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Simukanka – a Zambian Oasis

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On our way to Livingstone, we had the pleasure of stopping by Simukanka – a small rural village / area a little more than halfway from Lusaka and Livingstone.

Turning off the paved highway, we traversed a rutted, single track dirt “road” that wound through the grass plains and scrub trees for 10 kilometers. The journey took nearly an hour to traverse in our bus, punctuated by the jarring sound of our bus scraping rocks or hard dirt. I’m not sure what would have happened if our bus had broken down…

Along the way we picked up an elderly gentleman named Chickoba, who is the “head man” for the village of Simukanka. Wide smiles and a hearty laugh came from beneath his brown brimmed hat. I got out as we need to shuffle seats so he could sit with us on the bus and he slowly introduced himself – repeating the pronunciation of his name until I got it right, and confirming he had pronounced my name correctly. A wonderful man without a sense of urgency – but with a lot of heart and happiness.

As we pulled into the small village we were greeted by a growing sea of smiling, singing, laughing faces. The women of the village erupted into song, punctuated by their high-pitched yells of pure delight. They were displaying genuine excitement and gratitude for what CWB has done for them – and you couldn’t help but be warmed by the reception.

In Simukanka, unlike the communities we support around Lusaka, CWB helped establish a rural health center, serving the roughly 2750 people in the surrounding villages that stretch up to 5-10 miles away. Thanks to CWB and other western sponsors, they now have cinderblock structures housing basic medical facilities, a 2-bed maternity ward (that sees 8-12 births per month), a mother’s shelter for caregivers or pregnant women to sleep in while they are there, and modern staff housing. Out here in the bush with no electricity or running water stands this fairly modern health facility – complete with solar powered light bulbs and equipment. Quite a marvel, and an amazing advancement for that community!

The Simukanka health center

Simukanka already has a government-run basic school, educating about 400 students in grades 1-9. Once they reach grade 10, the students have to go to boarding school in Choma – which is almost an hour away by car, and a significant financial burden on the families. They would like to build a high school there, but lack the financial resources to do so…

After a tour of the health center and the school, we were treated to a long welcoming ceremony – complete with speeches by Chickoba and other important community leaders, and wonderful singing and dancing by the school children (who found it particularly amusing when we tried to join in!). Again, a very uplifting experience – and one that I think was as joyful and fulfilling for those performing as it was for the audience.

As the sun went down, the campfire was started and millions of stars punctuated the dark, quiet night sky. Time slowed down. Serenity only begins to describe it.

Bags of maize from the corn fields around Simukanka

The next morning we arose early – partly due to the gaggle of turkeys walking by and loudly proclaiming their presence! We took a quick tour of one of the properties in the area – one of the leading men, his four wives, and their offspring housed in a mixture of simple cement buildings and thatched storage and cooking buildings. When we arrived the women were working on preparing their corn crop – drying the corn, pulling it off the cobs, and then grinding it before storing it in large sacks.

Then off to church – a very simple service in a thatch building – before saying our farewells and continuing the long journey on to Livingstone, leaving two of our flock behind for a couple days of additional medical training and assistance with their health center.

 An oasis of serenity, beauty and joy.

Article by Communities Without Borders Travelers

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Start: 2019-07-01 End: 2019-07-31