions from people today--how they could get involved, who was responsible for what, how we would make the projects sustainable, general suggestions and support. We found tailors, bricklayers and musicians in our midst (who can teach others as we move forward). We got several volunteers signed up to help with preparations, building the foundation and security for both the school and the container. Did I mention how happy I was?
Community meeting in Give Hope school (a good point was brought up by one of the men--where are the men? Next time.)

We will start the construction Monday and hopefully have the foundation ready in just a few days. The rain is coming here so everything needs to be done urgently. We don't have an exact day for the delivery of the container but it will be very soon. Please keep the delivery process and customs clearance in your prayers so that it all goes smoothly (we still have a few bumps that are not smoothed out).

Thanks to Give Hope for making all this possible. Please continue to pray and send me you're wonderfully supportive emails and comments--they mean a lot. If you would like to assist with financial support, please click the Donate tab at the top of the page. Also, follow this blog by signing up and get all the latest stories...

Here are a few other pictures for your enjoyment.
Kids around Ndola. Love their cars and their poses.

Caterpillar. Before they were fried. Yes, I ate one. Does not taste like chicken. Doesn't really taste like much...but they're pretty ugly. lol

Spirit Car

Good news! I've got a vehicle! You would think it wasn't that hard, but indeed it was a bit of a challenge. Zambia drives on the wrong side of the road (thanks Brits!). There are limited quantities of right-hand vehicles. And because Zambia is landlocked, everything is pretty expensive--honestly I don't know how most people manage. In fact, the cost of living versus the daily wage is something that keeps petty theft and poverty high.

But I was really blessed to get this little 4X4 for $5500 US. That's actually a REALLY REALLY good deal on this side for a 1994 truck with 200+kms on it. It's a diesel and really rugged. When the rains hit, I should be able to manage the back roads--although I will need to invest in new tires soon. My friend Aymie would definitely say this "is a Natasha car". My favourite is that it's 1/2 blue, has tons of gadgets (like fog lights and wipers for the headlights) and it called "Spirit". Yes, all you Jesus-freaks can make the necessary jokes..."carried by the Spirit", "moved by the Spirit", "transported by the Spirit". haha.

Here are some considerations when driving in Zam:
~ You have to drive on the wrong side of the road: I was really worried about this transition. Luckily I've only driven on the WRONG wrong side once--and survived!
~ Most traffic rules are suggestions rather than rules (just like Quebec! lol): This suits me just fine. I can now come to a rolling stop without guilt. And should the need arise, simply use the shoulder as an extra lane, pass anyone--even in a construction zone but ALWAYS stay alert!
~ Speed bumps and roundabouts: there are lots! You're driving along, all happy and bang! Speed bump.
~ Parking: see note on "suggestions". Any spot is a potential parking spot. I saw one guy parked in the middle of the roundabout today.
~Bribes and police checks: there are lots! One construction guy asked me for 1000 kwatcha to let me pass through the construction zone (see comment on cost of living vs. theft). Kinda sad as that is less than 25cents. The police have been nice though and I pray when I go through their checks for invisibility--Activate cloaking device!
~ You get to live out all your 4X4 fantasies! Mud, bush, rough terrain, sideways slants--bring it on!

By the way. Today was the first time it really occurred to me--I live in Africa now! Wow!

Click on the pictures to zoom in! 


The pastor of the church is also a teacher at a local school in town. This week, 5 boys, all under the age of 9, admitted to having been initiated into witchcraft. One of the boys, admitted to having killed 5 people as part of this rite.

While we are often open to all religions and beliefs in Canada, it is important for us to start to take a look at what is good and what is not and not be so politically correct that everything is acceptable. Children like these come into bondage for life because of these acts. They will always be under control of those with power. They will be encouraged to kill friends and family as a way to increase their status. They will drink the blood of their victims. They do this because they are lost, poor and seeking a way out of circumstances. We must give them a better way, better options and a true Saviour who loves them.

Happy Thanksgiving

Ahhhh...scratching mozzie bites feels sooo good but is sooo bad. I have indulged!

Things are starting to rev up here. I've been down to the village a couple of times now including Sunday morning. It was great to see everyone again, lots of little ones who've gotten bigger. The kids recognize me too--even this one little girl who must only be two, just started laughing when she saw me. She was too shy to come up but she just giggled and giggled. It was so cute.

I've been blessed with a vehicle. This very kind couple from NZ were selling their old one. It's a little diesel tank. Will probably crawl over any type of bush I drive though--perfect! Now we can get a move on. They also work with people in an area north of here, teaching them farming. Lots of good tips to share with me.

I got the vehicle through a connection called Mechanics for Africa. They also have an expat church on Sunday. I am certainly going to pay it a visit.

New TIA moments:
Volume can be cultural. Seems like everything is louder here. I think my ears are adjusting :)
Banking can take hours--and then you get sent outside to use the machine, to withdraw a max of $400 a time, to fill your purse with cash ($400 = $2Millon Kwatcha), to a max daily limit of $2000, to pay for a car valued at $5500--this will take a few days!
Hugs--I miss Canadian bear hugs. They really are unique

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Eat some turkey for me! 


I was up at 5am this morning. For those that know me well, I'm sure that is a shock. For some reason, it doesn't seem so bad getting up that early here.

It's been very hot. The mornings are nice, but things get pretty warm by noon and then just don't seem to cool off. At least everyone is in the same boat though--the sweaty, sleepy, move slow boat. What works for me is that because of the heat, there is no speed walking here in Zam. People walk long distances but at a slower rate. Makes sense and naturally accommodates my short legs.

So the reason for my early morning wake up was a visit to the local hospital. One of the boys that live here has a sister who was admitted into a psych ward last night. Maize is suffering from panic and anxiety break outs. The girls were each on a bed in a common ward. It smelt like urine. They gave her heavy drugs the night before and she did not wake up when we arrived. We prayed for her and just loved on her and hope that she will wake with a peaceful mind knowing that she is cared for. Her brother, Benjamin, brought her food. It was difficult.

I continue to look for transportation down to the farm. Public transport was suspended to the area because of its remoteness. Buying a car in Zam is expensive because of the import costs and the high demand. Hopefully something works itself out in soon.

Love and blessings

Greetings from Zambia!

I've officially arrived! It was a pretty good flight, I managed to sleep (even on the floor of the Nairobi airport lol). But after the 30+ hours of travel, the last were the worst! I just couldn't wait to get out of the plane. I was on the verge of plane-ophobia and clawing my way out. But I didn't and am safely here.

I'm staying with a lovely family in town. They are so kind and friendly. I'm slowly settling in, trying to get connected and working on getting down to the community. My greatest need now is a vehicle so I can get myself around.

TIA (This is Africa) learning moments:  
~ When you can't get a smaller SIM card for your iPhone, take it to the local shop to have the normal one cut down (literally)to size.
~ A response of "yes" does not mean the person has understood you. 
~ I caught myself saying too many "sorry"'s and standing too politely in queues. If you're in any country besides Canada, put your "sorry"'s in a sac and don't be afraid to get a "little" (OMG there's my polite Canadian side still coming out lol) pushy!

Hope to see my old friends down in the village soon and provide you with new stories. The container is expected beginning to mid November. 

This is a picture of my new room. Who knew that I had to come all the way to Zambia to live like Barbie! I love it. Now, if I could only get her figure. haha.

Love and Blessings

Off it Goes...

The container was successfully packed, lifted and sent on it's way this week. It was amazing to see how everything ended up fitting in just perfectly. We packed it in right to the door with the final pieces of furniture and bicycles. We also took some time to write some blessings and good wishes to our friends in Zambia. It will take about 65 days for it to arrive if everything goes smoothly.

Now there's only me left to pack up. I leave Toronto on Sept. 24th.

Last Call!

So I had a small panic attack yesterday. I looked at the calendar and realized it's just two weeks until the container is shipped and only six weeks until I move to Zambia...move to Zambia. Wow! Am I ready? Packed? Mentally prepared? That's a "no" on all three counts. That's ok though, because if I really believed I was ready, I would be naive. You can't ever be fully prepared and ready for an adventure as this. Just gotta go with the flow...

The container on the other hand does have to be ready. It will be shipped in the last week of August--that's only 17days away. So here is the last call folks should you have anything to add to it. If you have any goods for the container, please contact me asap. I would like to have everything in hand by the 21st of August. See the "container" page for items I am still collecting.

Finally, if you're looking to pillage and plunder my stuff that I am not taking with me, I will be hosting a garage sale on the 20th of August. Kitchen appliances, dishes, some furniture, a dishwasher, photo equipment etc... and a car. I am also looking for a loving home for my wonderful cat who's been my best buddy for 16 years (*sigh*). Please contact me if you need more information (email is below).

Off we go!
From left: Lawrence, me and Mishek

Give Hope International

Give Hope is the founding organization to the Hope Ignited project. They have brought me inspiration and made it possible for me to work in Zambia. Take a moment to watch the video and learn more about the Kamafwesa village and the projects that are supported by Give Hope.

Visit the Give Hope website by clicking the logo below.

The Container

I was recently out at the container packing a few more boxes. It's like putting a puzzle together. Everything has to go in as tightly as possible because once it's on the sea, there will be lots of rockin'.

Here are some before's and after's of what the container looks like now (click on the pictures to see a larger view).

If you'd like to help me fill the rest, visit the "Container" page for items I'm still looking for.


Check out the village via Google Maps!

Here is the satellite view of the Kamafwesa community. You can see the school, soccer field and the village to the left. These are all dirt roads.

This satellite picture is a little old, but you can see the fire line in the bottom left corner.

If you zoom out, you can also see the river and the dam. And slightly to the north, you will see an old view of the banana farm and the farm house where I used to stay.

Zoom out further and you will see Ndola to the North East.

View Larger Map

The Time has Come!!

Wonderful friends, the time has come! I am returning to Zambia September 24, 2011. I will be staying at least five months. I am so excited - it's been a long journey

I still need your help to make it all possible. We've already begun to make a difference, but here's your opportunity to continue your support.  

Would you take a moment and consider making a financial donation to support the projects we want to facilitate in Zambia? All your donations go directly to Hope Ignited. You will help:   

  • Start small business programs like sewing and knitting groups
  • Provide a library to a rural school  
  • Help families with new clothes, shoes, linens and household goods
  • Provide children with toys and sports equipment
  • Improve self-sustaining agricultural programs with tools and equipment
  • Set up to be able to support and manage these programs until they can grow their own roots  
I know you're please click Donate and make a contribution that counts!

What's in that Container?

After the long, cold winter, I finally ventured back out to the container to see how we're doing with filling it and how it survived the terrible weather.

The container is in great shape. It is parked outside my dad's work reminding him daily of my impending departure--poor man! It has not been tampered with or vandalized which I believe is a true miracle considering it's not the best neighbourhood. Everything inside is dry and in good good condition. Here's a quick list of some of the highlights of what we've gathered:

~9 sewing machines
~4 bicycles
~enough books for a small library
~school supplies and furniture
~a guitar and a drum set
~soccer, baseball, badminton and other sports equipment
~lots of clothes, shoes and linens

Since we already have such a great haul and the container is pretty full, here is the short list of what I am still collecting:
~large fabric pieces or bolts of cloth
~balls of wool
~educational or "how to" books (e.g. do it yourself, carpentry, gardening, knitting patterns, sewing, easy to intermediate science or stories)
~drum sticks and guitar strings
~laptop computers (in good to excellent condition) and educational software

Thanks so much for all you've already given!

You just never know...

Happy Easter! He has risen and hope is alive!

It's amazing how life can change directions in a matter of moments. As you might know (and if you don't, you can read my previous post), my Zambia plans were all on hold early this year. But no longer! We are back on track folks.

Over the last few weeks, it occurred to me that if I rent here in Toronto, why not rent in Zambia - accommodations being my biggest hold up in going back. I made some inquiries with my Zambia friends and now I have a wonderful house waiting for me in September. How fantastic is that?

I will be renting a guest house of a local pastor. He lives in the main house with family and a few other people. This is really the perfect set up in some ways. I will be able to learn about living in Zambia with a supportive, family near by. No need to feel secluded or lonely.

This does increase my cost of living significantly and I will also have to get a car to get to and from the village. I will be looking at approximately $500 per month for the rental. A decent used car is almost the same cost as here.  But even if it's only a temporary home until I find something cheaper, I think it's the right thing to do. I feel very good that I will be staying with a family.

So, the goal is to leave mid September and send the container either just before or after I leave. (I will provide an update on the container very soon. Check back to this site often!)

On a sadder note, I have put up this picture of some of the kids learning to use the computer. This was taken on my last visit. These children were some of the brightest in the class and therefore, chosen first in order to help mentor others. The little boy in the foreground is named Alex. Alex recently died. I don't have all the details, but treatable illnesses and malaria are common issues in the village and often take young lives. Be blessed, little Alex.

The banana farm is now pretty much shut down, so the village is really in need of new sources of income. Our founding project, Give Hope, has already started some farming initiatives to help close this gap. With the material from the container, including sewing machines, bicycles and tools, I hope we can start more. 

Thanks for all your love and support. Please continue to keep this project in your prayers and if you would like to make a donation, please click the donation tab.

Updates for 2011

Many of you have been asking what the latest is regarding Zambia, when I'm going and how full the container is...well, here's the 411! :)

First, I'm still in Canada. Still in my cozy apartment, fighting the February blues and looking for ways to stay warm. But I think spring is just around the corner...I'm sure. And I guess, if we were to make a connection, the trip to Zambia has also been put on a deep freeze. It awaits spring thaw and a breakthrough to move forward.

Late last year, I was trying to make decisions on whether to keep living with the mindset of "soon being gone" or living life where I live now. I waited until the end of the year to decide on what to do. You see, there have been a lot of up and downs on the farm, and legal issues that caused us to lose all the accommodations where I was going to stay.

So for right now things are on hold--not over--no way! Since the beginning of the year, there have been more "internal cleanup" of people working on the project than you can imagine. This is all good news because when the timing is right, it will be right and ripe! And all the amazing stuff in the container, and all the projects will be placed into willing and capable hands--people with the right heart who want to bless and not take.

The container still needs to go this year. It's nearly full which is great. I'm not taking too many things for it at the moment since I don't want to pile up my apartment and currently there is a pile of snow in front of the container. My goal is to send it later this year (Aug/Sept) and stay at least 2 months to help put things in place. Hopefully, by that time, things will have stabilized generally and I'll have more details about my long range plans too.

The other great news is that we've raised about $7000 of the $10,000 needed to ship it. Isn't that awesome?? So by this fall I'm sure we'll have the rest.

Thanks everyone for your encouragement, love and support through these hard ups and downs. My friends in Zambia always send their wishes and love to you and really appreciate all you've done and the care you've shown them already. They are overwhelmed that you think of them so kindly. No matter what, even though we are not at the place we expected to be, this whole journey has brought more light to Zambia and the Kamafwesa community than ever before--and that matters a lot.

Please continue to keep the community and the school in your thoughts and prayers. We will certainly get there when the time is right.

Love and Blessings,
Zambian sunrise over the banana plants.