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Friday, 9 June 2017

Bill's Story

We are indebted to another remarkable story of friendship.

FoCH Chair, Jo, almost deleted the email thinking it was junk!  What a mistake that would have been! It was the offer of another very substantial donation, from Mr. Bill Twigger, American penfriend of Jo's father, Dr. Hamilton Currie, who was doctor at Chitambo during the 1960s and 70s.

More correctly, the offer was from Bill's daughter, Nancy, a community pharmacist in Arizona, USA. Sadly, Bill passed away in January 2017, aged 97.  Please see his obituary here: Click here

Mr. Bill Twigger

Bill, wife June and daughter Nancy

Bill, a former Customs Broker in Pennsylvania, USA,  had contacted Jo and her sisters some years ago, via Facebook.  Again, they were a bit suspicious but soon realised the contact was entirely genuine!  Here are some extracts from Bill's letter to them titled, My Story:

"Dear (Girls),
Where shall I begin?  To say "I was born" would risk plagiarizing the great Charles Dickens.  Yet, born I was, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on March 25, 1920 into a family poor in the exchequer but rich in the stuff of life.  About the time of any measurable accountability, we three children (myself and my two younger sisters, Mabel and Jane), along with our dear mother, managed to survive the Great Depression.  We grew up with little of this world's goods, but managed to keep body and soul together. 
In 1936 (my senior year of high school) my English literature teacher asked me if I would be interested in engaging in correspondence with a Scottish school student my age.  The novelty appealed to me instantly.  She gave me the name and address of one HAMILTON CURRIE.  As academic -- and other "growing-up" -- responsibilities allowed, we engaged a healthy exchange of letters and photographs which resulted in the establishment of a friendship which rivals any I developed with people with whom I had daily eyeball-to-eyeball contact........

I'll bring this epistle to a close by telling you that, in the not-too-distant future, you will receive an envelope containing some photographs and other trappings from my years of correspondence with your very special father and my dear friend.  With intentional irreverence, I now hereby declare that Hamilton Currie will be among the first "people" I'll be seeking on that blessed day when my Lord and Master calls me home to Glory.  Cordially yours,  
Bill Twigger"

The envelope duly arrived, to Jo's delight.   Sadly, the sisters later lost touch with Bill.  However, he did not forgotten them.  The reason his daughter, Nancy, contacted Jo was to say that her Dad had left a note specifying a wish to make a large donation to Friends of Chitambo, in memory of his penpal:

"Because I have wanted (ever since his untimely death) to make a substantial gift to the African (Zambian) enterprise which my pen-pal Milton Currie directed for 25 years, I want you to send a bank draft in the amount of 5000 Pounds Sterling (about $3700) to Jo Vallis.  Ask her to arrange the purchase of some piece of equipment which the hospital at Chitambo is in need of."   

Nancy Twigger agreed that much needed emergency radios would meet Bill's equipment wish and matched her father's very generous donation with one of her own. This was enough to buy 2 Motorola Very High Frequency (VHF) Digital Radios for Chitambo District.  These will make a vast difference in an area where distances and lack of communications cost lives, especially of women in childbirth.

  What a Godsend!

A heartfelt thanks to the Twiggers.  A  kinder family you could not find anywhere on this earth.

Twatotela saana mukwai (THANK YOU in ChiBemba, the language of Chitambo District)

Thanks to a powerful friendship

Agnes (pictured)  and Janet Knox, our Honorary President, were best friends. The 2 had been inseparable since school days and were famously known to say that they had 'never exchanged a cross word'. 

It must have been a real blow then, to Agnes, when Janet sadly passed away in March 2017.  If so, Agnes has presented a brave front, 'manning' the teapot at the post-funeral gathering and serving all Janet's friends and family with 'the cup that cheers'.

Her kindness certainly did not stop there and, at the funeral, she indicated that she wished to make a substantial donation to Friends of Chitambo, in Janet's memory.

Agnes, Janet's best friend
She said that she would do this at a later date and, true to her word, she telephoned FoCH Chair, Jo Vallis, requesting information about how to do so.  It was agreed that Jo would pop over to Agnes's home to pick up the check.  Jo enjoyed chatting with Agnes and hearing more about the background to the 'girls'' friendship.  She left with a substantial check to be put towards the Janet Knox Nurse Training Scholarship at Chitambo.

Agnes, we can't thank you enough.  Your generosity and kindness is overwhelming and will make a very big difference to struggling student nurses at Chitambo.  Your dear friend's memory lives on though you.

Sunday, 2 April 2017

It's official!

It's official, Friends of Chitambo has won a second round of Scottish Government Small Grant funding for our project on 'Strengthening emergency care communications in Chitambo District, central Zambia': Click here to read more
It's going to be another very busy but productive year for us!

2017 Rwanda Zambia Funding Round: Scottish Government Information Day 23rd March

Scottish Government has launched its 2017 Rwanda Zambia Funding Round:
Click here

An information day was held on Thursday 23rd March, at the City of Edinburgh Methodist Church
Click here

Dr. Alistair Allan,  Minister for International Development, opened the meeting by outlining Scotland's  new International Development Strategy.  This was followed by presentations by members of the ID team as well as the High Commissioners of Rwanda and Zambia before Lloyds TSB Foundation explained the application criteria for the new funding round.

There were workshops and networking opportunities.  See some images from the day:

Minister for International Development addresses the conference

Members of the Scottish Zambian community were in attendance 

Under the flag of our land

Zambia and Rwanda flags flying together

Thank you to Penicuik Rotary Club

As well as the very generous donations at Janet's funeral, we were also blessed recently with a giant cheque from Penicuik Rotary Club.

We were invited to an evening presentation and photoshoot at the Navaar Hotel, Penicuik.  .Jo, Richard and Gillian attended and here are the photos to prove it.

WhatsApp thank you messages were received from Zambia.  We expect these funds to go towards purchase of a further Very High Frequency (VHF) radio for one of Chitambo District's  remotest, most isolated Rural Health Clinics.

A Fond Farewell to Janet

Our Honorary President, Janet, was laid to rest on Sunday 12th March, at Rosewell Church and cemetery, Rosewell village, Midlothian, Scotland.

Despite the unseasonable snowfall, there was a massive turnout....a measure of how much Janet was loved and will be missed.

Snow on the day!

Janet's grand nephew, Sam, enabled a live video link to the funeral so that family and friends as far afield as Australia, Norway, New Zealand and Zambia, as well as many local friends,  were able to attend virtually and hear the beautiful Eulogy prepared by Janet's family and read out by the Minister who conducted the service.

Sam has since created a YouTube video so that you  can still 'be there': Click here for the video

 Janet's last wish was for the retiring collection to go to Friends of Chitambo, a typically thoughtful and generous gesture.   Her family suggested that we put a leaflet about the charity and donations process on on the church pews before the service: Click here for the leaflet
However, the snowfall put paid to that as the Friends of Chitambo party only just arrived in time.  

Even so, it seemed that the donations box was already stuffed full!  And, at the post funeral tea, friends and family were queuing up to give donations and complete gift aid envelopes.  We were overwhelmed by the generosity on the day and later when Janet's sister, Lindsay, paid another  very generous online donation into our account.  This was partly from herself and also from the Australian side of the family.  We are very grateful indeed and can't thank them all enough,  All told, Janet's farewell gift to Friends of Chitambo has been truly magnificent  and we plan to ring fence it for further Student Nurse Training Scholarships in her name: The Janet Knox Nurse Training  Scholarships.

Natotela saana mukwai (thank you) Ba Janet, we are still feeling your love.

FoCh Trustees with Janet's youngest sister, Rhona (2nd from right)

Janet's flowers

Monday, 13 March 2017

Friends of Chitambo in mourning

Friends of Chitambo is in mourning. Our Honorary President, Janet, passed away very peacefully yesterday, Sunday 12th March, at about 3pm. Our hearts are with her loving family who accompanied her all the way.

We are also heartbroken to have lost our dearest Friend. She will be sorely missed. Janet poured so much love into Friends of Chitambo. Please see this tribute to her: Click here for the tribute

Here are some photos which remind us of Janet:

Janet as a young nurse at Chitambo

Janet with Levi Chifwaila, June 2015...Bonnyrigg, Scotland

Janet with Margaret at Giovannis Bistro Penicuk..her birthday 2015

Always cheerful and alert in her battle with cancer

Saturday, 4 March 2017

A tribute to our Honorary President

Our Honorary President, Janet, remains gravely ill, but stable, in hospital.

Janet is a founder member of Friends of Chitambo and, in reflecting on her major contribution to the charity, we wish to pay tribute.  Click here

Janet and husband George celebrated their 25th Wedding Anniversary at Janet's hospital bedside, on Wednesday 22nd February.  Here are the wonderful photos:

Saturday, 25 February 2017

New Scottish Global Health Collaborative (SGHC) website

The Scottish Global Health Collaborative is Chaired by Dr. Catherine Calderwood, Chief Medical Officer.  Friends of Chitambo is a member.  The new website is now open:

Please spread the word!

Scotland's Zambia Chapter

The Scottish Government has opened its  Zambia Chapter and will announce a funding round specifically for Central Province on 9th March:

The Zambian government recommended the focus on Central province, where Chitambo District is situated, due to the historic links with Scotland.  Scottish missionary/explorer, David Livingstone died at Chief Chitambo's village in the Bangwelu Swamps and Chitambo Hospital is the living memorial to him.  However, Chitambo Hospital remains shockingly under-resourced.  Scotland now recognises the significance of the historic connection, and hopefully the new focus on Zambia will help towards solving some of Chitambo Hospital's most pressing challenges.  Here is a list provided by the Chitambo District Health Management Team: Click here for a list of the top 10 challenges

They are mostly infrastructure challenges, staff housing, lack of antenatal maternity facilities, the need for hospital renovations.  Until these basic needs are solved, it will be difficult to move forward on other health improvements.

ZUKHWA meeting, Lusaka, Zambia

The Zambia UK Health Workforce Alliance ZUKHWA, is hosted by the Global Health Academy, University of Edinburgh, Scotland.   Dr. Liz Grant, Director, and colleague Viki Tayler, are currently in Zambia exploring capacity for partnering on strengthening health professional training and research.

Our Chitambo project partners, Levi and Consider were invited to a meeting of some of Zambia's most senior nurses, at the Intercontinental Hotel, Lusaka.  Here they heard about  plans to develop a model to guide Zambian nursing services, start a mentorship program for trained nurses, and strengthen research processes.   Areas of interest included Education, Leadership, and Research.

Levi and Consider had the opportunity to report on our Scottish Government-funded Small Grant Project on 'Strengthening Emergency Care Communications in Chitambo District' and, by all accounts, they were the usual  superb ambassadors.

Here are Consider's photos from the ZUKHWA meeting:

L to R: Viki Tyler; Dr. Liz Grant

Consider with the ZUKHWA team

Friends of Chitambo Ambassador: Consider 

Meeting participants included some of Zambia's most senior nursing workforce

Click here to see a list of teh top 10 challenges

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Full circle!

Full circle! Ian Nicol, Scottish Government, reported back on his visit to Zambia at the Zambia UK Health Workforce Alliance (ZUKHWA) meeting in Edinburgh, Scotland, on Tuesday 14th February.  This meeting was to discuss the health needs of Zambia and what Scotland can contribute. 

Ian Nicol with ZUKHWA members

The Zambian Government identified Central Province as the priority for investment and development and, after meeting with Consider in Lusaka, Ian travelled north to Kabwe to meet with Central Province leaders.  He learned that the key health priorities included road traffic accidents, trauma services and environmental health (especially disposal of clinical waste): Click here for the Times of Zambia article

Scottish Government will open a Zambia specific funding round on 9th March and this funding will be for projects in Central Province.  The Chitambo community sent their list of top 10 priorities: Click here

These are mostly building infrastructure needs.  The Zambian Government has allocated new staff to the hospital but they cannot take up post due to a lack of staff housing. 

Also, the historic hospital building, founded in 1908 as a memorial to Dr. David Livingstone who died nearby, is in desperate need of renovations.   The hospital was rebuilt in 1953, by Scottish medical missionary, Dr. John Todd.  This building has stood the test of time but  needs modernisation.

r]Rebuilding Chitambo Hospital (1953): Grandsons of Chief Chitambo laying the memorial stone

Memorial stone carved by Dr John Todd reads 'This stone was laid by the Grandsons of Chief Chitambo who welcomed Livingstone in 1873'

Jo met members of Global Emergency Medicine ( at the meeting.  They are working with humanitarian architects, Orkidstudio (, on building a First Level hospital near Mwinilunga in North Western Province.  How wonderful if the same could be done for Chitambo?

Monday, 6 February 2017

Mr. Mudenda I presume?: Historic meeting between Scottish Government and Friends of Chitambo in Zambia

Consider, In-country Coordinator for our Scottish Government Small Grant project on strengthening emergency care communications, hosted a historic meeting in Lusaka today, with Mr. Ian Nicol from Scottish Government. 

Scottish Government is strengthening ties with Zambia and Mr. Nicol took time out of a scheduled visit to Malawi for a first historic visit to Zambia.  As Ian is Small Grant Programme Manager, this provided a valuable opportunity to update him on progress with our emergency care project and outline our hopes and expectations for our new project, should our funding application be successful.

Ian is travelling on to Kabwe today, for other business.  Unfortunately, he will not have time to reach Chitambo as hoped.  However, we hope that Levi will either manage to travel the 200 miles to Kabwe to meet him in person or, if this is impractical, at least talk to him by phone.

Ian and Consider at Prince's Mall, Makeni, Lusaka

Let's shake on it

Saturday, 4 February 2017

Friends of Chitambo's brand new Facebook page

Google Friends of Chitambo-SCIO SC044337 for our brand new Facebook page, created by our Trustee, Catriona.  Spread the word!

Scottish Government's Scotland's New International Developemnt Strategy

Scottish Government is serious about partnering with Zambia, as is apparent in the new International Development Strategy: Click here

A new Scottish Global Health Collaborative (SGHC) is being formed.  This is Chaired by the Catherine Calderwood, Chief Medical Officer and will be a cross-boundary group involving health service, third sector and academic institutions.  Friends of Chitambo SCIO has signed up to join this group.

The Collaborative aims to launch its new website quite soon.

Belated Happy New Year

A very belated Happy New Year!

We have been off to a flying start and January is just a blur!

Here are some updates:
  • Our thoughts remain very much with our Honorary President, Janet, who is gravely ill but comfortable in a community hospital near Edinburgh, Scotland.  She is receiving excellent care, remains very alert, and continues to reminisce about her nursing days at Chitambo. 
  • Chitambo Hospital has a new doctor, from the Democratic Republic of Congo
  • 3 new Scottish volunteers are seeking to join FoCh, 2 with high-powered health service backgrounds and 1 with extensive experience of fundraising, catering,events managment, and volunteering in Botswana.  They will be very welcome and some Trustees look forward to meeting them on Saturday 11th March
  • Consider has purchased solar lights, in Lusaka, with Ba Chola's kind donation.  These are for Mpelembe remote and rural health clinic where people were delivering babies by the light of mobile phones.  Hopefully the solar lights will be delivered to Levi when he attends the Zambia UK Health Workforce (ZUKHWA) meeting in Lusaka on 22nd February. 
  • Levi and Consider have been invited to attend the ZUKHWA meeting, which is organised by members of the University of Edinburgh Global Health Academy.  They will be great FoCh representatives there.
  • They will also be meeting Mr. Ian Nicol, Scottish Government Small Grant Manager, on his visit to Zambia (5th to 9th February).  Mr. Nicol will not have time to reach Chitambo but will meet Consider in Lusaka and Levi in Kabwe, as part of Scottish Government's newly launched  Scotland Zambia Programme.
  • Jo's talk to the Penicuik University of the 3rd Age (U3A), on Thursday 19th January, went down well.  The theme was Livingstone's Hospital, the Story of Chitambo.  There was a packed hall and all enjoyed learning a little chiBemba and other audience participation.  We received very kind donations which will contribute to new emergency radios for the 'hard to reach' clinics in Chitambo District. 
  • FoCh Patron, Julie Davidson, attended the U3A talk and gave a short account her book, 'Looking for Mrs. Livingstone', about David Livingstone's wife, Mary.  Julie will give a fuller talk on this, to Penicuik U3A, at a later date.
  • Jo will give a second talk to the Bilston Women's Guild on Tuesday 7th February.   Apparently there is some historical connection between Bilston Parish Church and Chitambo.  Jo will find out more and report back after the event.