Members of Chisekesi town in southern Zambia have come together - with the support of nearby CHABBS CLUSTER - to start a Cluster of their own. ELVIS SIMAMVWA lives in the town, and has helped nurture our network from the start. And NIMOY GERRY is the new Cluster Mobiliser. Here they give us the background to this new Cluster and the community it will serve. Chisekesi sits on the main road between the capital city of Lusaka and the town of Livingstone, on our southern border with Zimbabwe. With its proximity to both the railway line and main road, in the past Chisekesi has been a well-known transport hub for various goods, particularly livestock and agriculture. However, the 1980s drought, along with foot-and-mouth disease in the livestock, as well as the terrible HIV/AIDS crisis, hit the town badly. And recovery to its original status has proved very difficult. Chisekesi’s population is currently around 2,500, with the surrounding communities bringing it to a total of nearly 10,000. Forty four per cent are male, and there is a high percentage of young people. We have a health clinic, primary school, two private high schools, a police station, several church denominations, two guesthouses and a lot of places to buy beer. Our Cluster represents six communities. With four members from each community, we currently have twenty-four members. And we’re a diverse group, including teachers, traditional leaders, clinicians and a police officer. A team of six, led by Nimoy Gerry, has executive function. Like much of Arukah Network, we will be grounded in the SALT methodology. And so our starting point as a Cluster was to make community SALT visits over a period of two weeks. We met with local people, and we listened to the things that concern them. This has led us to identify the following challenges: early marriages and pregnancies; drug abuse; high number of widows; general low self-esteem; and a high rate of preventable disease. More conversation uncovered that these challenges are rooted in a lack of economic and health-promoting activities; HIV/AIDS; and poor leadership and knowledge. In one recent meeting, we discussed ways in which we might respond to these concerns. And so we have agreed to work towards: establishing some preschool activities; starting a vocational training school with emphasis on car, bicycles and scorch-cart mechanics; to start income-generating activities (for example, a local food promoting restaurant, and poultry farming that targets widows). The community leaders then committed to identifying land or buildings in which these activities might take place.
In the spirit of ‘Arukah’, we will focus on a holistic, faith-based approach to health, peace and development. And so in the long-run we want to recruit more people from different areas. In order to do this, we intend to: develop fliers outlining who we are and what we do; meet with Church leaders to share information; arrange for age-specific meetings; organise a football and netball competition between communities; and organise a competition among church choirs as a means of fundraising. We are excited about where this all might lead. And we are pleased to be part of the wider Arukah Network. Keep up to date with developments in Chisekesi by signing up to our newsletter.