Archives - ‘Zambia’

Mullibwanji!

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

Mullibwanji!

I arrived safe and soundly with the other 9 girls yesterday. Our flights were fine, no complications, and we even got all of our bags. Unusual for me, I passed out and slept for most of every flight. I was feeling like a rockstar upon arriving yesterday. Today, I think the travelling and jet lag is catching up on me.

Mullibwanji is the first word I learned in Nyanja, the local language of the Lusaka area.  It’s a greeting and often means “how are you” as well! We learned our first words and tried them out yesterday as we talk our first walk around Chzanga. Chzanga is twenty minutes north of Lusaka on the Great North Road, which goes all the way to the Congo.  We’re staying at Mama’s house, which is quite spacious. There’s a farm around the house – tomatoes and rape (a type of lettuce looking thing with an unfortunate name) are the main crops. Mama owns a well and sells water to the other locals. The house is great – we have three bedrooms between the ten of us. Something that’s different from home: the floors are waxed every day! You have to watch out or you spin out/slip out as you turn corners — it makes for some funny moments.

My first impressions of the place and people are vivid and bright. On the drive from the airport to our house, we passed two Roman Catholic processions/parades to mass. We had to pull over to let one by! There’s lots of churches around. One of the first things that struck me right away is just how many children there are. There are kids everywhere. And they are beautiful! They emit an energy unlike any other, perhaps because they are often in large groups. They wave and try out their few english (or french for a few) words as we pass by. They also shout ‘muzungu’ which means ‘white people’. And if you take a picture of one, you have to be ready to take a picture of all them. They all want to be included.

Michelle (masters student and a project supervisor for SWI) and Jason made small welcome packages for us which inlcuded a baobab (sp?) fruit and chitenges (the wonderfully coloured and patterned skirts that the women wear in Chzanga). The chitenges are dyed through a special wax process and Michelle taught us how to tie them. I’m suprised at how comfortable they are.

We eat well here — tomatoes from the garden get thrown into greek salads. Pasta salad and chickpea burgers too. We cook on the weekends and make our breakfasts and lunches during the week. Tonight, we’ll eat our first Zambian dinner, made by mama’s helpers/housecleaners.

More later…

A Pick-Your-Own-Adventure Blog Entry

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

We’ve only just began the second week and yet it feels that we’ve been here all together for a quite a while. We learn, see, and discover so much that each day seems like 3 days. As a result, I have a ton to share. However, I know that all my readers might not be interested in every detail and because of it’s length, I’m going to divide this blog entry into sections. It’s ‘pick-your-own adventure’ style (just like those books from the scholastic book order in elementary school) and read what interests you!

Internship Insights

We started the process of the assessing the current needs of our local partner organizations and their clients (the local people) last week. Much of this week has also been dedicated to the process as well. I’m getting antsy and excited to dive in and start brainstorming and get going on projects but it’s been a great exercise this week in remembering to trust the process.

Jason prepped us with an interview workshop on Monday for our first home visits. We headed out in pairs on Tuesday with caregivers from the home-based care program at Bwafano to conduct some simple interviews with their clients. Our intent was and is to hear their life stories, learn their daily routines, and hear first-hand their daily challenges and dreams. The interviews were certainly insightful. Because plans at Bwafano are quite fluid and meetings change regularly, despite the plan with Bwafano for these interviews, there was a shortage of caregivers to shadow for the home visits to deliver ARV’s to patients. As an alternative, my partner and I joined Watson, an officer from the Orphans and Vulnerable Children’s Unit (OVC). Watson is very good at his job and as we wove through the small sandy streets of Chzanga (thank goodness we had Watson with us because otherwise I’m lost in the nameless streets and pathways of Chzanga), he explained to us about Bwafano’s partnership with Habitat for Humanity. Every month, Watson identifies a family that’s sheltering and caring for orphans. Watson assists with the sometimes difficult process of finding the papers that prove that the family owns that land. Once land ownership is confirmed, Habitat can help build a new house for these families. Watson taughts us about the will-writing process that follows the construction of the new home to ensure that the children living there can lay claim to the house when the guardians die.

Our first home visit was with a very cheery grandfather who was caring for five of his grandchildren. Upon his daughter’s death, the husband fled and denied responsibility for the children. The man mended shoes and sold charcoal for income. A new home from Habitat for Humanity was under construction when we visited and from the looks of the roof on his current home, it will be a relief for his family to move before the rainy season arrives.

Our second home visit was somewhat less cheery and hopeful. We met with a blind grandmother, caring for five orphans, two daughters and their kids. Finding food was clearly a challenge for this family as well as income-generating activities. Laundry washing and the polishing of clay pots from time-to-time was able to keep them going but barely. It was difficult to hear the grandmother explain that her dreams to own a business are impossible because she cannot differentiate between the bills of money and so sits and waits for death. Though challenging emotionally, it was important and pivotal to learn about the daily challenges from the people first-hand (not just through Bwafano workers).

Some trends are becoming very clear. For instance, while many families have small income-generating activities selling tomatoes, charcoal, sweet potatoes, or sugar canes in the markets, everyone is selling the same thing. Without a unique product, it’s difficult to make much profit. We’re learning lots from Jason, Nat, and Michelle in a variety of workshops on topics ranging from community-based rehabilitation and organizational capacity to infectious and opportunistic diseases and the history of disabled persons in both developed and developing countries. It’s huge – I’m feeling that core-deep excitement that I’m learning and will be learning important skills in this internship – skills that go beyond the classroom, a specific specialty of knowledge, or this context here and now. The skills are life skills, transferable to any job, any place, or any relationship. It’s an empowering feeling to be learning from the Bwafano and Lupwa (our other partner organization) staff, caregivers, local people, and SWI.

Life at Mama’s House

Our evenings are filled with reading, journal writing, soccer matches on TV, cooking, story-telling, and hand-washing laundry. There are some amazing cooks in the group and they’ve been teaching themselves and us to make bread, soups, and other delicious dishes. Mama’s garden continues to offer great vegetables – the vegetable of the week this week is sweet potato. We’ve seen another local staple and I say ‘see’ because none of us have had the courage to try it yet. We’re working up our courage. It’s a small (think slightly-bigger-than-a-guppy size), dried fish called Capenta. Occasionally, we have visitors in the evening. Last night, Harry and Christine from Ubuntu joined us for dinner. Ubuntu is an organization that SWI has offered placements with in the past. Ubunto helps persons living with disabilities and their families to find jobs, enter school and cope with the stigma associated with disabilities. Christine’s daughter, Natasha, is two and she and I had fun for a good hour playing peek-a-boo with a tea towel and popping the air of our cheeks. The five-year-old-in-me certainly found a friend in Natasha. ;) She didn’t speak one word (though she’s apparently chatty at home) but we were laughing and laughing. Amazingly, she’s two and is learning four languages – English, nyanja, bemba, and tembuco!

A couple of us have been up early in the mornings to jog. Early morning is prime time for jogging not only because of the heat but also because there’s less smoke in the air. Chzanga borders a garbage dump (for all the garbage from downtown, not Chzanga) and during the day, they burn the garbage. With the best running roads near the dump, it’s hard to breathe. Also, there are less people out about in the morning. The kids love to run after you chanting “MU – ZUN – GU! MU – ZUN – GU!” A pack of up to 30 kids followed us to the main road where, once we crossed, they stopped and stared as we ran into the distance. They’re lots of fun and amazing kids but the peace of early morning makes the running a little easier.

Street Stories

I don’t think I’ll ever hear the words “How are you?” in the same way again. For the kids that don’t go to school, it’s the three words they’ve learned in English. For those that do go to school, it’s the easiest spring board into a conversation with us to practice their English. For most kids though, they don’t understand our responses and just love the joy of shouting repeatedly “’ow are YOU?” (I can only attempt emphasis and accent) at us as we pass. I think every time I use this common, mundane phrase in Canada, I’ll hear a Chzangian kid’s voice echo in my head: ‘ow are YOU? Perhaps it is a cheesy moment that every student on a volunteer placement abroad or traveling might write about (I fear cheesiness and typical-ness of my entries a lot – I hope it’s not overboard!) but today, I had a surprising moment. As we left our meeting with the head director at Bwafano today, I was walking at the caboose of our group. Just around the corner from Bwafano, I was surprised by a sudden small hand in free, swinging, left hand. I looked down to see a petite three-year old girl in a tattered skirt holding my hand, not looking up at me, just walking with me. I bent down and tried my broken Nyanja with her. Me: “Mullibwanji?” (How are you?) Her: “Bwiino.” (Good) Me: “Bwiino.” (Good)….. Indwe ndani?” (What’s your name?) Her: “Catherina” (pronounce the ‘th’ as in ‘thought’) Me: (pointing at myself) Steph We continued from here in broken English as my nyanja knowledge is exhausted quickly. She was at the school at Bwafano and I had to spend a couple of minutes convincing her that we were walking in the wrong direction from her school. I told her we came to Bwafano relatively often and I might see her again. She seemed to understand slowly as she let go of my hand and waved goodbye. I worry I won’t be able to pick Catherina out amongst the crowd of kids though next time I see her, if only to say hi. There are so many kids here and it’s hard to know them all by name and recognition to say hello.

All Systems Go

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

The pace is picking up here. The past five days have been super busy. At the end of last week, our group split into two teams. One team will work with Lupwa, an organization whose ultimate goal is child and youth care, solid parenting, and the well-being of youth. To achieve this though, they work to improve the health, connectedness, and economic resources of families and communities. Their self-help groups composed of community members create group income-generating activities, learn basic savings strategies and pay fees at each meeting in order to make micro loans to each other.

The other team (my team!) will be working with Bwafano, the community-based organization I described in my second blog. Over the weekend, our teams have been doing lots of research about our respective organizations, their goals, their staff, their clients, their needs and past projects and partnerships with these organizations (both failed and successful). For Bwafano Community Home-Based Care Organization, there was quite a lot of reading material. Nathalie, one of the supervisors, conducted an organizational and individual capacity assessment as well as specific program assessments for Bwafano this past year with several fellow students as part of her masters program in Sweden. We’ve been reviewing and reading all of their reports and recommendations. ZESCO, the public power service (one of the few remaining public sectors here) threw us for a bit of a loop though. Power all over Zambia was cut on Friday. Once computer batteries died (mine never works), it was hard to do our readings. Fortunately, it was an acceptable excuse for not having our homework done and our meeting was pushed back.

Over the past 48 hours, our team (there’s six of us) have brainstormed, debated, and worked to outline six concrete projects that we can propose them to the program officer at Bwafano tomorrow. He’ll be able to pick which 3 or 4 projects that he sees as a priority and then we’ll divide into pairs to implement our projects. Our projects are aimed towards the management and organization of Bwafano for the most part. As it stands now, our potential projects deal with: human resources; data collection and databank creation; goal-setting and vision creation for every department; management training for four key leaders in a move towards a simplification of the departments and program structures; income-generating activities research and establishment; and finally, capacity-building (staff training) and re-organization of one specific department, the Sexual and Reproductive Health Education Program (SRHEP). With a general shift in donors’ foci from an emergency response to HIV/AIDS to prevention, SRHEP is an attractive department for funding at Bwafano these days.

It’s been exciting and somewhat satisfying to put together some concrete plans. It’ll be interesting to see how these plans morph and change as we encounter challenges but for now, it feels good to have some goals.

Life at Mamma’s House

The weekend was also a busy weekend socially. On Saturday night, we hit up a concert at L’Alliance Française. Mutinta, a popular Zambian singer, gave a stunning performance that got the audience up and dancing. On Sunday, we headed to the local reptile farm for the Caros’ birthday (we have two Caro’s on the trip and both celebrated their birthday within the same week).  It was the perfect afternoon. Cobras, black mumba, adlers, turtles, crocodiles, mini crocodiles and massive dinosaur-like crocodiles. The birthday party fieldtrip was not complete without 2 piñatas for each birthday girl. I hadn’t made a piñata for a long, long time and wow, do I ever have much more appreciation for my dad’s patience while we made mother’s day presents out of paper mâché. Zoe, mama’s sneaky four-year old niece helped me for a couple of hours and it was hard to keep her from putting sopping wet, overly-pasted newspaper strips on the crocodile piñata. I kept having to de-paste each strip before she stuck it on. It was also difficult to convince her that the candy was going to go in these awkward-looking, soppy, newspaper animals and was not just for snacking on. It was a blast though to see Caro and Caro swinging at the piñatas.

Last week, I was introduced to wheelchair basketball. A friend of SWI, Harry, invited a couple of us out to learn the basics. Much to Harry and Harry’s basketball friends’ amusement, we learned how to turn, stop (a much needed skill), pick up the ball (not as easy as it looks), and dribble while rolling. The crew of guys that coached us through our first game and played easy so we could learn were very friendly and had great humour. I have huge admiration for Harry and his teammates– wheelchair basketball is not easy! I was supertired by the end but pumped up! It is insane exercise. And to think that some of the guys wheel 40km from their home to the courts before each training/game.

P-p-p-projects!!

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

We have our projects! Our meeting with Isaac, the program officer at Bwafano, was quite successful. He opted for the data collection and database creation project, the departmental goal-setting project, and the SRHEP re-organization and training project. Marie, an awesome chica from Ottawa studying Health Science and headed to med school next year, and I are working with the Sexual and Reproductive Health Education Program (SRHEP) youth peer educators to make their presentations stronger and re-organize their department. SRHEP is a group of youth volunteers who offer presentations about HIV/AIDS, STI’s and sexual health in general (effective decision-making, self-confidence, etc) in schools in Chazanga and the surrounding compounds. SRHEP also does one-on-one counseling in informal settings and encourages audiences to come get tested at the Bwafano clinic. The peer educators are lively and incorporate neat dramas and drumming into their presentations but there is a lack of training for them and as a result, a lack of knowledge. A lot of pressure ends up being put on them in question and answer periods when they don’t have the appropriate information to answer well.

Marie and I were getting to know the SRHEP team this past week. We sat in on their planning meetings and were able to shadow one of their presentations at a school. The presentation was a very interesting experience. The school (get this – the name of the private school was “Rolling Stones”) didn’t seem to realize we were coming (or only one person did but they were nowhere to be found when we arrived) and it took about an hour before the presentation got started. The presentation was for an AIDS club with high school students of varying ages. There was a lot of excitement among the students for the presentation and the two muzungus (that’s us!) accompanying SRHEP and I think there were definitely more kids in the classroom than there are normally in the club. Approximately 90 kids filled the classroom, with others coming and going throughout. SRHEP opened with drumming and then Michael, on his own to get the attention of 90 kids, facilitated a presentation on effective decision-making. He used examples for a five-step decision-making process (identify the problem, consider the alternatives, consider the impact of the decision on the people around you, consider your personal values, successful decision) but in discussing the examples, an interesting debate was sparked. Michael seemed to be explaining that abstinence was the best choice for the youth and how to best arrive at that decision. In doing so, he mentioned (it seemed to meant as an off-side comment but it caught the teens’ attention) that condoms were not for youth but rather for married people as a contraceptive. ShabooM! The debate caught fire. A youth spoke for the back corner of the classroom to say that he thought condoms were a viable option for youth and questioned why he and his clubmates were given them for free if they weren’t supposed to use them. He also asked what youth were supposed to do to protect themselves if they wanted to act on the feelings that they were experiencing at their age. Michael, obviously put on the spot and trying to maintain his confidence and authority as a presenter, pushed that condoms were not for youth and that instead they should think about the impact of becoming pregnant or their girlfriend becoming pregnant on their parents, who would have to care and pay for the baby. Two youths spoke out repeatedly to counter Michael’s points. I was frustrated, not by the priority given to abstinence, but the dismissal of condoms as a second-choice alternative to abstinence. And it was even more frustrating to hear a student advocating for condoms as a viable alternative, only to be shut down by the facilitator. I felt for Michael though too – he was only trying to remain a confident presenter and finish the presentation. And from Marie’s and my impression and from what we can tell from past SWI experiences with SRHEP peer educators, it seems that abstinence and the refusal to use condoms are less personal convictions but more a result of misinformation or lack of information. We noticed, when we were in Bwafano’s main office, that part of SHREP’s mandate is to even distribute condoms. As part of our projects, we hope to work with the peer educators to align more closely the mandate and the content of presentations.

At the end of the week, after many meetings and much research, Marie and I have a couple of mini-projects to propose to SHREP and get their feedback on on Monday. Here’s a rough outline:

  1. Establish a volunteer recruitment process – volunteer placement descriptions, formal application and interview process, contracts, training manual for new volunteers, standard knowledge test about presentation content that volunteers must pass before beginning work. SRHEP mentioned that one of their difficulties is volunteer retention, commitment, and understanding of benefits (expectations of pay though in a volunteer role). We hope this process can help address this challenge and also give the volunteers a solid work experience that can help them once they leave Bwafano. Also, if volunteers are not coming and going so often, we hope that Bwafano will be able to offer training for the peer educators on a regular basis.
  2. Goal-setting – We hope to work with Sarah and Caro for this project who are doing goal-setting for each department. Sarah and Caro will help SRHEP to create 6 months, 1 year, and 5 year goals so that there is stronger sense of direction and the peer educators feel their work is going towards something valuable.
  3. Phased presentations – currently, SRHEP seems to be working a catchment area that is too large and they have difficulties with transportation to the schools farther away. Also, we hope to work with the peer ed’s to maximize the impact of their presentations. To do so, we want to propose to them to reduce their catchment area and to visit each school four or five times in a year with four/five different presentations under the overarching theme of sexual health. In doing so, SREHP can build stronger relationships with schools.
  4. Plan for the year – Right now SRHEP calls each school at the beginning of the week they want to present there. We’d like to help them set up a calendar and identify and contact their target schools at the beginning of the school year so they can better use their time during each week and schools are aware in advance.
  5. Finally, Marie and I want to try and connect the peer educators to some formal sexual health and facilitation training…

We pitch our ideas to the SRHEP team on Monday and I’m excited to hear what they like, what they don’t like, their ideas for changes, and what projects they want to participate in. If they’re all in, fingers crossed we can get this all done in the next 5 weeks.

With full work days, workshops (mini-lectures by Jason and Nat and discussions on various topics), wheelchair basketball, and homework, our days are jam-packed now. I’m loving it!

Life at Mama’s House

In the midst of this week, I definitely hit a wall. I couldn’t put my finger exactly on the cause but I woke up in a funk on Tuesday morning. I couldn’t shake the low energy down that I was feeling all day. We’d been here just over two weeks at that point and I know it’s part of the adjustment process to hit that wall. Though I couldn’t tell you why, I def felt like tears were going to overwhelm me a couple of times for no reason. And of course, I miss home but I’m more than happy to be here. While we are all getting along amazingly, I’m sure some of it was an overload of being in a group 24/7. It was just a day of blues and I def took what SWI calls some “ZAMBEEF” time (alone, chill time) in the hammock under a starry sky. Thursday morning, I woke up and I was back on my A game or at least my B+game. Phew!

A campfire with compliments and complaints time, riddles, jokes filled Friday night. I really got into making the perfect golden marshmallow. As the coals lingered, I had a wicked conversation with Michèle and Jason about organizational change, growing pains, and adventures. There’s so much to learn here!

Today, we hit up the Dutch Reform Market – so many neat things to be found, of which my favourites included bracelets, necklaces, used books, and a Chinese vermicelli noodles dish. In the afternoon, we jogged to Bwafano to fill in as some ringers in a Bwafano staff soccer game against another NGO staff team. It was lots of fun though that dust field is definitely slippery! The pre-game warm-up was great – a huge group of kids chasing the ball. Teams do not seem to matter or if they do, I can’t tell at all who is on which team and which direction which team is going. To top off the day, the cooking team whipped up some scrumptious fajitas and veggie chick-pea burgers and we watched Ghana win the Ghana-US game.

Swept Up into the Whirlwind

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

From Friday, July 9th, 2010:

Internship Insights

Annnnnnnnnnnnd I’m back! The past two weeks have been insanity. Everything is gaining momentum and there’s no slowing down until the end now (it’s coming fast!!!!). Last week, we pitched our five projects to SRHEP and all the peer educators seemed to like all the projects and were excited to get involved. With their suggestions and ideas in mind, we started on our first project: the volunteer recruitment process (or VRP for short…the NGO world is full of acronyms, we thought we’d add to the list!!) and simple yet effective monitoring and evaluation system. It was fun to chat with the peer ed’s and learn what they see as the minimum requirements a volunteer must have to become a peer ed, what the main responsibilities and tasks of a peer ed are and what qualities an ideal peer ed might possess. We tried to synthesize their ideas and create a role description form as well as contract. In a one-on-one meeting with the old SRHEP department coordinator, Augustin, we created new interview questions and re-worded basic interview questions. It was great to chat with him and hear his thoughts on what answers he would look for if he was interviewing a new volunteer. He also helped us alter some of the questions we brought to the table to adjust for cultural relevancy. It’s really fun to be working with these guys. They have lots of ideas and energy but have some difficulty translating it into momentum and action often. All together, we ended up creating 7 new documents with the peer eds for future applicants: an application form, a role description for the volunteer placements, a volunteer contract, a set of possible interview questions, a recruitment and training checklist that each volunteer must complete before beginning work, an exit interview and evaluation and a recommendation letter template for departing volunteers.

We hope that if we can get the peer eds onto using this system, a greater sense of pride will come with the volunteer placements. Also, commitment, attendance, and tardiness is often a challenge for the peer eds right now. Expectations are also unclear – volunteers expect allowances that are not always available or guaranteed. We hope that some of these documents will help them to clear up the confusion and increase volunteer retention. Bwafano can also confidently offer the peer eds training if they have fulfilled their end of the bargain and worked hard, while also knowing that the volunteers will not leave immediately after receiving training. If a peer ed has not been showing up to work, Bwafwano can reserve the right to refuse the next level of training. In the past, there has been tension between management and the peer eds about training and commitment to their work. As well, we hope the evaluation forms and exit interview can help the peer eds to monitor their programs, leadership, and teamwork. We still have some work to figure out how to implement teacher/school/student leadership evaluations and to assess the impact of the programs and then communicate that data effectively to management, donors, and have it available to all the peer eds easily. Finally, we hope that, though the position is not paid, potential applicants will have incentive to apply and commit to a year-long or two-year long contract (to be decided with management and the peer eds still) because they’ll be able to walk away with some solid experience and some tangible training certificates and a recommendation letter, which will help them find a way into a better job or post-secondary education.

We submitted all our forms and work for the volunteer recruitment process to the program official and he seemed to be happy with it. He made a few key changes and there are some kinks to work out in the contract still but so far, so good. We hope to have a practice interview and forms familiarization workshop with the peer eds so they can really get a grip on the system and also so they can see what their ideas and work translated into.

This past weekend was a long weekend in Zambia. Bwafwano and the rest of the city was closed for business on Monday and Tuesday. Our group took the opportunity to catch up on some workshops on ‘Government Aid and Foreign Aid Effectiveness’ and ‘Neo-natal health and survival’ with Nat and Jason. Today, we had a great workshop and debate about human slavery, the legal definition of slavery, and what we can qualify as slavery still today.

Life at Mama’s House

As with our work, life at Mama’s house is full and fast-moving. There are so many people to meet, chat with, and have over or visit. We had great Canada Day festivities at Mama’s house. We invited co-workers, friends, and fellow Canadians. Loveness, the head nurse at the clinic at Bwafwano, and her husband, Mr. Masenco were amongst the dinner guests (shish kabobs, chick-pea burgers, red & white wine, and s’mores for dessert – that’s as Canadian as we could get). Mr. Masenco, a life-long, elderly jazz artist, sang a couple of fantastic songs after we belted out Oh Canada. Hearing his rhythmic and smooth voice was like watching honey drizzle into a cup of tea. It was spectacular – the intimacy of the small performance in Mama’s dining room only added to the moment!

On Saturday, we spent the day with a really funky group of youth. The youth were street youth who had started or joined the organization Barefeet and now perform theatre and dance on the big stages of Lusaka. As well, they dance, drum, and sing in outreaches in the street to inspire other street youth to explore their creativity and change their lives. They’re a pretty dynamic group and have lots to share! We did some cross-culture theatrical exchanges in the morning. In the afternoon, they attempted to teach us to dance, sing, and drum/play percussion Zambian-style. I say attempt because it’s a still a long way before I’ll be able shake my hips, keep a complicated beat, or sing rhythmically like they do. But none-the-less, we had tons of fun with them! I think I spent half an hour with Mostin at the marimbas learning tapping this one, pretty simple, beat out and then learning to keep it while he sang a different rhythm over top. It’s not as easy as they make it look! We all were laughing pretty hard as they tried to teach us the footwork and hip shakes in the dance. We’re hoping to have them out to Mama’s house before we leave.

Mama threw me and another friend/student Iman into a pretty funny situation this week. Mama is a strong-willed woman and you can sense her powerful yet calming presence when she walks into a room. But she also has a very sneaky side to her and she loves to poke a little fun and joke and laugh. On Tuesday, she told us we needed to clean and vacate one of the living rooms because she had very important guests coming over. We had an idea of what might be going down but no one was sure. We cleared out and had our workshop with Nat upstairs. As we’re starting the workshop, Mama sits down in the room and asks for a volunteer. Thinking she needed help moving boxes or chairs or carrying some groceries or something of the sort, I volunteered and then she asked Iman to join us too. At the bottom of the stairs her best friend Bana (it means ‘mother of’) Mulinga (that’s her best friend’s daughter’s name) was waiting all smiles. They merely motioned for me to keep silent and follow Bana Mulinga. I was led into the living room where 8 or 9 guests were sitting. Bana knelt and motioned for me to do the same. A man in a suit spoke nyanja for several minutes, turned to a young man, asked him a question and then everyone looked at me. While all this was happening, I was scanning everyone in the room, looking for cues as to what was going on or what I was supposed to do. The young man said something and then everyone laughed and I was pronounced “disqualified” and Bana Mulinga whisked me out of the room and hurried Iman to the waiting crowd for the same scenario. Mama was waiting in another room, chuckling away to herself. Apparently, JoJo, Mama’s daughter’s boyfriend, had come to ask for Nampu’s (Mama’s daughter) hand in marriage. It is tradition that the girl’s family present two or three other girls before they present Nampu. In a way, it is a test for JoJo. If he hesitates or says he prefers any of the first girls, they know he is not worthy of their daughter. But of course, JoJo ‘disqualified’ both Iman and me. At the same time, this little game keeps some of JoJo’s family members who have never met Nampu in suspense. They have to guess who might be Nampu. And that’s what I mean when Mama has a sneaky sense of humour: who in the world would mistake blonde me as Mama’s daughter named Nampu?!? Mama thought that putting a twist on this tradition was pretty funny! JoJo’s family was more likely fooled by Iman, who is Somalian in origin. All in all, it was a very funny, surprising, and foreign experience!

We had another rip-roaring wheelchair basketball game yesterday! I’m building up my calluses and my agility on wheels is slowly improving (though I haven’t quite mastered the balancing while catching a pass that’s over my head…I fell over backwards 4 times yesterday!!! Oops.)

We are off to Kafue National Park tomorrow for a night of camping. We’re all excited to have a change of scenery for a couple days….but I can’t help but be haunted a bit by the fact that we’re pretty lucky to have the option of having a change of scenery for a few days. During the past week, Michelle and Jason helped a close friend to the hospital for treatment for the late stages of AIDS and a young OVC (orphaned or vulnerable child) child in Bwafwano’s program passed away. There’s certainly a reality here that is difficult to escape for many.

When it rains, it pours…

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

The past two weeks have been full of challenges. For the first four days of the week, I caught a cold and was in bed early every night and not running. Just as I thought I was through the cold and went for a morning run, I was hit by a GI stomach flu. Luckily, I didn’t miss any work but Friday was rough and I was on my back in bed all weekend and struggled through Monday. A short bout of Cypro though seems to have taken care of it and I’m feeling back to 100% for the first time in a while today.

We had been planning for several weeks now for a gathering with all of our colleagues and friends at Mamma’s house on Saturday night this past weekend. I was unfortunately sick for the gathering but I pulled myself out of bed to hang out and say hi for a couple of hours before crashing again at 9pm. In my feverish daze, I put my work cell phone down on a table at some point in the evening and now, it’s nowhere to be seen. On top of losing my phone, my computer is also kaput. I only wish it could have held out another week until the end of our placement. With being sick twice in one week and the technological losses, I could only keep thinking of the phrase: “When it rains, it pours…”

In the downpour of last week, Marie and I encountered our first big work challenges. For the gathering at Mama’s house, we wanted to invite the ten or so Peer Educators that we’d been working with so that we could hang out and in a way, thank for all their hard work so far. Though, when we walked into their regular Friday morning meeting, a new person we’d never met before was running the meeting and there were twelve new “peer educators” that’d we’d never seen during the past six weeks. We were in for a surprise. With no introductions to the new folk, we were interrogated as to how many peer educators could come to the gathering, if they could stay overnight, and whether wine/beer would be provided. We outlined expectations very clearly and for the most part, everyone seemed to understand and agree. For the most part, the party went off without a hitch. These new “peer educators” did and do however have implications for our project.

It’s difficult to catch 13 new people up to speed on all the work we’ve been doing over the past six weeks and then integrate them into the last two weeks. They also wanted to contribute their comments and concerns to the work that we’d done so far and try to make changes. It was frustrating to have to repeat some of that process when we’d already collaborated closely and worked through the creative process with the ten committed peer educators that came regularly. And though I don’t like to assume, I can’t help but wonder if these spontaneous peer educators will continue to work after Aug. 1st or Aug. 10th (the final day of the first training that we’ve scheduled). It’s hard to see it as a coincidence that 13 new people appeared out of the woodwork when an invitation to a party was extended.

Particularly, there’s one individual, (I’ll call him Pepper) who really shook things up. Pepper used to coordinate the SRHEP department once upon a time but Bwafwano eventually had to ask him to leave because his methods of coordination were a problem. He often recruited all his friends as peer educators; this meant that when one peer educator left, everyone left. Also, all the peer educators deferred to his opinions and ideas because they were friends. When he came back last week, Bwafwano was not even aware he had returned and several of the peer educators we had been working with until now started to not show up. It seems Pepper can be somewhat manipulative and intimidating. It’s been a challenge to include Pepper in our work but also not to let him scare away some of the peer educators that we’ve been working with so far or monopolize the brainstorms and work. It’s been difficult as well to navigate the tensions between management and this old, departed and suddenly returned group of peer educators.

That was last week though and we’re over the hurdle. We had a great meeting with management on Friday and they cleared up a lot of the confusion about history, plans for the future, and who works where. We were also informed that the SRHEP department was suspended in the months before we arrived here but that that should not affect the success of our project. It’s hard to hear that a bit in the last two weeks of our time here. I feel that might be something that should have been disclosed upon the start of our project. However, we’ve done okay so far and we’re going to do our best to help the peer educations to prove that they’re ready for action and for the suspension to be called off again.

Since I was out of commission health-wise this week, I don’t have too many exciting stories from ‘Life at Mamma’s House’. I mostly caught up in popular culture and drifted in and out of consciousness while watching movies. However, I do have some tidbits to share. My good friend and roommate here, Lydia Gableman, keeps a working list of what she loves about Zambia in her blog. She gave me copyright for the idea (thanks lllllyyydia!) and here is a short starter list of some of the things I love about Zambia:

  1. Zambian’s have two favourite answers to a response: “no problem” (even if there is a problem) and “next time” (if they don’t feel like answering your question at that time).
  2. Zambians are perhaps one of the only populations who beat out Canadians for their habit of saying ‘sorry.’ If you trip on your own accord or drop something, everyone around you jumps and says “Sorry sorry sorry sorry!!!”
  3. The informal minibus system – when you need to get off the bus, everyone in the fold-down seats in the aisle get up and off the bus to let you off. The conductors communicate with each other about where to stop by knocking on the roof. Also, the bus can pick you up anywhere between stops and then once the bus is full, it doesn’t stop anymore. However, the bus only drops in certain places.
  4. It’s cool/okay to walk around with combs in your hair. The process of taking out and putting in braids takes a good chunk of time, sometimes days. So you often see girls with bright pink or green combs wedged in their hair as they collect water or walk around the neighbourhood. I actually like it as a fashion statement.

I’m off to help two other girls serve lunch at their youth day, the climax of their project. And then this afternoon, I’m hanging out with our friend Harry from basketball and his family. I’m going to learn how to tie a baby in a chitenge (the fabric that women wear as a skirt) and carry water on my head – it’ll be a funny afternoon. Tomorrow, we’re off to another friend’s farm for the afternoon. Next time I’ll write, I’ll be done my internship! Yikes, two months have flown by!

Une grande place dans mon cœur…

August 4, 2010 | Caroline, stagiaire, Zambie

Mon expérience en Zambie tire tranquillement à sa fin et ça me rend plutôt triste! Je ne suis vraiment pas prête à partir de cet endroit merveilleux, mais j’imagine que ça fait partie de la vie!

Au travail, tout va pour le mieux. Sarah et moi avons terminé notre travail avec le programme de SRHEP (sexual reproductive health education program) et nous somme très satisfaites des objectifs que nous avons fixé pour les deux départements (HBC et SRHEP). Nous leurs avons présenté les objectifs finaux et les employés et bénévoles semblent tous plutôt excités à l’idée d’avoir des buts précis. Le message a super bien passé jusqu’à maintenant et tout le monde comprend bien l’importance du « goal setting ». Nous avons même fait des rencontres individuelles pour la plupart des « peer educators » pour les aider à fixer des objectifs personnels. J’ai adoré travailler avec eux! C’était vraiment magique de voir à quel point leur visage s’illuminait quand ils réalisaient qu’en fixant des petits objectifs année par année, leur rêve leur paraissait beaucoup plus accessible. Ils ont vraiment aimé et ils ont même pris les informations du « workshop » que nous leur avons donné et ils ont préparé une présentation sur le « goal setting » qu’ils ont présenté dans quelques écoles. C’était vraiment encourageant pour nous! Après avoir vu la maladie dans sa pire forme en travaillant avec HBC, travailler avec SRHEP représentait l’espoir pour le futur du pays. Ces jeunes là sont vraiment des jeunes allumés qui veulent faire tout ce qu’ils peuvent pour changer les choses et prévenir la transmission du VIH.

Nous travaillons maintenant avec le dernier département de notre projet : le programme OVC (orphan and vulnerable children). C’est Eddie, un de nos bons amis qui est en charge. Il est le coordonateur du programme, mais aussi le seul travailleur social du département. C’est incroyable comment il a une grande charge de travail. Il a à peine 27 ans, fraîchement sorti de l’université et déjà il est en charge de presque 4000 orphelins. Il est vraiment intelligent, c’est vraiment facile de travailler avec lui. Cette semaine il nous a amené à un atelier qui durait toute la journée de lundi. Cet atelier concernait les enfants qui élèvent d’autres enfants. Il y avait des gens de partout, du ministère de l’éducation, de la santé, beaucoup de gens de USAID et de d’autres organisations. C’était vraiment intéressant, j’ai beaucoup aimé parler avec ces gens là et j’ai beaucoup appris.

Hier, il nous a amené au « OVC forum ». Ce forum a lieu une fois par mois. Quand nous sommes arrivés, il y avait une table ronde avec seulement une quinzaine de personnes. C’était tous des gens plutôt importants, il y avait des ministres, des délégués de USAID surtout, il y avait même une déléguée de l’ACDI. J’étais vraiment gênée d’aller m’asseoir à la table, mais ils nous ont fait sentir à l’aise. Ça a été très intéressant de les voir discuter, argumenter et en venir à plusieurs consensus. Encore une fois, j’ai beaucoup appris!

Ce matin, Eddie nous a amené faire des visites à domicile. Ça n’avait vraiment rien à voir avec les visites que nous avons faites avec les « caregivers » du programme HBC. Eddie sait vraiment ce qu’il fait, il est efficace, écoute vraiment les besoins, les prend en note et fait tout ce qu’il peut par la suite pour venir en aide aux familles. Encore une fois, nous avons vu des situations plutôt tristes. Il y avait une maison où une petite fille de 13 ans était en charge de ses 5 petits frères et sœurs. J’étais vraiment impressionnée de voir à quel point elle savait exactement comment gérer un budget, comment gérer son temps pour que tout le travail soit fait, et tout plein de choses qu’une petite fille de 13 ans ne devrait pas avoir à se préoccuper. Eddie lui a fait construire une maison à travers le programme « Habitat for Humanity ». Ça les a beaucoup aidés parce qu’avant ils vivaient dans une maison faite avec des bouts de bois et des sacs de plastique. Par la suite, Eddie nous a expliqué que comme les gens savent que ce sont seulement des enfants qui habitent dans la maison, et qu’il n’y a pas de parents pour les protéger, c’est donc une cible plus facile. Il racontait que la petite fille a été violée à quelques reprises, pendant la nuit. Maintenant qu’ils ont une maison (très petite, mais une maison quand même), ils peuvent verrouiller la porte et ils sont en sécurité. Même au marché, la petite fille racontait qu’elle essayait de vendre ses tomates mais qu’elle s’en faisait voler régulièrement parce que les gens savent qu’il n’y a pas de parents pour les protéger. Pour le reste, la plupart des OVC que nous avons visitées étaient pris en charge par des voisins et le plus grand défit était souvent d’arriver à nourrir tout le monde. Demain, nous allons visiter « Habitat for Humanity ». J’ai bien hâte de voir ça, ça risque d’être très intéressant!

Même si nous devons partir bientôt, je sais que la Zambie va toujours prendre une grande place dans mon coeur. De toutes les places que j’ai visitées, ce pays est le plus merveilleux. Non seulement j’ai formé des amitiés incomparables avec des gens d’ici, mais j’ai aussi beaucoup appris sur moi-même et sur ce qui m’intéresse dans la vie. Je sais avec certitude que les gens que j’ai rencontrés ici sont le genre de personnes de qui je veux m’entourer dans la vie et avec qui je veux travailler. Je vais revenir ici, c’est certain, ce serait impossible pour moi de dire adieux. Merci à tous ceux qui ont fait en sorte que ce voyage soit possible, merci à tous les gens merveilleux que j’ai rencontré ici, qui se sont ouverts à moi et m’ont fait vivre leur culture et surtout, merci aux 9 filles merveilleuses avec qui je suis venue ici, nous avons toujours veillé l’une sur l’autre et je les aime de tout mon cœur! Bref, merci à tout ce beau monde pour m’avoir fait vivre le meilleur été de ma vie!! …. Sérieusement!!!

Bonjour de la Zambie!

August 4, 2010 | Caroline, stagiaire, Zambie

J’adore toujours autant être ici! J’ai rencontré tellement de gens incroyables, je me demande vraiment comment je vais faire pour les quitter! Au travail, Sarah et moi avons fini avec le programme <HBC et nous travaillons maintenant avec SRHEP (sexual reproductive health educational program). C’est un programme à travers lequel des jeunes renseignent d’autres jeunes à propos de la santé reproductive et plus particulièrement du VHI-SIDA (peer educating). Ce programme va plutôt bien, les jeunes sont beaucoup plus motivés que les « caregivers » du programme HBC. Je plus gros hic est probablement qu’il y a plusieurs erreurs dans l’information qu’ils transmettent. Sarah et moi les avons suivis à plusieurs reprises lors de leurs présentations dans différentes écoles aux alentours. Nous avons été surprises de constater que la plupart des « peer educators » croient que le VHI ne peut pas être transmis par le sexe oral, mais qu’il peut l’être par le baiser.

De plus, lors de leurs présentations, ce qui m’a le plus frappé a été de voir à quel point ils mettent l’accent sur l’abstinence. Ce n’est pas mal en soit, c’est même très pertinent, mais je crois quand même qu’ils devraient aussi encourager l’usage du préservatif. Je comprends que l’abstinence est le seul moyen de prévenir le VIH à 100%, mais je suis d’avis que plusieurs jeunes vont quand même choisir de ne pas s’abstenir. J’étais donc un peu inquiète de les entendre dire haut et fort que les préservatifs sont réservés aux gens mariés.

Comme Bwafwano a reçu du financement du premier PEPFAR de USAID à travers le programme RAPIDS (pour la Zambie) et qu’il est en attente de savoir s’il recevra du financement du deuxième PEPFAR, les programmes de Bwafwano continuent de suivre l’idéologie de PEPFAR. Comme le manuel de RAPIDS ne parle que d’abstinence et que leurs présentations sont entièrement basées sur ce manuel, je me disais qu’il serait plutôt difficile de leur faire comprendre notre opinion concernant les préservatifs. Je crois que c’est probablement dû à la barrière culturelle. Comme je considère qu’il est vraiment important d’être à l’écoute de leurs opinions, nous avons donc essayé de comprendre pourquoi ils réservent le préservatif aux gens mariés même si le VHI a décimé presqu’une génération entière dans leur pays.

Nous avons donc, lors d’une réunion, essayé d’aborder le sujet. Ils nous ont expliqué que comme la religion est importante dans le pays et très présente dans les écoles, ils se doivent de faire la promotion de l’abstinence et de l’abstinence seulement. Le fait de parler de préservatifs pourrait, selon eux, encourager les jeunes à avoir des relations sexuelles, ce qui ne serait pas accepté dans les écoles. Ça a été une discussion particulièrement importante à travers laquelle nous avons finalement compris le pourquoi de leurs actions. J’ai été surprise de voir à quel point ils étaient ouverts à entendre notre opinion sur le sujet, que nous leur avons exprimé en tout respect. Au bout du compte, ils étaient d’accord avec nous, mais ne savaient pas comment contourner les règlements des écoles. Nous en sommes venus à un consensus à travers lequel les « peer educators » ont décidé d’encourager les jeunes à venir les rencontrer directement dans leur local à Bwafwano pour discuter des préservatifs ou de tout autre sujet qu’ils ne se sentent pas à l’aise d’aborder à l’école. Ça a été une discussion particulièrement intéressante à travers laquelle j’ai beaucoup appris.

Sinon à la maison tout va encore très bien avec le groupe, nous nous entendons toutes très bien! Aussi, j’adore les enfants des alentours, ils veulent toujours nous saluer, marcher avec nous, toucher nos cheveux…ils sont vraiment mignons! Ils nous suivent tout le temps partout! Je suis toujours surprise de voir à quel point on dirait vraiment que nous sommes dans un pays d’enfant, je vois rarement des adultes. Chaque femme a un nombre incroyable d’enfants à sa charge et ça me rend toujours un peu triste de voir à quel point elles n’ont pas d’aide des hommes. Ils ne font sérieusement pas grand-chose. Pendant que les femmes s’occupent des enfants, de la maison, de cultiver des produits et de les vendre, les hommes sont aux bars (qui sont ouverts dès 6h le matin) et boivent du Shake-Shake (spécialité d’ici) toute la journée. C’est certains qu’ils ne sont pas tous comme ça, j’ai quand même rencontré des hommes merveilleux qui font un travail incroyable pour leur communauté.
La semaine prochaine, nous allons commencer à travailler avec le programme OVC (orphans and vulnerable children). J’ai bien hâte!

La semaine prochaine, nous allons commencer à travailler avec le programme OVC (orphans and vulnerable children). J’ai bien hâte!

À la prochaine!!

24 juin 2010

August 4, 2010 | Caroline, stagiaire, Zambie

Bonjour tout le monde!!

La meilleure phrase pour décrire mon expérience jusqu’à maintenant est « J’adore la Zambie!!! ». Depuis que nous sommes arrivés, j’ai eu des moments difficiles, mais tellement de moments incroyables! Je suis ici pour travailler en tant qu’étudiante pour mettre en œuvre un projet à Bwafwano. Mon seul but cet été est d’apprendre le plus possible!

Bwafwano est un organisme à base communautaire. J’ai beaucoup appris depuis que je suis ici, ça me permet vraiment de mettre en pratique la théorie que j’apprends à l’université. Nous sommes 10 participantes de l’université d’Ottawa. Nous habitons tous ensembles dans la maison de Mama Chikoti. Nous sommes vraiment très proches, il n’y a eu aucun conflit jusqu’à présent. Nous nous entendons toutes vraiment bien, nous sommes vraiment en train de créer des liens d’amitié très forts. Je les adore, elles sont devenues ma deuxième famille!

Dans l’organisme où je travaille, Bwafwano, les gens employés et bénévoles mettent vraiment toute leur énergie dans leur travail. Ils sont pour la plupart bénévoles. Je ne sais pas exactement comment ils arrivent à manger, mais ils m’ont expliqué qu’ils n’arriveraient pas à trouver du travail de toute façon et qu’ils préfèrent donc mettre leur énergie à aider leur communauté. C’est particulièrement beau de voir à quel point tout les gens s’entraident ici…

Bwafwano est une organisation qui a été fondée en réaction à la forte prévalence de VIH/SIDA et au nombre croissant d’orphelins dans les alentours. Cette organisation regroupe plusieurs services dont une école, une clinique, un laboratoire pour analyser les tests de dépistages (VCT),un programme qui s’occupe de visites à domicile, un programme qui s’occupe des orphelins, un programme à travers lequel des jeunes instruisent d’autres jeunes sur le VIH/SIDA, etc. Le plus grand défit de l’organisme en ce moment est le manque de financement. Comme PEPFAR 1 (RAPIDS en Zambie)est terminé, ils sont toujours en attente de savoir s’ils vont recevoir de l’argent du deuxième PEPFAR. De plus, chaque programme montre un manque flagrant de structure.

Nous sommes séparés en équipes de deux personnes et chaque équipe a un projet différent. Nous avons commencé notre travail par une analyse des besoins de l’organisme. Nous avons soumis des propositions de projets à la direction qui en a sélectionné trois. Je suis en équipe avec Sarah. Le projet sur lequel nous travaillons consiste à fixer des objectifs précis pour trois départements : HBCP (Home Base Care Program), SRHEP (Sexual Reproductive Health Education Program) et OVCP (Orphan and Vulnerable Children Program). Nous avons en effet remarqué que ces différents programmes ont clairement besoin de fixer des objectifs. En ce moment, tous les bénévoles travaillent un peu « dans le noir », ils ne savent pas trop où ils s’en vont et par conséquent ils manquent de motivation. Notre but est de les aider à fixer les objectifs qu’ils veulent atteindre et ainsi de faire en sorte que tout le monde travaille dans la même direction. Comme ce sont eux qui travaillent au sein de l’organisation, il est vraiment important pour nous d’impliquer le plus de gens possible dans notre projet. Nous cherchons à rencontrer le plus de bénévoles et d’employés possible, d’entendre leur opinion et de les suivre dans leur travail au sein de la communauté pour mieux comprendre ce qu’est une journée typique pour eux.

Nous avons commencé avec le programme HBC. Nous avons suivi des « caregivers » à plusieurs reprises lors de leurs visites à domicile. Une famille qui m’a beaucoup frappée est quand nous sommes allées visiter un homme en phase terminale. Il avait le SIDA. Comme il ne pouvait pas parler, nous avons discuté avec sa fille. Nous cherchions à comprendre un peu mieux ce à quoi sa vie de tous les jours peut ressembler. La femme avait elle-même 9 enfants et devait en plus s’occuper des 5 enfants de sa sœur décédée et de son père malade. Ça fait beaucoup de bouches à nourrir. Pour arriver à nourrir tous ces enfants, elle nous expliquait qu’elle va acheter du charbon tôt le matin. Plus tard dans la journée, ses 3 autres sœurs vont essayer de le vendre pour faire du profit. Évidemment, ses 3 sœurs ont aussi des enfants et pendant le jour elle doit donc aussi s’occuper des enfants de ses 3 autres sœurs. En faisant le calcul, chaque jour elle s’occupe de 41 enfants (dont seulement 3 vont à l’école) et de son père malade. Quand nous lui avons demandé où était son mari, elle nous a répondu qu’il était parti boire et qu’il ne travaillait plus depuis 6 ans… nous n’avons pas insisté sur le sujet. Le plus frappant était surtout de voir que malgré la charge de travail qui pesait sur elle, elle avait un immense sourire et était une des femmes les plus chaleureuses que j’ai rencontrée. Elle nous a dit qu’elle remerciait Dieu tous les jours d’avoir ses enfants avec elle, ses sœurs et son père et que pour elle c’était tout ce qui comptait.

Un moment un peu plus difficile dans les visites à domicile est la fois où nous avons fait une visite chez une ancienne « caregiver » qui était maintenant malade. Quand nous sommes entrés dans la maison il y avait 2 femmes et un bébé. Nous nous sommes assises pendant un temps pendant que les « caregivers » discutaient avec les deux femmes. Sarah et moi nous demandions vraiment ce qui se passait parce que nous ne voyions personne de malade. Après un certain temps, Sarah a demandé à Veronica (une caregiver) s’il y avait quelqu’un de malade dans la maison et elle a répondu « oui juste derrière toi ». Nous étions assises sur un divan au fond de la maison et quand j’ai regardé derrière moi j’ai vu, entre le derrière du divan et le mur du fond de la maison, il y avait une femme étendue sur le sol, cachée là. Elle était étendue directement sur le ciment, avec une couverture. Il y avait des mouches partout sur elle. Nous avons fait le tour du divan et nous nous sommes installées près d’elle. Elle avait l’air de souffrir beaucoup, mais elle nous a parlé un peu quand même. Elle nous a raconté qu’elle est maintenant « malade » (ce qui veut dire qu’elle a le SIDA). Elle a eu la tuberculose en janvier et ça lui a paralysé tout le bas du corps. Comme il n’y avait aucune chaise roulante autour ou autre moyen de se déplacer, je pense bien qu’elle était étendue là depuis janvier. Elle avait beaucoup de plaies de lit, surement la raison pour laquelle il y avait autant de mouches autour d’elle. Elle nous racontait qu’au moment où elle a commencé à être malade, son fils l’a amenée chez lui pour que sa femme s’occupe d’elle. La femme est partie et comme par ici ce n’est pas le « rôle de l’homme » de faire des choses comme ça, la femme s’est retrouvée sans personne pour s’occuper d’elle. Elle nous expliquait qu’elle a 8 filles, mais qu’aucune ne veut s’en occuper, c’est donc la voisine qui s’en occupe tous les jours. À la fin de la discussion, elle nous a remerciés d’avoir accompagné les « caregivers » et elle nous a dit que notre visite était très spéciale pour elle. Elle nous racontait qu’il est rare que des gens lui portent intérêt et que la plupart des gens qu’elle a connus et aimés dans sa vie la considèrent comme déjà décédée.

Pour rentrer à la maison, Sarah et moi n’avons pas dit un mot de tout le trajet. Nous étions vraiment troublées. Je pense que je n’étais pas encore prête à voir ça, j’étais consciente que ce sont des situations qui existent, mais de le voir c’est autre chose. Ça m’a beaucoup affectée. Ce n’était pas seulement le fait que cette femme souffrait beaucoup, c’était aussi le fait qu’elle a été abandonnée par toute sa famille et qu’elle est laissée là à mourir seule, cachée, privée de toute forme de dignité.
Sarah et moi avons chacune eu une grosse remise en question. Notre petit projet de « goal setting » me paraissait insignifiant tout d’un coup. J’avais de la rage de penser qu’une bonne partie du reste de la planète ferme les yeux sur de telles situations. C’est beaucoup plus facile de ne pas chercher à savoir…

Malgré les moments plus difficiles, je suis reconnaissante tous les jours d’être ici. J’apprends énormément, non seulement au niveau académique, mais au niveau personnel aussi. J’ai rencontré des gens extraordinaires. Je suis tellement contente d’être ici!
À la prochaine!!!

Microcrédit et développement

July 21, 2010 | Jeanne, stagiaire, Monde à partager, Zambie

Le paysage parsemé de marchants de Chazanga, un village aux extrémités de Lusaka où habite notre équipe de Monde à partager, illustre d’une justesse étonnante la situation économique de la Zambie. Ce pays souffre d’un taux de chômage d’environ 80 %, restreignant ainsi ses habitants principalement aux activités informelles comme moyen de survie. Ces derniers tentent tant bien que mal d’entretenir leur commerce, malgré la lacune des mécanismes économiques et de soutien social qui pourraient les assister.

Dans nos premières semaines de notre stage, un marchant de fruit nous explique la nécessité de créer sa propre source de revenu. Les conditions difficiles qui sont liées à la réalité économique zambienne présentent une absence de soutien gouvernemental qui pourrait potentiellement tempérer les conséquences du chômage, un mécanisme important souvent pris pour acquis en Amérique du Nord. Fonder son propre commerce par le bias de l’économie informelle devient un des seuls gagne-pains pour les populations plus démunis. Toutefois, comme tout commerce à ses débuts, ces derniers requièrent souvent un capital initial pour commencer ou contribuer à l’expansion de l’entreprise. L’accessibilité aux services financiers, ainsi l’accès au crédit, est d’une grande importance pour les micro-entrepreneurs qui tentent de démarrer un commerce. Les grandes institutions financières zambiennes offrent des taux d’intérêts qui peuvent varier de 20 à 50% pour les petits commerces, ce qui baisse la facilité de remboursement pour les commerces de petite envergure. Détenant un certain monopole du marché, les grandes institutions financières défendent que les taux d’intérêt élevés compensent pour le risque du faible taux de remboursement. Donc, ces entreprises, relevant de l’économie informelle, sont la plupart du temps dirigées vers les institutions de microfinancement. En tentant de répondre plus adéquatement aux besoins de ces commerçants, ces derniers offrent des microprêts, réaffirmant leur raison d’être en matière d’accessibilité de services financiers pour les populations dépourvues économiquement. Par contre, suite aux consultations de certains ces organismes dans la région de Lusaka, nous avons noté que la notion de gestion du risque l’emporte, incitant ainsi ces institutions à proposer des taux d’intérêt variant de 40 à 60 %, limitant ainsi la capacité de remboursement des petites entreprises émergentes.

Le milieu des institutions financières zambiennes a fait croître mon intérêt envers les problématiques économiques. Le lien direct qui se trouve, selon moi, entre les difficultés économiques des populations et des autres défis sociaux, j’ai ressenti le besoin d’explorer les alternatives, surtout au niveau du microcrédit. Une partie de notre équipe de Shared World Initiative travaille présentement cette ONG, nommée Lupwa Luwabumi Trust (LLT), qui met en œuvre une façon innovatrice de pratiquer ces méthodes de microcrédit. Lupwa est une ONG qui a vu le jour en visant d’abord la réintégration des enfants de la rue en milieu familial. En incorporant les principes de l’approche basée sur les droits humains (Human-Rights based approach) de l’organisme allemand Kinder Not Hilfe (KNH), dès 2003, Lupwa a rapidement intégré des activités de microcrédit, où les fonds initiaux, servant comme prêts sont générés par la capacité d’épargne interne du groupe d’individus qui y sont membres. Des groupes sont donc formés afin de mettre sur pied des initiatives d’entreprise génératrices de revenus, tout en conservant une dimension communautaire, étant donné la nature de ces commerces. Ces activités économiques permettent aux membres de s’attaquer aux véritables racines des problèmes sociaux de leurs communautés, étant donné que les difficultés financières sont souvent la source des complications familiales, incitant les jeunes à la rue, les engouffrant ainsi dans une succession de problèmes sociaux plus large. Donc, la mission que se donne Lupwa est l’élimination du problème des enfants dans la rue en tentant de régler les sources les plus profondes et sous-jacentes à cette problématique, en passant par la réhabilitation familiale jusqu’à la création de groupes communautaires incorporants de microcrédit et de soutien social, adapté à leurs besoins.

Les membres créent donc des fonds d’aide, servant au financement de leurs entreprises et d’activités communautaires. Ce qui est particulièrement intéressant dans la philosophie de cette ONG, c’est le soutien fourni aux membres d’une communauté, aussi démunie soit-elle, afin de s’assembler, s’organiser, et mettre sur pied des projets, dans le but de générer des profits, tout en tentant de résoudre des problématiques sociales au sein de la communauté. Le seul rôle que se permet Lupwa, c’est de faciliter le processus d’organisation sociale, sans toutefois dérober la communauté de son pouvoir décisionnel au niveau de son organisation et de ses activités. De plus, Lupwa guide les groupes membres vers l’autosuffisance, donc de ne pas chercher des dons externes pour financer leurs activités. Lupwa vise par cette philosophie à éliminer le plus possible la notion même du syndrome de dépendance, qui trouve ses origines lorsque les populations vulnérables se tournent uniquement vers l’extérieur pour trouver des solutions.

Ce qui m’a également paru intéressant au sein de cette organisation est le taux de succès, tant au niveau économique que social, en corrélation avec les conditions environnantes des groupes. Quand nous avons questionné notre coordonnateur de programme chez Lupwa sur les points qui semblaient mener certains groupes à la réussite et à améliorer leur niveau de vie, sa réponse nous a grandement incités à réfléchir sur les pratiques courantes du financement des projets de développement.
« The regions that are most responsive to our self-help group approach and demonstrate success, are those from virgin territories. Those who have been free from hand-outs. »

Le fait qu’une communauté, négligée par les dons des organismes externes, soit le groupe qui démontre une plus grande amélioration au niveau de sa qualité de vie, invite au questionnement. L’on peut réfléchir sur le fait que les dons et les prêts entretiennent donc réellement une relation de dépendance entre les donateurs et les populations vulnérables, tout en maintenant ces derniers dans une position où ils deviennent aveugles face à leur propre potentiel. Selon les intervenants et les coordonnateurs de Lupwa, le succès des groupes est déterminé par la capacité de ces derniers de se détacher de l’idée qu’une aide extérieure est nécessaire pour le démarrage et la réussite de leurs projets.

Le microcrédit m’a souvent été présenté comme une solution, quasi sans faille, pour les populations vulnérables, surtout en observant des cas à succès, comme Bancosol en Bolivie ou la banque Greenem au Bangladesh. Toutefois, ces institutions de microfinancement offrent une aide provenant de l’extérieur, nourrissant ainsi d’une certaine façon le fameux syndrome de dépendance. De plus, l’on critique souvent la méthodologie des organismes de microcrédit, qui s’adressent aux plus pauvres des riches et aux plus riches des pauvres, marginalisant ainsi les communautés en grande difficulté financière, qui ne peuvent pas se permettre le service de microcrédit à haut taux d’intérêt.

L’approche au microfinancement mise de l’avant par Lupwa se distingue des courants de microcrédit classiques en axant sur les capacités innées d’une communauté à se soutenir et de créer ses propres opportunités. Cette approche, constitue en soi une innovation importante des pratiques au niveau du développement sur le terrain, ce qui nous a inspiré à mettre sur pied un projet que je partagerai avec vous sous peu, histoire de vous garder en haleine.