Thursday, March 25, 2010

Monica Hangoma - one of our caregivers

Here is the speech Monica gave at our National Caregivers Appreciation Day. She used to get ill whenever she she thought about caring for someone with HIV/AIDS...and then she became a caregiver and her whole perspective changed. Above, she is shown with two of her clients she visits on a regular basis.

Ladies and gentlemen

On this caregivers day, I Monica Hangoma from RAPIDS I would like to say it is my pleasure and honor to be accorded this rare opportunity to talk on behalf of my fellow caregivers across Zambia.

I would like to thank RAPIDS for their training given to us, we achieved more knowledge. To USAID for funding the program; because of their support we are here praising today and also to the government of Zambia for their partnership at community and local level.

In 2000, my elder sister was sick for a long period. Family members believed that she was bewitched. They took her to many different traditional healers. That is when the sickness was worse.

My aunt came and took her for VCT (voluntary counseling and testing) where she was tested and found HIV positive. She started taking drugs and was cared for and monitored by a stranger -- a caregiver. However, because she started the drugs late, the medication did not respond well and as a result, she died in 2001.

I was touched by the help of the so-called caregiver. I thought, if this woman can take care of someone who is not even her relative, why can’t I do likewise? That same year, I became a caregiver.

Before I didn't want to mix with sick people, I used to feel nausea and vomiting. I was also afraid of getting sick.

My role is to provide care and support to people in the community who are suffering from HIV/AIDS and related diseases. I teach them how to prevent themselves from getting the disease. I encourage them to go for VCT, provide spiritual support, material support, physical support, cleaning, taking them to the health centers and seeing that they are taking their medicine at the right time.

And I have known how to love every human being sick or poor, and keep their secrets. Now, I am a friend to sick people. Without love you can’t be a caregiver, with love every thing is possible. For my clients, they are loved and cared for hence their lives are prolonged.

Therefore I would like to thank all those who are supporting the work of a caregiver; may the good Lord bless you all.

Thank you.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

One of our caregivers speaks about his experience

Jackson with some of his clients

Jackson Zondwe is a caregiver with our program and was selected to speak on behalf of the 20,000 caregivers around Zambia. His life has been transformed as a result of being a caregiver. Following is his speech that he gave to our national caregiver appreciation day:

My name is Zondwe Jackson from the RAPIDS consortium. I am greatly humbled today to be given this rare occasion of presenting g this speech on behalf of all the dedicated caregivers across this great country Zambia.

I started working as a caregiver in 2004. Since then, I have been trained in many skills as a caregiver, among them is to stand in the gap for my clients. I am always there for my clients who have no one to encourage them in life because of their status and for those clients who cannot get to the clinic for their appointments. I am also there to counsel those who are not adhering to treatment and care and help households discuss behavior change and prevention of HIV/AIDS.

As a caregiver, I counsel my clients in all situations and they in turn make informed decisions in their lives. Supporting my clients has helped me personally. This work has made a big difference in my life.

Before I started caregiving, I was a drunkard and used to abuse alcohol in the real sense and as a result I engaged in risky behavior. But, one day, after a routine visit to one of my clients, he told me he was drunk the day before and this made him forget to take his drugs. I encouraged him to stop drinking alcohol and then, my client stopped drinking beer and became adherent to his treatment. But one day, without expecting him, he found me drinking a pack of shake shake beer. To be honest with you people, I was so much ashamed before him.
I learnt my lesson. Now what I tell my clients is that what I also do. I lead a happy life -- even my marriage is now happy. I have a happy family again because of a changed life through being a caregiver.

Being a caregiver is not only caring for others but it has also taught me to care for myself and my family. Now I am faithful to my wife and share this prevention message with others: ONLY THROUGH PREVENTION CAN WE STOP HIV/AIDS.

Many lives of my clients have been changed through this work of being a caregiver. There are people in the community who totally refused to do an HIV test but after having counseling sessions with them, they have agreed to the test and are in HIV care and treatment. Now, they are back being employed, providing for their families and heading happy families that were nearly torn apart during their illness. These are the people who are in the forefront advocating against stigma and discrimination and preaching prevention of the spread of HIV/AIDS.

I would like to thank RAPIDS, USAID and the Zambian government for recognizing our efforts and our role as caregivers in fighting HIV/AIDS.


Thank you.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Our Future

Amazingly, we've already been in Zambia almost 19 months - with only five months left on my contract. Even here in the southern hemisphere, time still flies quickly!

As I write this, I am watching Viriginia our housekeeper sweep the leaves off the grass with her reed power leaf blower, just sweeping bent over, the old-fashioned way. Life is simpler here without the distractions of life in a developed world. I'll comment on this in another blog...

I'm working on figuring out my job situation and our future. We'd all like to stay in Zambia, but funding will be an issue - it's not cheap to have an ex-pat living overseas. So, the first order of business is to determine whether WV will continue to fund my position. Then, we have to wait until late May to see if we get awarded the grant from USAID.

If neither of those options work out then I'll seek out a job at WV (back in Federal Way). One of the stipulations of taking this job in Zambia was that there would be no guarantee that I would get a job back at WV (I gladly accepted the risk), but it means I could be joining the ranks of the unemployed!

We're praying that we can stay... Please join us in praying that decision makers would agree to funding my position.

Either we'll be back in Tacoma this summer for good...or we'll be back for a short summer holiday and come back to Zambia again. We look forward to seeing you!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

My First Gross Bug Living Inside!

This past Sunday, I was sitting on the couch and looked down at the back of my calf (which I rarely, IF EVER do) ... and there was this black circle with a hole in it! Where did it come from? What is it????

We have an ex-Peace Corps friend who thought it might be either a putsi fly or a bot fly. One of them lays larvae in damp clothes then burrows into your skin - and you have to wait until the worm thing comes out. The only way to prevent this is to either put your clothes in the dryer or iron your clothes. That must be why we have a housekeeper who irons ALL our clothes: to keep the bugs off!

The other one has larvae that is carried on the backs on a mosquito or fly - then lands on you, finds another warm, wet place - and burrows into your skin.

Of course, I'm not sure that it's either of those things, but I find it hard to believe that my skin would suddenly turn black - and have a crater in it!! There's only a little bit of a bump - but I don't even remember there being a bite or anything. Freaky! But curiously interesting....

Either way, the worms will have to come out - and there's puss involved - and a squirmy head (with teeth!)trying to get out of my skin ....

Any arm chair doctors or hypochondriacs who want to offer up their opinions?

My leg with the spot...

A close up of the crater in the middle of the black spot. If it changes throughouot the week, I'll take more photos and post them!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Fun With Austin...

Our buddy Austin was here to speak at the American school for a global issues summit. On Sunday after his commitments, we went up to the Wilkinson's farm and had a BBQ (or a braai as they call it here). Isaac W. decided he wanted to be buried in dirt!

Look at those dirty hands and legs! Nothing beats being a kid!!

With Natan and Naomi Huddle making ice cream - the old fashioned, hand cranked way.

Happenings On Our Street

I drove down the street - and saw this huge tree across the street. I thought it had fallen down but I think they chopped it down...
There were about 5 guys chopping down the tree. No chain saws, only axes...labor is cheap here, electric tools are almost non-existent.

These ladies were walking down the street with their brooms. I wasn't sure if they were there to clean up the debris from the tree or if they were off to another job sweeping dirt from the street. Again, no street cleaners (the big truck with brushes) only ladies with big brooms!

Mosquito Net Distribution - Chipata, Eastern Province

At the first distribution site, people grouped themselves by village. They had come from far away to get their free nets.

These women caregivers are wearing their RAPIDS chitenges (fabric wrap) and are dancing like no one's business! The caregivers will be the ones to talk with clients/recipients about the nets, how to care for them - and will check up on them on a regular basis to make sure they are being used correctly.

These mothers are waiting for nets. Pregnant women and children under five years are the generally targeted first for nets because they are the most vulnerable.

Before the actual distribution, the district health staff tell the net recipients about malaria, the nets, how they are used and how to care for them. There were several thousand people at this first distribution.

At the second distribution, I asked the people "how many of you had malaria last year?" - nearly everybody raised their hands. The nets (seen at left still in the bales) will go a long way towards reducing the incidences of malaria. If the area can get 80% coverage, there is a good chance that malaria will be eradicated.

Each person was registered by their caregiver before the distribution - and had to sign their names (or if they couldn't write, they used their finger print) to show they received their nets. If neighbors couldn't make it, they will also pick up their nets. The villagers will self-police and keep track of who should have received a net.

It was a very hot day, so people who brought their umbrellas were able to find some relief from the sun...or they could use their nets as shelter!

Everyone here carries stuff on their heads...that's why they have such excellent posture (a comment I keep pointing out to Sophie!!).

The granny in the middle came up to me - and just started talking away, in a language I didn't understand, but she had something to say to me! She was the sweetest woman and I loved listening to her speak so emphatically... but not being able to reciprocate. With time, she and her friends walked away, clearly I was no longer fun to talk with!

The grannies walking home with their nets. It always makes me happy to see old people because I know the ravages of AIDS have passed them over. On the flip side, they are often taking care of grandchildren and great children who have lost their parents to AIDS.

These school girls are so happy to get their nets!!

The methodology we use to distribute nets at the community level with our caregivers really is an ideal method and we have found net usability is high - and incidences of malaria have decreased. Caregivers will continue to check up with clients months from now to make sure they are being used properly.