Project Manager Kieran Garry is the latest Vanilla team member (he is the 5th person from Vanilla team) to travel to Zambia to help out at Pizz School in the village of Monze. Here is Kieran’s story:

I went out to Monze for two weeks in February, accompanied by Jane Powell, HATW Operations Manager and wife of James Powell, formerly a Lead Consultant at Vanilla. Jenny, a HATW volunteer, also travelled out and it was really helpful that both she and Jane had been to Monze before.

My aim was to further support and help with IT, report writing and particularly excel skills for Killian who is the Project Manager at the school. He has to provide all of the reports and feedback to HATW in the UK for funding applications to be granted. James Powell and Brandon Ellis-Cairns (Vanilla Staff) had spent time helping with this in August 2019 and thought more time would be beneficial.

HATW gave me a comprehensive orientation session about what to expect, but nothing could really prepare you – it was a fantastic, eye-opening trip that I will never forget.

The journey to Monze is an adventure in itself. I flew from Manchester to London, then London to Nairobi, then Nairobi to Lusaka. After we arrived in Lusaka, we then had a five-hour drive to get to Monze. We stayed in a guest house in the town.

My main work at the school was supporting Killian and enhancing his excel skills, gathering evidence and helping him produce a report on the newly-built computer room, home economics room and student toilets. This report was needed to allow the full funding to be released and this phase of the project to be signed off

Along with that I was tasked with upskilling Killian, my main point of contact who is the Project Manager for the school. He is responsible for any new building projects, the procurement of food and equipment as well as being the social support and contact for many of the children at the school. Everyone knows Killian. He has a broad skillset, but has never had formal training in Office which he finds hard. I helped him develop project monitoring systems through improving his Office, Excel and Word skills.

Jane and Jenny were tasked with interviewing and photographing all of the sponsored students (there are around 70) to allow annual reports to be written on their progress and wellbeing. Spending time with the students was also an important part of the visit to further understand any issues they were facing and where we could feedback to HATW, if further support was needed. All of the children talked about being hungry due to there not being enough food.

I’d taken out a laptop for Killian and other kit that was very gratefully received by the school.

An important part of the trip for me was spending time with the students, the vast majority of whom spoke good English, even the younger children. What struck me was how happy these young people are, despite the many difficulties in their lives.
They’re always smiling, always positive and take learning and education very seriously.

What you don’t fully comprehend until you’re there is the levels of poverty and the daily challenges that affect their lives.

Power, for instance, is a constant challenge. Their power is driven by hydro electricity but because they have had a really bad drought, it is currently intermittent at best and at times has been limited to 2 hours in every 24 hours. Very few places have their own generators, and power is often only available between 8pm and 3am, making school classes where power is needed a real challenge and finding a hot evening meal quite difficult. And of course, in the unrelenting heat there is no air-con. Further to this it is a huge challenge for Killian to run an office and be computer based with no power.

In such conditions you might expect people to be miserable. But they’re just not. Their positivity is amazing, and everywhere I went in Monze I was greeted with a smile and a warm ‘hello.’

It makes you realise and appreciate what you have, and what’s really important in your life.

They’re very grateful for all the help and support that is given through HATW. I really enjoyed my time at the school and felt I had helped them in my own way.

It was a privilege to help the Monze community and the Pizz School and I believe the work we’re doing with HATW is making a real and lasting difference tothe lives of many children, breaking the cycle of poverty.