A group of orphans who were presented with donated clothing and pens and pencils for school. Click for more photos

A helping hand for Zambia

A group of orphans who were presented with donated clothing and pens and pencils for school. Photo: Supplied

  • A group of orphans who were presented with donated clothing and pens and pencils for school.
  • Peter helped to paint the womens' ward of a local hospital. The ward took six weeks to finish.
  • The womens' ward of a local hospital being painted. Many parts of the hospital hadn't been painted for 20 years due to lack of funds.
  • Peter finishes off a wall in the male ward of the hospital.
  • An accommodation centre.

Every year for three months Canberran Peter Trick goes to stay and work as a volunteer at the hospital of a remote township in battling Zambia.

''It is a heart-wrenching place,'' he says, with feeling.

Yes, he confesses, there certainly is a ''cultural shock'' involved in going between these two utterly contrasting places, but it hits him most shockingly not when he arrives at impoverished Chikankata in Zambia but ''whenever I come back home to Canberra''.

''It's because [after three months in the 'very isolated' spot 150 kilometres from Lusaka] ''coming home you see that here we have so much, and most people in Canberra have no idea of how other people are living in the world. It's frightening. This last Melbourne Cup was the final straw for me. People bet so much money and yet if you were to ask them for a couple of bucks for Zambia they'd tell you, 'Go away!' ''

And yet, contradicting himself a little, he does find Canberrans very generous whenever he gives them a prod about the neediness of Zambia.

''They say to themselves, 'I can't do anything there, but Peter can,' and people have been very generous.''

Trick can (go to Zambia a lot) because he's retired now (he was in the printing industry in Canberra) and has no wife to demand that he stay at home, but most of all because, ''a Salvationist all my life'', he feels impelled.

''I go as a volunteer, to do anything at the hospital that's needed. I've got some management skills, and can make things happen, but I do some painting, building, anything. I love it. The people [the hospital serves a district of 90,000 souls] are such beautiful people. I go for just three months at a time because that's my maximum stay on a visitor's visa.''

The hospital (a Salvation Army establishment, supported by the Zambian government) is a noble institution but has so much to do.

Trick says that, for example, ''Zambians are very good at making babies, so there's a very big maternity ward.'' But, alas, because HIV is so ''very prominent'' there, many babies are born with HIV. Tuberculosis is rife, and there is some leprosy too.

Most of us can't beetle off to Zambia to do what's needed there. But we can assist Peter Trick to go there to do Canberra-sponsored good works on our behalf.

For example there's a ''To Zambia With Love'' fund-raiser this Sunday. After admission by paper-money donation you'll hear the Blamey Street Big Band, with conductor Ian McLean and jazz songstress Leisa Keen, in a Christmas gift concert. All shekels raised will go to assist the plucky Chikankata Mission Hospital. The concert is at 3pm, this Sunday, at the Salvation Army Hall, Anketell Street, Tuggeranong.