Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Victoria Falls - the sequel...2 months later

Vic Falls in October

Vic Falls in December

We went to Vic Falls a month ago at the tail end of the dry season - and then went last week, well into the rainy season, what a difference in water volume! We could hear the noise - and see the spray from a mile away...

We got soaked from the spray coming off the falls - and from a bit of rain that fell during part of our time there. Thankfully, it was sunny after that and we were able to dry off. Some male tourists had their shirts off (not a pretty sight) in an attempt to keep their shirts dry for later.

Later that afternoon, we went on a sunset dinner cruise (although the clouds made the actual sunset impossible to see) - but saw hippos, some birds, and one much for wildlife!

Our sunset dinner cruise on the Zambezi River

Here's a link to more pictures from our trip:

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Saturday, December 13, 2008

What does Christmas look like in Zambia?

No endless ads on TV
No newspaper inserts
No mail coupons (because there's no mail delivery!)
No email blasts (although I'm getting plenty from Toys R Us and amazon!)
No Christmas tree lots
No Christmas lights on homes
No ringing bells outside grocery stores
No cold, crisp weather (tshirts, shorts and birks still rule the day)

  • Yesterday we saw a black and very skinny Santa handing out candy at one of the malls (AND telling kids to remember to brush their teeth!)
  • Saw a white, skinny Santa at the other mall
  • The Salvation Army brass band (made up of high school students) was playing Christmas music at the mall
  • The Shop Rite grocery store clerks and baggers are wearing red Santa hats
  • Christmas music is playing in the stores
  • Grocery stores are selling tinsel, garland, and food packaged in baskets
  • The street hawkers who accost you at every stop light are now selling small Christmas trees in addition to their usual wares: umbrellas and towels with the Zambian flag, phone chargers, phone cards, tomatoes, etc.
There is Christmas commercialization and you notice it most at the two malls in town: Arcades and Manda Hill - that are frequented by ex-pats and wealthier Zambians. The malls are in full Christmas mode - they even have a gift wrapping service!

But when the poverty level is so high here in Zambia, I don't know what Christmas looks like for the 73% of Zambians who are living on less than a dollar a day. My guess is it looks like every other day...

With the planting season in full swing, most people are out digging and planting seeds hoping that the rains won't flood out their crops like they did last year, and that they'll have enough food to feed their families.

Living in the city, I need to be intentional to remember the many Zambians who yearn for a better life but are trapped in poverty... may their Christmas be blessed and joyful in their own way...

Friday, December 12, 2008

Zambia Water Launch Event

The Launch event kicked off with ladies from the community dancing and singing for the event. We set the tent up (in case it rained) on a school soccer field - and you gotta love the cows and donkeys that use the field for grazing!

This last week, World Vision Zambia kicked off a major water project funded by a very generous U.S. donor. The $10 million, 5-year program is for four countries in Southern Africa: Zambia, Malawi, Lesotho and Mozambique. The ceremony we held was to kick off the Zambia water program - the first country in World Vision's SAWI (Souther Africa Water Initiative).

As part of my WVZ job, I helped organize a kick off event in honor of the donor, and to formalize the program and show the importance of our partners: the government, other NGOs and the communities that will benefit.

The Deputy Minister (the U.S. equivalent of Under Secretary) and donor, Terry, cutting the ribbon to kick off the drilling of the first well in the Zambia water program.

The event went really well - although it wasn't without its issues (as any event planner knows, there's always something!). The government protocol was very tricky and difficult to manuever: who speaks first, who sits by who, did you buy a bouquet of flowers to present to the minister?, I've prepared a speech, so why isn't my name on the program?, I'm leaving because you clearly don't respect me and my position enough to include me, you can't pray for the meal until the District Commissioner is here, and on and on...

The GOOD news is that in spite of all the government protocol issues - this village will receive a borehole well and women won't have to walk for miles to get water -- dirty water, which the ONLY water that's available here.

I was in this same village in October (a very dry month here) and it was a struggle for the women to get water. They were getting their water from a hole in the bottom of a dry river bed - and it wasn't even potable- which means that many people struggle with diaarhea and dysentery which is most dangerous for children under five years old.
From my October trip: women fetching water from the bottom of a dry riverbed

World Vision drilled a well in that same community. Water was struck and people were so happy they spontaneously started dancing under the water!

This village and many others will have their lives changed forever because of clean water - children will live longer, families will be able to grow crops to feed their families and even sell any excess to generate income, women will have time to do other income generating activities since they won't be spending hours fetching water... in short - individual lives and communities will thrive and become healthier in so many ways!

Sophie Turns 12!!

Sophie is in her final year of being a "tween" and we will enjoy every day of it before she turns 13!!

The annual cookie decorating tradition continued with three of Sophie's friends from school: Victoria, Sophia and Kamila. They came for a sleepover (which are very popular here in Lusaka) had pizza and decorated cookies!

L to R: Kamila, Sophia, Victoria and Sophie

What's amazing is where the girls come from. Only one is American - but in name only. She was born in the U.S. but when I asked her where she's lived she said, "Uganda, Benin, South Africa, Malawi and Zambia"... amazing and she's only 12! Victoria is from Uruguay - but has never lived there and has spent most of her life in Africa. And Kamila is half Bolivian and half Canadian and has only lived in Bolivia and Africa.

So, even though our kids go to the American International School - the emphasis really is on "international" - even for the American kids!

Happy Birthday Sophie!!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

What do I do for work?

I've been asked what kind of work I'm doing here in Zambia - and thought I'd share a bit of what I've been doing lately.

Half of my time (I use the phrase "half" loosely) is spent working for RAPIDS (Reaching HIV/AIDS Affected People with Integrated Development and Support) - the largest PEPFAR (President's Emergency Program for AIDS Relief) funded project here in Zambia.

The other 50% of my time is spent managing the Communications and Marketing (local fundraising) departments for World Vision Zambia.

The heart and soul of the RAPIDS program are the 18,516 volunteer Caregivers. These are men and women who care for children and families afffected by HIV and AIDS who live in their communities. RAPIDS trains and equips these Caregivers and comes alongside a natural social movement that will be sustainable long after our program is gone.

This last week, I organized a Zambia-wide Caregiver appreciation day where we honored all 18,516 RAPIDS Caregivers around the country with a certificate and a chitenge (a 2 meter piece of fabric that women use to wrap around their waist - think "sarong").

Our two Caregiver speakers (who were fantastic!) - Esther and John decked out in their RAPIDs outfits they had made!

In Lusaka, we had an event for about 350 of the local Lusaka Caregivers (there were too many to honor ALL of them at this event, but they held satellite events for all Caregivers) - and we had Dr. Kaunda (Zambia's first elected President) and the new US Ambassador attend our event. This was the first public event for the new Ambassador - so ALL kinds of nervousness by the USG staff to make sure everything was ship-shape, tip-top! They drove me nuts!! :-)

At the World Vision table: L to R: Charles Owubah, National Director of WV, USAID mission director, the new US Ambassador and KK, the first Zambian president, WV staff

It was fun to see so many Caregivers ride in on their bicycles (see John's entry about the bikes) and it was great to be able to honor and encourage them in the work they do.

At the Caregivers Day event in Lusaka

In addition to this, I've also helped write proposals to raise cash gifts from private corporations and other potential donors.
For my World Vision Zambia job, I am currently working on an event to launch the Zambia Water, Sanitiation and Hygiene (ZWASH) program. A major donor from the U.S. gave World Vision a $5 million gift that will be matched by other donors totalling $10 million over 5 years.

Next week, this major donor is coming to Zambia to launch the program - so I'm in event planner mode again with a large "launch event" that will take place over 3 days. I'll also be involved with finding additional gifts and reporting back to the donors who fund this project - and because water is so crucial for the well-being of communities, this will be a great addition to the other work World Vision Zambia is doing.

I leave on Monday for the trip to the field with the donor, the World Vision U.S. reps handling the account and our WV water specialists. Should be fun!

There are so many protocol issues that I am totally ignorant about. Did you know that if you have a Government Minister attend your event, you have to wait until he/she arrives until you start the event EVEN THOUGH that Minister can be up to/or over and hour late!!

So, we've had to make provisions to fill time in case the Minister is late! Also, our M.C. for the event cannot introduce the Minister directly - that has to be done by one of the Directors in the department the Minister works in (in this case, it's the Local Government and Housing department).

And, if it rains and the roads are so muddy that we can't drive to the site where we're drilling the well (which is part of our launch program)? Well, our Regional Manager said, "they have to walk!" - so picture this: men in suits with fancy shoes walking down a muddy path to get to the village where we're drilling the well!! Thank goodness the ladies from the village will be singing and dancing and taking their minds off of the mud! :-)

I'll report more next week....

Location of one of World Vision's water wells in the Southern Province... you can see why they need water - it is so dry!

The Weather

People have been wonderring about our weather here in Lusaka...

We've been here for most of the seasons - or so it seems. Here's a brief run-through:

The cold season: when we arrived in early August we were at the tail end of the cold season. We wore coats in the morning - and closed toe shoes. It's coldest in June/July.

The windy season followed: pretty descriptive. There is so much open land -- without any vegetation -- covered in red dirt. The wind carries the dirt that gets into everything. Our furniture was covered with dirt on a regular basis.

The hot season (September): It was HOT - around 100 degrees most days. Not too humid, but just HOT (thank goodness we have air conditioners in the house!).

Now, we're into the rainy season: there are torrential downpours, drizzles and ongoing rain... sometimes it looks a lot like Tacoma! I hear that there's a warm rainy season and a cold rainy season. We're in the warm rainy season - and unlike the Northwest, it clears - usually that day - and we have blue skies and warm weather. It's a bit more humid right before the rains clear up the air. Still, we wear shorts and tshirts every day...

Most mornings we sit on our front veranda, drinking our coffee and enjoying the wonderful warm's really beautiful out right now - beautiful blue skies, white fluffy clouds and a gentle breeze!

Now, back to the rest of the news!