SERVAS INTERNATIONAL NEWS - N 43

In Memoriam
Rev. Denys Whitehead,
  1923 - 2005 - Servas Zambia

Dear Servas friends,
This is to let you know that Denys died in the evening of Friday 18th February from a sudden stroke.
We had the funeral service with over 100 people in St Andrew's Church, followed by cremation at the Hindu crematorium, on Saturday afternoon - a feat of organisation by all the good friends who rallied round.
It was a shock but he was 82 years old and ready to go any time and wanted to go quickly when he did.
We were very glad we were able to get to Barcelona last year, followed by a tour of friends and relatives in Britain and Ireland.
Margaret Whitehead - 21 Feb 2005

History Page

I am 78 years old and have spent half my life in England and half in Zambia. I am an Anglican priest and came as a missionary to Northern Rhodesia as it then was in 1960. I had travelled to almost all countries in Europe as a student, hitch hiking or cycling and staying in Youth Hostels.

So I came here overland with a rucksack using public transport, via Turkey, Israel, Jordan, Egypt and up the Nile. It took 9 weeks. I worked in Kitwe and Lusaka. My wife and I married in 1965 and became naturalized Zambian citizens, committing ourselves to this country for life. We had 4 children. In 1980 I was put in charge of the Parish in Livingstone. We had a large house and though my mother also lived with us, we had one spare bedroom. In 1984 we were visited by an Agricultural Research scientist from Lusaka whom I knew slightly. He and his wife were Quakers and he was Servas National Secretary. We had never heard of Servas, but agreed to be hosts and soon received a revised Host List with 10 names including ours. Our first visitors, some girls from Denmark, arrived soon after.

I retired from the Parish in 1989, and now live a kilometre away from the Church House. My children are now married and live nearby, and two (each married to a black Zambian) are also hosts.

We have had about 100 Servas visitors in the last 17 years. About 40 from 9 European countries, nearly 30 from North America and 4 from Australia. A few have returned more than once. Almost all were delightful people and many remain friends by correspondence, mostly these days by email.

In 1984, most of the hosts were expatriates including black South Africans, who have now returned there. The Quakers left the country and handed over to two Zambian women in Lusaka as National Secretary and Deputy.

There was a lot of confusion due to poor communication alas, and by the time I took over, I was the last host. It took me some months to get set up but I managed to recruit 20 new Hosts, by asking relatives, friends, church members and even advertising in the press. They are quite a mixed bag. A Nigerian teacher in Kitwe, a Polish architect in Lusaka, two American missionaries in Livingstone, my children married to black Zambian spouses. The rest are Zambians, mostly professional people like teachers and nurses. Most Zambians have houses full of their relatives whom they support, and even the floor space is full.

I get 5 travellers' stamps a year, and have never used them all. The very few outward travellers have included an Indian visiting Britain, the Nigerian Host visiting South Africa, the Polish architect going home to Poland, my children going on honeymoon, and so on. "Holidays" are not part of Zambian culture, as they are in Europe and America. Nor is there any money to spare anyway. But I do renew the L.O.I s of foreign travellers passing through, and sometimes recruit foreigners as Servas travellers.

Incoming Servas travellers average about 5 a year into Zambia, so we don't need a huge number of hosts. Most visit only two places, Livingstone (to see the Falls) and Lusaka where international flights arrive. Several have been recruited by me, when overseas friends say they want to tour Zambia, and I suggest they join Servas in their home country before coming.

In 1989 I bought a computer, and this has been invaluable in producing Servas forms and literature, and in the last two years has allowed me to communicate by email. Since it takes a month to get a reply by airmail from Europe, and up to 6 weeks from America, email is a godsend. Servas work seems to come in bursts. I may do nothing for a month, and then a whole batch of stuff comes in and has to be dealt with and takes a week.

Calling a Hosts' Conference in a country 1,000 km across is almost impossible. It has to be in a place with several hosts to provide accommodation. And you need at least one person willing to drive 500 km with several hosts for the week-end.

At the last Hosts Conference I said that it seemed wise to pass on the job to someone younger, with a computer. Michal Piasecki agreed to take it on. Present at that Hosts Conference was Bertrand Bailleul, S.I. Vice President. There can't be many Hosts who have hosted two EXCO members, at least in a place as remote as Livingstone.

Now I have a lady from Japan asking for a bed this week-end, so I must get off an email to Zimbabwe, to our first visitor from Asia.

Denys Whitehead,