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.


Anonymous Godfrey Daniel said...

Sorry for this. Nothing personal.
But it just continues to astound me that it just never changes. People take, and then choose to display, photos of dark skin persons that are so bad that the persons aren't identifiable.

Photographers will take great pains to get the lighting just right on a flower or bird, but don't seem to give any thought to exposure adjustments required to properly capture the features of the dark skinned person.

Please give this some consideration.
As I said, nothing personal, I'm on a mission.

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