Emma Soames's Zambia blog: it'll be all right on the night for arrival of a special guest

A royal visit is a stressful event for hosts everywhere, but in an African settlement where facilities are basic, it's a fight to get things up to scratch, writes Emma Soames.

And that's before sorting out all the protocol as, obviously, every bigwig in a hundred mile radius wants to be at the Butterfly Tree projects in Mukuni when the Princess Royal visits tomorrow. It is such a privilege for this charity to have been chosen for a royal visit and the excitement in the town is palpable.

Today was my first ever visit to Mukuni. So as well as doing my best to help by picking up litter and unwrapping bunting, it was a chance to meet many of the local volunteers who implement the programmes that the Butterfly Tree, supported in many cases by Saga Charitable Trust, run in the huge catchment area of scrub and savannah that stretch for miles in every direction. There's Mark, the male nurse at the clinic who is in charge of the HIV Aids education and retro viral programme, as well as picking up the pieces from the hundreds of cases of malaria which haunt the region. With its grasslands and expanses of stagnant water Mukuni is an excellent breeding ground for mosquitoes and malaria was a fact of life - and death - until Jane Kaye-Bailey rode to the rescue and set up Butterfly Tree. Thanks to several years of funding from Saga Charitable Trust and a big push from this year's staff fundraising challenge, every household in a hundred villages will have three mosquito nets by the end of the year. Indeed, the few humble homes I visited today all had a mosquito net in pride of place on what is normally the only bed in the hut.

Then I met the Rev Presley Mulenga, headmaster of the town's school that educates more than a thousand children. He is a key colleague of Jane Kaye-Bailey's at Butterfly Tree where he is instrumental in identifying orphans and vulnerable children who need extra support - be it funding, health care or rehoming. The school is just beginning to produce results with the first few children off to university in the big city of Lusaka. And many more would go if they could get the necessary sponsorship  for this is an area where parents struggle to pay school fees, let alone sending their children off to university when they could be doing something useful like herding cattle.

This evening I left Presley, Jane and an army of schoolchildren all picking up litter, painting stones white and preparing a marquee for the royal visit tomorrow. There was a feeling of controlled panic in the air, but it will be all right on the night - or rather early tomorrow morning.

Share this page