CEF Goes to Africa - Twitti School Opening, Lilayi, Zambia
by Rey Buenaventura, CEF Social Media Manager As our CEF board members make their way from Ethiopia to Zambia, we've reached an exciting milestone on their journey - the opening of the Twitti School. CEF has been working on this project with Shelley O’Callaghan & the Friends for Zambia Society for several years now. As CEF's founder, Robert Kent, noted upon hearing of this project, 'It's truly amazing to think how taking a photograph can build of a school in another country.' Below is a report from CEF board member, Robert Brown, on the school's grand opening festivities.
"Twitti" - definition: a small branch that grows into a strong tree.
"As I sit and watch the joyous dancing and singing of the delightful children at the official opening of the Twitti School in Lilayi, it strikes me that the name of this school is just about perfect!
Earlier we had arrived with the driveway to the school lined with the children signing a song of "welcome to Twitti school" and waving CANADIAN flags! This was followed by ceremonies including marching bands, majorettes, speeches, and traditional dancing - including a real, live fire eater! It was quite the spectacle and a fitting tribute to the people whose vision has built this school, which now serves approx 350 children from the surrounding community.
The idea for the Twitti school started many years ago when Lydia and Simon Maonde, both retired school teachers, started educating local children who literally showed up on the doorstep of their home! For years their "school" took over bedrooms, garages, and porches until they were teaching in shifts to over 200 children.
But, they wanted to do more and leave a legacy for this impoverished community. So, they reached out to Canadian, Patricia Ellsworth, who had taught as a volunteer with CUSO International, in the school the Maonde's had run over 40 years ago! In turn, Patricia contacted her friend Shelley O'Callaghan who had volunteered with her in the same school. Together they created a non profit - "Friends for Zambia" and set about raising $500,000 to build the Twitti School.
Today, CEF would like to thank Patricia, Shelley and many, many others who have helped bring the Maonde's vision to life. It is a truly magnificent sight to behold! The 11 classroom school is beautifully designed and well constructed. In addition to classrooms, it boasts, a well-stocked library and computer lab, many text books and other teaching tools, an administration building, playing field, basketball court and fully plumbed washrooms!
It is all the more poignant for me as yesterday we visited the village of Chilanga (known locally as the Freedom compound). Here many hundreds of people live pretty much hand to mouth in very tough living conditions. Yet a number of them make immense sacrifice to send their children to Twitti School. (Unfortunately only an estimated 1 in 4 children in this village go to school!)
As I sit and listen to the story of Twitti and hear Compassionate Eye Foundation being thanked for our contributions, I am reminded of all the CEFers who have contributed so much to making this school available to the children of Lilayi in Zambia. So a HUGE thank you to all of YOU! Everyone, from the volunteer photographers, models, hair and make-up, Getty Images and many many volunteers who helped create and promote the stock images we sell - THANK YOU AGAIN!. Your efforts are directly linked to what I witnessed today. You were in my thoughts today and your efforts will live on in the classrooms of the Twitti School and in the children who attend now and in the future. Quite a Vision and now quite a legacy!"