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


Young people at the Mama Bakhita Cheshire Home for children with disabilities can exercise their minds and muscles every week, instead of a few weeks a year.

For many years I brought Tempra paint in beautiful colors when I came to stay at the Cheshire home for a few weeks each winter. From the very beginning they enjoyed the process immensely, especially those who had cerebral palsy and were unable to master many of the skills required of the other students, because their muscles would not cooperate. But we devised a way for them to paint. A way where they could chose the colors they wanted, and manage to use their hands and arms to put the paint where they wanted it. After several years it became clear to me that this was a powerful motivating force for them to gain some control over their arms and hands. All of the youngsters enjoy the process because they can paint for their own pleasure. There is no right or wrong way and non-representaional art is admired as much as any other kind.

What if they could do this frequently?

This year we set out to find a local Zambian artist with teacher training to come every week and offer this option. We had two finalists, Lubinda Kingfisher and Mary Pensulo. Both were competent and gentle teachers. If I could’ve hired them both to work together, I would have done that. But in the end we chose Mary Pensulo because, although my “freestyle” approach was new to her and not exactly in line with government curriculum, she could see how much the children benefitted from an uncritical experience.

In her words: “ This is so much fun! They obviously are enjoying themslves.”


Water Is Life

by Marsha Winsryg

The people of Jack Mwanapapa in front of their new well and cistern

I saw the people of the village of Jack Mwanapapa watch the dry season stretch into months without rain, and the Nansazu river, their source of water, slowly dwindle and then disappear, along with their livelihood. Every crop withered and the old fruit orchards began to die. People went into the bush to forage for wild food which also was diminished. Children stopped going to school because there was no money from the sale of their vegetables to pay school fees.

Sydney Mwamba, The AACDP’s general manager who was born in this community, wrote to say that the situation had become a crisis. He sent pictures of a riverbed that was completely dry, of the crops dead in the fields and the haggard faces of people facing an unsure future.

What do you do when a problem is so large that you cannot find a solution? These days, I start a go fund me campaign and that’s what Sydney and I did.We reached out to a world that we hoped cared. Donations started to come in and then one of the donors said that she had access to a family trust and was interested in helping people in developing countries get access to water. A few weeks later a well and a pump were installed. Then it turned out pump and well were not big enough for the whole village. So we went back and campaigned some more to raise money for a second larger system. After nine long months the village of Jack Mwanapapa finally had a water system that was not dependent on the rain fall. 

Sydney described the women gathering at the new well to collect water for the first time. There was silence as one of the women placed a bucket under a spigot and turned it on. Water began to trickle slowly, then faster and then with force as it filled her bucket. There was another moment of silence and then she began to laugh. Another women joined her until all of them were laughing with unrestrained joy.

..And barren grasslands Flourish richly.”Isaiah 35:5 -7


Gavin paints everyday

Every year I go to Zambia and stay at the Mama Bakhita Home for children with disabilities. For three weeks I set up free-style, non-representational painting for all ages. But the children who really benefit the most are five with severe cerebral palsy. They can neither walk, nor talk, nor write. There is so little opportunity for them to engage in an activity without fear of failure.

I have developed a way for them to paint and their delight is palpable. The paintings are full of color and form and each work encourages more persistence and muscle control. If they were able to make art three times a week, who knows how much control they would gain over their arms and hands, which is a side benefit of the profound pleasure they experience. So, I’m raising money to make this valuable activity available to all of the children at the special needs school all year.

You can easily donate at our website where you will find a donate button on the top right hand side bar of every page. Your contribution, large or small will make an impact, whether you donate $5 or $100. Every little bit helps. Bless you for your support.

The AACDP is a 501c3 non-profit organization that provides fair trade markets for African artisans, educational grants for young people who have shown motivation and need, development of African women’s income projects and assistance to the Mama Bakhita Cheshire Center in Livingstone, Zambia, that cares for disabled children. We are in the process of consolidating our many programs and are setting up sponsorship programs for our students with people who want to support a young student directly. You can learn about these and other kinds of sponsorships at our website: