raymond-176x117July 2011 - Issue 2
Alison is a primary trained teacher who was born and grew up in Auckland. Matthew, also a teacher, was born and grew up in Africa, the son of missionary teachers in Congo. Alison and Matthew were married in 1973 and have three adult children and four grandchildren. The Raymonds have taught for many years in Africa, including some years at Sakeji School and Amano Christian School in Zambia.

What would your first reaction be if, when arriving at the shopping centre to buy your groceries, a filthy street kid in rags were to push his hand through the driver's window in front of your face? Yes, I know, and my reaction in 2005 when confronted with this in the Copperbelt town of Chingola, was no different. I wanted to wind the window up.

But this situation proved to be an epiphany for me, and the Holy Spirit was about to work a radical change in my attitude to the poor and disadvantaged. Everything about this ugly, smelly boy repelled me. But I realised that he was really just a child like many of the children I was teaching, except that he didn't attend school. He didn't have any parents on the scene, and he had no home to go to. Life for him was a daily challenge to survive — by begging, stealing, deceit and criminal wit.

What would Jesus have done? As I started trying to be the hands of Jesus to these children, their ugliness began to melt away and I began to see the beauty of the child underneath —like seeing the face of Jesus in these pathetic children. I don't think I was able to do much for them, but it was a start.

In 2006 Alison and I began the negotiations to purchase Cedric's Farm school, privately owned and funded by Cedric Whittemore, a settler farmer near Kitwe, for the benefit of the local community. We wanted to offer the best we could for poorer children, but this school was going to be a humanly impossible challenge. A million dollars would need to be raised, so with the help of a friend we started The Limapela Foundation (www.limapela.org) and registered it as a Charitable Trust in New Zealand in 2008.

$300 grew to $300,000 and we took over the school in 2009. There was no electricity or running water, and there were few books or teaching resources. But the teachers and pupils were settled and proud of their school, and it has been a pleasure to work with them to improve their learning environment. Of the 280 pupils enrolled, 50 are either single or double orphans, and most come from poor homes.

We now have a new classroom block, and thanks to our volunteers from the Hawkes Bay, a beautiful new playground. The water boreholes are about to be drilled and the electricity about to be connected. At the beginning of this year we extended to grade 8, and now have the challenge of getting into place the necessary equipment, books and resources to run a credible junior secondary department. God is gracious, and many people around the world have been overwhelmingly generous.

Zambia desperately needs more good schools. Most parents, even the poorest of the poor, want the best for their children. Many of the existing government schools are poorly run, but better equipped private schools are beyond the reach of most parents. Join hands with us as we play our part to bring about the kinds of improvements that these children deserve.

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