Swansea - Siavonga Partnership strengthens due to Tutu visit

The manager of Discovery, a volunteer-led charity based at Swansea University, was fortunate enough to meet Archbishop Desmond Tutu during his visit to Wales this week.

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Christine Watson with Desmond Tutu during a gala dinner at Cardiff’s City Hall

Christine Watson, who has led the charity since 1993, attended a gala dinner at Cardiff City Hall as a guest of the African Mothers Foundation as part of the Welsh Government-supported “Wales for Africa” programme.

The Welsh Government’s International Learning Opportunity programme enabled Christine to visit Zambia in 2008 and carry out a placement which inspired her to develop the Swansea Siavonga Partnership, made up of representatives from Swansea, including Swansea University, and from Siavonga, south Zambia.

The partnership has gone from strength to strength and several students from the university have taken the opportunity to visit Siavonga and take part in activity to impact meaningful change, share skills and explore different lifestyles.

The partnership has a special focus on the environment, nutrition, poverty and sustainable exchange and encourages volunteers to continue their work by sharing their experiences with other students and local schools as part of the project’s focus on sustainability.

One student who has benefited from the partnership is Gareth Taylor. Second year Geography student Gareth has recently returned from Siavonga, where he spent some time volunteering with nine other students.

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The students involved themselves in an intensive programme of activities, which included teaching children in the local orphanage, painting the local hospital and delivering workshops on finance and literacy for some of the women living in the village.

Gareth said: ‘‘This was a once in a lifetime opportunity and the visit will stay with me forever. It was a joy to work with the local community and share daily living experiences with the people of Siavonga. I would like to thank the team at Discovery for the opportunity and encourage other students to take advantage of the programme in future.’’

Christine concluded: ‘‘It was an honour to meet Desmond Tutu and share with him the passion I have for Siavonga.  It has been exciting to see the Swansea-Siavonga partnership blossom over the past few years and I hope many more students like Gareth gain real benefit from taking part in the programme in future.’’