June 20th Lusaka, Zambia

October 15, 2010 | lgabe

I’ve been in Zambia for two weeks. This morning the entire household has bundled up due to the extremely chilly morning. Apparently from now on until about mid-July, we will feel the cold winter in this part of Africa. You’d think that by being Canadian, this chilly winter wouldn’t phase me, but it really does get cold here. Kind of like a cold October day in Ottawa.

Today is homework day. Now that we’ve been placed with our respective partners, we are responsible for reading up on their organization. Thus, my entire day will consist of coffee, reading, coffee, reading some more, perhaps some delicious Roiboos tea, and finally a presentation on Lupwa to my colleagues and supervisor. All of this is to make sure we are well prepared for our first meeting with Lupwa on Monday afternoon. In our group of ten, four of us have been placed with Lupwa.

On Monday my Lupwa team and I are suppose to meet with the Lupwa community facilitators. I’m a little nervous because we have to present what we think we can offer the NGO. However, all I’ve got for them are questions. A million questions! They’ve got a really interesting approach and methodology on family and community preservation and restoration, but I feel as though I’ll be in the dark until I experience their work directly in the field.

Luckily this week my entire team and I were able to spend a morning in the field with the Bwafwano caregivers. It’s not very similar to what I will be doing with Lupwa, but an insight into the daily life of a Zambian in Chizanga was crucial to our understanding of what we can and cannot do in our placement. So we began our home visits last Tuesday. On that day, I finally began to somewhat understand how the community lives. And I don’t say ‘somewhat’ lightly, there is no way I’ll ever be able to fully understand life here. Life with HIV/AIDS, life in extreme poverty, a life I will unlikely fully experience.

We split up and shadowed a different caregiver on their visits. Like I mentioned before, the Home-Base Care caregivers at Bwafwano only visit extremely sick patients. On a visit, each caregiver is responsible for attending to the patient, then perhaps the family and the home. On Tuesday however, I wasn’t brought in to a real home visit because their home visits are conducted on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Our caregiver however, did bring me to see one of her regular patients.

(Sidenote: This past Monday we were taught how to conduct interviews with patients. To attend to the needs of the community, Bwafano needs to collect information on their patients. So our first day into the field was to conduct interviews. )

Upon arrival we were immediately introduced to the patient’s wife then the patient himself. He lay on a tarpe in front of his home, obviously incredibly sick. Right away, I knew he wasn’t really in the mood to be interviewed. Out of politeness though, he sat up once I sat down with him, perhaps also surprised I chose the tarpe and not the chair. One of our main responsibilities is to immediately identify ourselves and clarify our intentions. It is really common for people here to associate white foreigners to money, so first and foremost we must explain we are simply students here to learn about their life, but only if they are willing to teach us. I found my interview rather difficult for many reasons. First our caregiver wasn’t very fluent in English, so a lot was lost in translation. Second, the patient seemed reluctant to speak of his life, I assume due to his illness. He answered what he could and what he understood. One particular topic shocked, when he stated he had no idea when his kids were born or around what age they could be.

His wife, however, was rather engaged in our conversation. She seemed rather eager to show us the business she can run when she is not taking care of her husband. This woman is incredible, she showed me these black clay pots she made and sold herself. I love them! If I could I would bring some home, but can you imagine me backpacking in august with a couple of large black clay pots?!

Anyway, while I may not have succeeded in interviewing the patient, the meet was incredibly meaningful to me. It was awkward, and uncomfortable, but this woman obviously had a warm heart and seemed like she simply wanted to talk.

I’m sure in the next few weeks I will have many more stories from the field to share. Can’t wait!

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