Saturday, March 28, 2009

Limited Opportunities

I met this young woman who is 32 years old. She learned she was HIV positive when she went to the hospital to deliver her now three month old son, Joshua (all pregnant women are now tested before they deliver). Joshua went on ARVs before she did - but both are thriving.

She is married and currently lives with her mother in her village about 4 hours from where her husband lives. When she got sick and was unable to care for herself and her son, she moved back to the village with her mother. Her unemployed husband continues to seek out work.

Her one plea was for milk. She knows she shouldn't breastfeed her child since she's HIV positive - but milk is expensive - especially when you have no money. What would you do in that situation - you're too weak to work but your baby needs to be fed...Tough decisions and not a lot of options.

This widow lives with her three children - aged 13, 11 and 7. She is standing in front of her house (which is about 14' x 14'). When asked what she had eaten that day - she said nothing...when asked what she ate the day before, she said "nothing." When I asked her how she generates income, she said that about twice a month, she will weed someone else's land. She get's paid 20 cents for a 1 meter wide by 50 meter long strip (think Olympic sized swimming pool). She generally does 5 rows a day - giving her a total of $1.00 a day. She only can do this about twice a month - which means her total monthly income is $2.00.

She is in a very difficult situation with little opportunity to break out of her poverty. This is the hard reality for so many people around the world. Her Caregiver, Mary, acknowledged that this situation is worse than many of her clients. Whenever she has extra food, Mary will give from what little she has to help out this family. Compassion in action.

An amazing kid

Traveling by bike with Caregivers

I recently traveled with a group of donors who have supported the vision of a now 14 year old kid from Arizona - Austin.

When Austin was 9, he heard about the plight of HIV/AIDS and the many kids who have been left behind when their parents passed away. He decided to combine his love of basketball with fundraising - and asked other kids to join him in shooting hoops - and raising money for HIV/AIDS work. To date (5 years), his organization - all kid run - has raised nearly $ 1 million.

He came to Zambia to officially open an HIV and AIDS counseling and testing lab in Sinazongwe, in the Southern Province of Zambia. We also walked and biked alongside Caregivers who are caring for children left vulnerable due to HIV/AIDS - and people who are HIV positive.

The Caregivers - Mary and Richard (left) are caring for Midia (center) who is HIV positive along with her three-month old son, Joshua - both are on anti-retroviral meds. Maxeem (right) was the Caregiver for Richard - who is also HIV positive. Richard decided to become a Caregiver after being cared for by Maxeem - and realizing he wanted to help others in the same situation he's in. This is truley Zambians caring for Zambians.

This is the rainy season (although you wouldn't know it from this photo) - but this normally dry river bed was flush with water (it had rained the night before) - and our car got stuck! It took about 3 hours to get it out. Two weeks earlier, in another part of the World Vision ADP, a WV car was crossing something similiar when a torrent of water came down and pushed the WV vehicle over six times! Thankfully, the three staff in the vehicle left with only minor bruises and cuts.

Our New Vocabulary

We have a whole new vocabulary/words that have been integrated into our talk (when we don't use the "right" word, we aren't understood!):

Old: air-conditioner
New: air-con
Old: swim suit
New: swim costume
Old: swim meet
New: swim gala (gah-lah)
Old: car trunk
New: boot
Old: cleats
New: boots
Old: traffic light
New: robots
Old: flip flops
New: tropicals
Old: pants
New: trousers
There are many more words, but we can't think about them right now because we need some coffee!! More later!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Opening of a Coordinated Response Center

Grace, the manager of the Coordinated Response Center being interviewed for ZNBC (the one TV station in Zambia) - telling about the services the center will offer the community.

World Vision opened a Coordinated Response Center (CRC) for gender based violence in Mazabuka - a highway town about 1 1/2 hours south of Lusaka.

Gender based violence (GBV) is a big problem here in Zambia - and this center would allow people (mostly women) to access legal, medical, police and counseling services all in one location instead of having to travel to different parts of town to talk with the right person, waiting, then going to the next service provider.

The local district hospital offered up a block of three rooms which were cleaned, painted, furnished and are now ready to serve those who have suffered from violence.

I was talking with a woman who illustrated how GBV became part of her personal story - and how even her educated parents can justify violence.

This woman was beaten by her husband early on in her marriage and told her parents about it - they immediately called them to the house to talk about what happened and asked the husband how/why he beat their daughter.

It turns out that the husband beat her because she was unwilling to "meet his needs" when he wanted it. When the parents heard this - the tables were immediately turned. They were no longer angry with the husband, now they were angry with their daughter for not submitting to her husband's wishes!

This is a very male dominated society and despite the fact that women run this country--they are the backbone of the family and community structures--they are still considered second class citizens.

Update: since the CRC center opened, I heard they've been flooded with clients who never knew their rights or how to access these services! Encouraging news!