Thursday, February 23, 2006

Mourning for Mary

After learning of Mary's death we travelled to the home of her parents to pay our respects to the family. The family house was in one of the locations not far off the Great East Road. It was a very simple house and the family were obviously quite poor. In fact Mary was the only child of her parents who had been working. Her parents and her siblings had all been completely and utterly depenant on Mary for everything. Mary's death brought the family heartbreak and trauma but also economic ruin.

At the funeral home Betty went into the simple two room structure that was home to Mary's family and I joined the men in the yard. As in Zimbabwe and Botswana a bonfire was buring and all the men were sat around it. Many came and went. Some sat in silence whereas others chatted in Nyanja. Mary's father made me welcome and despite his grief ensureed that I was made to feel comortable at his home. I was almost embarrassed to be given the most comfortable seat in the tard whilst he himself sat on a battered old stool. I knew that to refuse his hospitality would have been to insult him so I accepted his welcome.

Mary's father and I chatted for some time until Betty emerged from inside the funeral house. He told me about Mary and how unselfish she was. She had worked incredibly hard and Hybrid and had reached middle management. Her career was the second most important thing in her life - after her family.

Mary left one young son. He was in his early teens. He was a well balanced and well rounded young man. He was bright, articulate and evidently well educated. Mary had been a single mother so her son was now an orphan. Tragically as well as losing his mother he would have to come to terms with other dramatic changes to his life. With his mothers passing away there would be no one to pay his school fees. The loss of a mother is tragic for any child but the implications of this loss would were immense.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Visiting an old friend in Zambia

It was just before Christmas three years ago that my wife Betty and I decided to visit Betty's old friend Mary whilst we were in Lusaka. Betty and Mary had worked together for many years and although they hadn't seen much of each other since Betty moved to Botswana they were still incredibly close. I'd only met Mary once and that was at our wedding so I was looking forward to spending time with her.

To catch up with Mary we went to the Hybrid Poultry Farm where Mary still worked. Betty went in and asked for Mary. We were told that Mary was unwell and that she had been admitted to the University Teaching Hospital. Betty was not unduly concerned though as she was reassured that Mary was recovering from her illness.

It was a couple of days later that Betty and I travelled to UTH to visit Mary. We'd have gone sooner but we had many people to see during our short time in Lusaka. The hospital was a vast building not too dis-similar to many post-war hospitals in the UK.

We knew which ward Mary was admitted to so we made our way straight there.

Upon arrival at the ward Betty asked for Mary. The nurse she spoke to asked us to wait one minute whilst she went to speak to the matron. The nurse soon returned with the matron to give us the news that Mary had passed away during the night...

Betty was obviously in deep shock. I was dumbfounded. Betty thanked the nurses for their assistance and we walked back to the car in silence.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Water pouring from their TV screens!

General Pervez Musharraf the President of Pakistan commented recently that the people of the developed world were touched by the Asian Tsunami of 2004 because they could see the water pouring out of their TV screens. I think that the President had a point.

The British media, and I suspect the media in many other so called 'develped countries', has not stopped reporting Tsunami related stories over the past week or so and no doubt they will continue to do so well into the NewYear.


40 000 people die daily because of poverty - most of these being children;
malaria claims hundreds of lives of a daily basis;
millions are affected by the HIV/AIDS pandemic;
earthquake victims in the Kashmir are freezing to death;
the genocide continues in Daffur
the Common Agrcultural Policy and other farm sudsidies prevent the world's poorest farmers from competing with their richer neighbours

One or two newspapers in the UK do keep some of these issues in focus but on the whole they are not 'news-worthy'.

I pray for a new world order based upon justice, peace, solidarity and love.