Back from Zambia

by Marsha Winsryg

Our new full time art teacher, Mary Pensulo
Our new full time art teacher, Mary Pensulo

Traveling to Livingstone, Zambia is a long, complicated and difficult trip, but the welcome that always awaits us makes up for everything. The warm smile and big hug from Sydney (program manager of the AACDP in Zambia) is matched by the smiles and hugs from the Zambezi Doll makers, which always turn into song and dance. This is just how it is done here; every occasion of welcome, joy or gratitude is celebrated this way.

Always a warm welcome from the doll makers

Each day I spent mornings with the Zambezi Doll makers, and afternoons with the children at the Mama Bakhita Cheshire Home for Disabled Children. The first afternoon we brought a 40 pound bag of clay gathered from the banks of the Nansazu River in Jack Mwanapapa. The kids loved getting their hands in it, and in this video you can see how each one used the malleable material in their own way: Aleck made little soccer figures and used them to pass a clay ball back and forth, Monday Monde made pellets and counted them into Annie’s hand, as Chipego happily built a cone and used water to smooth it.

Deborah Ngoma working with clay

The next day, we got out the paints. They went right to work, choosing colors, making shapes, chatting and joking. All these children, especially those with cerebral palsy, benefit greatly from this kind of non-critical free expression. My desire has been to provide a year-round art teacher for them. On this trip we found two excellent candidates for the position. I would have loved to hire them both to work together, but as that was not an option, we hired Mary Pensulo. Having art available on a regular basis is a dream come true, both for me and for the children.

This was my first visit to Zambia since the postal restrictions have been lifted. For the past 2 years, it was impossible to reliably or affordably send things out of the country. During that period, the Zambezi Doll makers continued working on their products, and when I arrived there was a large stockpile of dolls in various stages of readiness to be sold. The process of preparing and finishing these dolls for shipment took up a good portion of every day of my visit. First we organized the workshop shelves, sorting out the different materials, threads and tools. Then we opened up the plastic bins of dolls. Many dolls needed minor adjustments. My job was to sort the dolls into piles “for corrections” as the ladies say – improvements on hair, eyes, eyebrows, clothing, etc. Other piles were for special touches – accessories, bead jewelry or clothing ornamentation. By my last day we had 350 dolls ready for sale. We packed them into 3 giant suitcases which I brought back to the States on the plane. The doll makers were exhausted and took the next two days off after I left.

As for me, I slept on the plane.

Zambezi Dolls ready to go

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