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History of Tikondane

The beginnings of TIKONDANE have to do with Elke's interests. For so many years did she study cross-cultural psychology that she had one main interest, to learn all about the local Chewa culture. The route to such an endeavour, however, was not easy, right from the start.

Elke went to Zambia on 27-4-1993. That is a memorable day, since just then the excellent Zambian football team had not heeded advice and had piled onto a plane which was obviously not air worthy. Sorry. It took her a while to get the news. She had received a fax some 5 days before leaving for Lusaka that her work permit could not be obtained and there was no use in coming to Zambia. Knowing that her nurse qualifications were good enough to work in England, however, she was sure she could sort it out and went anyhow, but there was nobody in the airport to fetch her. She was totally unprepared for that, but a nice taxi driver took her to just the right hotel, not too culture shocking yet not a 5 Star, and there was a television set. So she turned it on and at first there was nothing, then there was music, music so fetching that she danced around with great enjoyment. However, after some time it turned out to be dirges - programmers had just come to terms with the national disaster.

Well, it took a while to get the work permit. The hospital director had even offered her employ as a research/resource person if it did not arrive, but that was history the moment it was discovered that Elke had brought condoms for the nurse students. St Francis was, after all, a mission hospital. However, going to the nursing authorities regularly for some three months eventually wore them out, and the most important paper was issued.

With time Elke became adjusted, and so did the students. Elke knew nothing of tropical medicine, and students were not interested in handouts, they wanted dictations which they could learn by heart. It helped that Elke started organizing parties. People who study hard, must have something to look forward to, right? There still is not television at the hospital, no cinema, no ... in fact, nothing, other than the bar over the road. With 20 Australian dollars parties took place which would cost a lot of money elsewhere: a biscuit and juice and good music and everybody was up and dancing. Great!

Elke made local friends like Jay-Jay, wife of the hospital carpenter. Jay-Jay was pregnant at the time and Elke was asked to give a name to the baby who became her Evelina. Later Evelina decided to stay with Elke, but for obvious reasons could be at Elke's home only on weekends. These weekends were wonderful, and the sad story why they are no more follows later. With JayJay, Elke started Community Education almost at once, for instance in the compound next to the hospital, where there were no pit-latrines. At that time students studied for two years at the Nurses' School and then had one year of bonding, when they were so bored that they were happy to do extra work. Such as writing a manuscript in Chichewa with most of the important topics in Health Education for villages, an integral part of the nursing curriculum. (Sadly the bonding is no more, making it difficult to find nurses to take on such courses.) When a neighbour to Elke's rondavel said he wished his people in the workshop knew how to read and write, TIKONDANE COMMUNITY CENTRE was truly conceived.

Again, from the beginning the congregation from Mosman, Sydney, had helped with books for the nurses' library and even paid for a librarian. This man became the first literacy teacher at the Nurses' school. At that very time an ADULT EDUCATION ASSOCIATION was started at Katete, and this man and others were trained in ADULT EDUCATION. Eventually a letter arrived from St Francis Hospital Management. Elke was complimented on her work with literacy but was told that the school premises were for hospital workers only, which cut out many people from the villages. A place right next to the hospital, towards the township, was found for TIKONDANE COMMUNITY CENTRE. Even the name had been found at the hospital.

Another part of TIKONDANE was the teaching of the LOCAL CULTURE to white people. Elke became aware that the Muzungus knew very little of Chewa culture, but were curious to know. So Elke would invite new people to a Chewa meal at her rondavel. For the other part there was the teaching of white values to Zambians. Muzungus went to the game park almost every week, while most hospital staff had never seen an elephant. For a few years Elke would organize a lorry and, with the help of wonderful Zambians, take some 50 people to the park for a day.

One of the women who cooked those meals was Febby. Febby had just been invited by a teacher colleague's of Elke to stay with her in her little house out of generosity, as she had just lost her husband. Going by Chewa tradition the husband's family had grabbed all of their possessions, absolutely everything. So there was Febby, overseas trained in preschool education, with two delightful little children and Elke, a widow of long standing, having done in-depth studies of preschool interventions around the world. The outcome was a building in Katete Stores, where Febby had planned to build a house with her husband. This house became NYASHA PRESCHOOL, inaugurated end of 1995 with the help of Alison, a preschool specialist friend of Elke's from Sydney. Alison had single-handedly made climbing frames in the St Francis workshop, much to the surprise of the Zambian men there, and provided the initial toys, books and other materials needed. She returned to Katete when Febby fell very ill and finally died of the latest and most terrible scourge of a disease. She ran a course for preschool teachers, and to date one of those is running NYASHA SCHOOL, which by now has primary school children in year 5! The point is that well-to-do parents are quite happy to pay some money to get their children into smaller groups with more English, and NYASHA SCHOOL is obviously there to stay. The eldest friends of Elke and her late husband in Australia, Dorothy and Robin Brampton, were the first donors to get involved with this school when Elke's money ran out.

Plans-location (complete original below)

It was soon after that Elke started negotiating about the land for TIKONDANE. The 'owner' was an old Zambian freedom fighter who had been given the nearly six hectares in the 50s by the then Chief. He was out to make a killing, and things became really bad when his nephew turned up to claim the unfinished structure that was bought, as his own (in Zambia one can't buy land, and certainly not Chief's land, but one can buy structures).

It took two years of to-ing and fro-ing,  when finally the Chief signed two documents to the effect that the unfinished structure as well as the house of the old man had been properly bought by Sister Elke. He added that the land around was given to her for CITUKUKO, development. He did not put that in writing at that time, but has done so since then. It is now in writing that the land does belong to Tikondane.

Detail from Plans (Full Plans at end of page)

A mud house very soon developed into the village area(1), with outhouse, washhouse, kitchen, house for chicken, house for ducks and garden.It was built for JayJay and her five children and many happy times were had at that place, especially with Elke's visitors or other Muzungus (whites) who wanted to have a taste of Chewa culture. JayJay was a very good cook and the children were a great pleasure, especially when little Robina came along. By that time JayJay had found a new husband. The unfinished structure became the core of the Guesthouse (2 ) (how can one have a Community Centre if one has no income? - was the thought behind it) and a large veranda.

The Guesthouse and the Veranda

Next came the restaurant (3) and a kitchen with it, and eventually a wall made it into a unit: AGOGO house. In May 1999 classes were transferred from the Nurses' School to TIKONDANE COMMUNITY CENTRE. It was touching to see the students huddled in the unfinished guestrooms in the cold June of that year, freezing, but determined to learn! In September of that year the official opening took place, with many touching speeches. Elke's brother and his wife were the first visitors and they helped with many projects, e.g. soap making and pottery. Otti even made a kiln (which by now is defunct, but will be built again once ZAMSIF money arrives). That year Elke was very busy fighting for a borehole, which was granted by Council but difficult to get going since the perception is always that a Muzungu has loads of money. However half a year after brother's visit there was not only water but also electricity! The pressure of wanting a borehole triggered the writing of a CONSTITUTION (see separate page).

The Engineers

Thanks to the hard work of Margaret Whight, a friend of Elke's from Mosman, FORCETEN and the National Council of Churches in Sydney were recruited, who sponsored a pump and a water tank for TIKONDANE's borehole via the Christian Council Zambia in Lusaka. Don't think that any of this was easy: the borehole was only for a handpump, and having a pump for such a small diameter took a lot of research and reassurance!

Yet all of those troubles were soon overtaken by worry at St Francis Hospital, where Zambianisation had taken place. In two instances money that was Sister Elke's responsibility was not there, and she was not the person to be quiet about it. Eventually a letter of hers to Australia was found in the photocopier, which contained some of the facts relating to these issues (and facts they were, as later agreed to by the Manager who took her to court over defamation of character). So his initiative badly backfired, but from that experience Elke has staunch friends in the hospital community.

The solution for the hospital was to sack the whistleblower as well as the main culprit, and Elke's good luck was to be re-employed a few minutes later as a volunteer of the Eastern Diocese of the Anglican Church, as the director of TIKONDANE - a piece of luck that never ceases to amaze her. Mind you, difficulties in the hospital gave hope to JayJay's husband George to take over TIKONDANE. In a way the couple were very unlucky, since most Muzungus who came to the hospital left after only a few months' time. Only their Muzungu just did not want to disappear! They took her to a HUMAN RIGHTS organization in Chipata, but when it became clear that those people were not in for justice but for extortion, other officials came in and it ended with JayJay's family leaving, including the little girls - which still causes heartache.

Plans for Robin's Nest

Before the family left, building began on a house that was to have been for them due to the generosity of a group of Sydney sports people, SINCERUTTY, but building was discontinued in favour of Robin's Nest (4). Robin's Nest was to be a home for the director on one side and the library on the other, with an office and small guestroom in between. Help from the hospital was fantastic: Elke was allowed to stay in her rondavel until this house was finished.

Robin's Nest (photo 2001)

Elke now visits the Hospital regularly as a Social Worker, thanks to help by the St. Francis congregation in Mooroolbark, Melbourne, and is certainly part of the scenery. TIKONDANE COMMUNITY CENTRE would revert to the hospital, should it prove to be a failure.

Later, the house close to the mudhouse or 'cottage' as it is called, became a second guesthouse, the TIANA House (after the donor's little girl Daya, TIANA meaning 'little children') (4). The first house ever on the land, Sekelani-house (5), after its first owner, has always served as quarters for some of the Centre's workers, and has been fortified as a storeroom. A shelter has also been erected close to the tarmac for the TIKONDANE staff to have their lunch, called the Elodie Shelter (6) after the Brampton's first grand-daughter.

Elodie (2002)

An aeroplane-friend of Elke's, Peter Keeling, who has helped the hospital with a number of staff houses, has organized money for TIKONDANE to house other staff, and the first of the two, Peter's Palace (7) behind Robin's Nest, is now completed. The idea is to at least halve the Director's on-calls every evening and every weekend. Although it must be said that in 2003 the place functioned beautifully without a director for two months, due to a fantastic crew, many of whom have been with Elke since the beginning. In fact her deputy Mathew Mwale was Elke's first language teacher in 1993 when he worked with the hospital AIDS department, but what he really taught her was what Katete people thought.

Esther, the administrator, has been with TIKO as it is affectionately known, from its very beginning. Susan, who became a teacher in 1999, is being sponsored for Teacher Training College. The official visitor, Boss of the Department of Social Work of the province who gave a speech at the official opening, has retired and is now TIKO'S financial controller (Kapauka Nyirenda).

One main enterprise that does not yet have a building but rather a shelter is our COMMUNITY SCHOOL. At the end of 2001 the Government made the school holidays extra long. Therefore holiday classes were begun for the children around and from St Francis, and when school term eventually resumed these children were expected to stop. Imagine our surprise when there were more than 30 children believing our school was continuing! That is when we learned that there are many children whose carers cannot afford uniform, shoes and cash for PTA at the local government schools. So we started a Community School, and are now officially recognized as such. Although our teachers are not yet trained, we have a very good reputation, probably due to the regular tests. The carers of the children (about half of whom are orphans) found the varanda inadequate for lessons and began building Mathew's Shelter, which is like Elodie (above). We are very pleased because they did decide by themselves.

Eventually we want to have a proper school building, although never a government school - the Chief warned against that from the beginning - but not before we have a Training and Skills centre. One of the troubles in Zambia is that even if young people manage to go through school, there are only minimal chances of further education, even of the expensive variety. There are too many aspirants and too few places. Thus we would hope to get a vocational school off the ground where, for instance, the gifted children from our community school can learn a trade that will give them a living. Application for such a Centre has been made to ZAMSIF via the Council, but the hurdles are many. One has been the absence of a written document by the Chief to say that this land is for TIKONDANE, though that has since been remedied.

Please note that this report is not comprehensive. There are too many people that played important roles yet can't be mentioned, in Katete as well as overseas. One constant friend, though, needs talking about, and that is Cypriano Menyani, the eye specialist of the hospital. Cypriano is a nurse with special training in eyes and he does some operations himself. He became Elke's language teacher after Mathew left, and held out for her (it was after two and a half years that she thought that one day she might perhaps hack it!). More importantly, Cypriano and Elke co-operated from the beginning with classes on eyes, and it is because of him that Elke made it her business to become a LION. This would enable the hospital to benefit from money for eyework that had been promised to them years ago, but had not been received because the local LIONS group had failed. Thanks go to HAKOAH LIONS CLUB in Sydney, for helping her on the way. It was Cypriano who came up with the idea of eye courses to be held at TIKONDANE for the extra staff that will be needed at the hospital, and the Sydney Eye Hospital may take a hand in that.

The one man at the foundation of it all, though, has not yet been mentioned: Professor Jack Radcliffe. Jack and Elke met in London where she did her cross-cultural studies and he was on sabbatical leave. They married and came to Sydney in 1980, but soon after he fell ill, and died in l984. He had paid all his life for a superannuation scheme and took great solace in knowing that he would leave Elke at least with some regular income. It is because of this financial independence (poverty in Sydney but riches in Katete) that Elke could do the things she did, and she is quite sure that he would be happy to see what was done with his money - he is the GRANDFATHER behind the name of AGOGO for the main building at TIKONDANE.

Cottage in the making: 2004

The beginings of TIKONDANE COMMUNITY CENTRE in a nutshell:
See also: Collection of cultural differences by Elke, from the day of her arrival (the taxi driver who took her to that hotel turned out to have greatly overcharged her. When she met him again and told him he said good-naturedly 'But I have taken you to a good place, haven't I' - who can argue with that?)

l994: Start of Adult Education classes in the Nurses' School of St Francis hospital
l996: Start of negotiations with a 5.5 hectare area next to St Francis, totally empty but for one old house and trees around it, plus one unfinished brick structure
l997: Building of a mudhouse and creation of a village area
l998: Making use of unfinished structure to build a guest house
Registration of TIKONDANE COMMUNITY CENTRE as a non-profit-making COMMUNITY-BASED-ORGANISATION (too small to be an NGO) on 31-7-99
Beginning of regular MANAGEMENT COMMITTEE meetings
Beginning of income-generating ventures like guest-house, soap-making, pottery, orchard
2000: Water, Electricity
2001: Elke moves onto the premises as official Volunteer Director
2002: SINCERUTTY promise to provide about half of the moneys needed on a regular basis, which feels like the greatest single step towards continuity and has taken away most sleepless nights. God bless the FRIENDS OF TIKONDANE!!!
2003: A good team has survived the biggest threat for survival yet: Famine, and the outlook is towards a future with more buildings, more tourists and many more community projects. But basically more of the same, like getting on top of the next crisis. - Right now we are a bit worried since we have been promised money for building so went ahead, but obviously went too fast: the money has not yet arrived and we have invested all we have - but truly, no house in Katete has ever been built at this speed, bless the people of Katete!

Original Tikondane Plans drawn up by Paul Splint in January 2000


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