- Siavonga Province is in the south of Zambia, with the town being situated by the Kariba Lake, on the border of Zimbabwe. It is approximately 185 km from Lusaka. The creation of the Kariba Dam meant that as many as 57,000 Tonga people who lived by the lake were displaced from their ancestral lands into very rural areas, some15km away with no water or power.
- Siavonga has a population of around 74,000, with approx 20 – 30 % people in employment. Over 28,000 people have no access to balanced diet foods, clean water or proper toilets / pit latrines. This means they suffer from illnesses such as cholera, typhoid and malnutrition. Poverty levels are high. Most of the affected people are women and children who have no access to resources or education. Over 60% of the women are illiterate.
- To ensure that the Swansea-based volunteers are able to continue their work with the Siavonga villagers, Discovery had to broaden its remit; from a charity serving the needs of Swansea to a charitable organisation that undertakes voluntary work worldwide. This constitutional change was voted on, and approved in February 2010, during the Annual General Meeting (AGM).
- Discovery currently delivers over 30 projects which are aimed at enriching the lives of disadvantaged people, challenging discrimination and providing support for people who have a disability. Each of these projects are led and run by students from Swansea University. The University’s students are also well represented on the Discovery Board of Trustees. For more information, visit: www.swan.ac.uk/study/current/Discovery/
Swansea exchange with Siavonga, Zambia
Following the award of a Wales for Africa Gold Star Linking Communities Grant, worth £1450, The Lord Mayor of Swansea, Richard Lewis, has today [29 October 2010] signed a partnership agreement, with the Siavonga Nutrition Group in Zambia, on behalf of Discovery Student Volunteering Swansea.
In parallel, Mr Fred Siasuntwe the District Commissioner for Siavonga has signed the partnership agreement on behalf of the Siavonga Nutrition Group.
Richard Lewis, Lord Mayor, said: "The grant awarded by Wales for Africa will help the Swansea - Siavonga Partnership build on the research initiated during the successful exchange study programmes which took place in 2008 and 2009.
"And, as importantly, the creation of a formal partnership between the two communities will foster close cultural and educational links that will endure for generations to come."
A detailed action plan has already been developed and agreed; and ten students from Swansea University will be recruited to undertake some of the initial short term targets in the strategy. This would include cooking demonstrations and baby growth monitoring with a view to achieving nutritional development under our health agenda.
This work was supported by a £1500 grant awarded by Swansea University’s International Office which plans to include Zambia, as well as The Gambia, India and China, in its successful and fast growing study exchange programme.
Christine Watson, Manager of Discovery at Swansea University concluded: “This is such an exciting programme – the partnership has developed from 2 years worth of interaction to involve Swansea students and Discovery projects in making a real difference to people’s lives, not only in Sub-Saharan Africa but across our own communities here in Wales.”
For further information about volunteering in Swansea, please visit www.swansea.ac.uk/discovery
Two years ago, in 2008, Discovery Student Volunteering Swansea was sponsored by the Welsh Assembly Government to take part in an eight week International Learning Opportunity (ILO) to help villagers in Siavonga, Zambia, develop business skills that would help them generate a sustainable income.
Christine Watson, Manager of Discovery at Swansea University explained: "Siavonga is a large province - I worked with fourteen of the rural community villages in Southern Zambia, on the border with Zimbabwe.
"The villagers have traditionally lived a hand-to-mouth existence; with the men fishing for survival while the women work relentlessly to break-up large stones for sale to traveling tradesmen or sell what few crops they can grow. There is no electricity and no natural water source."
During the initial visit to Zambia, Christine worked with translators and twelve tribes people to engage the community in a range of group and team building exercises - including role play, discussion carousels and line continuums - designed to encourage participation and demonstrate how each individual family benefits from greater community support.
Through the day-to-day engagement, the villagers learnt to develop their skills with each other to meet the basic needs of their family and, in addition, to secure the community support needed to generate a valuable source of income. By way of example, the women learnt how to account for their expenses when buying and selling goods and that in order to make a profit they needed to work together so they could reduce their outgoings.
Georgina Mpande from the Tusole Womens Group in Siavonga said: “The sessions have given us encouragement and enlightenment - we will remember this for a long time and pass it onto our children so they can be better than we have been.”
On her return to Wales, Christine Watson successfully applied to the Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU) and the British Council, for a grant to support the excellent work being undertaken by Discovery and to help establish the exchange study programme between Swansea and Siavonga.
As a result, Mr. Musuka Mutondo and Mrs. Pellger Hamoonga, traveled to Swansea in September 2009 to work with the Discovery team on two research projects: the impact of poverty on nutrition in Swansea and Siavonga and time-banking as a new form of volunteering and community engagement.
Christine concluded: "Working with the people of Siavonga has been a powerful and moving experience for everyone involved.
"Inspired by this exchange study programme, the Discovery volunteers are determined to do what they can to improve awareness of the living conditions in the villages and to raise funds to further help the villagers generate a sustainable income for themselves, their families and their communities."
Notes for Editors: