Archives - ‘Zambia’


August 22, 2011 | Theadora, PSY, Shared World, Zambia

The first few days at LLT we spent a great deal of time conducting research into some of the different areas that were mentioned during the three meetings: exploration of drip irrigation systems for the Zanimuone and Kabangwe area as well as past tailoring workshops. Drip irrigation systems would allow the self help groups to expand their gardens and thus their income. The goal of the tailoring workshop is to educate the women in the necessary skills required to make school uniforms for both their own children and for other children in the community. Once the women have received the necessary training they will be able to send their children to school and sell school uniforms at lower costs to their neighbours, in turn allowing more children to attend school.



This weekend I spent the vast majority of my time sitting on the ground: separating synthetic hair, braiding hair, and burning the ends of the synthetic hair (and hopefully not too much of my own). Theresa (a long-time friend of SWI who is routinely recruited to braid the girls hair) and I spent a gruelling 5 hours Friday night and another 7 hours Saturday morning (up bright and early at 5:00am) braiding my hair. In retrospect I’m very glad I got the braids done but at the time it was intensely painful (both at the time of braiding and for several days after) and I couldn’t help feeling a little bit like Medusa when I first looked at my reflection after 12 hours of pain. It was worth it.

Wheel Chair basketball

Every Tuesday and Thursday a group of men with disabilities get together and play wheel chair basketball at the Olympic field. For the past few weeks the men have been teaching us how to pass, dribble and shoot from a wheelchair- a feat which is actually very difficult. They are a wonderful group of men (The regulars: Derek, Banda, Harry, Antoine) and it’s always a blast and a great way to relieve some tension at the end of a long days work. Last week the men taught us how to play sitting volleyball- the same rules apply as able bodied volleyball (full court) except you sit on your butt and can only use your arms to move yourself around the court (you cannot use your legs to help you move around, the net is also slightly lower).  I think the men took pity on the mzungus because they allowed us to play half court only- we couldn’t shuffle our bodies fast enough to play full court- maybe by the end of the summer we’ll be good enough to play on the big kids court, but probably not…


Bwafwano vs Canada (team SWI)

As we walk onto the football field we can feel the weight and expectations of four years of undefeated play. For four years now SWI has gone undefeated against the Zambian opposition- alot to live up to. The Zambian/Bwafwano team dominated the game, maintaining possession of the ball for I’d wager 95% of the game. Only by sheer luck/chance did we manage to feign off their multiple attacks and score one glorious goal…. (atleast Chisha did). The field wasn’t exactly what I would call ideal playing conditions with giant crevices and pot holes laying in wait for some un-suspecting mzungu to fall into. However, the Zambian players were clearly accustomed to the terrain as they flew done the field expertly avoiding all the holes (the majority in bare or socked feet). It was an incredible experience and I look forward to a re-match next Saturday to defend our undefeated title.

Canada day

Today was the Friday from hell. Jules and I were up bright and early to meet the last group of women from Katuba. We met Miriam near 10 miles then made the long walk into Katuba. We were once again greeted by a large group of women who were dancing and singing when we arrived. The meeting went really well- we discussed all the group’s activities and some of the daily challenges faced by the women. The women brought out some plastic buckets after lunch and proceeded to start a small drum circle- unfortunately myself and Julie were placed in the middle and expected to dance. After having watched the women’s dancing and once again failing at replicating the hip motions- we resorted to doing the Macarena –the only dance the two of us could think of that we both knew and that had relatively simple dance movements. We were apparently so entertaining that the women felt the need to pay us each 1000 Kwacha- we learned later in the day that it is customary in Zambia to pay someone if they have provided you with some form of entertainment (we also learned a little too late that it is considered very rude to refuse the handout). At the end of the meeting we decided it would be interesting to see some of the women’s gardens in the community. Our mistake of the day was not asking our tour guide Miriam where the gardens were located or how she intended on returning us to the road side. Lesson learned. 9 hours, two funerals, and a ride on the back of a pickup truck down the highway we finally made it back home just in time for Canada day festivities. Nothing a few beers and a good conversation with friends can’t cure.

Canada day festivities at mama’s house were great. We’d invited a large group of our Zambian friends for dinner. Fresh chicken (seen earlier sitting in a basket on mama’s door step) cooked over a man made grill is delicious. The festivities came to a close with fireworks and an 11 person SWI pyramid. Earlier Jason had purchased a very large number of fireworks from a small Indian shop in town. It was hilarious to watch him light the wick of the fireworks then scurry away madly before they went off. I’m pretty impressed he didn’t singe any hair in the process.



July 6th- Today we had a rather impromptu meeting with the director of Waddington training centre to learn about their tailoring program and to share with them our own hopes for a training program. Five minutes after asking Goodson if we could speak with someone from the Waddington tailoring school we were sitting face to face with the director of the school. I think I’m still adjusting to the idea that it really is as simple as asking for a meeting.

Thursday morning we were up bright and early making the final preparations necessary to host our first meeting at Mama’s house: purchasing fritters, softies and dicing vegetables for an omelette. In attendance were Sibo, Idah  and Miriam (the community facilitators from Katuba, Zanimuone, Kabangwe) as well as an additional 9 members from various self-help groups. The meeting went off without a hitch thanks very much in part to the rest of our Lupwa team and Caro who helped prepare countless cups of coffee and a delicious lunch for our guests.  Later that day we met with Isaac (the program officer at Bwafwano) to learn about their tailoring skills training program and whether it would be possible to use their facility to host our training. I’m feeling very good about the prospects of the tailoring program, the more effort we put in and contacts we make the more I feel that it will become a reality. Isaac linked us to Brigitte (the director of community development) who we will be meeting with Tuesday morning to discuss possible funding opportunities.

Weekend festivities

Saturday morning brought a bit of an upset as SWI lost its first soccer game in over 4 years… but not to worry we will triumph next weekend to regain our title. That afternoon we celebrated Theresa’s (one of SWI’s many Zambian friends- she’s been busy the last three weekends braiding the girls hair) birthday with home-made beef burgers/veggie burgers, cake and peanut butter chocolate sauce (made special by our own personal master chef Christelle).  Celebrations lasted long into the night with much laughter and dancing. Helen (one of the house keepers at mama’s) shocked us all by breaking out some very impressive dance moves to the beat of “everyday i’m shuffling” – i don’t think she was very impressed by the mzungus dance moves :)

Sunday morning we made our way to Arcades market with the hopes of finishing the souvenir shopping for friends and family.

Half the fun of shopping at arcades is the chance to haggle with the vendors. As a general rule of thumb for most products you are to divide whatever price they first quote you by at least half if not more and then from there start the long process of working the price down to something more reasonable. Common quotes from arcades as you are walking past the vendors “my sister, my sister, come see what I have, come come.” “…my brother looking is free…” “do you have something to add, trade” (it’s common to trade something of your own to add to the negotiations: sunglasses, water bottles, sweaters- and in one case a cliff bar) No matter your fancy I can almost guarantee that one of the vendors will have it: from carved animals, to bow and arrows, oil paintings, quilts, bottle openers and many more wonders.

Meetings, meetings and more meetings

This past week has been very busy, meeting with other similar organisations to discuss their respective tailoring programs, the “honourable” MP for the Katuba district, a member of the Katuba women’s association and Mrs Daka the district community development officer of Lusaka. It was interesting to meet with the Flip Flop Foundation, an NGO that works to empower women in Lusaka through skills training, to discuss their sources of funding and how they operated. Meeting Mr Shakafuswa (the MP for the Katuba area) was an eye opening experience- he is essentially in charge of large sums of government funding and has the final say in who receives government grants. After explaining our two projects to the MP (and about 15 phone call interruptions) it became clear that he had no interest in aiding those he saw as “ lazy women, who were not in any need of assistance”. If the women couldn’t afford the cost of uniforms, “…they have only themselves to blame and should have thought about that before having so many children…” Although the meeting with Mr Shakafuswa may have been fruitless we were introduced to his wife who is part of the Katuba women’s association that does a lot of great work with women in Katuba.

Chetengue madness

This week we also had the opportunity to visit the Comesa market where we spent the greater part of two hours walking between very cramped wooden stalls searching for the perfect chetengue material. The stalls themselves were often quite small but as soon as you walked in you were bombarded with dozens of bright colours and beautiful patterns. It was a great experience trying to find the perfect pattern and colours. In the end I was quite happy with the material i bought.

Today we met with Jane and her daughter to have our measurements taken for the chetengue pants. As Jane sat in her wheel chair (essentially a wooden seat attached to a trolley with a contraption for them to wheel with her arms) she took our measurements for the hips, the thighs, length and foot size. Jane would often exclaim as she took our measurements: first the waist “Ah you are fat!”….. then the thigh and but region “AH! You are very fat!!”… which in Zambia is actually a great compliment (implying that you are well enough off to afford food) but at the time it’s hard not to think “hmmmmm….. maybe I should cut back on the nshima..”

Kafue National Park

This weekend we made the much anticipated trip to Kafue National park. The three hour trip by minibus was made enjoyable by the dozens of chocolate chip banana muffins and peanut butter cookies the team had made the previous night. Kafue National park is one of the largest national parks in the country and is host to countless animals. The campsite was quite large and opened up onto the Kafue river.That night myself and a few members of the team piled onto an open air jeep and spent the greater part of the evening on the night game drive. The first part of the ride was spent on the main road in the park pulling over to the side of the road whenever we would spot something: an elephant, so many antelopes, jackal, mongoose and many other native African creatures. Shortly after sunset we stopped for softies/mosi and chips on top of a small bluff in the country side. In the dark of the night we made our way back towards the campsite. The conductor had an amazing ability to spot animals 100’s of metres away with only the aid of a small hand held lamp. When we got back to the campsite the other girls were proudly sitting in front of a blazing fire cooking the fish that they had caught and gutted earlier that day. We stayed up late that night playing charades and sharing stories over wine, smores and a blazing fire. After only a few hours of sleep (the group of 10 students was split between two tents, with three mattress in each- I shared a double mattress with Shannon and Sarah) we were up early making a fire, cooking crepes, and making fruit salad. That morning myself and three of the other girls made our way onto the river navigating between the small herds of hippos. I still think hippos are absolutely hilarious – giant sea cows that snort in the middle of the night. Although we didn’t catch any fish we had an amazing time and spent the three hours perfecting our casts.

Work week

After 4 weeks of searching and many dead ends we were finally able to meet with Thomas Simubali from the Daybreak organisation to discuss the possibility of linking him with the women in the three communities to install and train the women in different irrigation systems. We spent an amazing hour discussing with Thomas the different activities of the DayBreak organisation: working with vulnerable populations to implement superior irrigation systems to help them yield larger crops and in turn make a larger profit margin. The group also trains the women in how to create more sustainable and affordable compost system in order to reduce their dependency on expensive pesticides and fertilizers. All in all the meeting was very successful and we look forward to introducing Thomas to the women and taking him to see all the gardens. Later that day Julie and I made our way by minibus to 6miles where we spent the next 2hours waiting by the side of the Great North Road waiting for Mr Hachilensa (the community development officer for the area) to arrive so that we could introduce him to Sibo and Idah’s self help groups. It was a very eventful two hours; we were approached by a number of very vocal Zambians. For instance, one man told us very matter of factly that if he were seen speaking with us (two mzungus) that people would accuse him of Satanism. However that didn’t seem to deter him from talking to us for the greater part of our wait. Upon Hachilensa’s arrival we were pleasantly surprised  to learn that we would have the opportunity to ride on the back of his motorcycle up the mountain to Sibo’s house. Anyone who’s ever worn a chetengue before can appreciate how difficult it was to hike it up in order to ride a motorcycle. The ride home was very entertaining as the man sitting in front of Julie and I was “slightly” inebriated and spent the entire bus ride home confessing his undying love to Julie and I. Over the last few weeks I received several wedding proposals and requests by men to take them home with me. Mary! Mary, marry me! I want a white wife! (The vast majority of female mzungus for some unknown reason are referred to as Mary).

Community Development Offices

This morning was a bit of a Gong show… Myself, Julie and Caro arrived at the community development offices with Sibo, Idah, Miriam and Goodson bright and early to discuss how to apply for government grants for the tailoring training.  After roughly an hour of waiting outside of Mrs Daka’s offices with what seemed like all of Zambia (there were people milling about everywhere, there was even a babies shoe tied to the stair case for some unknown reason- TIA (this is Africa- the only thing that can be said when one sees or experiences something out of the ordinary). The meeting although slightly hectic with eight people crammed into a small office space all vying to be heard went very well.

A common saying among the group is Zam-time whereas a common saying of Zambians is “we are never on time , we are in time”. If you’ve spent any time in Zambia you’ll quickly come to notice that when someone says i’m on my way this can be interpreted any number of ways- they could arrive within the next 5 minutes, or it could be another 3 hours before they show up- typical Zam-time. However Zambians are also surprisingly very speedy when it comes to some activities- for instance 5 minutes after our meeting with Mrs Daka, a field officer was waiting outside for us ready to meet all the women in Zanimuone and Kabangwe.

2 weeks left!!

It’s already our second to last weekend before the end of the placement. I feel like the time has gone by so quickly. I’m very excited to return home to see all my friends and am so excited to see my fiancée again. However, in sharp contrast I feel as if I don’t have enough time to complete everything that needs to be done before I leave, there’s still so much which can be done and not enough time to do everything I had hoped to accomplish before I left. It’s a bit of a strange juxtaposition. Counting down the days to return home, and counting down the days I have left to complete everything.

Bare Feet

Bright and early Saturday morning we were out of the house and on our way for a guided tour of Garden compound. Barefeet a local group of artist (musicians, painters, youth workers) were our guides for the afternoon (Tour guides: Island, Happy face, Felix and Ephraim). Our first stop of the day was outside a local market where we had our first opportunity to try the much anticipated shake shake. Shake shake is a very inexpensive form of Zambian beer (picture slightly curdled brown milk…). Sufficient to say it is not for the faint of heart. The next stop on our tour was a small arts school run out of the back of a small house. Happy face, one of the tour guides, had started the school a few years in the aim of empowering and providing activities for some of the local children in the area. The children are an amazingly talented group of artists and make a number of different crafts: paintings, soccer balls (made from what appeared to be balled up plastic bags) hats (made from sewn together pieces of cardboard), toy cars (made from recycled plastic bottles) and bags (made from video tape). The next stop on the tour was at a small organisation called Yofoso (Youth for Sports) located within the compound. As the name suggests the goal of the organization is to help local youth become active in sports and recreational activities in the hopes that this will dissuade them from engaging in otherwise possibly harmful activities. The age of children attending the recreational activities at Yofoso vary widely from 3 years of age and reaching as high as 19years of age. The children put on an amazing demonstration of their dancing skills. It was incredible to watch the children shake their hips with such speed and skill. Even after several dance lessons from the women’s self help groups I cannot even begin to shake my hips as well as these 3-10 year olds. As the dancing drew to a close drums were brought out and Island (one of the tour guides) started to rap in Nyanja with the children singing along in accompaniment-(chorus: Doodoo, yamunam- doodoo, yamunam) it was incredible to be a part of the experience. At one point it was expected that after having been shown the traditional dances that the mzungus would reciprocate and share some of their own dancing “skills” with the children… Grudgingly we obliged, but I don’t think they were as impressed by our own dance skills. Each one of us had the opportunity to step into the centre of the ring of children (about 70people total) and humiliate ourselves by attempting to replicate/ create our own individual type of dance. Sufficient to say our dancing was met with much laughter.

 The final stop on the tour was at a local witch doctors home. I think I’ve seen too many Hollywood films depicting witch doctors as old men in traditional tribal outfits living in small huts… This couldn’t have been further from the truth. We were met by a middle aged gentleman dressed quite conservatively in dress pants and a dress shirt surrounded by plastic pop bottles filled with strange substances. He then proceeded to tell us about some of his home recipes that could be used for any number of things: to make men more virile, treatment of epilepsy, treatments to make wives “warm” for their husbands and cancer treatments …

Drawing to a close

There’s only two weeks left in the placement, time has gone by so quickly. Our projects are moving along nicely and I’m confident that we will be able to complete everything before we leave on the 5th. There’s still a lot that we have to do: write up the proposals for the department of community development in order to receive the necessary funding for the tailoring workshop, confirm the location and the teacher for the three different areas (Kabangwe, Zanimuone, and Katuba), organize an irrigation workshop for the women in Zanimuone and Kabangwe, and take the first few steps in implementing a start up irrigation kit (essentially a demonstration garden in the community which the women can help with and learn from) for the women. A lot to do, but we can do it.

First on the docket for this week we have a meeting with Mrs Mutinta from IDE (international development enterprises), followed by research into the costs of all the sewing supplies necessary for the tailoring training (we need to include in our proposal an estimate of costs- not the easiest thing to do when you have no idea the quantities that are required for 10 women to be taught to make school uniforms- it’s a lot of slightly educated guess work), then a meeting with Hachilensa and all the community facilitators to discuss all the final steps of the project, a meeting with Thomas to discuss the irrigation workshop, meeting with the community school director in Kabangwe to discuss using their facility for the tailoring workshop and finally registering Idah’s groups with the registrar of societies.

Monday morning we made our way by minibus to an area of Lusaka called Twin Palms. The area is a sharp contrast to the streets and homes in Chazanga; giant properties surrounded by giant brick walls (with broken bottles glued to the tops) each manned by security guards yielding very impressive guns. IDE’s offices were quite striking: a large yard with luscious green grass and flowering plants with a long abandoned tennis court in the front yard. IDE had converted the home into an office space with small cubicles. The meeting itself went very well. Mrs Mutinta was very helpful and we are hopeful that the women will be able to work closely with them once they have a little more capital accumulated from their gardens.

Tuesday we made our way into town to try and track down Madina a tailoring store recommended to us by Sibeso (a tailoring teacher we met earlier in the trip). After about 40 minutes of walking through the streets of Lusaka, over and under a flight bridge and through some small markets we found the store….closed for lunch…very frustrating. A trip back into town and a pb and j sandwich later we made the same trek back to the store to get the prices of materials and supplies.

Wednesday morning we met bright and early with Hachilensa, Miriam, Idah and Sibo to finalize all the last steps for the tailoring training. To our surprise we discovered that the cost of registering your group (necessary to receive any funding from the government) was not actually 250,000k as we had been told a week prior but the cost had jumped dramatically to 550,000k. When we asked Hachilensa what the additional 300,000k was for and why the women needed to pay so much he explained to us that in order for the forms to be processed quickly and to be done correctly you had to grease the wheels a little bit. He also explained that if we wanted him to take in the forms 100,000k of the additional 300,000k was to cover his transportation and time. This came to us as quite a bit of a surprise as the additional costs (which legally should not have existed) totalled more than the original cost of registration. At this point Julie and I were stuck with the uncomfortable decision of whether to take the forms in ourselves (and risk them never getting processed and Idah’s group never becoming registered), or feeding into this small level of corruption (in order to ensure that Idah’s group became registered in a timely fashion). In the end, with the help of the supervisors I think we came to a satisfactory solution: We would recruit the help of one of SWI’s Zambian friends (Harry) and have him take the forms in and try and haggle with the officers at the registrar of societies to have Idah’s group registered as quickly as possible.

AHHHH!! We got our chetengue pants back today from Jane. They look great, albeit a little short and lacking in bum space, but i’m really happy I got a pair made. The fabric looks great J.

The next day myself, Harry and Julie made our way to the registrar of societies offices in town to get Idah’s and Sibo’s groups registered. Julie and I remained in the car while Harry made his way into the offices (we didn’t want to take the chance of being charged extra for registration because we were mzungus – we have often heard throughout the trip “there is the Zambian price, and then there is the mzungu price- although this is certainly not true of all Zambians, as is true in almost any society there are those individuals that will take advantage of foreigners). After five minutes inside Harry emerged. Apparently the registration documents were missing several key components: a signature and date stamp from Mr. Hachilensa, and two signatures- one from a police post in Lusaka and one from the district executive secretary. This information was met with quite a bit of frustration as we were under the impression that the forms were complete. I am beginning to understand why many of the self help groups that we are working with are not as of yet registered- the amount of paper work and the physical amount of effort and travelling that is required is ridiculous-it’s no wonder these groups can’t access much needed government grants.


Tonight was the team’s big going away party- all co-workers and friends were invited for a celebratory dinner and fireworks. The night was a great success with dancing and laughing continuing long into the night (really 10:00 because we had to lock up the house- but still a great time). The next morning the whole team was up bright and early and on our way to the Dutch Market (a market held once a week hosted by the Dutch Reform Church) to make our final purchases before the end of the trip. As always there were many beautiful things to see and tons to choose from.

 That night we celebrated Jess’s 20th birthday at her favourite Indian restaurant in town. Later that night the team surprised the birthday girl with a handmade piñata (made to look like her stuffed shark Pedo) filled with candies and gummies. After a quite a few whacks with a very large nchima spoon “pedo” the shark went careening into the wall and yet still remained relatively intact (apparently several layers of cereal boxes and a layer of paint does not break open easily). After a few more minutes of smashing “Pedo” finally burst open to shower us all with sweets. It was well worth the effort.


One week left

Less than one week before we leave for Zanzibar, myself and 8 of the other students will be taking the 48hour train from Lusaka to Dar Es Salaam then from Dar we will be taking the ferry to Zanzibar. But before the week is over Julie and I still have quite a few things to tie up before we leave. It should be an interesting week.

Monday morning we met with Thomas to finalize the plans for the irrigation training: 20 women will be receiving training starting Monday morning and ending Friday. The next day we met with Sibo, Idah and a few of the women from each community for the last time. For the past few weeks we’d been preparing care packages for both women: binder with all the necessary documents they would require to register their groups in the future, as well as the documents needed to apply for a government proposal- in total roughly 250 photocopies. It’s our hope that the women’s progress is not hampered by something as small as making photocopies and transportation costs- so the photocopies should help ensure they have everything they might need in the foreseeable future. The women were super excited when we told them that they would be able to start their irrigation workshop on Monday and that the proposals for tailoring had been submitted. It was really rewarding to see their happy faces and see to see their excitement.

At the end of the meeting we took the Bwaf team (that had yet to visit rural communities in Zambia) to look at the women’s gardens. Of interest, we were also shown how Pride (Sibo’s son) makes the bricks necessary to build mud huts. The men use what appears to be common ground dirt with water added to make it into a mud like consistency, then fill wooden troughs, level off the tops and slide the troughs off leaving behind two small mud bricks.  A relatively labour free way of making building materials, and very inexpensive.


Goodbyes are never easy. Saying goodbye to Sibo and Idah was particularly difficult as I feel as though I’ve learned so much from them and that we have had a real impact on their lives, and them on ours. I’m going to miss them both very much. It was a very tearful farewell for everyone

The last few days are a bit of a blur of excitement and nerves as the final details for both projects were completed: a tailoring teacher was confirmed for the women once a week, a location was finalized in Kabangwe, and the workshop was scheduled to begin in less than a week with all costs covered.

Our last day in Zambia the team made the trek up Kabangwe mountain (ie: minibused to 6 miles, then climbed the Kabangwe hill). The walk itself up the hill is relatively small only about 15 minutes, but the view from the top is incredible. The area around Chazanga is relatively flat so once at the top of the hill you can see for miles on either side. Moses, our trustee tour guide brought us up the hill and sang/danced his way down the mountain all the while playing – Love you more the entire way down the mountain. Funny guy.

It’s a strange feeling to be done the placement. I’m excited to be travelling with the team (minus our beloved Christelle who will be making her way to Turkey- but its ok because were bringing  small piece of her with us in the form of delicious banana muffins) but really sad to be leaving everyone that I’ve met and become friends with here. I’ll definitely miss Moses and his crazy dance moves and ever present smile. I swear he can make anyone smile. Mama and her hilarious expressions whenever we do something she considers exceptionally strange (like cooking porridge, or making poutine). Alot of Mama’s confusion is generated by our cooking. Harry and all the guys at wheel chair basketball (Antoine, Banda, Derek). Of course Jason and Caro- I couldn’t have asked for a better group of supervisors. No matter the situation Jason will always have a crazy story to tell. Sibo, Idah, Miriam and all the women we met throughout our internship.

Final project

I’m really proud of what we managed to accomplish over the last two months: 30 women from Kabangwe and Zanimuone will receive a one week irrigation training course (learn how to make raised beds, use drip irrigation, make their own composting material, and how to cut back on the use of pesticides). Following the training each farmer will receive a drip irrigation system as well as hands on training for the next 2 crop rotations. The second part of this summer’s project was to organize a tailoring workshop for 20 women from Zanimuone and Kabangwe. By the end of the placement we had registered two self help groups (they will now be able to access much needed government grants), as well as applied for a government grant for two groups to cover the costs of the tailoring workshop: teacher provided by the DCD, facility provided for by the Tulibantu community school, and supplies purchased with the funds received from the grant. I’m really looking forward to staying in contact with the women and staying updated on the progress of their gardens and their tailoring skills. It will be really wonderful to know how our projects have helped the community in the years to come.

Kalimba farm

August 22, 2011 | Theadora, PSY, Shared World, Zambia

This past weekend the team celebrated Caro’s (LLt’s supervisor- past SWI pasrticipant) 23rd birthday at Kalimba farm (a type of reptile farm about an hour from Mama’s). We got to see ittty bitty crocodiles as well as massive crocodiles that could eat you in one fell swoop. I got to try crocodile burgers for the first time- they were actually quite tasty (very gamy taste).

Wednesday morning the LLT team made our way by minibus to 6 miles (a stop along the Great north road that’s only landmark is a small ntemba (shop)). We were greeted by Idah the community facilitator at the side of the road and then made our first trek into the community to meet with her self help group: Alpha and Omega Orphanage Women’s Club. We were greeted very warmly by a group of about 7 women. After initial introductions we were all seated on a carpet/mat that the women had lain out for us on the ground. The meeting got off to a bit of a slow start as I think we were all a little nervous and weren’t entirely sure how best to start the discussions. But after introducing ourselves and describing a bit about who we were and what we were doing in Zambia the meeting started to get rolling. We discussed with the women some of the groups IGA’s (income generating activities) such as making fritters (an amazing ball of dough that you deep fry in oil- sooo good), doormats (otherwise known as donuts J), keeping village chickens, and caring for orphans in the community.  At the end of the meeting Idah took us to visit her home/school. She is an amazing woman. She lives in a small mud hut where she teaches 30 small children who are otherwise unable to attend school. It was really an incredible experience to see 30 small faces staring up at you from this small home. Idah does receive help from two of her younger children that help to teach the children in her absence. Her dream is to eventually amass enough support and funding to build a small orphanage on her property where the children can receive the proper support and education they deserve. What an incredible woman.

As the meeting came to a close and we began the long walk back to the road side we couldn’t help but notice the sharp contrast between the different households in the community. On the one side there would be a small mud hut with clothes drying over the bushes and trees, and on the other massive homes made of concrete with roman style pillars supporting a veranda. Idah explained to us how in the past few years large amounts of land in the area had been purchased by wealthy Zambians. This influx of wealthier Zambians could potentially be very beneficial to the community as a whole as it could lead to the development of government/community schools in the area. However, Idah explained that the children of the wealthier Zambians in the area simply travelled via minibus to schools in town. There was no support or sense of community between the two different groups. The wealthier community members did not provide any aid to the women or Idah herself in supporting or raising the orphans in the area. It’s a strange concept to wrap your head around.

Thursday morning we met with Sibo the community facilitator for the Kabangwe area. As we made our way towards the meeting we were greeted by about 15-20 Zambian women (and a few men) singing, clapping and shaking their hips. It’s really something else to see that many individuals singing and shaking their hips in unison. They are such a vibrant and energetic group of women. The meeting itself was quite similar to that of the day before; we discussed some of the challenges the self help groups were facing, their dreams for the future, and their daily activities (the 6 groups in attendance Chiyelo,Chimwemwe, Chitukuko, Bwacha, Tiyeseko, Kabonguay SSG). There were several common concerns among the women: lack of access to school for the children (either due to distance or lack of funds to pay for uniforms), difficulties irrigating their gardens, and the high costs of the middle man (the gardeners have to cover the costs of transportation to bring their produce into town, the tariffs of the market, and the fees of the middle man who sells the produce). At the end of the meeting the women tried to teach us how to shake our hips like true Zambian women. It was pretty funny- we all failed miserably. I think Jill was the only one who had any luck with the movement as she has training in dance and was able to shake her hips much more fluidly than the rest of us. The women also tried to teach us how to make this strange sound that they all make- similar to a cheer/shout of joy- they produce this very loud high pitch sound from their throat and then move their tongue back and forth/up and down ridiculously quickly which results in this almost trilling/screaming sound. When you have about 15 women standing in front of you trilling/screaming it’s really something. The women got a great laugh out of watching us try and replicate the sound. I like to think that I’m not that horrible at it (after a few weeks of practice).

The following morning we made our way to 10 miles where we spent the greater part of an hour waiting for our ox cart ride. The community was about a 40minute trip via ox cart into the bush/country side. Now when I say ox “cart” that is quite a generous description, in reality it appeared to be the back end of a truck attached to two ox that would periodically release fluids, that because of the speed of the ox and the proximity of their rear ends to the cart would regularly spray the passenger sitting directly behind the conductor. It was recommended that you kept your mouth closed, else you get a liberal dose of extra protein for the day. The ox cart was a really fun experienceJ. Another enjoyable aspect of the ride was the constant fear of falling out of the cart into one of the many large crevices that lined the path/road to the community. At one point, as we were driving through a particularly hazardous stretch of road, Jess came perilously close to being thrown right off the back end of the cart.

When we arrived in the community there were roughly 90 women there to greet us singing and dancing. The meeting was slightly different from the previous two as there were so many men and women it was held in a large community building. We were seated in the front of the building in front of this large group of women- it was a little intimidating to be sitting in front of such a large group of individuals. The women also served us a very delicious lunch: chicken, relish, and nshima lumps. We were also given a typical Zambian drink called Maheu that was made with boiled water, millimeal, sugar and flour… This drink is not for the faint of heart. We discovered slightly too late that when you finish your drink it is customary in Zambia to refill the persons glass. Unknowingly, Tarun drank the maheu as quickly as possible to get it over with. As soon as his glass was empty, a gentleman came over to refill it for a second time… so funny. Poor Tarun had to drink 2 full glasses of maheu. Eating lunch was a bit awkward as only ourselves and the community leaders were given any food. The rest of the women were only given Maheu to eat after several hours of meetings. I think it’ll take quite a bit to get used to the idea of not everyone having enough food to feed themselves.

A recurring theme emerged after the first few days of community meetings. The women in these areas were facing very similar challenges: many of the women could not afford to send their children to school because they could not afford the cost of school uniforms (which are mandatory); another central concern was irrigation. The majority of the women in the self help groups maintained gardens (which they used to feed themselves and as an additional source of income), but for many of the women watering their gardens proves quite difficult and time consuming as water is not always accessible in the rural areas of Zambia.

At the end of each meeting as part of the discussions we would ask the women if they had any questions for us or concerns. In almost every case one woman would raise her hand and ask us how we were going to help them/ what we could do for them. I found this particularly hard because after having spent several hours talking with each of these groups and having them share with us their hopes and dreams we couldn’t make them any promises or tell them that we would try and help all of them. And so we would tell them that we were simply there to learn as much as possible from the groups, and that we could not work with all of them or even promise change in the foreseeable future, but that we hoped to work closely with a handful of women in the weeks to come towards one goal or another.


The women we met over the past few days have been absolutely amazing. They are such an inspiring group of women and I’m so excited to have the chance to work closely with them. 


August 15, 2011 | Sarah, PSY, Shared World, Zambia

As part of our research we are meeting with other OVC program directors in and around Chazanga to understand some of the challenges they face. Today we met with Paul Banda from Mwazini and also with SOS. It was incredible to go to SOS.  It was the first time in the whole trip that I saw kids being kids. Young girls and boys just spending time with their peers, laughing, singing. It was beautiful. We met the head social worker and she was very informed on everything to do with SOS. This facility is right in the heart of Chazanga surrounded by brick walls covered in barb wire. This is typical of most places in Lusaka. People living in nice homes are surrounded by a fence with barbed wired or even worse, shards of glass. 



We also worked on interview guides for caregivers. The caregivers play one of the most important roles at Bwafwano. They identify OVCs in the community, bringing them to the attention of Bwafwano.



 I have so much to say about this week as well. Its been a very busy one. On Monday it rained! It was a moment here in Lusaka because it never rains during the winter months! After talking about it for a while we finally made the decision to walk to work. It had stopped raining by this point. We were all very tired and it was clear by our moods when we arrived to work. It is difficult sometimes to work in a large group but the benefits definitely out way the downfalls. I think that I have learned a lot about teamwork and organization. More than I have before. We organized our schedule for the week and decided that we should work on the WPD on Tuesday and then start with the recommendations. That afternoon was productive but at the same time we were all just very tired. On a positive note, I believe I got my book from Caro. I dove into it right away and I haven’t been able to stear away from it since. Its captivating. It reminds me that everyone, every single person I meet in this life has a story, has something they carry with them, big or small it makes little difference. What makes a difference is the patience you show towards others.

Our first day of work

August 15, 2011 | Sarah, PSY, Shared World, Zambia

Today we went to Bwafwano for our first day of work. We were greeted by Isaac, the Program Director, Mr. Kataso and Eddie. Bwafwano is located in Chazanga and walking to work gives us a chance to explore more of the compound. There are so many different smells in the morning which include, burning garbage, sewage, and other smells that remain unidentified.

When you arrive at the gates of Bwafwano, it is difficult to believe that they provide care to so many children in Chazanga. Our first meeting with Isaac was incredibly motivating. He is one of the most inspiring men I have ever had the opportunity to meet. He is so dedicated to the improvement of the community and the people living there. Looking at the forces they are dealing with and confronting on a daily basis, the task of development and partnership seems completely overwhelming. How did they do it? How did this centre even come into being? I can’t believe the dedication. Bwafwano works mainly on a volunteer basis, and I am in disbelief that people in the community who struggle to feed their own families are lending their time to Bwafwano. Of course there are many problems with this set up.

The first day we are already on track with our project. We brain stormed some great ideas! Emilie found a great article that focuses on community development projects in Lusaka. Amazing! All in all a wonderful day. Very excited to get started on this project. Very nervous about the role we can play.

We also had the chance to go out into the community to meet some of the families housing OVCs. This was especially unsettling. Meeting real people, whose realities are not something I can even imagine for myself, where it is so difficult to relate to anything they have had to face. Coming in and trying to even have some understanding is almost insulting. I don’t know what it means to go hungry, to not have parents.

The mood of the group was a little down today. The first day of work is challenging. We all felt a little emotional. I think that tomorrow will be a better day.

Blog 2, On the Road

August 10, 2011 | Theadora, PSY, Shared World, Zambia

Today is the first real day of work, and I think we’re all feeling an equal combination of excitement and fear/anxiety. As we made our way through Chazanga we were overwhelmed by swarms of small children screaming “mzungu, mzungu!!!! Ow r u? (Otherwise known as how are you). In addition to the children, adults in the community stopped what they were doing to say hello, and formally greet us: “mulli bwanji” “bweno bwanji” “bweno” (good morning how are you, I’m fine thank you, yourself, fine). It’s really quite a cultural shock to be greeted so warmly and by so many people at once. (Imagine walking down Rideau Street and having everyone turn to stare at you as you go by and taking the time to say hello and ask how you are).

This year SWI is working with two different organizations Bwafwano Integrated Services Organization (Helping one another) and Lupwa Lwabumi Trust (family for life). Bwafwano (otherwise referred to by the team as Bwaf) is an NGO located in Chazanga that provides a range of services to the community including a health clinic, nutritional services, educational programs, an OVC (orphans and vulnerable children) program, and recreational activities. LLT is an NGO located in the centre of Lusaka that was established to identify some of the gaps in rural communities outside of Lusaka such as family disintegration, high poverty levels and high illiteracy levels. LLT has three primary programs: formation of self help groups, child/family reunification and family circles of care and support.

Our first day at Bwafwano we were met by Isaac the program director who gave us a tour of the facilities and described all the activities of the organization and some of the projects past SWI teams had completed. Isaac is such an inspirational man and does so much for Bwafwano. The following day we made our way into town to visit LLT for the first time and to learn a bit more about what they do. We were greeted by Goodson and Louis who gave us an overview of the activities, goals and motivations of LLT. Later this week were supposed to choose which organization we want to work with. I’m feeling slightly overwhelmed because both organizations have programs that I am very interested in exploring further. I would love the opportunity to work more closely in Bwaf’s clinic and work with the nursing staff and patients. However, the family re-integration program at LLT also sounds extremely interesting and seems as though there’s a lot of room for expansion and development. AHHHH, so many decisions!

So after a few days of deliberation, I think I want to spend the next two months working with LLT. What attracted me most to LLT was the prospect of getting to work closely with individuals in rural communities outside of Lusaka. The next day myself and the rest of the Lupwa team (Caro, Julie, Jess, Jill and Tarun) made our way into town for our first day of work with LLT. That morning we met again with Goodson to discuss in more detail LLT’s activities and past SWI/LLT collaborations. Meetings were set for later in the week to conduct a needs assessment with a few of the self help groups that LLT has been working closely with.

Looking forward to meeting with the community groups later this week

My first weeks in Zambia

August 5, 2011 | Sarah, PSY, Shared World, Zambia

I want tell you about a typical day for me in Chazanga, Zambia. Monday through Friday I am working at Bwafwano Community Center. This center was founded in 1996 by Mrs Chola. Since then the center has grown and attracted international donors. Recently, Bwafwano is struggling

because much of its funding has been cut while the needs of the community are rapidly growing. Bwafwano offers many services to people living in Chazanga. They have an OVC department, where children are able to access services which include, but are not limited to education, nutrition and recreation. They have a clinic which provides testing for TB and HIV while also offering treatment. The wonderful thing about this clinic is it is a one stop shop. You pay 50 000K (10 USD) for a testing and you also receive treatment which is covered by the clinic. There is also a peer education program here at Bwafwano which offers open forums to discuss sensitive topic such as HIV with young people in Chazanga. This program is dwindling right now though because of a lack of funding.

We have been assigned to review the OVC program. Overall, we are identifying all the gaps within the program so that we can provide recommendations to Bwafwano. The presence of Shared World Initiative in the community is really powerful. It is clear that SWI is well known at Bwafwano and the impact of its presence here can be witnessed through the friendships and trust. Its very exciting because Bwafwano has been given a large sum of money to spend by the beginning of September. They are really counting on these recommendations so that they do not make similar mistakes to those they have made in the past. If the report they give back to PEPFAR (the donor) is adequate they will receive more funding! Its really nerve racking to be given this kind of responsibility but its also really exciting and invigorating. We have made so much progress this week already! There are 5 of us in total working on this particular project.We call ourselves Team Zuba ( meaning sun in Nyenja)!!

On Tuesdays and Thursdays we play wheel chair basketball at the Youth Olympic Development Center just a 30 minute walk from where we are living. This is an incredible facility and when you enter you don’t really feel like you are in the same country any more. There are teams from all over Africa that play there. We meet up with a team of wheel chair basketball players! I have learned to maneuver a wheelchair and I even scored a point. These guys are really the best and so much fun to play with. Right now they are the best team in Zambia and are hoping to go to the Olympics. The problem is funding isn’t there. The other problem is that they are training on empty stomachs all the time. On Mondays and Wednesdays we have academic workshops which are always very interesting and start up really great discussions.

The weekends are usually left to ourselves. Saturdays we play soccer and Sundays we go to the market. This Sunday is really exciting because I’m going with Harry (one of the wheel chair basketball players) to a Gospel Church! I’ve always wanted to go! Lots of singing and dancing!

Sometimes when I’m walking outside, I get a surreal feeling where I almost feel removed from my surroundings. I’m so excited to be here!

June 27th 2010 Lusaka, Zambia

October 15, 2010 | lgabe

These past few weeks have been rather hectic. Like I mentioned near the beginning of our placement, we met with the community facilitators. Like most of us know, when hosting, it is crucial to provide your colleagues with food and drinks. In Canada, we might offer some coffee/tea and cookies, but here in Zambia fritters and pop are customary. While I have yet to try one, fritters are dough directly fried in cooking oil. Needless to say, we gained a few bonus points by feeding our new and esteemed colleagues.

In our meeting, I was really nervous. What would the community facilitators think of us? Expect from us? Want from us? I noticed soon enough however, that they also seemed nervous, making the initial experience more bearable. As time passed, they became increasingly comfortable and were not afraid to share their stories with us.

There are 10 active community facilitators and each are responsible for a specific compound in and around Lusaka. I was surprised and impressed to hear that some of these facilitators had been doing their job for many years on a volunteer basis. Every facilitator is in charge of numerous community-based groups (Self-help groups or Family Circles of Care and Support – targeting the ‘poorest of the poor’ as they say) that spearhead their own initiatives to face their every-day challenges. After getting to know these amazing and passionate individuals, we set dates to meet with their community groups that week. Thus began our trek into the lives of local Zambians living in great poverty.

That week we were introduced to the peri-urban lifestyle in Lusaka as well as the ultra rural Zambian life. Walking through the urban compounds, I was overwhelmed with the amount of garbage covering the unpaved roads. Women sat in the doorways of their congested homes, hand-washing or selling charcoal. The children ran free through the potholes filled with garbage, with no sign of caring whether or not they wore shoes. Most of them did not. To be honest, it was difficult to see this harsh reality, however I don’t believe I’ll ever be able to fully understand what it is like to live in such poverty. My lack of complete understanding is perhaps my biggest challenge here.

Our first meet took place in a community centre, beside one of many community schools. As I walked into the yard, the teacher quickly invited a couple of us into the one and only classroom to meet the kids. Nearly 20 kids sat around what look liked picnic tables in small dark room. The teacher explained to me that the kids ranged from the age of 6 to 12, grade 1 to grade 6. It baffled me to see one teacher instruct six different grades at once. She said, they do what they can with what they’ve got, which is barely anything. Inspiring, I think.

That week, I experienced the best day of my life up until now. I do not exaggerate when I say that June 24th, 2010 was the best day of my 22 years. Early that morning we met up with the supervisor from Lupwa Lwabumi Trust (the NGO where I am doing my placement), our beloved leader Masiliso, escorted us to our next stop: Katuba, rural village outside of Lusaka. After thirty minutes in the minibus, we got off at our stop: 15 miles. In what seemed to be the middle of nowhere, Masiliso explained that we were supposed to have transportation to Katuba but that it wasn’t there. So we walked. An hour later, we found ourselves in the middle of the BUSH and wondering where in the world we were. Feeling lost in what looked like the Lion King felt SO serene! Nothing surrounded us but rural Africa. Every now and then we saw mud huts, but up until we arrived to Katuba, an hour and a half later, nothing was in sight. It was amazing. When we finally arrived to Katuba, nearly a dozen women began dancing and singing traditional welcoming songs. This is the first time I’ve understood the true meaning of hospitality. Over the course of the first hour, groups of women from the 11 surrounding villages arrived to the Pache pache land (‘slowly but surely’) to meet with us. To begin our meeting, we (all sixty women plus a few men!), Masiliso, Caro, Nat, Jeanne and I) sat in a circle. Facilitating the meeting, Masiliso encouraged each group of women to share with us their initiatives. I was surprised to see that the rural women could mobilise the community so efficiently to spearhead projects for the benefit of all community members. Individuals in these rural villages still face harsh realities such as the prominence of HIV/AIDS, however manage to come together to find ways to help each other out, whereas some of the groups in the more urban region carry the burden of poverty, unable to see the opportunities that may rise before them.

The groups in Katuba were more than happy to share with us their successes and challenges. Many of the groups farmed cabbage, sweet potatoes, ground nuts or managed poultries. Some of the women were proud to share that their groups had been able to save nearly 2 million Kwacha (approximately four hundred American dollars), to further new initiatives.

Katuba faced many challenges, one of them being accessibility to clinics of hospitals. Since the villages are more than an hour and a half walk away from the roadside, accessing medical facilities on time during an emergency is nearly impossible. A few years ago, a small clinic was built on the Pache pache land, but there are no medical supplies for the community to use.

In honor of our presence, the village slaughtered one of their goats and a few of their chickens to feed us, which by the way were absolutely delicious. Before heading back to Chazanga, each group ended the meeting by singing a song. They encouraged us to dance, but were soon very disappointed (yet still managed to laugh at us!) with our Canadian abilities, or lack thereof. After each group presented us with a song, they asked us to present one in return. I have to say that while this day may have been my favourite to date, it was perhaps one of the most embarrassing as well.

(Sidenote: traditional music and dance are at the forefront of Zambian culture. In other words, in every situation we find ourselves there is some sort of dancing or singing going on. The Zambians I’ve met are always so surprised to hear we don’t have any substantial Canadian culture to offer in return. During my second week in Zambia, I found myself playing with the students from Bwafwano community school late one morning. To pass the time, they taught me common Zambian games and songs played amongst most children. About an hour later, with nothing left to offer, nearly fifteen children stood before me, waiting. Waiting for what you may ask? Waiting for our brilliant Canadian songs… Either Canada has no original songs or I have worked TOO many summers at camp, because the only song I could think of offering to these beautiful beaming children was the “Banana Song”. Our lack of traditional songs and my inability to come up with anything more creative has made the “Banana Song” a running team joke.)

Back to the minutes before departing Katuba for the first time, where the women cornered us and demanded a song. In all of our brilliantness (and the influential words of Caro), we performed THE “Banana Song”.

So there it is. Four young women, standing in the middle of a circle of nearly 60 women – some of which were the village elders – after listening to enriching Zambian songs, singing a song about Bananas! Humiliating! Somehow in the midst of the chaotic bananas, the women actually caught on to the song and began singing along. Following many ‘goodbyes’, ‘safe journeys’, and ‘musale bwinos’ (stay well), we rode away on our prime luxury coach cart pulled by our friendly neighbourhood bulls General and Standard only to see the women singing and dancing the ‘Banana Song’. Best day of my life.

To top off a great week, we ended our needs assessment in Kabangwe. A perfect in between of rural and urban, the women of Kabangwe were incredible. Sibo, the community facilitator, is a force to be reckoned with, putting the entire world to shame in regards to community involvement. She is one of the most dedicated and inspiring woman I’ve met, waking early every day to care for her children, her massive gardens and her community. Her groups are successful in pursuing income generating activities because she guides them through the process of creating detailed action plans. Her eldest son, twenty-two year old Pride, a good friend of ours now, is the perfect demonstration of a motivated youth. He spends his early mornings tending to the gardens and farms, and the rest of his days caring for the community youth. Her youngest, Timothy, is school-oriented and a model for all thirteen year olds. You’d think this family originated from an ideal galaxy of dedication and motivation, especially considering they don’t even make enough money to support their full schooling. Those obstacles, however, don’t pull them down for one second, instead face life head-on, offering to those around them the opportunities they may not have had. When I first met them, during this initial meet, I felt so privileged to be in their presence. Since then, I’ve had the opportunity to spend much time with all three, and feel as though I’ve learnt a great deal.

All in all, our needs assessment taught me more about people and life than school has in the past three years. From this process, my partner and I assessed where we could lend a hand, choosing two projects we thought possible to achieve.

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!

June 17th, 2010 Chazanga, Lusaka, Zambia

October 15, 2010 | lgabe

Our first Friday morning was an important morning for our Zambia family. We finally got to meet some of our local partners, most of which we will be placed for our academic internship. Following an early wake-up call, a hearty breakfast and a much needed Zambian coffee, we were off to Bwafano Community Centre. The two main languages in Zambia are Nyanja, mostly spoken in our area, and Pemba, rather common in the southern provinces. In Pemba, Bwafano means ‘helping’, a perfect word to describe the organization. Our route to Bwafano followed snaky paths past small and congested homes, filled with mass crowds of children screaming “how are you!” or “muzungu!”. Most only know how to say ‘How are you’ yet don’t know how to answer. Instead of answering I just started to repeat the question or reply in Nyanja throwing most of them into fits of giggles. Adults along the way more than appreciated our attempts to greet them in Nyanja, though some just laughed at our obvious failure to speak their language. 
Just before Bwafano, there is this sizeable sandy soccer field that we came across for the first time today. Its immensity was one thing, but the heaps of children running after ONE ball was a sight beyond what I’ve ever seen. 

I watched them for a whole minute while they all chased this soccer ball intently around the field, until the first child to spot us screamed “MUZUNGU!”. The way those kids were playing, I was sure nothing could disturb their focus and intent. Apparently, a group of muzungus does the trick. One minute they are 100m away from us, the next we are being swarmed by these beautiful smiling children who just want to use the little english they know and shake our hands. Since its winter here in Zambia, and most of the kids are running free infected with snotty colds we’ve learnt quickly the best way to entertain them is to fist pump. Even better, we’ve started teaching them the explosion at the end of a solid fist pump. The explosion causes such hysteria among the children, it entertains us as much as them. I’ve never experienced anything like it. We learnt later that those hundreds and hundreds (nearly a thousand I believe) of children running around in that field were all part of the OVC program at Bwafano. OVC stands for Orphan and Vulnerable Children. In only one district, there are 7,000 OVCs registered at Bwafano. Note those are the ones who are registered, there are so many more. While most of these children have lost their families or have been through thing you and I will most likely never experience, I’ve never seen such pure happiness.

Finally, after swimming through the crowds of children we arrived at Bwafano to attend our meetings. I’ll quickly run through the various programs running at Bwafwano.

Back in 1996, Bwafwano was created by a few Zambian nurses along with its first program HBC (home base care). HIV/AIDS patients initial treatments were done at hospitals, however long-term care wasn’t really being addressed by the Ministry of Health. So along came these beautiful nurses who realized the importance of starting home visits to treat sick patients. Patients were and are still today treated mostly for HIV/AIDS, TB, Malaria and now increasingly diabetes. In Chazanga specifically, malaria seems to be the worst problem. While malaria is prominent, HIV/AIDS is still a looming darkness over Zambia, with nearly 50% of its population infected. 
So in order to treat these problems, the home-base care program was created. Nurses began visiting sick community members in their homes to treat them or simply accommodate them. Their jobs grew from simply treating them to cleaning their homes to helping bathe the children, among other chores. Soon Bwafwano realized there were many other problems in the community. Since then they have opened a community clinic, a community school, and are running a sexual health and reproduction education program (SHREP), and a lab for people to come and get tested for HIV, a Income Generated Activities program (IGA), and an Orphan and Vulnerable Children program (OVC). It’s really incredible to see how accurately these dedicated community members were able to identify the key issues in their community and work their best to attend to them. Most of these programs are run by one person only, leaving Bwafano understaffed and overworked. 

While half the group will be placed with Bwafano, the other half will be placed with Lupwa. Lupwa is a new partner this year and luckily I get to work with them this summer! Lupwa’s main goals are to connect the child to the family and community. In Zambia, there are many children who are abandoned either because their parents have died or because their parents just don’t want them. Thus, many of these kids end up on the street. Lupwa works with the police and other organizations that deal strictly with street kids to help re-integrate the abandoned child into his/her family or community. Instead of investing directly into the child, Lupwa attempts to dissect the root causes of their abandonment and life on the street. They then attempt to link the child back home, if it doesn’t work they find alternatives. The process is rather intricate and I will talk about it more when I start to really work with them. What’s interesting though is that Lupwa is the only organization in Zambia that does this work. It’s still unclear what I will be doing, but a big part of my placement will be to learn how their organization runs. To do so, I will be working quite a bit in the field. I am excited!!

So those are our partners!! I hope you are as excited as I am! I am really eager to learn, so I’ll keep you posted.

Mosi-O-Tunya – The Smoke That Thunders

August 24, 2010 | Stéphanie, Intern, Shared World, Zambia

Week one is coming to a close and we’re all settling in slowly. This week was a whirlwind of adventure, travel, laughs, and excitement. I think we’re all a little bushed and are looking forward to finding some routine next week with work.

We left Tuesday for Livingstone. The bus station was a novel experience: the moment that Moses, our minibus driver, pulled into the station, there were ticket sellers and baggage handlers hovering and crowding our bus. For the most part, they just want your business and as soon as you say that you already have a ticket or don’t need help with your bag, they leave you alone and search out other business. But it’s an impressive amount of people that surround your you in the first few seconds. I am glad though, that I am getting to know the ropes with Jason and Michelle and SWI. It’s a little less overwhelming and they have great tips for how to handle the crowds and sellers. Also, the intercity buses are relatively inexpensive and still quite luxurious  – cake snacks and juice are offered!

Once in Livingstone, we set out right away to view the falls. I’m sure I’ve said this a couple times too many already but they were amazing!! We arrived just before sunset and the light through the mist was dream-like as the sun fell in the sky. The amount of spray and the sound of water crashing is huge! I understand why the locals call it Mosi-O-Tunya, the smoke that thunders. As you walk over a bridge that’s about 600 metres from the falls , it is as if you are standing in a downpour of rain. There is no avoiding getting soaked, raincoat or not. I felt pure joy as we were pounded by the spray and took in the huge cascades – joy that’s comparable to standing on a mountain top! We stayed in the park until the horizon was red and the night sky appeared before we headed back to our hostel for dinner. In keeping with the novelty of the week, I tried croccodile curry for dinner! It’s actually quite delicious – kind of tastes like chicken.

Our only full day in Livingstone was busy. There was many activities to chose from but several of the girls and I went on a canoe safari followed by a walking safari. It was pretty amazing to see zebras (animals you’ve only ever seen in books and movies) 10 yards from me. We spotted croccodiles, hippos (one of the world’s most dangerous animals! I wouldn’t want to surprise one of those guys!), impala, baboons, monkeys, white-browed sparrow weavers, marabou storks, sausage trees and rain trees and got friendly with a 34-year old rhino. Our bus-ride home on Thursday took us an extra two hours. The bus broke down and they had to fix a radiator pipe. Many pick-ups stopped to help fix the bus and several passengers joined in. And the passengers had patience for the two hour repair that I haven’t seen in Canada –  not a complaint until about 10 minutes before they got the bus started again.

Yesterday, we met the first of our local partner organizations, Bwafano. Bwafano is a community resource centre that started with home-based care (the delivery of ARV’s to patients that were too sick/too ashamed/too fearful to pick up their meds at a clinic. From their work in the community, the caregivers identified other needs and gradually, Bwafano expanded to offer integrated programs. Today, they run a school; programs  and check-in’s for orphaned and vulnerable children; a clinic, voluntary counseling and testing for HIV, malaria, diabetes, TB; a lab for processing the tests; a skills-training centre and a small income-generating market. This year has been a tough year for Bwafano as the PEPFAR (let me see if I can remember this: President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) 5-year aid program just ended last year and Bwafano’s funding has been dramatically cut back as a result. It’s incredible the programs that they still continue to run despite being underfunded and understaffed. We started our needs assessment this morning but before we conceive our projects, we’ll spend another week getting to know the organizations and witnessing their needs first hand. We have an interview workshop tomorrow morning and next week, we shadow some home visits with Bwafano volunteers and with the help of translators, conduct interviews with some of their clients.

Despite some minor injuries (sore muscles from gorge swinging, bruised bums from slips on the waxed floors) and some normal bodily adjustments to time, place, and diet, we are all happy and smiling and glad to be here more than ever. I’m nursing a small cold with afternoon naps and early nights these days but otherwise I’m loving it.