Saturday, January 28, 2006


Back in South Africa...
we returned a few weeks ago, and the time has been flying. there was incredibly exciting information for me upon my return. we just received funding from the US embassy to run empowerment training for 60 girls from grades 4-7. the director in south africa, George, asked me if i could coordinate the program.
so now the challenge starts! we already run support groups for 256 grannies or caregivers who care for AIDS orphans. The focus of the training is to teach the care givers what the kids are going through in terms of grieving, and other psychological issues they face. these support groups and training courses have been running well for 1 and a half years, and we asked the grannies at the end of last year what needs they see for next year. they said that they need income generation training and the kids they care for need training and support groups as well, because they need to know they are not alone. so we submitted a proposal to the US embassy to run these groups for young girls, and the request was approved.
i must say that i love the hand of God in all of this. i was overwhelmed, as the project has begun to grow and take shape, how much potential and need there is for these programs. the problem of AIDS does not end at death. instead, for the orphans who are left behind, thier lives are forever changed, and they need more help to work through what they have gone through.
so what has been going through my mind? to being, i don't think i am qualified. i feel blessed to have this chance, but i know i have so much to learn. i am excited to meet the grannies (they have more training sessions that start this Monday), to sit beside the young girls, to expand thier horizons so they can see and dream and hope for a better future; one with out AIDS and poverty. we get to do cool things like take field trips and watch inspirational movies and take cooking classes. this all may sound very fluffy, but you must understand the context. many of these young girls are heads of households; they wake at 5 am to iron and collect water. they travel to school, unsure if they will be raped or assaulted on the way, or by their teacher when they arrive at school. many have not traveled 10 km from the township they were born in, and they now live under the stigmatizing shadow of being an AIDS orphan.
and then friday we got another great e-mail. the US embassy asked if we could run programs for 150 girls instead of 60. and they will come and give training to me as the program coordinator.
so if you are the praying type, please pray for me to have wisdom, to find balance between work and relaxing. i am getting sick in my lungs, bronchitis probably, but it has been a rough week. i will post more when i get back from the planning meeting. alongside all of this, there is multinational stragetic conference coming up in March for Hands at Work, and I am involved in a lot of the planning for that. we are drafting an annual report and coordinating speakers. it is a hectic and exciting time for me and for all of us here.
adios for now.
grace and peace,

Friday, January 13, 2006

zambia is the place to be

Hello again! I have returned safely from Zambia, and started work again in South Africa. In Zambia, we were working in a squatter camp in the copper belt called Kabwe. The term squatter camp refers to a shanty town (buildings made of tin and plastic and mud) where people are living in highly insecure circumstances. they have traveled from rural villages to find work in industrial centers, and often times these camps are made up mostly of women because the men travel onto new locations for find work if jobs don't materialize.

* this is a photo of myself and a few of the teachers during one of the youth programs in Makalulu, just outside of Kawbe

These are some of the kids that we hung out with in front of the chicken farm that is run by the Hands at Work in Zambia staff. they use the funds from the sale of the eggs to help run food distribution programs, and they use the eggs to increase the food quality of patients. the young girl in the yellow is named mildred and she informed me on the second day that i was there that i am her best friend. if anyone ever needs a friend, you can go to africa and you will find plenty! They may be under the age of 5, but I assure you they will love you a lot.

So in Zambia we were doing a few different things. I was helping to gather information for a new fundraising initiative for Visionledd, the Canadian organization that I am working with. The program is called WOW, Women for Orphans and Widows, and it is a community partnership program that pairs womens groups in Canada with women and orphans in need in Africa. I did needs assessments, speaking with women and orphans about thier greatest physical needs, meeting with the Zambian directors to coordinate the purchasing of supplies once the funds have been raise, and then send all of these instructions back to Canada so the program can start (the marketing, the fundraising etc).

We were also running a number of vacation Bible schools for the orphans in the squatter camps. the areas were pretty devastating in terms of poverty; the area is comprised of 50% orphans. that means when you meet two people at random on the street of Kabwe, one of them is an orphan. it was pretty staggering for me to comprehend. there is a village that the program director, eric, visited a few monthes ago in Western Zambia. in that village, all of the people are orphans. every single parent has died, and the children are all just caring for themselves. i was stunned when we spoke.

so the people in zambia are stunning....i have never met more joy-filled, generous, simple people. because of a lack of funding the volunteers and staff have gone without pay for the past 3 monthes. regardless, they have all continued to work. the director works around 80 hours per week, and the volunteers work 5 days a week, visiting upwards of 20 patients per day.
*this is at one of the children's camps. the kids are reciting Bible verses and poems for us. a favorite verse to recite was "Jesus wept." because it is the shortest verse in the Bible. we all got a good laugh at that one. they also sang and danced and even marched for us. they were SO excited to have us as guests, it wasn't even funny. the kids would just start to smile and jump when they saw us. we were like celebrities!
in many of the homes we were visiting, i was amazed at how clean and well-kept they were. there were stunning gardens, and beautiful fabric hung on the walls. i am suprised every day to see the perserverance of the human spirit - how much people maintain thier dignity and self-respect and love for beauty regardless of their circumstances.
so i think if there is one place that i would consider staying, it may be zambia. the only problem was the food. lots of maize and fish. anchovies. blech.

*this is me serving food on Christmas Eve to around1150 orphans. that is one of two massive pots of rice. the woman behind me is serving cabbage. the kids got chicken (which was an incredible treat for them. they eat chicken maybe once a month), rice, cabbage, and then scones for dessert.

i struggled as well in zambia to see my role in all of this. i know there is a huge need for income generation activities. in every home we visited, people asked if we could help them to earn some money so thier kids could eat more regularly. we had 3 children pass out from hunger at the last day camp we ran. they hadn't eaten in 3 days. the problem of hunger is incredibly difficult when people are HIV positive. In zambia, the US government has just made antiretroviral drugs free for all Zambians. the problem is, people are still starving to death, despite the fact that they have the drugs that they need to stop the spread of the AIDS virus. the drugs are having incredibly terrible side affects in the patients because they do not have food in thier stomachs, and many are made more sick after starting the drug regiments. i wanted to stay, to work with them, to try to come up with a plan for years to come, but i know that it will take an investment of years to properly run a program like this, and 80% of the work is training the africans to do the work so that the programs are sustainable, even if i return to Canada.
the last part of our work there was to film segments for a documentary that will be featured on CTS (Christian Television Station) in CAnada. I may be on it! i will let you know more when i do when it will be playing.