Rising Fountains Development Prog Weblog

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  


December 10, 2007

World AIDS Day

Filed under: Africa, AIDS, Volunteers, Zambia — rfdp @ 3:01 pm

November 24th – December 7th


The last two weeks have been very busy – between field work, writing reports and no electric I’m behind on keeping you up to date on the blog so this instalment is for two weeks!!

Saturday the 24th was marked with a concert in the centre of town for the official opening of Barclay’s bank.  I passed by the place where it was to be held early on Saturday morning and already many people had started to gather.  After working in the office in morning and passing by Melina’s parent’s home in the afternoon, we eventually made it to the concert around 16hours.  I couldn’t believe the number of people who were there – I didn’t know so many people lived in Lundazi!! As there is little entertainment in Lundazi, when something like this is staged, for free, of course people will flock to it.  Song and dance plays a major role in the life of this nation so it was no surprise that everyone was enjoying the music.  As usual I received a lot of attention, especially from pupils from Kanele Middle Basic School.  One little girl sat and stared at me for a long time before she eventually plucked up the courage to come up, touch my feet, and run away again!!   


The same weekend Melina helped me take out my dread locks.  It only took about an hour – a lot shorter than getting them put in.  My hair had grown a lot in the three weeks they were in, so of course, I couldn’t leave it alone and on Monday decided to get it cut!  The problem was that Zambian’s don’t get their hair cut in the same was as I do at home – their hair grows very slowly and they either have it very short or have dread locks in it.  There’s no such thing as a hairdresser to cut hair!  Melina and her sister assured me that I could get it cut though and we firstly called at the barber shop – he wanted to shave it all off so we made a quick exit from there!!  Then we passed by a few salons (where dread lock / wigs are put in) to eventually one lady said she could cut it.  So I sat down and asked her to only take a few centimetres of the length.  She started to cut with blunt scissors and took a lot off.  Now it is really short – just to my ear!!  It’ll be fine though – all I could do was laugh when I looked in the mirror and it’ll grow back in no time!  Anyway, it’s still really hot so having short hair will help me stay cool.


On Tuesday I attended the leaving party of Colin and Angie Smith, two VSO Volunteers who had been working with Thandizani for the last eighteen months.  I had only met the English couple the previous week outside the Thandizani office for a few minutes but, nevertheless, it was nice to get chance to say good-bye.  Robert and Kerry, the American VSO Volunteers, were also present and I have to say I found it very strange speaking to other mazungus!!  I thought the evening might get me thinking about home but on the contrary it affirmed for me how great a unique experience I am having here and reminded me to make the most of every moment!


The remainder of the week was spent preparing to go to Chief Kazembe in The Valley to commemorate World AIDS Day on December 1st.  RFDP had two main aims for the planned events.  The first was to commemorate the community members who had died from HIV/AIDS and secondly, to increase the fight against the pandemic through senstisation and the introduction of Voluntary Counselling and Testing (VCT) at Kazembe clinic.  Previously community members would have to travel the 96km (probably cycle) to the BOMA to know their HIV/AIDS status.

We left on Friday around midday in two vehicles – as usual the journey was an adventure!  The direct road from the BOMA to Kazembe is very bad – really just a track!  A flat tyre and a fallen tree blocking the road was as exciting as it got for the vehicle I was in.  However, the other vehicle (which was the one that broke down last time) left a little after us and got broke down on the way.  It meant that Leonard (Program Manager) and Isaac (Accountant) had to spend the night in The Bush – again!  It was the middle of the following day before they made it to Kazembe, by which time activities had already started.  It was yet another adventure for RFDP staff!  It yet again enforces the need for the organisation to purchase its own reliable vehicle. 


Activities in Kazembe began on the Friday evening with a short vigil.  People had started to gather at Kazembe Basic School for the event once we arrived.  All of the preparation work for all the events had been done in advance by Isaac, RFDP’s Outreach Worker and the Orphan Care Committee.  The vigil started around 21hours in the School with choral singing from two choirs in the area.  Events continued with the candle lighting service.  Pastor Chipeta (HIV/AIDS Coordinator) explained the significance of the candle lighting was that everyone gathered had lost friends and the community had been heavily impacted by the pandemic.  The light of the candle was a symbol of people awaking to HIV/AIDS, acquiring knowledge about it and putting it into practice to curb the spread of infections and care for those infected and impacted by it.  The gathered audience was widely receptive of the message and openly engaged in the candle lighting.  The evening concluded with a short drama performance from the local drama group which contained a message about the spread of HIV.


Following the success of the vigil, hopes were high that it would set a persistent for the main activities on World AIDS Day.  This proved to be more than the case.  People started to arrive at the green close to Kazembe Basic School from early morning.  Events commenced at approximately 10hours with children from Kambwili Community School and other community members marching (behind a banner I had to make fifteen minutes before hand!!!!) from the clinic to the area where the invited guests had assembled.   

Mathias (RFDP Director) made a opening speech in which he stressed how the day had a dual purpose – to commemorate the family and friends who had dead from HIV/AIDS and to raise awareness of the pandemic to reduce infections and ensure better treatment for sufferers. He remarked how the day was not confined to Kazembe or Zambia, but it was being marked all over the world, in the global fight against HIV/AIDS.  He concluded by saying how the international slogan for the day was “Leaders, Keep the Promise” and he called for the area’s political, religious, civic and traditional leaders to continue to work together and demonstrate leadership in the fight against HIV/AIDS.


The Chairperson for the Orphan Care Committee also made opening remarks in which he highlighted how it was “not our wish to be here but our motto is to fight HIV/AIDS”.  He thanked RFDP for working with the community to fight HIV/AIDS and for the assistance in the support of OVC and called upon the organisation to source more money to ensure the HIV/AIDS programmes can continue.


After the opening remarks the activities began with choral singing and traditional dances including a performance by the community around Kambwili Community School.  Some presentations were made to the Community School, including donations RFDP received from the Pencil Project in the US. After these activities there were more than seven hundred people assembled to watch the events and at this stage the key message on HIV/AIDS was delivered.  Mr. Phiri, Head Teacher of Mtimbasonjo Middle Basic School, began by delivering the key points on how HIV/AIDS is acquired and how it can be prevented.  Mr. Phiri, the Clinic Officer, then continued with discussing how HIV/AIDS can be tested and treated.  He informed the assembled audience that Voluntary Counselling and Testing was now available at the local clinic and urged people to avail of the service to know their status.  I then got involved by asking questions to the audience on the information the two men had just delivered.  With the help of translation from Mr. Phiri, the Master of Ceremonies and teacher at Kazembe Basic School, it was clear that people had listened and that those who answered were aware of the key issues.  VCT was then initiated at the clinic by Mr. Phiri and Pastor Chipeta, whilst other events continued at the main green.


These activities were mostly light-hearted activities to ensure a balance between delivering the serious messages surrounding HIV/AIDS and also ensuring the audience had an enjoyable day.  Several novelty races, including sack races and egg and spoon races were held – it was the first time such events had been staged in Kazembe and their was much laughter and support from the crowd.  I had suggested the races after remembering how much fun they were at primary school – even though I am now a good ten/twelve year older, they were still just as much fun!!!


After lunch and a short rain delay, events in the afternoon began with a football match between community teams from Kazembe and Mtimbasonjo.  Kazembe were victorious with score of 5-0.  Large crowds again came to watch the football… and the mazungu!!  All day I had a stream of young children following me, at a safe distance of course!!  A bicycle race was also held in which two women from the community cycled a distance whilst balancing a clay pot on their heads – quite a talent!!  The day concluded with a short prize giving ceremony in which the winners of the various competitions received small gifts. 


The day was a huge success.  It was thanks to the hard work of our Outreach Worker and Orphan Care Committee that everything ran so smoothly.  As the people, who we hired the vehicle that successfully made it to Kazembe on time, had their own programme to complete in the area and the other vehicle continued to experience difficulties, the team did not leave Kazembe until Monday evening.  On Sunday and Monday I sat in on a few of the VCT counselling sessions with Pastor Chipeta (counselling is compulsory before and after the test).  It was clear that much more sensitization on HIV/AIDS is needed for the community to understand how it is spread and how it can be prevented.  It was during these sessions that I was also reminded, yet again, of the strength of these people, especially the women.  One particular woman was a mother to six children.  Her first husband died and she remarried so her second husband could care for her and her children.  But he too died.  She was now alone, struggling to raise her children – the youngest of which sat on her lap, no more than a year old.  Her test results came back positive and when she was told she didn’t react hysterically, as I would probably a done.  Instead she was silent for a moment and then said she was happy to know her status and immediately asked questions about the likelihood for her children being positive.  There’s no way of knowing her children’s status, until they are tested. 


Similarly, I will never forget the smile of relieve and joy on a twenty-six year single mother of two when she was told she was negative.  I saw the same lady working in the field as we left Kazembe on Monday evening, planting the crops that would feed her family that demands an intensity of labour that is alien to most people in the West. 


By the time we were preparing to return to the BOMA, thirty four people had gone for VCT.  Twenty three of these were women and five of those tested where HIV positive meaning there was a prevalence rate of 14.7%, just below the national rate of 16.4%.  As there is a window period of six months from infection to testing positive these people will be retested in three months and again in six months time.  In order to do this, and extend on the testing programme, Kazembe Clinic needs much support in terms of finance and personal.  For those who are positive, they will have to travel the 96km to the BOMA frequently, on the bad road that become difficult to pass during the rainy season, to receive the anti-retroviral drugs (ARV) from Lundazi District Hospital. 


World AIDS Day in Kazembe was a huge success for RFDP.  We successfully established partnerships with the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Education and community leaders and increased awareness of the HIV/AIDS and introduced VCT to the local community.  Yet many challenges remain to be addressed and the success of these activities has laid the foundation stones to do that. 


We got back to the BOMA very late on Monday night and I found a very quiet house.  Melina had left that morning to go to Chipeta for a few weeks to write exams.   Most of Tuesday was spent resting and on Wednesday it was back to the office to compile the report on the trip.  It was progressing well on Wednesday and Thursday morning would have finished it, but we all awake on Thursday morning to no electric and water.  The rains have started and although they are still showers, thunder and lighting always precedes them meaning that through out the rainy season, electricity and water supplies will be unreliable. 


Friday brought to the end a busy and successful fortnight for the organisation.  Much has been achieved but much more needs to be done!!    


November 28, 2007

Another Busy Week!

Filed under: Africa, AIDS, Volunteers, Zambia — rfdp @ 8:07 am

November 17th-23rd


Last Saturday began with an early phone call from Mathias – he had just received an email about a water and sanitation proposal that had to be submitted very quickly.  It meant that most of Saturday was spent completing the proposal which was base on the Needs Assessment that Ketan carried before he left.  Zambia has a UN Human Poverty Index of 45.6 and a ranking of 87 among 102 developing countries, making water and sanitation access a major issue across the country. Vast numbers of people are without access to clean drinking water within the recommended walking distance of 500 metres and are forced to walk long distances, in extreme heat, to access the nearest water source.  Many water wells are in need of urgent rehabilitation as they have become dilapidated and the water contaminated.  In terms of sanitation, some rural communities do not have access to a latrine and often only a few exist in each village.  Moreover, many communities have constructed latrines in close proximity to their water points which poses obvious health and hygiene hazards.  Exposure to these circumstances can lead to potentially fatal diseases such as cholera and diarrhoea which puts improving water and sanitation access as a top priority for RFDP and made completely the proposal all the more important.


It was late afternoon by the time I returned home and as Melina and I were preparing dinner something blew in the fuse board leaving us without light in the communal areas of the house.  On Sunday, all the electric was off, along with the water, as is expected every second weekend so repair work can be carried out.  It was Tuesday evening before an electrician arrived to fix the problem.  By that stage we had got used to cooking and eating in the dark – we had even baked some bread the previous night by candle light!  On a serious note though, the whole episode enforced the importance of improving water and sanitation access.  In Zambia it is a luxury to have running water and electricity in your home and you don’t appreciate how difficult life is without them until they are gone.       


On Monday we visited Kanele Middle Basic School to continue the programme of distribution we had initiated in the Valley a few weeks previously.  I had visited the school on my first week in Lundazi so I was looking forward to going back.  As usual, we received a warm welcome from the staff and pupils with performances of songs, dances and poems to greet us.  We distributed pencils and books to twenty orphans and asked them to design Christmas Cards for our sponsors.  With the help of a very artistic teacher, the enthusiastic children made beautiful cards with Christmas trees and jingle bells on front.  At the end of the activities, Panji Chibeyo, a grade six pupil, read a vote of thanks on behalf of the school:


“The Director, The Head Teacher, our sister Jeannie, Pastor Chipeta, teachers and my fellow pupils, on behalf of my fellow pupils, I would like to thank RFDP for adopting Kanele MB School.  Lundazi District, like other districts in the country, is badly hit by HIV/AIDS, which has claimed so many lives of our beloved parents, leaving us as orphans. Your help has come at the right time.  We have really learnt a lot from the previous lessons, only to mention a few, HIV/AIDS, water and sanitation and also to love one another by sharing gifts as you have shared today.  As orphans we are really suffering and are in need of help and love.  As Kanele pupils, we are not going to entertain early marriages, just as you taught us.  We wish you a long life and God’s guidance as you do your work in Zambia.  Continue visiting us.  In all I say thank you.”


I found the thanks very poignant.  I’ve read many devastating statistics – 5000 men and women aged 15-59 die from HIV/AIDS every twenty-four hours in Sub-Saharan Africa (World Health Report, 2003), or that 71% of Zambia’s Eastern Province’s 1,440,604 people are poor, 49% extremely poor.  But these are just statistics.  The pupils of Kanele are the human faces and stories behind the statistics.  So too are the people who we work with in the Valley or the people who ask me for a job in the market.  HIV/AIDS and poverty are so widespread that few escape here.  It affirms the need for the work RFDP does, and the many other NGOs, CBO’s and FBO’s do in the area – but also how much still has to be done.


Much of the remainder of the week was spend in the office working on other proposals and preparing activities for World AIDS Day on December 1st.  Mr. Leonard returned from Malawi on Wednesday after travelling there to buy some timber which RFDP will now sell in the market as part of Income Generating Activity (IGA).  It is hoped that this scheme will develop and enable the organisation to continue to work when waiting for funding to come through.


In all, it has been another busy week, with lots to think about and contemplate.  Just as we were leaving Kanele on Monday, the Headmistress thanked me for coming as their enrolment numbers were increasing because the mazungu came.  At least I know I am making a small difference on some level here.  It’s all part of my experience as I continue on my journey in Zambia. J              


November 19, 2007

Busy, Busy, Busy!!!

Filed under: Africa, AIDS, Volunteers, Zambia — rfdp @ 8:14 am

November 10th – 16th


After all the drama of last week, this week has been relatively quiet!!  After returning from the Valley on Saturday morning, the remainder of the day was spent helping Melina to take the dread locks out of her hair.  It almost involved as long a sit as getting them put in, but at least it gave us the opportunity to probably catch up after being apart for a week!


On Sunday afternoon we went to the market to get a few things.  The stall holders seemed genuinely surprised to see me again!  I think them thought I had left!  In fact, the man in the bread shop asked me my name, which took me by surprise because normally we have a big conversation.  When I said Jeannie his response was hilarious!  “Jean… from Ireland…  I thought you had left!!  Where have you been??  I didn’t recognise you with your hair!!!”  It was then that I remembered that I had left for the Valley after getting the dread locks in and hadn’t really been seen in Lundazi!  I found it rather sweet that although I have only been here a month, I was missed already! J


After relaxing over the weekend, it was back to the office on Monday to catch up on all the work we missed while in the Valley.  My first task was to write the report on the trip.  As usual I wrote far too much and ended up spending longer on it than I had expected, but I found it really helpful in that I was able to collect my thoughts on the trip and understand exactly what we achieved and areas can be improved on.  Much of the remainder of the week was spent researching and emailing a few potential donors.  By the beginning of next week I should have responses back and hopefully they’ll mark the beginning of some progress on this front.


In the middle of the week a problem developed with the internet – it started charging!!  Until now we had been connecting with Mathias’ mobile phone and we hadn’t been charged anything.  On Wednesday however, his initial six months free conscription expired.  It means now that we are being charged per minute so basically we’re being very quick online – just doing the essentials, checking email and, as you can see, uploading the blog!  I had hoped to start uploading pictures with it but it’s not going to happen now.  The connection is just too slow so it would cost a fortune at the minute!!  


On Thursday and Friday we were preparing to go to Kanele Middle Basic School to carry out a similar distribution to orphans there as we had done in the Valley.  I was really looking forward to returning to the school as I had already visited it with Ragini and Ketan on my first week.  Unfortunately, the school was busy with other activities and our visit was postponed until Monday of next week.  Nevertheless, everything is ready to go, including cards for the children to make Christmas cards for our sponsors.  All this considered, events on Monday should be very enjoyable.


Friday marked the end of a very busy week in which I slowly managed to get caught up in my work.  However, as there is only one computer in the office, Melina is now behind with work because I have been on the computer all week!!  This just affirms, yet again, the urgent need for more office equipment for RFDP. 


Another busy week in which I have continued to learn lots about the work I am doing and the country I am visiting.  I’m sure next week will be no different!!! J J       

November 15, 2007

Stranded in the Bush

Filed under: Africa, AIDS, Volunteers, Zambia — rfdp @ 2:03 pm

November 3rd – 10th


Last week I ended my blog hoping we would travel to the Valley and I would have lots to report back on this week.  I could not have imagined at that stage what the week was to hold!


Most of last Friday evening and Saturday morning was taken up with me getting a truly African hairstyle – dreadlocks!!  It took five and a half hours to perfect the look.  Basically the hairdresser platted a wig throw my hair to a suitable length.  When I go to the hairdresser in Ireland I’m always told how thick my hair is – but it’s not compared to African standards.  It’s a bit too fine and soft for the dread locks and grows too quickly.  Zambian’s can keep the dreadlocks in for six weeks but mine have already started falling out at the back so it’ll be interesting to see how long I keep them in for.  Nevertheless, it was an experience getting them in and everyone’s reaction has been hilarious, especially children.  The first time I left the house our neighbours children shouted, “The mazungu has platted her hair!” and in the market I got even more stares than usual with people saying “Look, the mazungo wants to be like us!”  Well, that’s according to Melina’s translation! 


After all the drama of the new hairstyle, we finally received word that the vehicle had arrived and was ready to depart.  On Sunday afternoon, we finally left the Boma (Lundazi) for Lumimba, a village in the Chiefdom of Chitungulu which was to be our base.  Pastor Chipeta (RFDP HIV/AIS Coordinator), Mr. Leonard Kambwili (RFDP Programme Manager) and I were the three staff travelling.  It wasn’t long though the vehicle was full of people travelling to different villages along the root. 


The journey took approximately two and half hours meaning we reached Lumimba around 20:30hrs and as usual received a warm Zambian welcome from Mr. Bonda Zimba (RFDP Field Coordinator) and his family.  It was decided that we would depart early in the morning (05:00!) to travel to the Chiefdom of Kazembe which was around three hours away and begin to distribute school requisites to orphans in three schools in the area.  It was important that these orphans were not receiving any other sponsorship from other organisations or individuals as it is RFDP’s hope that this distribution is the first step in sponsoring these children on a long term basis. 


After the early start we arrived in Kazembe and firstly distributed to third seven pupils at Chiweza Middle Basic School.  Each child received five exercise books and one pen / pencil, depending on their grade.  We then moved on to Kambwili Community School.  Activities there were to be the centre piece of the day, indeed the trip.  Since my arrival at RFDP I had heard much about this school, especially from Ragini and Ketan.  It has historic roots in the area; the school reopened three years ago has only two small classrooms for eighty one pupils in grades one to three.  The school doesn’t have many of the basic supplies needed for teaching – pencils and books and only has a few pieces of chalk.  Most of the children don’t have shoes and the teachers are unpaid for their work.  All these factors combined illustrate the importance of RFDP’s relationship with the school and wider community.     


Word quickly spread about our arrival and large numbers of parents, guardians and other members of the community assembled at the school, along with the teachers and pupils to greet us.  Then the planned activates started.  Both parents and children preformed traditional dances, whilst the children recited poems which contained important messages about HIV/AIDS.  There then was a short break in which fizzy drinks and biscuits were distributed to the crowd – many of whom had never tasted either before.  Following this there was a short quiz which included questions on HIV/AIDS, water and sanitation, environmental protection and girl-child education.  All the children answered above our expectations and showed a high level of knowledge and understanding surrounding these important social issues.  Activities concluded with a netball and football match with a ball RFDP donated.  The community previously had no ball.  Although I was already struggling in the heat (wearing factor thirty sunscreen and sitting in the shade but still managing to get burnt), I got involved in the dancing and netball.  The community seemed genuinely pleased that the “mazungu” was taking part – even I she did have two left feet!! J J J


After completing the programme for the day, a short distribution ceremony took place.  Some text books and pencils were donated to the school on behalf of the Pencil Project in the USA and some exercise books, an inflatable ball and chalk were donated on behalf of Ragini and Ketan.  Meanwhile, RFDP organised for four schools bags to be distributed to children who had answered exceptionally well in the quiz.  Moreover, additional prizes of exercise books and pencils were given to children who had participated well in the days activities.  Parents who also got involved received items of children’s clothes for their effort.  Finally, the eighty one pupils at the school, forty one girls and forty boys, received five exercise books and one pencil each.  The school presented RFDP with some gifts for the volunteers’ house and expressed their deep appreciation for the day and the donations.  Many spoke of how they felt that it was a “dream come true”.  For me the days programme was highly enjoyable.  I received a warm Zambian welcome from the community and had the opportunity to meet with the beneficiaries of RFDP’s work.  I realised how much the organisation has achieved and also how much more work it has to do.  


On our return journey to Lumimba the vehicle had more mechanical problems.  It was around 19:00hrs and pitch black in the middle of the bush when we broke down.  After several failed attempts to solve the problem, we had to push the vehicle to the nearest Game Management Point at the village of Zokwe.  Luckily it wasn’t too far and on a relatively flat stretch of the road.  There were several more attempts to restart the vehicle, all of them in vain and it was decided that we would have to spend the night there.  So I lay down to sleep, on a straw mat, outside a mud nut, with only a chitenga for a blanket!  There was thunder and lightening in the distance but the sky was clear overhead and there was a beautiful view of the stars.  After the early start that morning and the heat during the day I managed to fall asleep quite quickly!  The next morning I awoke to find more attempts to restart the vehicle – still in vain.  I asked Mr. Leonard how his night had been – he said he couldn’t sleep because of the lions roaring!  Mr. Bonda and Mr. Lackson had similar responses!  Then two men came along the same stretch of road where we had broken down to tell us that there were two lions laying on it!!!  So basically I was laying outside, open bait for the lions and I’ve concluded that it was my preferred state of naivety that thought the thunder was as bad as it was – I’m guessing now it was more roaring lions!!        


At 06:00hrs Mr. Bonda left Zokwe to cycle back to Lumimba to get the mechanic to come.  It was just our luck that he had left for Lundazi the previous day and wasn’t due back until Wednesday.  With no progress made by 13:00hrs we got a lift back to Lumimba on the back of a pick-up truck – with around twelve other people! 


It was a relief to get back to Lumimba and to be able to bath – the sunburn from the previous day was getting really sore!  For the remainder of Tuesday and Wednesday we spent relaxing and trying to find another source of transport so we could finish our programme of events, whilst simultaneously turning our heads at the sound of a vehicle to check if it was ours!  Neither happened and word was sent to our outreach workers in Kataba and Chitungulu to bring the beneficiaries to Lumimba so we could distribute.  This was far from idea for us but it was making the most of the situation we found ourselves in.   


On Thursday morning Witness, our Kataba outreach worker, arrived with thirty-two orphans from Kataba Basic School.  On Friday the Chitungulu outreach worker arrived with twenty orphans from Chocha Community School, twenty-two from Chitungulu Basic School, fifteen from Nthumbe Middle Basic School, ten from Chilubezi Community School and eight from Mtimbasonjo Middle Basic School.  Each of these children received five exercise books, one pencil/pen and one item of clothing.  We also distributed books and pencils to the government funded schools of Semphe Middle Basic and Lumimba Secondary.  Although I was disappointed not to have the opportunity to visit these schools in person, it was a wonderful experience to meet the children and their teachers.  From speaking with them I was obvious that the requisites they receive would make a big difference to them and their school.   


On Friday evening we thought out prayers had been answered when the vehicle finally arrived!  Then we discovered there wasn’t enough fuel and as it was getting dark it was decided that we would spend one more night in Lumimba and leave for the Boma in the morning.  In the meantime, Joff, our drivers assistant when onto Lundazi on another vehicle and was to send fuel to met us where ever we would run out of it the next day.


On Saturday morning the first plan all week to run smoothly happened and we left Lumimba.  We had a lot of thank-you’s to say to everyone there, especially to Mr. Bonda’s family who had looked after us so well.  Our trip was only due to last three days and money was budgeted accordingly so it was thanks to their hospitality that our diet just didn’t consist of enshima and mangos!!


We eventually made it back to Lundazi at noon on Saturday – not after breaking down eight times on the way!  Fuel was flooding the carbonator and the starter motor was gone so every time the driver released the fuel from the carbonator, we had to get out and push!!  It brought to an end a true African adventure and a big learning experience for me!  Through the distribution I appreciated the importance of RFDP’s work in the region but the need for a solution to our vehicle problem was reinforced for me as I witnessed how continuous problems around it is hindering the organisations work which is frustrating for us and the communities in which we work.    


Following events of this week, I’m not going to even predict what next week will hold!  Whatever it will be, no doubt I will still have lots to write about! J J 

November 2, 2007

Two New Arrivals

Filed under: Africa, AIDS, Volunteers, Zambia — rfdp @ 10:40 am

October 27th – November 2nd


Last weekend was marked by two new arrivals in the house.  Firstly, just as the novelty of cooking on a small charcoal burner was beginning to wear thin, I got a stove!! Almost a week later, I still can’t believe how easy cooking has become – no more pulling dried grass (very difficult to find when it rains!!!) or trying to create wind to get the charcoal to catch fire!!  Cooking dinner every night was an adventure, but thankfully my new talent at creating fires can be reserved solely for when there’s a power cut!!


The second new arrival came on Sunday and was something I was even more pleased about than the stove!  It was Melina (RFDP secretary)!!!  Although I was strangely getting used to my own company after Ketan and Ragini’s departure, wandering around a big house alone was not something I wanted to get used to!  Anyway, I am in Zambia and don’t want to be living with “mazungus” all the time!  On Sunday morning Melina moved in and things have been going well since!  Cooking is really the only thing that we have to compromise on.  Zambian’s eat nshima for lunch and dinner and use a lot of salt and oil.  Obviously I have to be careful because my body is not used to this so I can’t eat it everyday.  We’re working it out – rice and boiled vegetables are becoming my nshima!  It doesn’t bother me because the fruit and vegetables taste soooo good here!  They have none of preservers that they do at home!


Differences in diets are just one of the things that get me attention!  When I’m drinking tea and I refuse milk and sugar, I get asked “Why?”! J  I’m asked “What is this?” about my sunburn.  J  Best of all, locals want to know “What happened you?” because I write, and eat nshima, with my left hand! J  I find it all very humorous and intriguing!  Simple things that I do automatically are the complete opposite to some things here.  Of course, laughing about them is something we all do!!


Work has been really busy – late nights all week!  The majority of my time as been devoted to trying to locate funding for office equipment and a vehicle.  As the week as progressed I’ve realised the urgency that these things are needed.  We have only one computer in the office, with no printer, photocopier or fax machine.  The result is that Melina and I have spent most of the week rushing to get work done so the other can have the computer.  RFDP is a growing NGO and this is far from idle for us.  I’ve drafted a letter that I plan to send to different computer and office equipment manufacturers appealing for donations.  Hopefully we’ll make some progress over the next few weeks.


The vehicle situation is a huge problem for RFDP.  At present we hire a driver and vehicle from the Valley.  As you can imagine, this is huge drain on resources that we would prefer to spend on our projects.  Moreover, this vehicle often needs mechanical work which delays our timetables greatly.  This was very evident this week.  It was planned that on Wednesday Leonard (Programme Manager), Lackson (HIV/AIDS Co-ordinator) and I would travel to different villages in our catchment area in the Valley to distribute school requisites which we got after funding for it came through last week.  We were also planning meetings with the communities to plan events for World AIDS Day on December 1st.  A problem occurred with the vehicle in the Valley which delayed our departure until Thursday, then Friday and now we hope to be leaving on Sunday afternoon, providing the vehicle arrives in Lundazi this afternoon and the mechanics finish work on it tomorrow.  These delays are not only frustrating for RFDP but also for the communities in which we operate.  Maintaining their support is crucial but this is difficult to sustain if our timetable keeps changing.  I’ve set about starting contact with different car manufacturers this week so we are all hoping that some progress can be made soon.    


I’ve also been busy putting my IT skills to use in designing a brochure for the organisation which can be used for fundraising abroad and will also be useful in preparing funding proposals.  As my friends all know, I’m not the strongest with computers but I have to say I didn’t realise how much I actually knew – they’ve all been good teachers!!


On Tuesday evening Robert and Kerry, two volunteers from the United States, who work for different organisations in Lundazi, dropped into the house to say hello.  Robert has been in Lundazi for the past year and has extended for another, while is girlfriend Kerry arrived a few days after me.  I have to stay I found it very strange to see other “mazungus” and to talk to them.  No doubt I’ll see more of them over the coming weeks and as time goes on it’ll be good to know that there’s people to talk to who are going through a similar experience to me.  Luckily for me they said that they had loads of sun screen – I stupidly only packed one bottle and the closest place you can get it here is in the supermarket in Chipata – a three hour bus journey away!!  Although I’m assured that the weather will be getting cooler soon, it’ll be good to know I can get more easily!!


As time passes, I still am amazed at the warm, friendly, easy-going Zambian psyche.  I still get lots of “how are you?”, or in the case of the children where I live, it’s “Mazungus! Mazungus! How are you?”!!!  Then, there are the children from Kanele Basic Middle School where I visited in my first week, who always ask “Jean, how are you?”!  (I’m just known as Jean here!)  Last night in the market I was again reminded of this.  Melina went to photocopy some documents which we need to take to the Valley, while I went to get a few things for dinner.  It was getting dark but the market was still alive with activity, despite there being only a few shops with electricity and there are no street lights at all.  Not being sure of where to get certain things I had to ask at a few stalls.  One older man left his stall and took me to the place I needed to go – even though he spoke very little English.  It is experiences like this that remind me that I must learn the local languages here and no doubt this will again be reinforced when we return to the Valley.  In Lundazi most people speak Nyanja, whilst in the Valley the locals speak Tumbuka.  Normally you find that most people understand both, along with a little English!  It puts my language skills to shame – very basic Irish, French and Spanish just aren’t good enough! J            


Overall this week has been great!  I’ve been really surprised at now busy I am at work so early on in my placement – which I am delighted about!  Hopefully, we’ll get to the Valley on Sunday and they’ll be lots for me to report on in my next blog! 


Until then, the adventure continues!! J

October 27, 2007

Sickness, Killing Chickens and Independence!!!

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

October 20th-26th


My first weekend in Lundazi didn’t get off to a good start.  On Friday Ragini and Melina weren’t feeling well and got worse as the day progressed.  Late on Friday night Ketan started to show the same symptoms.  On Saturday all three decided to go to the clinic to get checked out for malaria – luckily they didn’t have it and drinking water from the bore hole in Lumimbia was blamed. Thankfully, I had not drunk a lot of this water and escaped the sickness.  Nevertheless, I learnt a big lesson, at their expense, for when I return to the Valley!!  


Due to the illness, Ketan and Ragini’s leaving party was postponed from Saturday evening until Sunday.  However, Rose and Melina (even though she wasn’t feeling well) began to prepare the chicken for the party on Saturday.  At last, I had the opportunity to see for myself what Ragini and Ketan had been telling me about every time we ate chicken!!  It’s a lot cheaper here for families to buy the chicken live and kill it of food.  Of course, I am used to buying the chicken already prepared for cooking in the supermarket, so you can imagine my shock when I walked into the kitchen and saw two chickens walking around the floor!!  In the afternoon the chickens met their fate in our backyard as they were killed, de-feathered, cleaned out and cut into pieces ready to be cooked the next day.


The following day both Ragini and Ketan felt much better and we had a typical lazy Sunday morning before Rose and Melina came to start to prepare for the arrival of guests.  All of the districts water and electricity comes from Malawi and every other Sunday both are cut off for maintenance work.  It was just our luck that it worked out that on this Sunday both would be cut off.  Nevertheless, it did not damped spirits and with the help of a few candles and a generator we managed to get some light and Zambian music to get the party going.  Mathias and heads of departments in the area made speeches which welcomed me to RFDP and Lundazi and, of course, said fond farewells to Ragini and Ketan.  It was strange that I had only met the couple a week ago but I felt I had known them much longer and I owe them a lot for helping me settle into life here.


After deciding to delay their departure by a day in order for them to recover fully from their illness, Ragini and Ketan spend most of Monday packing and saying good-byes whilst I went to the office to continue with work.  After work both of them took me to a house where you can get, in Ragini’s words, “the best ice-cream n Lundazi”.  It was the home of an Indian family and they warmly welcomed us in.  They asked us to spend some time with them and brought us Indian tea and sweets.  For me it was great to experience a tiny bit of India in the middle of Lundazi, especially as Ragini and Ketan had told me so much about Indian culture.  Afterwards, we ate the ice-cream and I have to say it was pretty good!!!


In the wee hours of Tuesday morning Ragini and Ketan finally left Lundazi as they continue on travels through Zambia on their way to South Africa.  At work Mathias and I drew up a work plan for me and I suddenly realised just how much work I have to do.  The majority of my time will be taken up by find sources of funding for RFDP projects including for water and sanitation development based on Ketan’s Needs Assessment.  I’ll also be fundraising for RFDP to buy its own vehicle and for money to hold events on International Aids Day on December 1st.  Another dimension of my role will be visiting local schools to continue ongoing youth education and recreational programs concerning HIV/AIDS awareness, water and sanitation, environmental protection and Girl Child education.  In the next few weeks I should also have another field trip to the Valley to meet community volunteers and visit more RFDP projects.  So, I’ve loads to do and only two weeks left of my first month to get things started – the next few weeks are going to be very busy!!


Tuesday also brought the first rain – but it isn’t the showers of rain we mostly get in Ireland!  It was a complete down pour and then everyone said that the rains don’t get heavy until December or January!! 


Wednesday was October 24th – Zambian Independence Day and it was marked by activities at the main football pitch in Lundazi.  After a long speech from the District Commissioner, there was some traditional singing and dancing.  There was a strong message running through the celebrations which was that although Zambia received independence from Britain forty three years ago, poverty, HIV/AIDS and economic constraints keep its people from bring completely free.  More rain cut the festivities short and I went to Melina’s home for lunch.  I had not eaten nshima since I was in the Valley and didn’t realise how much I had got used to it!!  We had a lovely meal and as usual received a warm Zambian welcome from Melina’s family.


Thursday and Friday was spent in the office starting work on researching different funding sources, whilst at night I was getting used to a quiet house following the departure of Ragini and Ketan.  It won’t be quite for long though as Melina will move in at the weekend!


Another busy week, with big changes and learning loads… and its only week two!!! J


October 23, 2007

Blog 6 – Ragini and Ketan

Filed under: Africa, AIDS, Volunteers, Zambia — rfdp @ 1:52 pm

Blog 6


Week 6 started very well! The vehicle had arrived to take us to the valley and all was set, except for an urgent proposal which had to be submitted on the Wednesday so that funding for the next quarter could be obtained. We worked on trying to get as much of it done as possible so that we could depart for the valley on Tuesday.  It worked!  We were picked up around 18hours and were gone for dust, literally – we were caked in dust on the trip there! There had been some changes due to some staff commitments, so a new facilitator, Paul, and Leonard (the RFDP Programmes Manager who has been off work to nurse a broken ankle) joined the trip along with Melina, Jeannie and us.


The trip took 3 hours in total and there were no breakdowns at all, so we arrived at approximately 2130 hours.  It was really nice to get to know everyone a little bit better. The workshop itself was a two day affair, but could only be started once Chief Chitungulu was informed of our arrival and gave us permission to start. Although he was not there, his uncle and advisor allowed the workshop to commence.  


The workshop went very well!  Topics included environmental awareness, HIV/AIDS, STI’s, culture and traditions, stigma and discrimination and water and sanitation.  The participants were very open to the information that we were all putting across, particularly as we were introducing them to new ideas of alternative livelihoods (including bee-keeping, sustainable farming and jewellery making), and a new HIV/AIDS approach, “SAVE” (Safer practices, Available medications, Voluntary counselling and testing and Empowerment).  It was a great experience for us both, not only to develop our facilitation skills, but also to see that the research we had been doing over the last few weeks was finally coming into fruition.  It was also fulfilling to see that despite language difficulties and the need for interpretation, that all of the participants seemed to appreciate and learn a lot from what we were doing.  By the end of the 2 days the participants were putting all that they had learnt together and started to answer each other’s questions!  Through dispelling some misconceptions about HIV/AIDS you could really see how knowledge can create behaviour change. 


We got back on Thursday night by 22:00 without any problems!  The next day was to be our last day in the office so we were both busy trying to finish all our work.  In the afternoon we arranged to visit Kanele School for one last time; it was lots of fun!  Many of the children performed dramas, dances and poems.  It was evident how talented the children were and how eager they were to perform in front of us as their performances lasted for an hour!  Then we asked for some volunteers to give topics to act out so that the rest of the school could try to guess what the message was.  All the children involved did a really well to come up with plays at such short notice, but they did, and the rest of the school understood the importance of the messages about staying in school, keeping Lundazi clean and the transmission of HIV very well. 


That evening was our last ever meeting at RFDP (so sad!). Unfortunately by this point I was starting to feel really ill and shivery (not at all normal in the heat of Lundazi) so Jeannie took me home to relax.  Ketan stayed on for the final meeting which was primarily to thank us for the work we had put in and to ensure that the partnership continues, even from the UK.  So when Ketan came back home he was beaming with many positive things to tell me!  Meanwhile, at home Jeannie had been completely looking after me as the nausea kept coming and going.  That evening, following bouts of vomiting, I slept for most of the night, until Ketan then woke up in the middle of the night with the same symptoms.  So we spent most of the night taking it in turns to get up to go to the bathroom every hour – not very pleasant!


Our Saturday was quite a right-off as we slept through most of it! We were supposed to have our farewell party that evening but as everyone was so concerned about us and saw how weak we were, it was decided to postpone it until Sunday.  We felt completely looked after as so many people were running around doing things for us all day, including Michael, our neighbour, Mathias, Jeannie, Melina and Rose.  Looking back now we didn’t even miss or feel the need to be at home, as you normally would if your ill abroad, we had so many people who cared and looked after us right there, it was really nice!


On Sunday morning we felt much better, still weak but at least we were able to start eating! Even if it was just plain bread for breakfast and just rice for lunch! We lounged around as electricity and water was cut off again, but also had phone calls from Mathias, Rose and Michael in the morning to check on us!  


By about 14hours, people had started to arrive to set up the party! There were chickens being cooked (they were killed the day before – I slept through it this time), the floors being swept and cleaned and loads of chairs being brought over. By 17hours the guests started to arrive and the DJ was all set up except for no electricity.  The guests included the Minister of Education, the District Officer for Ministry of Community Development, RFDP Staff, our friends and neighbours! There was a good turn out, and by the time the DJ sorted out a generator, everything was set and party was underway.  There were many speeches by the officials present, and also by Mathias who said some very kind words.  We were very touched by what everybody said, and if we take only one thing away, it’s the importance of what our presence in Lundazi was to RFDP, but also that it would be a big shame that when we leave that all ties are cut. So we will both make a concerted effort to keep in touch and keep the ties ongoing.  After the speeches, we were presented with some gifts which we were completely not expecting, and some traditional Zambian music and dancing.  We also managed to get the Foo Fighters on and introduced skanking and moshing!!  In all, it was a very enjoyable night and we were extremely touched by all the kind words spoken by everyone and will always keep them with us.


It will be a big shame to leave Lundazi, we don’t quite know how we could possibly cope with the speed of London lifestyle again, but maybe we could take that part of Zambia home with us, along with the kindness, welcoming nature, and friendliness of the people.

« Newer PostsOlder Posts »

Blog at WordPress.com.