In common with much of the rest of the world, in Zambia, Covid has overtaken the weather as the number one small talk topic.  As we sat in the waiting area of our local Isuzu garage waiting for mechanics to work out why the car has lost its ability to regulate its temperature effectively, the foreman leant on the counter and with casual nonchalance, enquired (through his mask), “So… many COVID cases in the UK?”

Briefly tempted by my unhelpful and inappropriate sense of humour to say ‘hardly any’ or ‘what’s COVID?’, I gave him my serious and factual response and then turned the question back at him, “How’s it been in Zambia?’.  His response was illuminating.. “Many people have caught it but those who have died have been very elderly, I mean those around 50 years old”

The awkward silence was punctured by my confirmation to him that I was in that extreme elderly bracket.  Of course, he laughed but went on to say what we actually already knew, that to reach 50 in Zambia is still notable and worthy of celebration.

Today, Margaret, our wonderful office manager who administrates our projects in Zambia celebrated her 50thbirthday.  True to Zambian tradition we marked the occasion by throwing water over her.  Another day marked by genuine celebration and thankfulness.

A few years ago, and thankfully things have improved a bit now, the average life expectancy in Zambia was 34 years.  I have lost count of the number of funeral houses we have been to and the number of gravesides we have mourned at.  Just reaching 5 years of age was a very real and uncertain milestone for many children.

Sickness, exacerbated by poverty seemed to lurk round every corner.  For all the success stories of children completing their education we could tell you many others of those who have not survived, often because of preventable things like malaria, diarrhoea, HIV or hunger.

To live in such a fragile situation, has the potential to breed an ability to celebrate life rather than to fear death.  Death is an ever-present reality, much more so than in our cossetted western world where we view it as an intruder that can and should be chased away rather than something we should outwit by expressing life whenever and however we can.

Why should every birthday not be celebrated wholeheartedly with real thanksgiving, rather than be treated as a right?

The strapline of CiCA is “Opening Doors, Creating Hope” and one of our often-used phrases “giving the gift of a fighting chance”.  Everything we do is about giving opportunity, giving an invitation to live, to grow, to prosper.

We don’t want anyone to live defensively but to go after life and all the opportunity it holds.  To celebrate every achievement and every step forward.  The dangers are real and will remain so however we live, but taking the opportunity to live whilst surrounded by all these challenges will be what ultimately marks any of us out.

Tomorrow is a CiCA day.  We have got a bulk load of fresh doughnuts on order, and a day reviewing the progress of the children sponsored through the faithful commitment of our partners.

It will be a day spent face to face with people of all ages, facing challenges and pressure we can only imagine, but it will be a day, witnessing first-hand what life looks like when you dare to try and live it.

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