We finally made it!…although not without a hiccup or two…

Since our first update, we have been non-stop globetrotting through London and Johannesburg to our final airport destination of Lusaka.


During our 7+ hour layover in London, the group split up and went about their own way of coping with jet-lag and boredom. A couple of the group members pampered themselves within Heathrow with pedicures and a mid-day breakfast while a couple of us took the Heathrow Express into London and saw the sights and experienced some of London’s best.

Some quality London fare (a lobster roll with a delicious cider and an ale).

Some quality London fare (a lobster roll with a delicious cider and an ale).

For those of us that went into London, the weather was great (which was unexpected), and the beer was better (which was far less unexpected).  Rene and I grabbed a quick bite and a few pints and then proceeded to explore the Waterloo area (Big Ben, The London Eye, etc.), while Joe made his way to the northernmost tip of London to his favorite soccer team’s stadium in order to pick up some souvenirs.

Big Ben - just one of the stops on our short sightseeing tour.

Big Ben – just one of the stops on our short sightseeing tour.

London's famous Underground on the way back from Waterloo.

London’s famous Underground on the way back from Waterloo.

All in all, not such a bad layover. Perhaps a bit shorter than one would have liked, but you know what they say… “When in London…” right?


After the flight to Johannesburg, a bit of a layover, and our final short flight to Lusaka,  we were finally in Zambia! Excitement was high and smiles were appearing on some fairly tired faces, but as the title alluded to, this is where the hiccups came into play. Of our 16 bags that we checked from Seattle exactly 0 (yes, zero) made it through to Lusaka. So we waited while Beth did her best to figure the situation out.


The luggage fiasco with Beth in the middle attempting to save the day.

The luggage fiasco with Beth in the middle attempting to save the day.

Joe attempting to get some shut-eye during our downtime.

Joe attempting to get some shut-eye during our downtime.

After everyone did their best to describe the bags that they specifically checked onto the flight (which was a bit difficult considering most of the bags were full of supplies and not actually our personal bags), we left for the hotel. We all ended up heading to our rooms and are now showering, cleaning up, and relaxing prior to our dinner this evening with some very important people. Can’t wait to continue our adventure in the morning!


The lack of bags on this carousel is a metaphor for... well... our lack of bags.

The lack of bags on this carousel is a metaphor for… well… our lack of bags.

Stay tuned for more to come.



We are on our way!

We are finally on our way!

After meeting at Beth’s house and fighting our way through Seattle traffic, we made our way through security and onto the British Airways 777 that promises to take us to London.

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Being the first blog post of the trip, allow us to introduce ourselves:

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Starting at the top left and making our way left we have Joe Bailey (a 5th grade teacher at QAE), Ciara Leckie (2nd grade teacher at QAE), Beth MacLean (DH’s Director of Programs), Rene Yokoyama (QAE kindergarten teacher). And in the second row starting from the left we have Rachel Marks (also a QAE kindergarten teacher), Donna Verhasselt (DH’s Director of Long-Term Planning), and yours truly, Ryan Ward (concerned citizen and husband of Rene Yokoyama).

We are all so excited to embark on this journey in order to continue building relationships with Queen Anne Elementary’s sister school in Zambia, Dwankhozi Basic School. But before we do anything, alas, we have to get to Dwankhozi (not such an easy task)! Our itinerary is as follows: 9-hour flight to London, 7-hour layover, 11-hour flight to Johannesburg, a small layover, a 2.5-hour flight to Lusaka where we stay the night, and then just a short 9-hour drive in a van to Chipata!

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Altogether we have quite the journey ahead of us, but morale is high and the chance to strengthen ties between our QAE teachers, parents, and kids couldn’t be more of a motivation.

Feel free to comment, share the link to the blog, and stay tuned for daily updates about us, our journey, and our friends in Zambia.



A Video First for the Students

Today was yet another full day.  We woke up early to get a head start and didn’t get to bed until after midnight.  It’s exciting work but our time here is limited and there is so much to get done, every moment is precious.  We started the day with more computer training for the teachers focusing on email and other computer applications.  Brad, Mark & Bertha are great instructors and the teachers and students are quick learners.  They have picked up these skills naturally.  While the classes were going on, I spent some time with the kids.  Grade 4 students received letters from the students at Queen Anne Elementary School, so they spent time writing them back to become real pen pals – so cool!  (check out the video)

Once we got the projector and Internet working, we showed the students the three films that Aly Schoonover made during the last visit with Kate Ballbach & Kirk Piper.  This was the first time the kids have ever seen anything on a big screen, let alone a video with them or their friends in it.  Their eyes were glued and there were many audible ‘ooohs and ahhhs’.  It was emotional for me to see.  After the videos I had the opportunity to talk to the kids a bit about being sponsored – encouraging them to work hard at school and we would commit to supporting them to give them a hope for a future.  They seemed to be touched by the idea that they would be known and that people believed in them and their dreams.  (hear their reactions on this video)

We met with the Ministry of Education, the Chiptata Rotary and the Ministry of Health earlier in the day.  After 6 years of being involved with this community, we have built a trust with the government.  They have seen NGOs come and go – but they see that we have invested in Dwankhozi and are here to stay.   They are very excited about our public/private partnership and are willing to help in any way they can.  They want to work with us towards the common goal of providing these wonderful children an education and giving them hope for a brighter future.

This trip has been amazing on so many levels.  It’s so hard to communicate everything, just know that we have been blessed by this experience and we could not have accomplished this work without your partnership and support.  There is so much still to be done but each trip is a reminder of how much we have grown and how much potential there is for future progress.  We look forward to what’s next and to you joining us on this journey.  Stay tuned for a few more updates before our departure.

Stay blessed,

Matt, Mark & Brad

A Busy Day at the School

It was a busy day of classroom instruction for the computers, printer and projector.   We also upgraded our solar power to handle the power needs for the computer lab and delivered solar units to near by communities.  For this blog, I’m going to use photos and some rough cut videos to give you a clear picture of what we’ve been up to. Enjoy!


Brad giving a class to the teachers about the use of the computers, the printers and the new projector.

Delivering the early reader books donated from QAE School and the school supplies to the Headmaster.

Students writing letters to QAE school in Seattle.

Mark, Brad, and Matt reading about the Bears from the Internet on a projector at the school. A nice present for Mark on his birthday.

Delivering Solar lights and supplies to Lukusuzi School nearby – we also were able to deliver more lights to a second school in the area.

A student busy at work.

Celebration: Matt MacLean

We finally arrived in Chipata after a wonderful stay in Malawi with our new partners and friends.  We were anxious to get to the school to see everyone, celebrate together and share our news and progress with one another.

Village members performing traditional dance.

Our Zambian welcome was amazing – great food, warm greetings, lots of traditional dancing.  Each visit we are humbled by how warmly we are welcomed – we know one another; we are family now.

There were many government officials, chiefs’ representatives and headmen attending the celebration this visit.  Each one of us was given the opportunity to speak a bit about our experience thus far and our gratitude for being invited in this partnership.  We discussed many topics, both current initiatives and future endeavors.

The latest teachers’ housing is complete (a shared flat model to house 2 families) and we were able to present the keys to the Ministry of Education to allow them to find teachers to fill these homes.  The government is thrilled with the progress and is willing to partner with us to find teachers as we continue to build.  The Ministry of Education was also very interested in the Kindle Project – we were able to give them one of the pre-loaded Kindles from the school as a proto-type as they are interested in developing a digital library in surrounding areas.  One of their hopes is to digitize text books – so much to discover and develop!

Two of DH’s teachers – Ida & Moses Masala with big sister Bertha.

We also met with representatives of two chiefs in the surrounding area – this was a first to have both of them at this celebration.  We explained our vision of an agricultural project and the need for more land close to the school.  Both representatives were supportive of the idea and willing to portion some land!

It was a whirlwind of a day – there is so much to share it’s difficult to express in one blog post.  We have an extremely busy schedule for the duration of stay – let’s hope we are able to accomplish it all before we have to leave.

Tomorrow’s plans are for computer, kindle, printer and projector training by Brad, Mark & Bertha.  Moses & I will be installing a pilot reading room, as well as donation solar lights to surrounding villages.

A computer lab in the middle of rural Zambia!



Thank you all for the interest in this journey – it’s been an awesome ride thus far, with so much more to come!


Matt, Mark & Brad

Learning from Namitembo

We arrived safely in Malawi on Friday, and were greeted by our friends from Dwankhozi.  After a wonderful meal, we set off for the six-hour drive to Namitembo, in rural Malawi. Leaving close to sunset made for quite an interesting journey – it’s not easy to find a rural school down a dirt road, in pitch darkness, without ‘google’ maps.

Traveling to Namitembo were Brad, Mark & myself, along with our Project Manager, Moses Masala, and the PTA Chairman from Dwankhozi Community School (DCS), Godfrey, who is a local farmer from Dwankhozi. Our purpose was to visit a Parish school that we had heard about from some friends in the states, establish connections, and learn how they have developed a trade school and agriculture program.

Our host Father Philip greeted us in the morning with breakfast and an insightful tour of their facilities – specifically their agriculture project and trade school. We were so impressed with their accomplishments that we hope to emulate both of these initiatives at DCS in the near future.

One of the most interesting things we learned about their agriculture program is inter-cropping. It’s a technique where you intersperse nitrogen-producing crops such as chickpeas and groundnuts, with staple crops such as maize along with a nitrogen-producing shrub call gliricidia. Yields have increased three-fold and they have enough food for the hungry season. With Godfrey’s help along with other local farmers, we hope to bring this technique to DCS.  We believe this can provide enough food during the hungry season to feed the kids, which was an issue we discovered during our last visit.

The trade school focuses on teaching brick building and carpentry.    Because so few students at DCS are able to go to high school or college, providing them with a trade will enable them to earn a living.  Building a trade school is now on our list of future projects.

Thanks for your continued support throughout our journey.  This is only the beginning – we have so much more to look forward to.




Our Journey Begins: Mark Russo

I believe I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord. Wait for the Lord and let your heart take courage. Wait for the Lord.”                                          –Psalm 27:13-14

We are all very excited to begin our trip to Africa. But there is a lot of waiting! It’s an eight-day adventure but it takes four full days to get there and back.  As we prepare to leave we can sense the spirit going before us, paving our journey and providing our way.

Please pray:

  • for safe travel, protection from sickness and lots of rest.
  • that we can let go of all of the logistics, all of the arrangements and all of our anxieties and instead open our eyes and ears to see what God has for us on our journey.
  • for our kids and wives back home. While we are having fun seeing the Lord’s hand at work on the other side of the world, they have made it possible for us to go.
  • for the kids and families of Dwankhozi.

Last night we prayed for rain for the farmers of the Midwest USA and it rained today!  I have heard that the farmers we will visit in Malawi and Zambia are also struggling with drought. We pray for rain, that the Lord might stretch out his hand and provide nourishing rain to the soil and the people who depend upon Him.

Pray for the children at the school who have been diligently studying amidst the heat, the hunger and malaria. We pray that our visit might renew their spirit and their determination!  Pray also for the teachers and community leaders who have been laboring to keep the school alive. May God continue to sustain them.

We hope to keep communicating throughout our trip. For updates on our travels, please sign up for the Dwankhozi Hope blog by completing the Subscribe to Blog section located on our Programs page.

Please also check out these short videos to learn more about Dwankhozi
Hope School:  Meet Martin, Give a KindleSponsor a Student.


Mark Russo, Brad MacLean & Matt MacLean