Sunday, November 29, 2009

Honoring Our Amazing Caregivers

We celebrated the second Caregiver Appreciation Day. An event is held in Lusaka that I organize to honor just 300 of the nearly 20,000 volunteer men and women who serve as Caregivers in their communities.

This year, there were a couple of disappointments: KK, the first democratically elected President (who attended the event last year), was unable to attend due to a last minute, out of country meeting conflict. In addition, the Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Health, who is a good friend of our program, also backed out.

So, we started the event about 45 minutes late (there is a time honored tradition that we ALWAYS wait for the guest of honor even if he/she is late and in this case, KK's administrative guy was the one we were waiting for). In spite of those disappointments, I realized that we were really there to honor and appreciate the Caregivers, not our special political speakers!

Two Caregivers - a man and a woman (60% of the caregivers are women, 40 are men) spoke on behalf of the 20,000 Caregivers...In their first audition - they were so-so, but on the day of the event, they were FANTASTIC!!! (My photos are NOT fantastic, so sorry they're a bit blurry, my little point and shoot can only carry me so far).

Monica Hangoma had a sister who was HIV positive, who eventually passed away. When Monica went to visit her in the hospital, there was a caregiver who came to take care of her - and Monica wondered why this caregiver would take care of someone she didn't even know! In addition, there were issues of stigma and discrimination - Monica was revolted by the people who had AIDS and would even throw up just looking at them.

She's come a long way since then and now she is caring for people who can barely stand because of their illness...and is strongly advocating for people to get tested and if they are found to be positive, to join a support group to help dimish the stigma against AIDS.

Jackson Zongwe has an amazing story. He's been a caregiver for a while - and has taken a lot of the trainings we provide, even the one that said not to drink alcohol (since he's taking anti-retroviral medications). He had been in the habit of drinking - and engaging in "risky behavior" when one of his clients saw him and asked him why he was drinking. He suddenly realized that he's telling his clients not to drink - and here he was out drinking... He was ashamed enough to change his lifestyle right then.

The training he received as a caregiver saved his life -- he has stopped the drinking and the risky behaviour and, says that his marriage was saved. He is now healthy and a great caregiver.

God uses all kinds of people in this world to help one another...." and the second command is like it: love your neighbors as yourself"...these caregivers are living that out every day!

It is a blessing to know these wonderful, gifted people who serve out the kindness of their hearts to those affected and infected by HIV and AIDS.

To the Lower Zambezi - Again!

I will never tire of seeing the beautiful elephants on the side of the river. On this trip, we saw so many come to the river to drink and splash mud over their massive bodies (which helps keep the bugs off).

We were celebrating our friend, Linda's birthday (she's exactly 6 days younger than me!). John caught his first (of many) tiger fish...and the guys were fishing maniacs - out the door at 6am back at 6pm...all catch and release fishing.

Tourists canoe down the Zambezi - WITH the current - and the boats drag the canoes back to the lodges.

Who can make the uglier face?? Isaac or Peter?

Our tent/bungalow. Two twin beds with a bathroom at the back. Sophie and I stayed together and Peter with John since there wasn't a room big enough for the four of us. At night, we heard and watched, the local hippo - Frankton as he walked around in front of our tent snorting and chewing on the grass.

Another beautiful African sunset....

Friday, November 27, 2009

Who is this girl?

The girls all get together at someone's house to prepare for a dance, they borrow clothes and the bling, put on makeup, take pictures of each other (ad naseum!) while they pose like models (I think that's what they're trying to do). Who is this girl??

I recognize this girl!!

Every parent must go through this transformation day she's your little girl - and the next day, she's _________ (fill in the blank, depending on the day).

Sophie is definitely getting older, but she's still the same sweet girl she's always been!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Auntie Lisa comes for a visit!

Auntie Lisa came for a two-week visit to Zambia to celebrate a milestone birthday...and because I'm so nice, I won't say WHICH milestone birthday it was!

While we were in Livingstone (the family came down when I was down there for work), we got to see the zebras that roam around by the hotel. We saw the zebras walk by while we were in our hotel room, and ran outside to take a picture with them... Lisa didn't want to get any closer - even though I was egging her on!

And, one more time to Vic Falls - the water is slowing to a dribble because it's the end of the dry season, but we weren't able to talk across the top of the falls like last year because "they" let some water out of the dam, which kept us from being able to walk very far.

Water Crisis!!

The other morning, I woke up, turned on the tap - and NO water! Not even a dribble!

The only place to find water was in our I trudged outside with a bucket, filled it with cold, slightly chlorinated water, and proceeded to take my "bath."

This experience made me think of the millions of people who don't have access to clean water - and can't just walk a few feet to a pool. Often, they have to walk miles to a water source and it could be a dirty, silty stream that has had people bathing in it, cattle walking through it and pooping in it ... As a result, they are very susceptible to serious illnesses which often lead to death.

But they need water to live - and if the dirty water source is the only place to get it, they use it. Even when they know that they have to boil the water to use it to drink, if they can't afford, or find, firewood to burn, they don't treat the dirty water... and they get sick.

Poverty creates a vicious cycle with limited choices.

What we have, that we take for granted:

Water coming out of a tap, in our homes - no need to walk long distances carrying heavy buckets of water on our heads

There is hot water AND cold water - no need to burn wood or charcoal to heat the water.

Water is clean enough to drink.

Plenty of water to use for household purposes and gardening - no need to ration it to avoid spending more hours to get water.

p.s. The issue with our lack of water was a broken water pump (to pump the water up to our holding tank - the big green tank seen in the photo). There were a couple of times when I had to take the "pool water" bath, but the pump finally got fixed.

Sophie Playing Basketball!

As an after school activity, Sophie signed up for basketball.. Their team played once in a tournament (where they lost both games!), but they had fun! Bottom photo is of Sophie and two of her good friends Tino (left, from Zimbabwe) and Ava (right, from the U.S.)
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Beautiful Flame Trees

I wish my photos could do justice to the beautiful flame trees with their bright orange flowers, with yellow stamens. This tree belongs to our neighbor, but hangs over our driveway and I'm glad that I'm not the one who has to sweep up all the sticky flowers as they fall down!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Celebrity Trip!

"The camera is rolling! Get out of the shot! Stop talking! Your shadow is in the way!" - Some of the many comments thrown my way during the shoot.

After the Net Launch, I traveled to Livingstone (home of Victoria Falls) where I met up with a film crew making a documentary of a South African singer named Yvonne Chaka Chaka. They had traveled in three-four countries in Africa filming her singing and also highlighting some of her charitable interests - and for Zambia, it was malaria (which is how I got involved).

Yvonne is a lovely lady and very professional. It was amazing to see the reaction of folks - in the city and in the villages - who knew her (I had no idea who she was). Even at the hotel, people were asking to have their picture taken with her. She's probably a bigger star than most American celebrities.

Visit to the Chiefteness

Yvonne (left) being greeted by the Chiefteness.

The first formal stop in any village is to the Chief to let him/her know the purpose of your trip and why you're in their village. Chiefs or chieftenesses are traditional leaders who have received the title from their parents. The chiefs are the ones who manage the land and determine who will get land and at what price. They are generally looked upon as the primary leader (over the government heads).

At the village we visited in Livingstone, there is an unusual chief arrangement. The chief was historically a woman, but in the mid 1900's it was decided that men should rule alongside the woman chief, so they now have joint "management." Here we are being received by the chiefteness in her royal office.

Since she was sitting in "her" chair, I'm assuming this is for the male chief. He must like lions! And I was wondering where they got those elephant tusks!

My celebrity photo with the Chiefteness. To the left are her two advisors, who acted more like bodyguards, they went everywhere with her. The cool thing about this chiefteness is that she decided that education is key to being a better ruler for her people, so she decided to go back to school (she's currently enrolled in grade 10) and even though she's 40 something with three children, she wants to set an example for her people.

Meeting Hupa - the REAL Star!

Hupa and her last child, Given.

Hupa is a RAPIDS caregiver and was the one I selected to be filmed with Yvonne. She is 54 and the mother of seven children. Her last two children were twins - but one (named Gift) died in 1994. Gift died of malaria. Hupa had refused to take him to the clinic because she thought that there had been a magic spell placed on the child. Even with her mother pleading, she refused... But now, she uses that experience to tell others about the ravages of malaria. Her other twin, Given is with her above and is thriving in grade 8.

Hupa is an amazing, strong woman. She looks after her five clients, works in the field to grow enough food for her family. She struggles to walk because she had polio when she was a child and when visiting her clients, her son carries her on the back of a bike. When I asked about her husband, the staff told me that this husband is her second husband - her first one passed away a while ago - and that he's an alcoholic and doesn't help at all around the house. As a single mother, I think she sought out support from a man who could help provide for her... and he did give her shelter, but I'm not sure what other ways he supports her...

Hupa holding her new net sitting in front of her house.

The Village That Received Nets

The film crew wanted to distribute nets to a village that really needed them. This one we identified was about 30 minutes from Livingstone - and according to the clinic records had had a very high number of malaria cases. When we went there to scout it out, we immediately saw why there were so many cases.

During the planting season, the people move closer to the river to take advantage of the water to plant their crops. Since there are so many elephants in the area who eat and destroy their crops, they sleep outside by their crops in little thatched roof pole structures - without mosquito nets. They need to protect their crops because without the harvest later in the year, they would have to wait another year before they have food - creating hunger and often, illness.

Here, after getting their nets, they show their excitement.

Of course, the major beneficiaries are healthy, beautiful children like this little girl!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Mosquito Net Distribution

In mid October, I traveled to the Southern Province where World Vision/ RAPIDS was distributing the first shipment of 133,000 mosquito nets. In total, Zambia will receive 300,000+nets from World Vision U.S. Above is a malaria specialist from WV giving a speech at the launch.

There are so many funny, quirky, odd things about these types of events - and I've done many an event launch:

1) Note how the camera man stands RIGHT in the front of the audience, doesn't even care that he's blocking your view.

2) Speeches are long and boring - and read slowly and deliberately (yawn!).

3) All the guests of honor sit at the "head table" where it's important that they each get a glass to drink their bottled water, there needs to be a flower arrangement and, at the events where there is a higher level government official, a young girl needs to present a bouquet of flowers to the guest of honor.

I've been involved with events where we were scrambling at the last minute to find a flower arrangement, or to find times, the protocol can be too much and my contrarian personality says "who cares???!!" but our Zambian staff remind me that it HAS to be that way - that's what protocol is all about!! It's a good learning time for me.

These events are meant to bring good PR to World Vision - and involve the government, but for me, the best part is the lives that are changed as a result of receiving the nets... see the next post.