Patson Kandundwe joined us last year after we started actively looking for a locally based trainee Chef. He stood out among the rest of the applicants due to his seriousness, past activities and the fact that he obviously had the respect of his peers and the community. Prior to joining us he served as a community health worker focusing on HIV testing, counselling, education and adherence (ensuring that people know to take the right ART drugs at the right time).
Although he now is on the road to being a chef he still carries out health worker functions unpaid and in his own free time. Testing, education and adherence counselling is all being done right here at Kaingu Lodge! Further to this he also goes (again, in his free time) back to the Itumbi clinic to gather names of people defaulting on ART (Antiretroviral therapy). Patson then goes by bicycle out to outlying communities to try and reach out to defaulters and get them back on therapy. Since 2005 ART is free to all. It is estimated that 17% of adults in Zambia are HIV positive – a pandemic which has created 600,000 orphans. Patson’s unpaid and selfless work is literally saving lives.
Perhaps unsurprisingly in 2018 he was elected as chairman of the Itumbi Village Action Group. The initiative is a partnership between UNDP and the Government of Zambia through the Forestry Department, under the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources and the Department of National Parks and Wildlife at the Ministry of Tourism and Arts. It is being funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF).The Village Action Groups meet regularly to discuss how to use their land sustainably and, little by little, through small scale grants overseen by the V.A.G. the community forests are coming alive with environmentally-friendly activities, ranging from honey production to the regeneration of community forests, goat husbandry, chicken farming and others.