Rising Fountains Development Prog Weblog

September 10, 2008

My first village experience!

Filed under: Africa, Volunteers, Zambia — rfdp @ 2:23 pm

On the Sunday before last I was able to meet the other volunteers in Lundazi area, Robert, Kerry and D. They are all from the USA and work with either peace corps or VSO. They invited me to a ‘party’ for all of the new peace corps volunteers on Monday, which was to be hosted by D in her hut in a village called Kapachila- not sure how you spell it! It was 16km down a dusty road, very bumpy but good fun! I was able to meet the 4 new volunteers that would be spending the next 2 years here in Zambia. We got on well; it was good to meet some fellow Mzungus!

 

Upon arrival at the village, we were introduced to everyone and my Tumbuka (local language) was very quickly put to shame. In fact I have set myself the challenge of actually sitting down and learning it over the next few weeks. Wish me luck! There was then some singing from the women and children. Just beautiful. Apparently they don’t get many visitors, so had spent all day preparing our meal and even slaughtered a pig. We had Nshima, with a rape relish, a chicken relish, a cabbage relish and then the pork relish. We were slightly pushed for time, so went straight into D’s hut, which is made from mud, just moulded upwards, no bricks and a thatched roof. It must take so much skill to make a house from nothing but mud, the walls were so straight, it was perfect. Thye are decorated too; traditional Zambian huts are usually painted with orangey earthy colours and a black ring around the bottom of the hut, decoration varies depending on the area but looks nice. 

 

After Nshima, we sat outside on some mats and all of the women and children began singing and dancing. There was clapping and beautiful African rhythms, just a great atmosphere, I thoroughly enjoyed it. After making a sufficient fuss of the babies and puppies, we had to make a move home as it was getting dark. I got the numbers of the peace corps volunteers and hopefully will be seeing more of them in the future!

 

Last week at RFDP, I researched a ‘project of my choice’ and after a few meetings, made some really good progress on the micro loans and income generating schemes. I created a new, simplified database which should be far more efficient and easier to use. I then spent the rest of the week continuing writing a big grant proposal.

 

Last Wednesday ex President Levy Patrick Mwanawasa was buried. It was a national holiday so all shops and businesses were closed, including RFDP offices. In fact, it seems every Zambian in the whole of the country found a tv to watch it on. Me and Rose went to her Uncle’s house and watched it in a room with 9 other neighbours! We watched from 10:30 -15:30, was pretty hot and cramped! I was really proud to have watched such a momentous event in Zambian history. It was so important to everyone. It’s worth checking out the RFDP newsletter too, which has more information on the president, his death and this whole issue.

 

This week has been an exciting one for RFDP. On Monday morning Mathias had lots of news to tell us. The most exciting being that a big grant proposal for Water and Sanitation has been accepted. Work will begin next month and I am really looking forward to seeing the valley and meeting the people that we work for. Another piece of really great news was that we received a donation of $500 for RFDP’s OVC sector, from a Canadian charity called ‘One Moment’. Both will make such a significant difference to people’s lives.

 

On Tuesday, I went to visit Kanele Middle Basic School. Me and Dorothy went to collect the exam results of a girl called Flata who is sponsored through RFDP. Unfortunately they were not ready, but it was good to see the school and meet the head teacher. Although that wasn’t my official introduction, in which Mathias would come too and introduce me to everyone. I am hoping to help out with extra Maths and English lessons there, but it’s a good 40 mins walk so I will have to invest in a bicycle!

 

This week Dorothy and I have spent hours creating a database for all of the OVC that we have information about. There were literally hundreds and hundreds. Previously the details of the children were just written in huge, messy tables on paper. The other tables were pretty inconsistent, so there are gaps. We need to collect lots more information when out in the field if we can give these children a chance of sponsorship.

 

On Friday, we are going to have the Thandizani (HIV/ AIDS local NGO-a partner of RFDP) volunteer come to RFDP for a HIV/AIDS workshop. With his help we are going to construct a plan for our future HIV/AIDS programme.

 

 

I was able to meet with the peace corps volunteers again this week which was nice. We just played some board games at their house. Kerry and Robert the VSO volunteers are leaving on Friday, which is a real shame. They, very very kindly, gave me some furniture for the house, cook books and even some games. Me and Rose played connect four and dominoes last night, but I think she’s still getting the hanging of it! They’re having a leaving party tomorrow too- really looking forward to that!

June 26, 2008

Arrival of New Volunteer: John’s Entry

Filed under: Africa, Volunteers, Zambia — rfdp @ 9:15 am

Introduction and First Impressions
Hello from Zambia! My name is John Fuhrman, and I arrived in Zambia on June 6, 2008 to volunteer with Rising Fountains Development Program (RFDP). Mathias Zimba, the director, and a couple of his friends were at the airport to pick me up. The luggage I checked in at Kathmandu was not with me, so we spent the night in Lusaka waiting until we were able to pick it up the next day (the South African Airlines staff were very courteous and helpful). In the meantime, I tagged along with Mathias and saw a bit of Lusaka while he and I ran some errands. I noticed the orderliness of traffic, absence of unnecessary honking and general good appearance of the city: Lusaka appeared to be better off economically than what I had expected. The price of our “cheap” motel was also unexpected: 100,000 kwacha per room per night with no private bathroom (equivalent to US$31.45 at 3180 Zambian kwacha to one US dollar). I don’t need a private bathroom and was satisfied with the room, but this was the first of a few things that have puzzled me with unexpectedly high prices. While in Lusaka, we went to a government office to extend my permitted stay of thirty days to three or four months in order to accommodate my entire planned stay in Zambia. The official, though, refused on a technicality and told me to return after four weeks.

The morning after I arrived, we grabbed my luggage at the airport and set off for Chipata, a waypoint on the journey to our eastern destination and the location of RFDP’s offices, Lundazi. We rode a public bus, and from my window seat, I was able to observe the countryside as we traveled. Very quickly my impression of a relatively economically well-off capital city in an underdeveloped nation was contrasted with rural areas that clearly do without motorized vehicles, running water or electricity. We arrived in Chipata at night, so we stayed in a spartan motel for 80,000 kwacha per room (US$25.16), another high price that baffles me in a country where the average income is around two or three US dollars a day. The following day, we got a ride in a private car to Lundazi with other friends of Mathias who were traveling in the same direction. For us, this made the trip cheaper, more comfortable and more convenient despite getting a flat tire (we had a spare). The road was paved, but the entire stretch of road is so full of potholes that now only a percentage of it has intact asphalt pavement. The rest is closely-spaced, deep potholes, and driving on the dirt shoulder is often better than driving on what remains of the road. It would probably take less than two hours if the road were maintained, but we did it in about four hours. Note that this is the main road connecting the district seat of Lundazi and many towns north of it with the capital. North of Lundazi, though, the pavement ends and becomes maintained dirt road.

Rising Fountains had arranged for a rented house to be ready and waiting for me (I pay the rent), and it is quite nice and much appreciated to be in a home with plumbing and electricity, both of which have been working most of the time during my first two weeks here. To have a night watchman and maid as well, both arranged by Rising Fountains despite my insistence that they are unnecessary, makes my living situation downright luxurious. I was warmly welcomed by both of them as well as the staff at the office on my first day here. We held a staff meeting that morning, and I was impressed when each person told me what is expected of me; I was asked what I expect of them as well, which is that everything done here is done for the people we serve.

A Trip to the Valley (the destitute, rural area that RFDP serves)
Just two days after my introduction to the staff, we set off on a three-day, two-night trip to the Luangwa River Valley area that Rising Fountains serves to hold a water and sanitation program for outreach workers. Outreach workers live in the valley area, and they are the bridge between Rising Fountains and the rest of the residents of this remote area. On this trip I saw that it is impractical for RFDP staff to visit every village, so instead one outreach worker comes to a scheduled meeting with RFDP, is educated and reports to RFDP, and then returns to his or her respective area to disseminate information to the rest of the residents. We traveled in a rented 4×4 loaded with people and cargo and drove first through the Kazembe chiefdom on a path through the woods that had been cleared of trees. I call it a “path through the woods that had been cleared of trees” because most readers will get the wrong impression if I use the word “road” to describe the route. Here in Lundazi we call it a road, of course, and from a utilitarian standpoint, it indeed is a road, because vehicular traffic travels on it. To someone who grew up with and is accustomed to the roads found in developed nations, though, full appreciation of this “road” requires traveling on it personally, but if you imagine roots, ruts, logs, flowing streams, dry streambeds, boulders, deep sand, and steep uphill and downhill pitches, then you will have an idea of what this path is like. A good 4×4 is absolutely necessary, and the shockingly dilapidated one that we rented overheated and broke down more than once. More than once we pushed it and popped the clutch to start it, and this was all done while deep in lion territory. Despite the remote location and risk from wildlife, we saw at least one traveler making the journey by bicycle from Lundazi. He was traveling in our direction, and kept up with us for many tens of kilometers: the nimble bicycle can bob and weave among the rocks and ruts in contrast to the lurching truck that can only tackle them head-on at slow speed. But a cyclist must reach his destination before nightfall or face increased risk of encountering lions.

All along our journey, we stopped and said hello to important community figures such as school headmasters. We also stopped and inspected two pit latrines that had been planned and built by RFDP. We arrived at Chitungulu, another chiefdom and the site of the next day’s water and sanitation workshop, after nightfall and immediately tried to find a place to stay. Apparently, this village with no electricity or running water has a guest house. But the person with the keys was nowhere to be found, so we asked to stay in a teacher’s home, and he and his family graciously welcomed us.

The next morning I helped gather firewood for cooking and also went to fetch water from the hand-driven borehole pump. I noticed that the well had a metal plate riveted to it showing that it was installed by the Luangwa Valley Borehole Project in 2007, a project of Rotary Club Beveren-Waas (Belgium), Rotary Club Chipata (Zambia), and the Luangwa Valley Project. After everybody in our party had woken, bathed and eaten (there was vegetarian food, and I wonder if they spent extra effort to provide it just for me!), we held a preliminary meeting with four outreach workers and went over RFDP’s project areas and the organization’s goals and raison d’être. I listened and solidified my understanding of what Rising Fountains tries to accomplish. One area that RFDP works on that I was particularly glad to see was women’s development. The RFDP programs for women include microcredit loans for women to start their own profitable businesses, support for grandmothers caring for AIDS orphans, encouragement for girls to stay in school and for their families to support them in doing so, and countering the tendency to pressure girls to marry at early ages like 14 or 16 and leave the education system after marriage. I mentioned that one potential obstacle to a woman’s personal development here is the burden she carries when caring for a steady stream of newborns and her ever-growing number of children — a number of children quite possibly larger than the number she might have wanted. She must have sole control over whether she becomes pregnant in order to gain a foothold and find time for a business, education, or whatever else she might have in mind for herself. After saying this, others at the meeting agreed, and I hope that the concept of family planning controlled unilaterally by the woman is planted in the collective consciousness. Maybe Rising Fountains can introduce this idea — another way to live — in conjunction with contraception options that the husband cannot control or detect. Ideally, the husband and wife talk it over and make a joint decision, but because she inevitably is charged with taking care of the kids and because he could rape her and therefore nullify her “no,” she must be able to control her fertility. Otherwise, she has more children than she wants and is locked into spending the prime of her life doing nothing but caring for several kids. Microcredit loans for women already freighted with caring for many children seem like nonstarters to me. I don’t want to impose anything or come across as holier-than-thou, but this is what I see, and the idea can be presented as an alternative lifestyle with pros and cons and placed in the basket of options. I’m going into depth here, because this issue stands out to me: on this trip to the valley and in Lundazi, the town where I live, I have noticed that many of the women who are walking with containers to fetch water or carry goods also carry infants slung to their backs with toddlers in tow. All homes that I’ve seen have a handful of youngsters. I was told at the meeting that many couples in the valley use no family planning method whatsoever and are not aware of family planning. I don’t see how these women can start educational or entrepreneurial endeavors when their minds and hands are busy with several mouths to feed. Made aware of a different way to live, what would these women choose?

After that morning meeting, we delivered hundreds if not thousands of pencils to the local school that had been donated and mailed to us by The Pencil Project. That day we also paid respects — “paid katesko,” as it is called even when speaking English — to the local chief and gave him a requisite gift as custom demands. The gift was two bottles of a juice drink brought from Lundazi. In turn, he listened to our plans and intentions for conducting the water and sanitation meeting in his chiefdom and cordially sanctioned our presence and efforts. I have seen that connecting with local community figures such as chiefs, school headmasters, parish leaders and the like is important for RFDP to operate effectively. These people appreciate knowing what Rising Fountains is doing in the area, and we benefit from their support. A good example is how we were able to go to a teacher’s home unannounced in the late evening and request lodging for two nights.

We conducted the main event, an educational workshop on water and sanitation that lasted about half a day, in a large, thatched-roof hut that the parish owns and granted for our use for the day. About twenty people from the surrounding area attended, and they learned about the benefits and importance of water wells, water boreholes, well maintenance, clean drinking water, proper sanitation and pit latrines. Most of the information was presented orally in the vernacular (for this region it is Tumbuka), but I spoke in English to teach three methods for making water safer to drink (I greeted and thanked them, though, in Tumbuka). From the material I presented, the 20 attendees learned three main points: that boiling water for ten minutes yields potable water that will not make someone sick, that six hours of direct sunlight can kill some but not all germs in water in transparent plastic bottles, and that allowing silt to settle overnight eliminates turbidity but does not kill pathogens. The audience asked me good questions and appeared to have no problem understanding. Before the talk, I was assured by Rising Fountains colleagues that one of them would step in as an interpreter if I used terminology that escaped the audience, but no interpreting took place. English is an official language in Zambia and is taught in school. I have found that most people speak English well enough to communicate effectively on a variety of topics, but I have met some Zambians who speak little more than courtesy phrases. During the workshop, the students were shown how to wash hands properly with a live demonstration, and a song was sung with lyrics that translate roughly to, “If you don’t sweep your house, I won’t be drinking water at your house.” The meeting concluded with a meal provided to the attendants by RFDP. We got back on the truck and headed for home right away but took a different route back to Lundazi. This time we were on a maintained dirt road and had no problems with boulders and ruts. I noticed that several of the small culverts that were along the way bore signs indicating that they had been put in with international assistance, and if memory serves, it was from the Netherlands.

After being dropped off at home, I did not learn until later that the truck actually broke down shortly after arriving back in Lundazi. This trip to Kazembe and beyond showed me that Rising Fountains genuinely needs its own reliable vehicle to conduct operations in the area. Trips to the remote areas that RFDP serves are necessary because staff and supplies must go there to do their work, which includes distribution of materials like pencils, clothing or food; sending staff on trips to conduct educational workshops that last up to five days; and conducting needs assessments at regular intervals as well as when disasters like floods strike. I was told that hiring a 4×4 costs between 1.5 million to 2.5 million kwacha per trip, or US$472 to US$786. This chronic money hemorrhage heavily impacts the budget and is the limiting factor for RFDP operations now. I have traveled the “road” that they must travel, and an RFPD vehicle would be put to good use to help AIDS orphans, the sick and the destitute.

Back at the Office
Since the trip to the valley, I have spent the last week and a half working in the office. Currently I’m focused on helping write a grant proposal that would fund an HIV/AIDS effort in the valley. This prospective project would complete a half-finished introduction of basic HIV/AIDS education to the area served by RFDP. Currently, only some of the residents know what HIV and AIDS are, know how to prevent the spread the virus, and have access to counseling and testing. That some people do know these things is the result of RFDP’s previous efforts, but not all of the area RFDP serves was covered. Specifically, Mwanya remains untouched in contrast to Kazembe and Chitungulu; consequently, widespread ignorance and misconceptions about HIV/AIDS persist in Mwanya. If these funds come through, this remaining area will be educated on HIV/AIDS basic facts, prevention and treatment and will have HIV testing brought to its health centers. In addition to working on the proposal, I’m reviewing the RFDP website with the hope that we can improve it. The website is maintained by an off-site volunteer, so we’ll see how it goes when we deal with internet connections dropping intermittently. I’m also wading through pages of government-speak as I try to figure out if RFDP can be registered as a 501(c)(3) in the U.S. so that charitable contributions are deductible on U.S. federal income tax returns. I tried calling the IRS, but the connection dropped because our prepaid account ran dry just as I was taken off hold and halfway through my first question!

On the morning of Friday, June 20, I was unexpectedly pulled out of the office and made photographer for the commemoration of the Day of the African Child, a holiday that passed by earlier this month. The kids put on performances, including drama, dancing, singing, speeches and poetry. The district commissioner of education and his guests (four staff from RFDP and about a dozen others) sat and viewed the performances. Strangely enough, each performing group faced the commissioner so that he and his guests could hear and see the performance better than the congregation of hundreds of kids that stood exactly opposite to us. The kids saw their fellow students’ backs and certainly had difficulty hearing the singing while we got all the attention, giving me the strong impression that the performances were for the commissioner and his entourage rather than the children. I wondered if it was a commemoration for Day of the African District Commissioner. I mentioned this and was assured that the performances were for the kids, but I remain disappointed at the apparent charade…what message does this send the children, folks? In any case, I learned what netball is when I watched a team sponsored by RFDP play a game against a rival team after the singing and dancing performances. The sponsorship came in the form of a donated ball, another item that we deliver to remote schools. RFDP’s team lost, but the girls were up against a team of older, taller and stronger girls, so it was hardly a fair match!

Life in the Town of Lundazi
For me, things outside the office are good. Shortly after arrival, the friendly nature of people I had met became amplified by the people I had not met: wherever I walk, I hear strangers calling out, “Hello, Mr. John!” It’s a small town, and life moves slowly here, so my arrival must have become a bit of a news item. Being introduced to a congregation of a couple hundred churchgoers also got word out: I accepted an invitation to attend a Sunday evangelical church service and was curious to attend after seeing that Christianity is widespread here. As is done each Sunday, interpreters stood with the Zambian pastors and rendered their English into one of the vernacular languages. There were two pastors who both spoke at length, there was energetic singing and dancing, and the whole shebang lasted for about three and a half hours. At home my mosquito net works well, and I am unbothered by mosquitoes or fears of contracting malaria. Nature visits me on a daily basis inside my house when tarantulas, geckos, cockroaches, wasps, crickets and praying mantises find their way inside. I stumbled on a trader based here that sells soybeans, among other things, which was a happy find for me. From conversations with locals and what I observed at his warehouse, I surmise that he is the most prosperous businessman in this sleepy town. He is second-generation born-and-raised here, but his family tree has roots in India and branches in the U.K., so maybe his overseas ties give him an advantage over competitors. With soybeans from him and fresh vegetables from the market, a lot of good dirt roads suitable for jogging, and my mosquito net, I’m staying healthy.

My electricity got cut off on June 24, so I went to the appropriate office to clear things up with RFDP’s accountant as my backup man. I learned that I pay a flat rate of over 187,000 kwacha (US$59) per month for unmetered electricity, but two of my colleagues who have big families and watch TV, therefore undoubtedly using more electricity than I do, paid 40,000 kwacha and 57,000 kwacha last month on their metered bills (US$12.59 and US$17.92). So, naturally I asked to get a meter, but learned that RFDP and the landlord have been asking for a while already. Apparently, a meter will arrive when a customer is disconnected from the grid and that former customer’s meter is taken down and installed at the house I rent. Sounds like a good deal for someone! I wonder if RFDP will hit any corruption roadblocks that I notice while I’m here and how they will deal with them. In any case, my connection was restored in less than 24 hours after settling my bill. Incidentally, I’m told that Malawi supplies electricity to Lundazi, and the Zambian city of Chipata that is south of us supplies electricity to Malawi. People tell me that this arrangement exists because Malawian power plants are closer to Lundazi than anything Zambia has, and the Zambian plants in Chipata serve outback regions in Malawi. I noticed that gasoline is sold here by individuals with hand-carried cans (they compete with the lone filling station in town), because they can get it cheaper across the border. My guess is that Malawi subsidizes fuel and Zambia does not.

More later as things develop!

March 29, 2008

Jeannie’s Blog – The Forgotten Floods

Filed under: Africa, AIDS, Volunteers, Zambia — rfdp @ 9:37 am

March 2008

Over the last few weeks we’ve been really bad at keeping this blog up to date.  I’ve long accepted that there’s no such thing as an average day here so as you can imagine it’s difficult to know where to begin in updating you all on what we’ve been up too.

As the two previous blog’s centred on the flooding in Kazembe, its best to start by bringing you up to date on that.  After collecting all the data and writing the needs assessment on both the immediate and long term needs of the affected communities we submitted it to international donors.  Unfortunately, we are still waiting on fed back.  We also haven’t heard any reports of relief being administrated by other stakeholders so the people of the Valley have just had to cope with the flooding, just as they have had to in previous years.  Government relief and Aid Agencies are giving priority to Southern Province where a greater number of communities have been more heavily affected. 

While the water may have receded from the fields and villages, communities still, and will continue to feel, the impact of the floods for some time.  Crops have been destroyed so while households may have some food from remaining crops or the support of extended families after harvest in April/May, by the time the ‘hunger period’ comes back in December, these are the households which will be affected worse.  For the households whose homes have collapsed, they now face the task of rebuilding their homes, not knowing if they will have to do the same thing next year.  Many pit-latrines (toilets) have also collapsed resulting in many households and communities being without proper sanitation installations so they have to use the bush.  If there is an overflow of affluent from the collapsed pit-latrines this can lead to water contamination and obvious hygiene risks.  RFDP will continue to seek funding to help these communities and work along side them to recover from these floods and seek alternatives to help limit their impact in the future.  For me, the hardest thing to accept is that we went and saw the devastation but still couldn’t help, at least in the short term.  Despite the frustration at that, it just makes you all the more determined to continue to work with these communities and help them find sustainable, long term solutions to their problems.

Back in the BOMA there has been little rain, despite the floods in the Valley.  I don’t think the maize that was planted in our garden will be good.  It’s become a discoloured yellow, as if it is becoming withered.  I think the major problem is that it was planted too late and missed the rains in late January, early February.  It’s OK for mazungo’s though – of course we’ll be fine whether the maize is OK or not.  It’s the families who depend on their crops for their family’s survival who will not.

The other major thing which happened in the last few weeks was Josée’s departure.  She left on Tuesday after working at RFDP for three months.  She’s left a big gap in RFDP – and in our house as well.  We’re all missing her a lot!!!  On her last week in Lundazi, Josée’s facilitated a workshop for RFDP staff and Community Outreach Workers on project management.  We all learnt a lot during it – on the development of projects, report writing and proposal writing to mention just a few things.  So now it’s our turn to implement the things we learnt which will help RFDP develop and grow. 

Aside from learning at the workshop, it was also a great opportunity to spend time with the Community Outreach Workers.  When we go to the Valley we normally only get to spend a few days with them individually.  Living and working in the field they are the back bone of the organisation and are fundamental to the daily running of projects and collection of data.  During the workshop we got to get to know them as a group and thank them for all their hard work and commitment to RFDP. 

When Josée’s travelled to Lusaka last weekend, Anna and I accompanied her as we had some meetings with donors after the Easter Break.  As usual our journey to Lusaka was another African adventure – over sixteen hours this time.  The road between Chipata and Lundazi has continued to deteriorate with the rain.  There are many pot-holes and the bus has to drive on the side of the road to avoid them.  About eighteen months ago the journey took around two hours.  Last Saturday it took us four and a half hours!!!  Apparently the government has set aside money for the improvement of the road.  Work is supposed to start shortly which is crucial for the development of Lundazi – both the BOMA and the Valley area.     

It was strange being in Lusaka – a city with lots of people… and vehicles!!!! We visited Manda Hill Shopping Arcade and it really was like stepping back into Europe for the day, with more mazungos than Zambians.  It was a culture shock going back to that, a complete world away from Lundazi, even the real Lusaka for that matter.  While we were there, we had few reminders that we were in Africa.  We had no “how are you?” or few truly friendly faces welcoming us as we have grown accustomed to in Lundazi.  Equally, the street children are kept away by security guards so the affluent can shop without reminders that the amount they spend in one shopping trip, most people don’t earn in life time here.      

After our meetings, which were very interesting and productive, I was glad to get back to Lundazi last night.  I’ve just over two weeks left here and want to get a lot of work before I leave.  I can’t even begin to think what home will be like or how I’ll adjust back to life there.  One thing is for sure, part of Zambia will always stay with me no matter where I go.    

February 16, 2008

Flooding Update

Filed under: Africa, AIDS, Volunteers, Zambia — rfdp @ 8:41 am

It’s Jeannie here again this week with an update on the flooding in RFDP’s catchment area. 

________________________________________________________________________

 

Following the report we received on January 30th from three community leaders from Chief Kazembe on flooding in the area, the organization immediately started to organize a trip to Kazembe to qualify and quantify the report.  As we don’t have our own vehicle, it took almost a week to organize for transport and set other logistics in place.  On Friday February 8th, the team set off to Kazembe, along with Mr. Soko, Lundazi District Commissioner, and Mr. Kamunga, a member of Lundazi District Disaster Management and Mitigation Committee.  On all our projects RFDP works along side the local government authorities in supporting and supplementing their work. 

 

Two rivers flow through Chief Kazembe – the Lundazi and Lumezi.  The first stop for the team was at the confluence of these two rivers.  We were walking through fields of maize, making our way towards the river bed, when we had to stop just as we started to walk through tall grass.  The water level had increased that day and we were unable to assess the true extent of damage caused to crops and property along this stretch of the river.

 

The next stop was at Chipangula Village about the Lundazi River.  We did not have to walk far into the fields before we realized the damaged caused to the crops by flash flooding.  Maize crops had been destroyed by water, while closer to the river bed, sand had been washed up by the water and maize buried.  As the water levels continue to rise, nearby villages are also at risk.

 

We also visited Kafunthamula Village, along the Lumezi River.  Here, the river had changed its course causing more crops to be destroyed.  Moreover, at a nearby village a house had collapsed due to heavy rains and chickens and food had been destroyed.  Communities on the other side of the river are cut off from the services on the side we were on – schools and the health centre.  A teacher at Kazembe Basic School reported a fall in attendance since the beginning of the floods, with eight of the newly enrolled Grade One pupils not being able to attend, while Grade Seven pupils swim across – far from an ideal start to the day for school children. 

 

Meanwhile at Kambwili Community School, the Head Teacher told me that more than half of his pupils were stranded on the other side of the Lumezi, resulting in the community establishing a temporary community school.  Yet the quality of education being received was affected by little supplies – chalk, exercise books and pencils.  At Kazembe Rural Health Centre, the Outdoor Officer said that people on the other side of the Lumezi could not cross to receive medical treatment.  The Clinic was expecting to receive an increase in the number of patients suffering from malaria and diarrhea diseases as a result of the flooding but that there were no mosquito nets (crucial to malaria prevention) left.

 

At a community meeting, a number of pit-latrines were reported to have collapsed due to heavy rainfall.  This means that people now have to go in the bush.  The impact of this is that water sources are at risk from being contaminated, contributing to an increase in diarrhea diseases.  The one issue that dominated the meeting was that of hunger.  Although, the crops that have been destroyed will have an heavy impact on food security in the coming months, hunger already existed because of flooding last year and a pest called Larger Green Borer, which destroys crops which are ready to be harvested, or have been harvested and are in storage.  At the meeting it became clear that most households are surviving on just pumpkins leaves at this time. 

 

Although this paints a grave picture at the moment, the factor that is even more concerning is that the really heavy rains are not forecast until late February / early March, when this situation will get worse.  Moreover, we were not able to across the rivers to assess the situation in other areas which are reported to be suffering from an even greater impact from the floods.  While in Kazembe, we heard reports that Chiweza Middle Basic School had been flooded and books destroyed.  This added to the information in the previous report is off great concern.    

 

Much more data is needed to truly assess the impact of these initial flash floods and to coordinate an effective relief effort among all the different stakeholders.  The information that RFDP compiled in Kazembe has been laid out in a Needs Assessment and has been submitted to different bodies, in the hope that relief can be sought in the short term and more effective disaster management can be administrated in the long term.                           

February 2, 2008

Natural Disaster in Kazembe

Filed under: Africa, AIDS, Volunteers, Zambia — rfdp @ 9:05 am

January 26th – February 1st

 

This week our third international volunteer, Anna from Australia, finally arrived.  As there are three of us now, only two computers, problems with the internet and our work load in general, we’ve decided to take it week about writing the blog.  This is Jeannie this week. 

 

 

One thing has dominated our work this week – flooding in the Valley.  After knowing that it was inevitable for some time, reports reached us on Wednesday of what was happening.

 

Three gentlemen from Kazembe came to the office on Wednesday to give the report.   They were Mr. Zozi (Chairperson of Kazembe Disaster Management Committee), Mr. Gilbert (Kazembe Ward Counselor) and Mr. Ng’uni (PTA Chairperson for Kambwili Community School).  Mr Gilbert narrated the following report:

 

Flooding started on the 26th of January at approximately 03:00 hours.  The three key area affected in Chief Kazembe were Kazembe Central, Chiweza and Zokwe. 

 

In Kazembe Central the total population affected is estimated to be 600-700 people.  Five villages are submerged in water, fifteen houses have collapsed and 60-70 fields have been submerged in water.  Crops in these fields included maize, banana, rice and cotton – all have been lost.  The RFDP headquarters in Kazembe has also been affected. 

 

In Chiweza the total population affected is 580.  Two villages have been submerged, along with Chiweza Middle Basic School.  Five houses have collapsed with a total value of 1.5m Zambian Kwacha (US$410).  The number of fields flooded is currently unknown but as in Kazembe they include maize, banana and rice crops.    

 In Zokwe the total population affected is 800.  In Zokwe three quarters of the land is flat resulting in all villages and fields on flat land being submerged in water.  All the maize crops are destroyed and the only crop people can depend on now is rice.   

On Friday, Mr. Phiri, Kazembe Rural Health Centre Clinical Officer visited RFDP’s office and informed us that the situation was continuing to get worse.  Villages in Kazembe Central and Chiweza have now been displaced, with people being forced to make shelter from what every material they can find – roofs are normally made from grass thatch but dry grass is impossible to find. 

 

Before flooding people were already starving as there was no crop surplus as a result of the floods last year.  With the loss of crops, this situation will continue for some time.  In Chiweza, a store holding some maize for relief was flooded and the contents destroyed.  The maize in the store in Kazembe is no where near enough to meet the demand.  Moreover, this maize is for sale – but people have no money to buy it. 

 

We are still waiting for reports to come in for Chief Chitungulu and Mwanya on events there but the picture emerging from Chief Kazembe is expected to be typical of what is happening in the other areas of our catchment area.  Moreover, the heavy rains are just starting – they will get much worse as February progresses meaning this situation will get much worse and the number of people affected will rapidly increase.  There have already been reports of two deaths in Chama District, which borders Chief Kazembe – one of them a Grade One child. 

 

In all areas there is now an increased risk of cholera, diarrhea and other water borne diseases.  There is also an increased risk of malaria, especially for those who have lost their households.   School and health clinics in the villages are also in water, which means pupils cannot attend school and people have no access to medicine.

 

We are planning a trip to Kazembe on Monday to carry out a detailed needs assessment of the immediate needs of the villages affected.  Based on this information we received during the week we expect them to be: 

  • Food Aid (Maize, oil, beans, salt)
  • Chlorine for water purification
  • Medicine
  • Shelter (tents) for those who have lost their houses
  • Mosquito nets
  • Temporary Community Schools: books & shelter

 

It is estimated that more than 2000 households will be affected from now until March/end of rainy season.  RFDP is work along side the local government authorizes to ensure measures are taken to support all the households/villages affected by this natural disaster.  In the following week, hopefully a more detailed picture will emerge from across the catchment area and effective relief work will begin. 

        

January 28, 2008

More chicken and snake encounters!!! – Jeannie’s Blog

Filed under: Africa, AIDS, Volunteers, Zambia — rfdp @ 8:20 am

January 19th – 25th

 

It’s been another eventually week in Lundazi – a chicken was fed in our kitchen (!!!), a snake was found in a classroom at Kanele and Melina moved out!!

 

Let’s begin with the chicken incident first!  Last Saturday, we bought a chicken for dinner – alive of course.  As the rains have got really bad electricity and water are going every day, so as there was no electric there was no point killing the chicken as the fridge was wasn’t working.  Melina left Josée and I to look after the chicken in the afternoon for a few hours during which time it stated to rain heavily.  Neither Josée nor I no anything about chickens and weren’t aware that it was suppose to get wet.  So when Melina came back she brought it inside to heat it up beside the charcoal bracer!!!  The next thing we know she standing over it trying it to drink water and eat some mealie meal!!!!  At that point the electric came back and the chicken could be killed after all – at least it died on a full stomach!!! J   

 

The weather on Sunday was a big contrast to Saturday.  It was a beautiful day, very hot.  In the afternoon, the three of us went off exploring and started to walk out the Chama road (going towards the district north of Lundazi).  There is suppose to be a windmill along it somewhere but after walking in the one direction for an hour we didn’t reach it and decided to turn back.  Everyone we asked along the road gave us conflicting stories on how far it really was, so the next weekend that it’s dry, it’s the plan to leave earlier so we can find it!!! 

 

It was back to the office on Monday and finalizing proposals that were eventually posted on Tuesday.  The same day Pastor Chipeta left for Lusaka to pick up the new volunteer – Anna from Australia.  Meanwhile, Dorothy, Josée and I went to Kanele Middle Basic School, located in Lundazi BOMA, to distribute goods to a sponsored child.  As usual we received a very warm welcome from the teacher and pupils at Kanele.  Most of the school gathered to see the child receiving the goods and everyone was very enthusiastic.  For every item that was produced all the children seemed to get closed and closed!!!  The biggest drama though was a snake in one of the classrooms!!!  Luckily it was killed before it harmed anyone.  As the rains are getting worse and the grass is growing the snakes are coming into the BOMA from the bush.  A few weeks back there was another one in our garden (which our neighbour killed), then the following day there was a cobra outside the office!!  A bit scary, but we just have to deal with them and be very careful!!!

 

On Wednesday, we started to prepare for the arrival of Anna (new volunteer), which meant Melina had to move out!! L  It’s been really strange because I’ve been living with her since my third week here.  She’s become a really good friend and it was really great living with a Zambian but she’ll still be around and doesn’t live that far away.  No doubt in a few days we’ll be used to things being like this!

 

On Thursday, we emailed off another proposal after working flat out on Wednesday to get it finished!!  Rose’s grandfather died in Chipeta so she wasn’t at home.  Anna and Pastor was suppose to arrive from Lusaka on Friday, which meant that Josée and I had to clean the whole house!!  We were both our hands and knee’s sweeping, applying cobla and shining the floor in each room – a proper work out!!  The convenience of vacuum cleaners and mops are a distant memory!!  To make things ever more difficult, there was no electricity or water on Friday, so we had to use the water we store in containers sparingly!!  After all that, we received word that Pastor and Anna had reached Chipeta but Anna had a bad kidney infection and the doctor had advised her not to travel!!!  So on Saturday morning we will have to get up really early and do it all again!!  The most important thing though is that Anna gets better and arrives safely!!  It must be awful to get sick after just arriving in a country you don’t know!!!

 

Hopefully, Anna will arrive soon, at which point there will be three mazungo’s in our home and RFDP!  It’s also the plan to go to the Valley next week.  There has been a lot of rain here which means it is flowing into the Valley and the floods that everyone fears may materialize very soon!  The coming week, may prove to be very crucial!!

   

Ooh the rainy season! (January 19th-January 25th) Josee-Anne

Filed under: Africa, AIDS, Volunteers, Zambia — rfdp @ 8:19 am

It was a very busy week last week.  It’s been raining almost everyday which makes working more of a challenge since the electricity often goes out when it rains or if its windy.  Even doing research on the internet can be difficult since we don’t have internet access at the office and must go to the internet café to research.   Last Tuesday was a really good day because we got to give school requisites to an OVC (Orphaned or Vulnerable Child).  The orphans have lost either one or both their parents to HIV/AIDS and a vulnerable child either has one parent or both parents infected with HIV/AIDS or is indirectly affected by HIV/AIDS.  The girl that was sponsored was a double orphan which means she had lost both her parents to HIV/AIDS.  Dorothy, RFDP’s OVC Coordinator, had procured a school uniform, exercise books, a pen, a pencil, new shoes, socks, a new bag and the school fees for the child with the funds received from her supporter.  The orphan attends a government school here in Lundazi called Kanele School.  It was very interesting to see all the children at the school.  They were all so vibrant and excited to see us.  When it was time to give the sponsored child her requisites, all the students gathered outside to see.  Some even performed short drama skits about Tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS.  It was great to see how the school was incorporating these issues into the school curriculum and how much the students knew about these devastating diseases.   The middle of the week was spent working on various projects but more specifically on some project proposals and a capital campaign for a vehicle.  It is very urgent that RFDP procures a vehicle to visit project areas in the Luangwa Valley.  It is very difficult to use our current means of transportation which is to hire a driver and a vehicle, because this vehicle usually always breaks down.  I haven’t been to the Valley yet, but my hope is that we will be making a trip this week.  If we go I will start working on our Child Sponsorship Database with Dorothy.  All the schools in the Valley are community schools.  Every single child that attends these community schools are either Orphans or Vulnerable Children.  All of these children will be eligible for sponsorship. In other news, I would like to give my sincerest condolences to Rose, our maid.  Her grandfather passed away last Wednesday.  Her grandfather lived in Chipata (5hrs away) and she didn’t have the chance to go to his funeral because she had no transportation.  We went to visit her on Thursday to pay her respects. We also have been anticipating the arrival of Anna, our new Development Volunteer from Australia.  She was supposed to arrive in Lundazi on Thursday or Friday but she caught a kidney infection which hampered her capability to travel.  We hope she will get better soon and arrive today or tomorrow.   On the weekend I got to experience football here in Africa.  The Africa Cup of Nations is on at the moment and on Saturday night we got to watch Zambia play against Cameroon.  We don’t have a television at our house so I went to a Sports Bar with Isaac and Melina and Jeannie to watch the match.  Unfortunately Zambia lost to Cameroon 5-1, but it was still very exciting to watch the game.   This week will be another busy week.  Hopefully we will get to go to the Valley and I will be able to give everyone an interesting report upon my return.

January 18, 2008

My first week in Zambia… (January 11th to January 18th) Josee-Anne

Filed under: Africa, AIDS, Volunteers, Zambia — rfdp @ 2:32 pm

Hello everyone, my name is Josee-Anne and I am the new development volunteer at Rising Fountains Development Program.  I am very happy to have finally arrived, especially after being in contact with Mr. Mathias Zimba, the Executive Director, for so long.  Zambia is more than I expected.  I arrived in Lusaka on January 11th from Toronto, Canada and was met with a warm greeting by Mathias Zimba and one of the Board of Directors, Reverend Zimba.  My baggage was left in Johannesburg, South Africa and so we had to stay in Lusaka for the night.  Mathias and the Reverend showed me around Lusaka; it’s quite a busy capital city with lots of traffic, markets and people.  Mathias and I stayed at the ZamCom Hotel.  We had dinner at the hotel and I got to taste Zambian food for the first time.  It is very delicious.  It consists of a vegetable relish, meat and nshima.  Nshima is eaten with your hands which can be very difficult for Muzungus (foreigners) so Mathias had to help me.  The following morning we went back to the airport, my backpack had finally arrived, and then the Reverend took us to the Lusaka bus station where we waited for our bus to Chipata.  We got on the bus around 15:00 and left for Chipata around 17:30.  It was a very hot and long bus ride; we arrived in Chipata at 4:00 the following morning.  From Chipata we were able to get a mini bus to Lundazi at 6:00.  The ride from Chipata to Lundazi was very nice, especially since it was day time; I was able to see the small villages and forests along the way.  The only bad thing is that the roads are very terrible, with huge potholes all the way.  We also ran out of gas and had to stop in a small village to get some more.  We arrived just outside of Lundazi around 11:30, we had run out of gas again, just 500 metres from the bus station!!  Jeannie (Int’l Development Volunteer) and Melina (Administrative Assistant) took a taxi and came and got us at the mini bus.  We then made our way to what would be the house I would share with Jeannie and Melina for the next three months.  I was really excited when I saw the house and my room, it was much bigger then I had expected.  There was no power or water since it was Sunday.  Every second Sunday we have no power or water because of maintance.  We had juice and cookies, and then I had a bath.  Reverend Chipeta, the HIV/AIDS Facilitator for RFDP came in the afternoon to say hello, as did Mr. Leonard Zimba, the Program Coordinator of RFDP.   Jeannie and Melina made a great lunch and dinner for me that day and really made me feel welcomed in the house and in Lundazi. On Monday we headed off to the RFDP office around 8:15, work starts at 8:30.  At the office I got to meet more of RFDP’s hardworking staff, Isaac the Accountant and Dorothy the OVC Coordinator.  I got to do a little bit of work in the morning, more specifically continuing to work on a project proposal I had started in Canada.  Lunch begins at 12:30, so then Jeannie, Melina and I walked back home to have lunch.  After lunch they brought me for a tour of Lundazi.  We visited the Lundazi Castle, the dam and the market.  The market is really nice with all sorts of vendors selling food and other things.   On Tuesday we had our weekly meeting, I got to hear what everyone does in the office and what everyone expects from me.  I must say the expectations are quite high! Haha!  But I am here to work and so I will do my best to meet everyone’s expectations.  Most of my time will be spent on writing project proposals, developing a vehicle fundraising campaign, coordinating the child sponsorship program, increasing memberships, monitoring and evaluation and making a video documentary about RFDP.  I will also be training the staff and volunteers here at RFDP in Project Management, facilitate female focus groups in the project areas and aid in gender mainstreaming RFDP’s work.  Some of the major challenges here at the office are the lack of computers and internet with makes coordinating work very difficult with 8 people wanting to use one of our two computers.  We do not have internet at the office either, so I will have to go to the internet café often to do some research.  The computers at the internet café are very slow and the costs are quite expensive as well.   I will just have to be imaginative and try to find other ways to get my work done!    The weather in general is very nice and hot.  It is usually sunny during the day and rainy at night.  It is the rainy season and so there will be lots of rain every day.  Since Lundazi is on a plateau, it doesn’t get any flooding but in the Valley, where RFDP’s project areas are, they are starting to feel the effects of the rainy season.  One of the project areas won’t be attainable until June because the roads are flooded.  RFDP’s other project areas are also beginning to get flooded.  When the rains are heavy, houses fall down and crops are washed out.  This means that people in these villages can be left with no house or food for long period of time, making the situation an emergency.  Mr. Leonard has gone to visit some of the project areas to assess the flooding situation.   On Wednesday, Mathias decided to bring me to meet some of the Lundazi Counsel Members and some of the other NGOs.  It was a good day for visits since we didn’t have any electricity in the office.  Jeannie came along with us as well.  It is customary to visit everyone once you arrive to a new place so that they know you are here.  First we went to Care International where I met the Director of the organisation.  Then we went to Thandizani to meet their Director.  Thandizani is also a Zambian NGO and is partners with RFDP.  Afterward we went to the Micro Bankers Trust, Mathias’ other organization that gives out micro-loans to people in Lundazi.  Then we went to the post office were I met the postmaster.  Subsequently we went to the Lundazi District Counsel where I met the District Commissioner, the District AIDS Task Force Coordinator, and the Counsel Secretary.  I was supposed to meet the Education Minister and the Agriculture Minister but they weren’t in their offices.  We also met with the Water Sector Office of Lundazi.  Jeannie and Mathias spoke with him about some of our Water and Sanitation projects in the Valley.   On Thursday I finished working on my project proposal and worked out my work plan for the next 10 weeks.  I can’t believe my first week has already come to a close.  I am looking forward to next week to begin working on all my different projects! I very much liked my first week here in Lundazi and at RFDP.  Everyone at RFDP is so kind and hardworking.  After learning more about RFDP’s projects from everyone, I can see that they are really making a difference in their project areas in sectors such as HIV/AIDS, Water & Sanitation, Education, Women, OVCs (Orphaned & Vulnerable Children) and Agriculture.  My responsibility now is to find as many sources of funding as possible so that RFDP can continue their amazing work in 2008 and for many years to come.  

  

 

Jeannie’s Blog – Lot’s of Changes!!!

Filed under: Africa, AIDS, Volunteers, Zambia — rfdp @ 2:29 pm

12th – 18th January

 

There have been lots of changes this week in Lundazi – a new hair style for me (again!!!) and a new volunteer for RFDP!!!

 

Last weekend, Frywell (our watchman) planted some maize and pumpkin leaf seeds in the back garden.  I tried to help him – much to his amusement… and the neighbour’s children!!  The mazungo was just a bit too slow and didn’t really have a clue what to do, but at least I tried!!!  I’ve been talking about it since the beginning of December but things have been so busy it only happened now.  Although the rains started many weeks ago, I have been assured it isn’t too late to plant and that I should see the results just before I leave in April.  Hopefully I will!  Maize is such an important part of the Zambian diet so it’ll be cool to be able to see it growing!!

 

Last Saturday I also got a new hair style – another truly Zambian one!!  This time I got all my hair platted across my head and then a wig sown threw it.  It only took a few hours – nothing compared to the dread locks!!  The wig is difficult to describe – so check out the pictures on the website over the next weeks!! As my hair is a bit too soft it’ll probably fall out before it’s meant too but it should stay in for the next few weeks anyway!  As you would expect its getting me lots of attention – a few people have even asked me if it is my real hair!!!!! J

 

On Sunday, Josée finally arrived!!  She had a mammoth journey from Lusaka – her first of many African adventures!!  She has lots of experience and no doubt she’ll fit into RFDP and Lundazi without any problems.  Everyone was getting used to me but now you can see people looking for a second time – just to make sure there are two mazungos!!! J J  

 

Most of this week has been spent showing Josée around Lundazi and working on work plans.  On Wednesday Mathias, Josée and I visited some of the local dignitaries including the District Commissioner and Council Secretary.  We also meet with the Council’s Water and Sanitation Coordinator and discussed the rehabilitation of water wells and construction of latrines in Kazembe.  In all RFDP’s projects we work alongside the local government authority and inform the relevant departments of our activities. 

 

On Thursday and Friday both of us have been completing proposals.  The particular one I have been working on was started in November but because of other proposals and projects that came up in December it has always been set aside.  It’ll be great to finally see it go and be able to start something fresh!

 

Throughout this week, I’ve met a few people from Kazembe (in the Valley).  They have all spoke of the rising water levels in the area.  When it rains in Lundazi BOMA the rivers fill up and flow into the Valley and the Luangwa River.  Normally excess water from the Luangwa River flows into the Zambezi River.  However, this river is already full and there’s flooding in Southern Province were the river is located.  It means that although rainfall is still lower than expected for this time of year, it’s only a matter of time before Kazembe floods as well.  People living in low living areas have already been told to move from their homes in expectation of the flooding.  The mangos are now almost out of season and most households are starving.  On top of this, this years crops will be destroyed by the floods.  The next few weeks will be critical for the people in the Valley, who are still recovering from flooding last year. 

 

This week marked the half way stage in my time in Zambia.  The first three months have flown by and no doubt the next three will as well.  Next week another mazungo arrives from Australia to also volunteer at RFDP.  As things continue to change, my experience in Zambia continues to evolve!!  No doubt there will still be lots to write about here in weeks to come!!!  JJJ                  

January 11, 2008

Happy 2008!!!

Filed under: Africa, AIDS, Volunteers, Zambia — rfdp @ 11:13 am

 7th December 2007 – 10th January 2008

 

It’s been a long time since I updated this blog!!!  Things have been really busy so I’ve kept putting off writing it.  It means that it’s now at the point were I don’t know were to start because so much has happened!!!!  The reality is that so much that I do and experience in Zambia, I will never tell anyone because time passes and something else becomes more important!  Anyway, here goes an attempt to outline all the major things that happened in the last month!

 

Mid-December brought great news!  Two donations had been made from friends at home which were to be spent on office equipment.  It meant we could finally get a second computer and a printer!!!  In the same week we received word that the first proposal that I competed had been successful and the Netherlands based Albert Schweitzer Foundation was going to fund some water and sanitation improvements in the catchment area.  Everyone was delighted with the news and, on a personal level, after completing lots of proposals I could finally begin to see some of the results for my work.

 

On the week before Christmas, I traveled to Lusaka to collect my work permit!  The fourteen hour bus journey was not something I was looking forward to but it did give me another opportunity to appreciate the beauty of the Zambian landscape again.  As it had been raining for a few weeks, the bush was green and dense, practically all the way from Lundazi to Lusaka! 

 

As before, when I arrived I received a warm welcome from Rev. Siyani and his family.  Apart from collecting the permit, I also visited Embassies to discuss possible funding for RFDP.  These included the Canadian, German, and Irish Embassies.  I received positive feed back from all of these and found out information via email on the funding opportunities of other Embassies.  In short, I’ve a lot of work to be done in the New Year to ensure RFDP makes the most of these opportunities.

 

I found it very strange being back in Lusaka.  It was a bit of culture shock being back in a big city.  In my view there were too many vehicles and mazungos!!! 🙂  Visiting the Irish Embassy again helped me to realize how far I’ve come, how much I’ve learnt, since I was there to register when I first arrived.  After spending four days there, it was good to get back to Lundazi – with the new computer and printer in tow!!!!!!

 

The following week was Christmas.  Christmas Eve was spent in the office preparing for a water and sanitation workshop in Kazembe which was scheduled between Christmas and the New Year.  I spent Christmas Day with Melina and her family.  It was a lot different to home – wearing a dress and getting sunburn on Christmas Day just didn’t seem right! haha It was a good day though, nice to just relax.  There was none of the commercial hype that there is at home and I didn’t miss that one bit!  The reality is that between December to March, it is known as the ‘hunger period’ here.  People have just planted their crops and until they are ready to harvest they have little to eat.  In The  Valley, most households survive on only mangos – when they go out of season in late January, they will starve.  The problem was compounded by flooding last year, so the crops were destroyed and there’s no surplus to help the people during this period.  So while there were parties on Christmas Day, it was nothing compared to what there is at home.

 

On Boxing Day / St. Stephen’s Day (December 26th), Melina and I organized a meal at our house for everyone in RFDP.  We cooked a traditional Zambian meal, nsima (of course) with visash and koko (chicken).  As usual, the chicken as bought alive and had to be killed.  I attempted to do the deed this time but ended up making more noise than the chicken and in the end Rose had to take over! J  Visash is boiled rape with pounded groundnuts.  After failing with the chicken I was determined to pound the nuts – which I did but only after it took me three hours!  It was the following day before I could use my arm probably again!!J  The pain was worth it though because the evening went very well and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves.  It was good just to spend time together and relax after working hard over the last few months.  It was also an opportunity for me to say thank-you for all the care and support everyone has given me since I arrived.  

 

Despite the previous evening activities, it was back to the office in the morning to make the final arrangements for the trip to the Valley.  We left on the 28th and reached Kazembe around 16 hours.  The journey was relatively smooth – apart from a snake nearly getting into the vehicle when it went past the branch of a tree!!!  The windows stayed up after that!!!  Even though it had only been a few weeks since we had last been to Kazembe, you could really notice how much more green and dense the Bush was after the rain – it really was beautiful. 

 

The planned program’s took place on the 29th.  Events started at Kambwili Community School with a meeting attended by teachers, pupils, parents and the wider community.  The gathering was informed that two Ventilated Imported Pit-latrines were to be constructed at the school with funding from the Albert Schweitzer Foundation.  Currently only one traditional latrine exists which is not hygienic for children.  The community was delighted with the news and immediately started discussing where the materials they will supply will come from (the community will supply 25% of materials which will be locally sourced – this encourages community participation and enhances a sense of ownership).   

 

After this meeting, the RFDP team moved Kazembe Basic School for a workshop aimed at capacity building the Water and Sanitation Committees in the area.  Twenty participants, each representing a different Water and Sanitation Committee in the Chiefdom, were in attendance.  In all, four topics, each approximately one hour long, were addressed.  I started the workshop off with a session on the importance of water and discussed how to make water safe to drink.  This was my first time facilitating in detail and I was happy with how it went.  Of course, Mathias had to translate everything after my opening remarks!!!!  When I finished, Mr. Phiri, the Clinical Officer at Kazembe Clinic, addressed the participants on to correctly apply chorine to water.  Pastor then facilitated on basic hygiene.  Both the discussions on water and hygiene are an integral part for success of the project and reducing diarrhoea diseases in the area.  Leonard then facilitated on the construction of traditional latrines from locally sourced materials, as there is to be ten new traditional latrines for each water well rehabilitated.  Finally, Mathias facilitated a session on the management of wells.  This session was crucial to ensuring the project is sustainable and dealt with management in financial and material terms. 

 

After successfully completing the programs it was back to the BOMA.  The journey was as usual eventful.  It had been raining heavily and the road was bad to we got stuck four times!  It’s all part of the adventure now!!! J

 

The New Year was very quiet – New Years Eve was spent in the office working on the 2008 budget and completing a proposal – a very busy end to 2007!!  On January 2nd, Melina and I traveled to South Luangwa National Park in Mfuwe!  It was a long trip – all journeys are adventures now – but the game viewing was amazing.  We went on a morning ride at 6am and saw lions (less than a meter away from the vehicle!!!!!), elephants, giraffes, impala, zebra and a big herd of buffalo!!  In the night drive, from 16:00-20:00hours, we saw more loins, giraffes and zebra as will as hippos and leopards!!!!  Being so close to the animals really was amazing and so too was the beauty of the National Park!  Seeing lions really was the highlight – after hearing them while I slept a few months back it was good to finally see them!!!

 

We arrived back in Lundazi on Friday 4th evening and immediately Mathias passed by home.  After asking about the trip we told us that a proposal was needed by an organization in Lusaka very quickly.  So it was back to the office on Saturday and this is where I’ve been ever since!!!  The proposal was submitted on Monday morning and since then I’ve been working on reports and other applications.  2008 has started just as busy as 2007 finished. 

 Over the last few weeks we’ve seen RFDP grow rapidly.  We now have two computers and a printer.  We’ve moved into a second office and have a new Facilitator for Orphans and Vulnerable Children and Sponsorship, Mrs. Dorothy Phiri.  This weekend, another mazungo is arriving.  Josée-Anne Plouffe is from Canada and will volunteer with RFDP for three months.  It’ll be very strange to have another mazungo around.  A new chapter will open in terms of my experience here but no doubt it’ll be as eventually as the previous! To everyone reading this blog, HAPPY 2008!  Let us all work together to ensure that 2008 is even more successful for RFDP that 2007!!  This can be a great year for the organization, and more importantly its beneficiaries and their communities!!! J  

        

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