Kaoma is situated on a plateau east of the Bulozo Flood Plain. It lies midway between Mongu and Lusaka and is 400km (approx 5 hrs drive) from Lusaka. It is the 3rd largest district in the province comprising an area of 23,300 km2, has the 2nd highest population after Mongu (161,000) and the highest rainfall.
Kaoma serves a wide rural area. There is a Bank, Post Office, Police Station, District Counsel Offices and a District Hospital. Within a short distance there is an Army Barracks for the army personnel of the Western Province. There is also a prison. The town is served by the usual stores and local outdoor markets. Education is provided by a number of Basic Schools, (Grades 1 – 10) and one High School, (Secondary).
The addition of the Community School has been a great help in the field of Education, especially for the orphans and the vulnerable children of the area, who otherwise would not be educated.
The main source of employment is in the Government Offices, the Bank, and such work as can be obtained in the local shops. Marketeers sell local produce in the stalls. In the surrounding area the population is mostly subsistence farmers, whose source of income is wood-cutting and charcoal burning, and whatever harvest yield they may have. There are few if any commercial farmers. There is a very high level of poverty in the area.
Cheshire Home, Kaoma
The Presentation Sisters came to Kaoma in 1976, and have ministered there since in the areas of Health, Education, Pastoral Care and Development Work. As well as Sr. Mollie, three other Sisters minister in Kaoma to-day working in the above ministries. All Churches are represented in the area.
In the mid 1980’s HIV/AIDS and resulting problems became a matter of deep concern. The number of deaths increased which in turn gave rise to an increased orphan population. Sr. Mollie Moloney, a Presentation Sister, with the help of local people organised the building of a Centre where the orphans could be cared for. Before the Centre was put in place Sr. Mollie and her co-workers had been working in outreach villages giving devoted care, time, energy and whatever funding they could get to the care of those whose lives AIDS/HIV had touched in one way or another. Orphans and young children were a primary focus. Their extended families were trying against great odds to do what they could for those left bereft.
This work in the ‘Outreach Areas’ is still a primary concern with Sr. Mollie and co-workers, and the care of children in the Home does not impinge upon it.
The Centre opened in 1993 under the auspices of ‘The Cheshire Home Society’. 15 orphans were admitted. The number grew and the original accommodation became far too small. In 1997 the Home was enlarged to care for 60 children and presently there at least 130 there at any one time.
Originally it was hoped that after the age of two or three, relatives and members of the extended families could be found to care for the young children. In most cases, that hope did not materialize, and today many of the children remain on in the Home until they have completed their Grade 10 examination at age of 16 or 17. A number of the girls have been sent to Boarding School. If at all possible the young people return to their villages after Grade 10, so that they learn the customs and culture of their tribes. The Centre continues to support their education.
As the number of children in the orphanage increased, so did the need to expand the existing accommodation. ‘Boys Town’, was opened in 2003. That was for boys of six years and older. The accommodation was still inadequate. Today, thanks to Alan Kerins Projects we have two new beautiful dormitories. Accommodation needed updating. Alan Kerins Projects saw the need and helped us, by tiling and painting all the dormitories and rooms. A toilet block was built, and the drive was tarmaced.
As the numbers and needs of the orphans and vulnerable increased so also did the cost of running the project. In 2001 land was procured to set up a farm to help meet the ever growing expenses. The farm consists of 200 hectares of arable and grazing land. Maize, groundnuts, cassava, sweet potatoes, beans etc. are grown. On a smaller portion of the land near the two main Orphanages a vegetable garden is cultivated, where tomatoes, carrots, onions etc are produced. The produce provides food for the daily consumption of the children, and the surplus is sold to provide income in an effort towards self-sustainability.
Little could have been achieved on our “Big Farm”, without the help of plough, planter and sheller received from Alan Kerins African Project. Funds were also provided to clear ten hectares of land.
Cows, sheep, goats, pigs and poultry are also kept. Apart from providing income, caring for the animals help the young boys to become familiar with farming methods suitable to their environment and prepare them for their future life.
The provision of ‘Infant Formula Milk‘ for the babies and young children in the Centre and in the ‘Outreach’ is a huge expense. Again, thanks to Alan Kerins Projects this has been less of an anxiety for the past two years, as theis has been funded in 2009 and 2010.
Water Supply Upgrade
In 2010/2011, the water supply in the Orphanage is being upgraded to provide a steady supply of water to the various buildings across the orphanage.
To work towards self-sustainability is important. As well as the projects mentioned above a Guest House is maintained where visitors to Kaoma can stay. This is a source of income. Hopefully the Centre will become more and more self-sustainable in the future.
An important aim in all our projects is to employ people from the locality and surrounding area as far as possible. With this in view a Block Making Programme is being setup in 2010, funded by Alan Kerins Projects. This will employ approx 15 workers. A Hydraform Block Maker, tractor and trailer have been purchased and training provided to the local workers in the use of the Machine. This insures that blocks of the highest quality can now be made ‘on the spot’.
The Farm & Guesthouse also provide employment to local workers as well.
In addition the Cheshire Home provides part-time employment to inmates from the local prison and to women in the local community on a range of smaller projects.
Kaoma Community School
To meet the Educational needs of the orphanage and community, we opened a Community School in 1998 initially an open-air school under a tree close to the Orphanage. The school has undergone significant development since it opened. Two double Classroom Blocks plus a School Hall funded by Alan Kerins Projects have been added. In 2010, a further expansion of Kaoma Community School is taking place. 5 additional class rooms, including a science room and a home economics room, and additional latrine facilities are being added in 2010/2011, also funded by Alan Kerins Projects.
Kaoma Community School currently caters for over 700 pupils to Grade 9.
Profile of Sr Mary Vianney (Sr Mollie)
Sr. Mollie came to Africa 37 years ago and has worked in Zambia since 1978. She worked as Matron in Kaoma District Hospital for nine years, after which she moved into Development Projects.
In 1989 she was appointed Coordinator of HIV/AIDS Education Programmes in the Diocese of Livingstone. This brought her in touch with the need for a programme for orphans and their extended families and in consultation with the Bishop she commenced work with orphans which resulted in what we know to-day as the Cheshire Community Care Centre. In 2007 Mollie received a commendation, a medal, from the late President Levy Mwanawasa for her services to the people of Kaoma. She is a household name in Kaoma and far beyond it.
Presently she is Coordinator of the Cheshire Community Care Centre, Outreach Programmes and the Community School, which she initiated with the generous help of Alan Kerins Projects, and with various other programmes connected with the Project. (By Sr Cathy Campion)