GCMF: the report

 

Traveling through Africa can be done in many ways. On our way to central-Zambia, where our next project is located, we experience one of the most convenient forms. The Tazara-express brings us from Dar es Salaam (Tanzania) to Kapiri Moshi (Zambia) in 50 hours. A trip thats about 1800 km. The train gives you relatively a lot of movingspace to do whatever you like! Walking around, showering, dining, playing cards. In your sleeping-cabin you will find four beds, so you will always meet cool other backpackers. Finally, all this will be done withing a moving theather, that keeps on driving through a beautiful landscape. A great experience. When we arrive in Kapiri Moshi, we spend the night there and decide to take the bus to where we need to be next: Mpongwe.

Mpongwe-town functions as the central point in the much bigger Mpongwe-region. That being said, Mpongwe is very small. There is a central square where a lot is going on when we arrive. This square is situated along a paved road. All this together, makes Mpongwe. The bus drops us at what they call here the market. This is where we are supposed to meet Bram Sol, the engineer who works for GCMF. Before Bram arrives, the taxidrivers try to do their thing. “Sir, you go to GCMF?” A guy with a pink bycicle in his hand even knows my name. “Are you Jessy?” His name is Terry and he works at the reception of the GCMF-guesthouse. Hij saw our names when he booked our roomes the other day. Of course these two Muzungu's are a minority in Mpongwe, but we like to look at the sunny side of things. It seems that we are visiting a project that is quite known in Mpongwe!

 

And this is not strange, when you think of the impact the GCMF-foundation has had. Let's start from the beginning. Founder of the foundation is Ton Korsten-Korenromp, living in the Jabeek, Holland. Ton got to know Mpongwe years ago, through the Mission Baptist Association (MBA). This organization builded a small hospitalin Mpongwe and also run a guesthouse. During the time Ton stayed at the guesthouse, she thought of things she could do to help the vulnurable people and orphans in Mpongwe. In the first years she did this with still church-based projects, but Ton needed more space for her own insight in Mpongwe.

In 2001 she founded the Give the Children of Mpongwe a Future-foundation (GCMF). In the first years the foundation started manuy small projects, which we can consider as finished. Small schools where build, with the teachershomes there as well. Toilets where build, as well as waterpumps in rural areas. GCMF did a lot in women-empowerment and foudned a community-hall, a place where local people could get together. GCMF clearly thought of a community-wide approach.

 

At this moment in time, GCMF has four projects which she is working on:

  • The oldest of the four is the Orphans and Vulnorable Children-project (OVC). This project was started not to long after the foundation was founded. The project has between 80 and 100 children of which GCMF pays for there school-costs. The number of children in the program is declining, due to failing in the finals.

  • In 2005, GCMF started building it's own guesthouse in Mpongwe, which has to be a income generating project for the foundation. In the meantime this guesthouse is working full on and is being managed by a almost fully local staff. This is also the place we stay during our time in Mpongwe.

  • Ibala is a agricultural-education programma. A three year program in organic farming for small farmers. In Ibenga, a place close to Mpongwe, this program is now in it's second year, in Mpongwe there is a first-year class. The Ibala-project is very succesful. The Mpongwe-branch will turn in to the VTC when this is ready.

  • Last but not least is the VTC (Vocational Training Center), which is the building of the technical- and agriclutural school. This work in progress had to stop a couple of months ago due to lack of funding, but is going full on since december again. At the moment there are working more then 40 Zambian people at the buildingsight.

 

After we arrive in Mpongwe, Bram picks us up and bring us to the place we stay in the coming days. The guesthouse is a colourful place which has everything you need. Besides pleasent rooms, there is an internetcafé, a restaurant with a bar and a cosy small central place where everything meets. On top of this, the guesthouse offers a lot of employment for local people. From the manager to the guards, form the kitchenstaff to the receptionist, they are all local people. After we instaled ourselves in the guesthouse, Bram takes us to what is not only his big pride, but also the pride of GCMF: the George Korsten Voctional Training Center, named after the husband of Ton, who passed away in 2012. The VTC is a very impressive constructionsight. At some kilometers from the geusthouse, there is a piece of land as big as a small vacationpark. We walk there over a unpaved road. Al of a sudden, we see big roofs in the sky. Once we are in the VTC-location, we can really see how impresive this project is. In a round shape there are 25 buildings, all meant to be classrooms or sleaping/washingrooms for the boardingschool. In the end, the VTC will be taking care of the education of somewhat 500 students.

November 2012 is when the constructions started here. In the meantime, the project has been adjusted and reshaped many times. Budgets had to be pushed upwards, as well as the date on which there will be actual education taking place here. And in 2012 GCMF had to hire Bram as a real engineer, when they tought everything could be done without one before. We get the feeling that GCMF sometimes did not realize what kind of project it had got itself into. The end of the project is not yet in sight. There will be some education starting in september. That is when the first regular day-students will start at the VTC. Because one would almost forget that teaching is what this impressive sight is being build for.

 

On Saturday-afternoon we meet with Stijn Geijbels (you can read more about Stijn on the interview-page of this project), a former employee of GCMF, to visit the project that he made happen for the foundation: the Ibala-project. Along with his girlfriend Kathleen, Stijn worked for GCMF for almost two years. In this period, he worked on the renewed educationprogram for organic farming. With great succes. The projects branch in Ibenga is now in it's second year and under the supervision of Stijn and GCMF found the right formula. During our visit, headteacher Elias shows us around. Ibala is how education should be. It's practical, its direct and it addapts to the environment it has to work in. The strongest point however, is that the Ibala-project gives the people exactly what their community asks for: practical education focussed on youth, in a sector thatt is key to the local community.\

 

After two days, we have quite a good insight in the GCMF-world. A lot of thought is put into the projects in Mpongwe. GCMF workes with the needs in the community: education, work and attention for the more vulnurable people in society.

The VTC seems to, more and more, overtake all the attention within GCMF. The Ibala-project shall have it's place within the VTC for the future and he guesthouse should be able now to keep itself going. All means GCMF has and will have will go to the VTC-project, at least for the bigger part.

 

The magnitude of the project and the investments that come with this, make that there are many stakeholders at this point. Sponsers and donors are pushing, they want to see results. After all, the goal is an education-project, not a buildingproject. And GCMF, with Ton as the big leader, at this point will not do any concessions any more when it comes to the magnitude of the project, to excellarate the project getting ready. This possibility is long gone as well. The original plan stays sacred.

When we stand in the middle of the huge VTC-complex, that is going to be the hart of a school for students from all over Zambia, we feel like we are able to see into the future. And let's be honest, it's a very impressive future. The thing we hope is that this dream will actually be realized, that it will not end with the finishline in sight. Important for that is that the main goal, realizing education in Mpongwe, will not be forgotten. The magnitude of this project could be able to distract from this goal. GCMF will have to find the balance between prestige and pragmatism.