It's been a long wait but our shipment of instruments has finally arrived here in Lusaka, 34 days late!
In the interim we have met with several teachers at recipient schools, members of the Ministry of Education and the Arts and Culture Council, and the director of Ngomo Dolce, Zambia's only full-time music academy. We have also met with many musicians and active members of the local music community and attended a rehearsal by the Lusaka Youth Orchestra as well as a wonderful concert held by the Lusaka Music Society. In short, we have made several important contacts and have cleared the way to make future instrument deliveries easier and even more successful.
That said, until today we were in a near-constant state of limbo with regard to actually getting our hands on the instruments that left Ottawa so many months ago. The shipment was held up in South Africa and again at the Botswana-Zambia border, and as the truck lumbered over the deteriorated roads of rural Zambia our confidence in it's arrival continued to erode.
With little hope that our shipment would arrive before her scheduled departure Susan rebooked her flight and left two weeks ago, leaving just Heather and myself to wait. As our departure date loomed I managed to extend my stay here in Zambia but Heather was unable to do the same; with significant sadness I dropped her off at the airport earlier this afternoon. And then there was one!
Back at the hostel I was excited to receive a phone call from the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Education. His booming voice delivered the good news that our shipment had arrived in Lusaka and was currently being off-loaded from the truck into their storage warehouse. When I hung up I noticed the clock read 15:35. To the minute this was the exact time of our scheduled departure from the country. How ironic that the shipment arrived at the precise moment of our supposed departure, and the very moment Heather's plane was taking leaving the ground.
Never mind the mind-bending coincidence, I'm ecstatic that I will soon be seeing the instruments again and I can finally deliver them to the kids that have been waiting so patiently. All that is left is for the Ministry to file some paperwork so the Finance Department can waive the duties; by Wednesday I should be in a truck with the load, heading to the schools.
In the meantime I have several meetings booked with Ministry officials, shipping companies, local musicians and the national teachers college. All in the service of making the next shipment both more efficient and even more effective.
In May, 2012 Ottawa-based music teacher and guitar player Todd Snelgrove found himself near the end of his vacation in Zambia and looking to donate his travel guitar to someone who may need it. The first school that he walked into had not a single functioning musical instrument despite having 300 students enrolled in music classes. Later that year, Instruments For Africa was born.
Instruments For Africa collects musical instruments of all kinds, stands and accessories, sheet music and instructional material from people like you. Have a trumpet or clarinet you're not using? We know some kids that would love a chance to give music a try. Everything is inspected and serviced prior to shipping so don't worry if your instrument hasn't been played in a while; if it can be made playable we'll get it to Africa.
Our first mission is to fully outfit the Linda School in Livingstone, Zambia with an orchestra of instruments. We are nearing our goal and with a wide variety of instruments coming in we have expanded our scope to equip at least three Zambian schools with our first shipment.