Having spent the last few months in the UK taking stock of our work so far, having our AGM, meeting up with other ZUKHWA (Zambia UK Health Workforce Alliance) members and generating enthusiasm and support from several quarters, we are now in the process of planning our next steps for the Zambia Therapeutic Art training programme.
As an NGO we are very keen always to learn from our Zambian partners to ensure that our development plans can be both practical and sustainable. (Too often we hear of programmes biting the dust because of a lack of really addressing what is needed and what is possible).
Hence the reason for my (Lesley's) current 3 week visit to Lusaka to explore the best ways forward. Finding the best and cheapest route to get to Lusaka is the first task. In the past direct flights to Lusaka from London with BA or direct flights from Amsterdam with KLM were possible, but these have been cut, meaning that a change is always needed somewhere en route. Emirates turned out to be the best option this time. This was a new experience for me flying via Dubai - very interesting to see from the air; but not a place I felt inspired to visit.
Lusaka in June is also a new experience. This is the 'cold' season - and Zambians are shivering with the contrast from the norm. Indeed at night it gets cold enough to put on a fleece, but otherwise its mostly sunny and warm through the day 20 C at least - so coming from Scotland its on the par with pretty good summer weather - and with no chance of rain. June is also avocado season so the thump of falling avocados on the tin roof overnight, guarantees breakfast - delicious and unlike the under-ripe efforts in supermarkets at home.
Zambians are due to go to the polls on August the 11th so there is much political activity in Lusaka and despite the occasional loud throng getting a bit over heated, Zambia is keeping to its excellent reputation of peaceful elections.
Linking up with our partners at the hospitals has been very straightforward and all have been most welcoming and immediately recount both how useful the training has been and that they are using art in their everyday practice with patients and clients. In one interaction I was shown a picture done that morning by a boy whose drawing clearly showed that his sense of insecurity was derived from multiple changes of care givers, and that his best friend at school was his most consistent in his life. This information helped the doctor guide the family in the need for consistent care from now on and also the importance of keeping him at the same school as his friend.
I have been able to set up a number of meetings for the planning discussions. A key element of the discussions is our wish to 'train trainers' so that the Therapeutic Art course can be delivered by Zambian mental health professionals and be rolled out more widely. Already it is looking that we can start training trainers on our next training visit which will be in January 2017. So far so good....