How Friends of Monze started
Retired health visitor Deana Owen from Bridgend thought she would spend her retirement gardening. By chance she bought a copy of The Big Issue and saw an ad for volunteers in Zambia.
Zambia was a place that captured her heart as a newly qualified 23 year old nurse, she worked in the newly opened Maternity Hospital at University Teaching Hospital in Lusaka, and at Kabwe Hospital. Returning to the UK she worked for the NHS as a Health Visitor but never forgot the beautiful Zambian babies she nursed.
So she did not hesitate to sign up for volunteering in Zambia. Deana explained
“I arrived in Monze early in 2012 and stayed for 3 months doing very similar work to health visiting, so I was seeing people in their own homes and this had such an impact on me. Many of the children I met were AIDs orphans being cared for by grandparents or foster mothers who had so little, yet took these children in and did their best to feed them and give them shelter. The homes in the shanty compound had no running water or electricity, cooking was outside over an open fire. However if you’d expect there to be an air of gloom you’d be pleasantly surprised! The residents of Monze are a lively, very friendly, optimistic people, and there are many very able and practical people desperate for the opportunity to improve their lot and the lives of the people in their community. I was made to feel very welcome and increasingly impressed with people’s determination to break the cycle of poverty.
All the children I met were keen to learn, curious, friendly and happy despite having nothing but a ball made out of old plastic bags to play with. One day I visited a grandmother with HIV struggling to provide for her grandchildren, hiding shyly behind the sofa was her sisters granddaughter, I asked where she went to school and was taken to see Lushomo school. It was like a dilapidated cow shed with a broken roof, no windows or doors and yet over 300 children walked miles to get there to be educated in 3 shifts.
When I was asked if I would help Monze folk make a better life for their children and themselves –Well! How could I say no? I met the Zambia Women and Girls Foundation staff and was impressed by their desire to help particulaly educating and improving the lives of girls and women in Monze.
I came home with a determination to do something – particularly about the school – but I really didn’t know where to begin.
I gave my friends a real ear bashing until we set up an unregistered charity. Word soon spread and help and support began to pour in from friends, acquaintances and organisations including BAVO and the Wales Africa Community Links. By November 2013 we had built up a dedicated and skilled board of trustees from the Quaker organisation and our Friends of Monze charity was registered. “
Deana now spends most of her time running FoM from her kitchen table. You can read all about the various projects on this web site.
“Looking back I could not have wished for a better retirement. I have learned a lot about international development and spreadsheets.
My own garden is like a jungle but I am concentrating on permaculture school gardens in Monze.
I enjoy giving talks and presentations so do invite me to meet your group and share the adventure.”