Katey in Zambia

My adventures as a Peace Corps HIV/AIDS Project Volunteer in Zambia. *The contents of this blog are my own opinions and do not reflect those of the United States Peace Corps.*

Friday, November 17, 2006

Consider this the new and improved ... from the last post

Well, I find myself in the internet cafe again... this time with a short list of things to tell about my life thus far in Zambia. However, I cannot read the previous post while writing this one, so please excuse any repeats!
Last week was site visits. This means that my supervisor from Lusaka came to visit my site in the bush to provide emotional, technical, and logistical support for me. All of that went well, including her efforts to get me more information about how to train Traditional Birth Attendants on preventing mother to child transmission of HIV! However, more important to my day to day sanity... which is integral to my sucessful work here in Zambia was the fact that a Peace Corps vehicle would be coming to my site. This was my chance to restock my canned tuna and flour supplies as I bike everything to my site and these things (among the other various purchases in the BOMA) are usually pretty heavy and bulky. Needless to say I am very thankful for the chance to have gotten these things brought to my site. My supervisor visited Josh and Liz the day before me... and Liz, knowing that the only fruit available to my in my village is mangoes, was nice enough to send a bushel of bananas (roughly 100 I'd say) from her yard! However, in the 20 or so hours that they sat in the vehicle overnight, they ripened very quickly and by the time they reached me there was nothing I could do but cook with them. Benjamin (my new hen) has not started laying eggs yet though, so banana bread was out of the question. Instead, I set out on a two day venture of cooking about 150 banana pancakes... thats roughly 3 for every person in my village! They LOVED them and I had a good time teaching them another way to get fruits and therefore vitamins into their daily diet.
The people in my village really are soaking up any and all information I give them, and any and everything I do. I had had just about enough of sitting by and watching everyone in my village suffer from coughs, colds and intestinal problems... so I decided to hold a short little workshop in my mphala one afternoon. I made a cool poster about washing your hands by pouring water over them instead of sharing the same dirty water in a bowl passed from person to person. I talked about the importance of soap in washing hands, but realize that soap is expensive so I emphasized the necessity to use soap especially when you are sick. I also talked about using chlorine or boiling drinking water to purify it. Finally, I talked about the fact that the lack of pit latrines in the village (mine is the ONLY one!) poses a great health danger to everyone there as diseases are spread quickly when waste is not disposed of properly. I had this meeting thinking that it would be good Tumbuka language practice and that maybe one household would start pouring water to wash their hands and maybe they would boil their water once. However, I was pleasantly surprised and given renewed hope in the desire of my community to help itself with the knowledge that I can share when most began to pour water to wash their hands, one family boiled their drinking water, and the headman is now enforcing that 7 latrines be built for the 7 houses in the village. Woot! Success!
Now, being at in service training I am getting even more ideas about my future work here. Today I have been thinking a lot about sustainability and am thinking that my 2 long term goals will be to create a Community AIDS Task Force (CATF), and organize a month long event wherein rural communities in Eastern Province are given the opportunity to know their HIV status through mobile counseling and testing services (VCT). Ideally the CATF would be formed through community elections and I would train them. Then they could work with me on forming anti-aids clubs in schools, teaching at under 5 clinics, strengthening community groups of people living positively with HIV, and work on translation projects for both HIV/AIDS materials as well as with a local NGO that has a program on food security for HIV + patients on ARVS. The VCT project would ideally... and this is a HUGE project to take on... but ideally it would be a month long event wherein a mobile VCT unit goes to a different PCV site community each day to offer VCT, educate, connect HIV+ people with counseling services, support groups, and ARVS, etc. It would hopefully be a way to get testing available all over Eastern province to those who otherwise don't have the chance to know their status which is a huge part of the battle here in Zambia at least!
I will continue to work on clean water projects as a secondary project (but really it goes along with my HIV/AIDS and nutrition work quite well becuase its hard to live positively without access to clean water). I have a meeting with a counterpart in my BOMA next week and hopefully we can come up with an action plan to get the ball rolling a bit faster on a catchment wide water and sanitation project! If anyone has any ideas, or knows of possible donors to fund boreholes I would appreciate a letter about it. Its hard to research NGOs and international donors from my mud hut!
Less on a work related note, but more fun stories about my time here... I was at my clinic a few weeks ago for a short meeting and its just too hot to ride my bike back in the middle of the day. So I just sat and wrote some letters at the clinic. I ended up talking to some pregnant women outside and practicing my tumbuka (by saying over and over again that I have a hard time eating okra when it is cooked to the consistency of slime... and that it has no nutritional value when you cook it with village baking soda!). It was really fun to just sit and chat with these women... most of whom had walked over 15km to get to the clinic, leaving well before they were in labor to arrive safely, only to wait many days before they go into labor and finally give birth. Its a fun time for them and there is just a great vibe amongst the group of women that are always perched on the porch in front of the delivery room of the clinic!
My last story is about when I was in the BOMA last time and needed to buy a hoe. I bought the hoe and in walking back to the VSO house where I stay there was stopped MANY times by people asking me if I could farm? if I had a farm? was I going to grow maize? what is a foreigner like you doing with a hoe?... and the best part was that I could respond in Tumbuka that I had a hectare field and that I would be growing maize, okra, sunflower, soya, and millet! Man, it was a good day!
Well, that seems to be it for the collected thoughts version of a blog post... hope you enjoyed!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I feel like i'm the first one to read your new postings because no one else has commented on them yet. you know what you should add to your farm? TEFF! that way you could make injera! it's soooo good! can't you tell i'm excited!? i keep thinking about writing you a letter. i'd better get cracking eh? oh remember when you made me a great birthday omlet for breakfast? oh good times!


9:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

WOW Katey! This is the first time i've read your blog...i don't know how i never got the memo! anyhow it's so great to hear a bit about your adventures....sounds amazing, absolutly amazing. since sept. i've been in the desert of so/central cali -- and more often than not the landscape at least reminds me of Kenya. Oh Katey! WOW! peace, aileen

4:28 AM  

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