Rising Fountains Development Prog Weblog

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  


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       

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