Rising Fountains Development Prog Weblog

August 25, 2008

Goodbye

Filed under: Volunteers — rfdp @ 6:05 am

My Last Day

I’m filing this entry on the morning of my last full day at Rising Fountains. A new volunteer arrived on Saturday, so today is her first day at RFDP. Yesterday I showed her around town a bit to get her oriented with the market and shops, and she’s all moved into the house and ready to go. I’ll let her fill you in on the rest when she contributes to this blog.

Wrapping Things Up

Last week I collected some general observations and recommendations that I made after being here all winter. The comments have been printed out and handed to each staff member. Jack (water and sanitation) and Isaac (accounting) also had a spreadsheet lesson on the computer last week, so they know how to put together a budget now on the computer. Around lunchtime today, I’ll try to buy a bus ticket so that I can attempt to leave Lundazi for Lusaka early tomorrow morning.

Thanks

All the staff here have been helpful and welcoming during my time in Lundazi. Thank you! I hope that my contribution to RFDP ultimately is beneficial to the poor, sick and hungry.

John

August 18, 2008

Another Trip to the Valley

Filed under: AIDS, Education, Volunteers, Zambia — rfdp @ 9:58 am

HIV/AIDS Meetings and More

We went on another trip to the Luangwa River Valley, leaving on a Sunday, working Monday and returning on Tuesday morning. It was funded largely by the Limavady Parish in Ireland. For me, it was my second trip to the catchment area and a change of pace after being in the office most of the winter. I was picked up at home around one o’clock in the afternoon on August 10, and we set off to pick up the others who were planning on coming: Lackson for HIV/AIDS prevention and information meetings, Jack for inspecting latrines and wells undergoing repair, and Dorothy for distributing exercise books and chalk to community schools. A few hundred meters after picking me up, the vehicle broke down. A mechanic was called after an hour or two, and with more time and effort, the lame truck sprang back to life. In the end, Dorothy did not come with us, and we arrived at our destination around 1:30 AM after stopping many times on the way to deal with mechanical problems. Several times we got out to push the vehicle to fire it back up. Our late start the next morning did not prevent us from holding a great HIV/AIDS information meeting with the public in the village of Zokwe, though. Over eighty adults attended, and their children of all ages were also in the audience. Time pressure pushed us to cancel the second meeting of that morning, and we hurriedly moved on to distribute the school supplies and inspect the latrines and wells. Most of this went quite smoothly, and I saw that the community schools we visited were very basic: mud floors, no desks, thatched roof, and an earthen wall that doubled as a chalkboard. Sunset approached as we finished the day by rushing through two remaining HIV/AIDS community meetings, and as night fell, we chose to sleep there and push on in the morning rather than risk getting stranded at night with a dead battery (the alternator had a problem and wasn’t charging the battery). Fortunately, the only problem on the way back was a leaking radiator and overheating engine, something we dealt with as we limped home.

 

More Computer Lessons

Computer lessons are coming along, and last time we covered the copy and paste functions and how to change fonts, font sizes, how to select bold and italic and underline, and so on. Everybody seems to get a kick out of the typing tutor program, so I expect them to be touch-typing if they stick with daily practice.

 

Proposals Coming in and Going Out

The Albert Schweitzer proposal I mentioned in the preceding blog entry has been submitted, and we are just starting to put together another proposal to submit to a donor named Misereor. Although still in its infancy and subject to change, we plan on proposing a project that addresses the unmet basic needs of orphans and vulnerable children; assists grandmothers incapable of meeting their own basic needs such as clothing and food; provides HIV/AIDS education for the kids, their guardians and the grandmothers who attend when a woman is in labor; and initiating RFDP’s own microloan program.

 

A New Volunteer Expected

Mathias, the director, is out of the office this week and will travel to Lusaka to greet the next international volunteer at the airport and escort her to Lundazi. The timing is quite good for Rising Fountains, because I will make my exit before the end of the month just as she arrives.

John

August 1, 2008

What’s the Point?

Filed under: AIDS, Zambia — rfdp @ 10:33 am

Thank You

In the past week or two some personal donations have come in — thank you! Also, thanks to the readers who have contributed comments below. If last week you read my summary of The White Man’s Burden, you might be interested in the reader comments that add to the picture.

 

Grant Proposals

Recently we finalized and submitted a grant proposal to the Egmont Trust. If accepted, the funds will support an RFDP project to educate villagers in the Luangwa Valley on HIV/AIDS and introduce voluntary counseling and testing, among other things. Some areas in the valley (the Chitungulu and Kazembe Chiefdoms) have already been covered, and we will augment existing education and services there. But there is one area (Mwanya) covered in the proposal with villages that have never been taught anything about HIV/AIDS. We expect Egmont’s decision before 2009. A different proposal to the Albert Schweitzer Foundation is almost ready to send off. Albert Schweitzer donated earlier to support an RFDP project that rehabilitated two wells, built two pit latrines and formed village-level water and sanitation committees to maintain them. Albert Schweitzer liked the results and asked for a second proposal, and it is in the works and nearing submission. If those funds come through, RFDP will go to the valley ten times over the course of one year to rehabilitate ten dilapidated wells, assist the communities in constructing ten pit latrines, and help them form self-managed water and sanitation committees to maintain the wells and build more latrines.

 

Computer Lessons

This week I started teaching computer lessons to RFDP staff. Jack (water and sanitation), Dorothy (orphans and vulnerable children) and Melina (administrative assistant) started with hardware. We cracked open a desktop machine to learn about the main components inside. After that, Jack and Dorothy learned some Windows basics and got started on a typing tutor. I also taught Melina what Google search is and how to use it, a one-on-one lesson that is planned for everybody. In the next lessons, we’ll move to specific applications like Excel and Word.

 

From a Slum to the World Stage

In my last entry on this blog, I mentioned a theater group from Musonda Community School in Kitwe. You might remember that the kids performed well at a regional event and were invited to compete at the national level in Lusaka, but they found themselves in a quandary. They gave their performance in their regional language of Bemba, but the national competition requires all plays to be in English. Recently I heard some news about what they did and how things turned out. With the help of the director, they rewrote their play a bit to switch to basic English, practiced during the two weeks preceding the competition, and went to Lusaka. And they won first place! These kids from a shantytown are now scheduled to advance and represent Zambia in the international ASSITEJ competition next year in India. I understand that expenses are taken care of, so I expect them to be able to go. How about that?!

 

Lundazi Hospital Laboratory

I’ve been trying to set up an appointment with the doctor at the hospital in Lundazi so that I can observe there. He is also the district health commissioner, though, and this job requires him to travel a lot. This means that the hospital usually has no doctor. So I visited the administrator’s office and asked about observing, and he put me in touch with Frank Kapeka, head of the medical laboratory, who has been there since 1991. Mr. Kapeka has generously taken hours of his time to show me the lab, let me observe, and explain in detail what he does there. I learned that national policy places importance on standardization, so laboratory equipment and methods are uniform across the country’s government hospitals (according to the three tiers of hospital capability). Among other things, the lab has a blood bank with supply from Chipata (four-hour drive on a bad road), HIV tests that don’t require refrigeration for storage, and a great biochemistry machine that can do a lot but lacks reagents for many of the tests it was built to perform.

 

What’s the Point?

Many of you know that tackling the problem of HIV/AIDS, to choose one out of many issues crying for help, is formidable. The battle against the epidemic has been described in other dark terms: daunting, impossible, immense, an Augean task. Can I end it? No. But that’s not the point. I’m not worried about “I” or “can.” Instead, that which should be done is the imperative. What ought to be done is the focus. Notice how it strips away “I” and “can.” Purpose isn’t about those two things. They seductively lead me astray, so I try to remain untouched by their influence. “Just because something is impossible doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it,” someone said. And I think that’s starting to get to the point. There is something that ought to be done…so do it.

Here in Zambia and elsewhere, work on the HIV epidemic is being done. But as the world uniquely presents itself to you, maybe the imperative is something other than fighting disease. It could even be something that doesn’t get headlines but is no less noble, like being a loving parent, speaking truthfully to yourself and others, or preparing someone or something a nutritious meal. To those searching for what should be done and those already doing it, I salute you. You’re getting right with everything.

 

Lundazi News

Oatmeal is back!

Do no harm,

John

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