A KIRKCALDY woman is hoping to change the lives of hundreds of children in poverty-stricken Zambia, after a chance meeting opened her eyes to their struggle.
Claire Taylor, who teaches English at a school in Regensburger, Germany, is in the middle of building a school in a rural Zambian village, after meeting a tour guide during her first trip to Africa led to her setting up her own charity.
The 38-year-old, whose parents still live in Kirkcaldy, was so touched by what she saw in Zambia that she returned several times to teach children and women there, and eventually decided to try to help set up a new primary school.
“In 2007 I did a tour around six countries in Africa,” Claire told the Press.
“At one point when we were in Zambia our guide, Chris Farao, told us about his village, and because there were a few teachers on the tour he took us to see a school in the village.
‘‘I was quite shocked at the state of the schools - in one village the church was being used as the primary school. The kids had very dirty cement blocks to sit on, there was no electricity, and the school for older kids was also in a terrible state.”
But the state of the church in Kapuluira wasn’t the worst of the dangers facing the children. In order to get an education, many of them have to cross a dangerous river to get there.
“For children in Farao, the nearest primary school involves crossing a dangerous river, especially during the rainy season,” Claire said. “Children have died trying to get to school - the river is full of crocodiles and hippos. There have been attacks in the past.”
The knowledge that children were dying in order to get an education, while others couldn’t afford to attend because they are the main provider for their family, was heart-breaking to Claire.
On arriving home, she began sending over pencils and paper. Slowly she collected more to send - books and even computers.
After her personal funds were extinguished trying to help, she had the idea of setting up the charity - Schools for Zambia e.V. - with Chris Farao’s help.
Since then, Claire and the team have raised money to have a new primary school built at Farao village.
“It’s about helping people to sustain themselves,” Claire added. “For too many years charities have gone in, done something big, then left, and it falls apart. Education is important in all of that - for many of these children they have to look after younger brothers or sisters from a very young age and are the only person working in the family.
‘‘It’s heart-breaking. It’s about being able to break the cycle of having no chances - if they get a good education they can get a good job - it’s about opening up doors.”