Sunday, July 16, 2017

Planning for the Trip in February 2018

Going back!! and hopefully taking 15 folks with me. Operation iDream, out of Sacramento, is moving forward like Buster's Gang!! From having obtained land from the tribal chief in January this year to planting a righteous garden (farm) to actually constructing the first school building and starting another community school.... Pastor Sam Sikapizye, Charlie's son-in-law is letting no grass grow under his feet! He has been in this country long enough that he has no patience for the idea of waiting for somebody else to do it. He's a man of action and I admire that.

You can check out the progress of Operation iDream on FaceBook here:

It's inspirational.

Back to Hope Village, though, the need there continues to be great and there needs to be a roof over the Community Center building before the good weather goes away. That needs $$$$$$$$$. Fifteen Thousand of those. That will do away with meetings in the mud inside the four walls with the tatty tarp roof that leaks when it rains.

The big question in my mind is "how do we raise $15,000?" Is there someone out there that would do that out of the goodness of their heart? Do we do bake sale? Go door-to-door? Do a fundraiser? What kind of fundraiser would raise $15,000?  I'm open to suggestions. 

Help me out here, folks?

More as things progress.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Reconsidering Charity and How I've been Involved

So it's Tuesday morning and I've been thinking about this for a while now and there being no timke like the present, here goes.......

I was recently guided to a very interesting (read: disturbing, enlightening, and encouraging) book, Charity Detox  by Robert Lupton. A hardnosed look at what our typical charity efforts accomplish - and they do accomplish results - just not what we had intended in most cases.

Our Food Pantry at Reformation Church is a great example of this. I watch the sullen looks on some people's faces as they come for free food and that has puzzled me. I sensed resentment but never on a conscious level. After reading the above book it now is at the cognitive level and I begin to understand why. Now the challenge is how to change this. That is going to be the next big chapter in the ongoing saga of "doing outreach" where we're planted.

This is also having a reinforcing effect on some of my previous conclusions about Hope Village and Hope Ministries in Zambia. I see a desperate need for community involvement. The buzzwords of sustainability and selfsufficiency need to become real. I see this as an opportunity to build a constituency that is truly involved in the efforts. There need to be members of the community helping in things like meal preparation, cleanup, maintenance (that word missing from the Bemba language). That can pay for the school fees...but it has to be real, meaningful work that is done in exchange for the fees. And if it can be work that actually generates revenue for the community, even better!

The community at large needs to take pride in what's going on there and spread the word!!! That involves engaging the local politicos, which hasn't really been done in Twapia. The tribal chief sold/gave 15 acres of land on the other side of to start a second Community School and there's a group headed there in June. Actively raising the necessary monies to construct the first school building on that site. (There already is a vegetable garden on the site.)

There is talk of job training, although somewhat amorphous at this point. The other NGO about a mile up the road in Twapia has a room full of sewing machines and teaches tailoring. Do you think there is collaboration with them? Heaven forbid! Even though it would make sense to do that. (I guess it's not that hard to understand. We have another ELCA congregation some 10 blocks away from Reformation....."that's the Xerox church, we're the Kodak church".  Guess what, we seem to be headed down the same path those two giants are treading.).

If, just if, Hope had a couple mothers or fathers that would go to Eagle's Wings and get the tailor training, then Hope could invest in two sewing machines and at the very least produce the uniforms for the children at the school themselves rather than relying on largesse from the US. AND it could be a means for revenue generation for individuals and Hope as well. Hmmmmm.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Much later - some cluclusions


This trip has redefined "poverty" for me. In the US we have NO CLUE as to what real poverty is. What is defined as poverty here -- living on SNAP and other "benefits" is living the life of luxury. Real poverty is raising a family of five children, a husband, a grandfather all on $3 per day, living in a structure that provides a roof over your head and four walls to keep things out with a blanket for a door.

Foreign Aid delivered directly to the needy, not through some third-world government makes sense and can make a difference. PEPFAR is an example of a small grants program from the US AID distributed directly to enduser organizations through the US Embassy in country and monitored by same. Nonprofits like Hope Fellowship Ministries in Zambia, Operation iDream in Sacramento, Spark Ventures in Chicago, Hope Ministries in Kenoza Lake, NY all inject directly into the local organization in-country.

To say the need is great is to understate the situation. In order to break the cycle of same-old, same-old, education is the key. It costs real money to send a child to public school!! Education is anything but free. That same mother raising her family on $3 per day having toi pay school fees makes it only possible to send one of her children to the Hope Village Community School for the "token" fee of $15 per year.

New clothes? Not really. You can buy used shoes and used clothing on the street stalls. I saw bales of used clothing being unpacked for sale on the streets. At least it's going for use. Yes, there are shiny shops in the Malls being build all over, but if you don't live in the city and have a paying job, there's no way you're even ever going to see the inside of a Mall, let alone go shopping.

Mindset is a huge factor in the lack of forward momentum. A hundred years of having the whites tell them what to do and when and how to do it left a lasting scar on the idea that initiative is within their grasp. Sixty years later the street and parking lot condition is abysmal. Part of the problem is that there is no word for the concept of "maintenance" in the local language. No concept, no word, no action. Use it until it breaks and wait for someone to fix it. The idea of fix it yourself or hold a governing body accountable seems to not exist. This is a huge opportunity for education to make a change.

Another issue is the NIH attitude and the lack of working together with other NGOs (nonprofits). For example, there is another community school a mile away from Hope Village that has another several hundred day students. Do you think the two directors meet and discuss their challenges and successes? Nope. I challenged the son of the director of the Eagle's Wings school to reach out and form the Council of Ndola NGOs. We'll see if that happens. If I were there for a longer period of time I'd grab them by the scruff of the neck and drag them kicking and screaming to a lunch meeting and make it happen. I find that conversation starts when breaking bread together. Who knows what might come out of that.

Community School is a great idea! Funding for operations is a problem. Books are scarce and a luxury. Things we take for granted not even available as hand-me-downs.   Buying books for 350 children just isn't in the picture -- everything is going to keeping teachers and feeding the children on meal a day -- books are a luxury. Technology? Forget about it! We need companies like Apple to spend some of the billions of dollars they are sitting on to help change the world. Paying an executive $22 Million a year is obscene when there is such desperate need in the world!

Fortunately Hope Village is blessed with leadership and support organizations that are helping to make real difference in one rural village. With a budget of over $100,000 this year and support to the tune of 50% from the US Nonprofits, they are left with the need to supplement to the tune of another $50,000. How to make that happen?

Raising chickens for the large Zambian company ZamBeef can make up 10% of that shortfall if the weather cooperates and the animals stay healthy. Raising their own vegetables for the daily meals will offset another part. Where is the rest going to come from? Good question. Those are the issues that are facing us now. The need for them to become 100% self-supporting is daunting, but not insurmountable.

Another piece of the education puzzle is education of the community around the issue of the AIDS pandemic. There are 1.5 social workers at Hope Village and their task is outreach into the community. That need is something that the US Government is keenly aware of that that's what the PEPFAR Grants are for. One needs to apply though.

I'm now working with Operation iDream to organize a fund raising mission trip for 15 people in February 2018 to go and spend five days hands-on at Hope Village and then get to do a bit of sight seeing as well. Looks like the cost will be in the $4,500 range with $1,000 of that cost being a tax-deductible donation to Hope Village, the designated purpose to be determined in the next few weeks.

Stay tuned for more.

Many Days Later - post script

So, it's Tuesday afternoon and I've been back almost a week. I must confess that I would be happy to get on a plane this afternoon and go back for six months. Twelve days is just enough time to begin to see things. I think that six months would be a good period of time to be able to actually do some good and begin to get the ball rolling for change.

There is so much that we here in the US just take for granted -- Clean drinking water, accountable local government, opportunities for advancement, health care, broadband internet, the list goes on. We are so spoiled. And there are days where we are blindered to the rest of the world.

The task at Hope Village is daunting -- complete the community center/sanctuary -- it needs a roof, floor, windows; build another building to house the pre-school -- make the building blocks from the sandy clay ant hill on the property and fire them and then actually construct and finish the building; feed 352 children every day; keep the faith; evangelize; do AIDS prevention education; counsel at-risk families; purchase land for the agricultural outreach and to grow vegetables for the school and orphanage while teaching best practices for subsistance farming in the village; reach for self-sufficiency. Financial resources are limiting factors. The group that has been funding the school has cut their funding in half and that shortfall is being difficult to make up.

The chicken farm outside of Lusaka is one bright spot on the horizon. When it is in full production it should contribute about 10% of the fixed costs for Hope Fellowship Ministries -- school and orphanage -- a giant step in the right direction of a sustainable revenue stream, but they need to do much more.

I see a need for them to hold local government accountable for stupid stuff like maintenance of the 2.8 km road to the village which has the mother of all potholes from one end to the other. When queried about it there was just a shrug and a "there's nothing we can do about it". They pay property taxes and get nothing in return. I find that maddening.

I've mentioned a goat dairy operation which could provide another revenue stream for both dairy and meat. The South African boer goat would be ideally suited to the climate in Zambia. And provide an opportunity for someone with expertise from here to go and do the knowledge transfer and help make a difference.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Tuesday - on the road and in the air


Tuesday's a blur right now. I'm on the plane from Dubai to New York, and it's already Wednesday morning-ish or at least I've crossed from Tuesday 9:45 Pm to Wednesday after having had dinner, breakfast twice and lunch and we're overflying Great Britain somewhere on the way to JFK.

Big day Tuesday. Started early. Awake at 4:30 up at 5, checked to make sure everything was hoovered up at the chicken farm and packed. Appointment a 9AM at the American Embassy.

(You can't just show up and expect anyone to see you like I did on Monday. You can't even get past the Zambian rent-a-security-guard screen to talk to someone inside unless you have a specific "need". It was explained that there are too many "departments" to choose from and that there is no "general" category. That, my friends is frustrating and a royal pain in the ass! That a US citizen can't get in without having to go through the equivalent of a foreign national screening!)

I got snarky and insistent enough that they finally got me on the phone with one of the Zambian Admin Assistants who was able to get me an appointment with someone in the department that oversees the small grant program to give assistance to At Risk families in rural Zambia.

I arrived an hour early and was informed that I could cool my jets outside the entrance on one of the benches until my appointed time. Now I know what it feels like to be part of the "unwashed multitude". I collared one of the Americans arriving for work and after venting about how keeping a US citizen parked on a bench outside the perimeter just didn't feel right. She actually called the lady that I was to meet with and got her to agree to meet with me early and escorted me in where I met up with the really nice Admin who got the appointment for me in the first place.

Met and told her about Hope Fellowship Ministries and what they are doing and asked her how that might fit into the PEPFAR small grants program. Her response after my describing what Charlie and Margaret have been doing over the pat 15 years were extremely positive. There is a grant application process that closes at the end of the month and she was very anxious that Charlie apply for one. I do not begrudge any of the "Foreign Aid" dollars we are committing in Zambia -- HIV prevention, HIV+ counseling, support of AIDS orphan programs, support of community schools, clean water and waste systems, agricultural education - all desperately needed.

So I am encouraged that Priscilla was so encouraging vis-a-vis the PEPFAR grant program. She provided a contact information about a previous successful grant recipient in Ndola which I passed on to Charlie with the urging that he reach out to that person. That program has actually achieved self-sufficiency and should be able to give Charlie some pointers and maybe even mentor him through the process.
(I see more reasons for the creation of a Council of NGO's in Zambia -- read 501(c)3's.)

After my meeting I was accompanied by two of Charlie's daughters on my adventures in Lusaka. The plan was to find the manufacturer's outlet store to purchase plates for the noonday meals served at the Hope School. They feed both the 350-some students of the Hope Village School and the resident orphans, plus staff, Monday thru Friday -- so almost 400 luncheon meals every day!! That's a lotta nshima - fills their brand new 60 quart brasier full of grits!!

I'm also encouraging Charlie to reach out to the Twapia Village Council (the local governing body) and instead of complaining about how they don't do anything, invite them to come and visit and meet with him and staff and talk about how they might work together. Not to ask them for money but to ask them how they can be useful to each other - look for opportunities to work together, especially as might impact the PEPFOR grant program

The other thing I've said is the story of the man who cursed the darkness, while sitting in front of matches and a candle, and rather than taking any initiative at all..... I've talked about that in context of the atrocious condition of what once were paved roads and now more akin to a rollercoaster ride than a public street. Invite the fathers of the children in the school to come on a Saturday and just fix their stretch of the Twapia Road that the Hope Village has frontage on as an example.

I've suggested that he take a page from what seems to work for us Lutherans -- promise food and they will come. Cook a big pot of nshima and have an Open House and invite everybody to come. My experience is that more gets accomplished when breaking bread together. The big thing....get people talking!! If nothing else, the prospect of a free meal tends to be attracting.

My thoughts are racing right now and I feel like I should be here for six or eight weeks, or longer, to get some things started and the ball rolling. I can't send thousands of dollars, but I could inspire and nag them into action. The basic concept is there. Charlie is good about starting! That's the big positive thing that I take away from this visit - the vision is there and it's pretty focussed - the means are where it is a real challenge. For example, the church structure right now is walls and a rough floor with plastic giving some basic, but not completely effective shelter form the weather, but in need of funds to put a roof on, pour a real floor, doors, windows, etc. The second school building is roofed and some of the rooms are plastered, but again, kudos to him for starting!!

The chicken farm is a step in the right direction. They're getting 20,000 chicks and feed next week and that will the be defining six-week trial to prove that they have their act together for that operation and then they will be able to add a second chicken house that will let them do 40,000 chickens at a whack, but that is only going to cover about 10% of the cost with running the Village.

We need $10,000 to purchase 25 acres of land so they can do some ag-related programs teaching effective techniques for subsistence farming to the local villagers -- who have corn and squash planted together in every nook and cranny available. I've suggested exploring dairy goats and the wonderful products that can result from that and that they wouldn't need hundreds of acres of land to do that. Another suggestion was beekeeping and honey production coop. And growing the necessary vegetables for the Hope Village needs.

This has been an eye-opening experience for me and the possibilities ... well suffice it to say that all they really need is a ton of encouragement to DO. Failing is part of the success story and they need to risk failure on some of these ideas in order to be successful.

One other thing that I will say again is the lack of solar! Grid connected or just stand alone without battery backup -- what that could do in a rural village! Huge business opportunity for someone to make a ton of money!!  I'm undecided as to which of the three key ingredients is missing: vision, leadership or money It can't be all three.

I spoke with the bartender at the Lusaka Airport whose dream is to do a "peanut whistle" radio station in a village to broadcast educational information, especially as pertains to AIDS prevention and at risk advice. Another reason to have solar power at the village level.

[Side note: the disastrous effects of media misrepresentation and slanted "news" reporting, especially by CNN, in the African subcontinent especially, are appalling!! So many people here in Zambia and in transit, actually the majority,  that I've spoken with tell me what a disaster our current President is -- racist, female hater, etc. I find this distressing and it undermines any positive efforts we might have in the country.]

Monday, February 13, 2017

Monday Morning

Moving church service yesterday. Said goodbyes and headed off to Lusaka on the same road we used to get to Ndola. At the resk of being redundant, driving on the roads here is a challenge. You go like crazy and come to speed humps in the highway! And then there are the Traffic Police checkpoints -- four of them between Ndola and Lusaka. I'm told they're looking for people operating scab taxis, although they did ask Charlie for his driver's license at one of the checkpoints.

We stopped at this roadside market called John. Probably 300 yards or more along the road of women hawking vegetables -- tomatoes, butternut squash, green beans, okra, small white eggplants, regular purple eggplant, red onions, several different greens, among them okra greens.

We drove through isolated rain that varied from a light drizzle to a torrrential downpour. The disconcerting thing was that the sun was shining brightly as we drove in the rain.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Sunday Morning

Well it's been a lot of waiting around Saturday morning. 11:51 and time for a Mosi, the local lager.

It is afterall Saturday 😬  Waiting for a new tire and tuneup on the van before we head off to Kitwe and then Lusaka tomorrow. Gorgeous day again. Beautiful breeze. While we were waiting we walked around and saw the Museum of Zambia. Really interesting. That's a whole different post when I have time to go through the pictures and give some sort of text to go with it.

We  finally got to the village at 2:30. Grabbed a bite of lunch and then off to an adventure and a half. We decided that going to Kitwe and copper mine were too much for the amount of time that we had, considering that we were supposed to be at Hope House (the actual orphanage) for supper with the kids there. (Never heard a target time as to when we were expected.)

The next stop was the United Nations Heritage Site Dag Hammerskjold. This is where his plane crashed and he was killed. Controversy still exists as to did the plane crash on it's own or was it shot down by a second plane -- why did it take first responders 13 hours to get there....and so on.

As a potter I am interested in pottery and Margaret allowed as how there was a village where they made pots. Now the key word here is "village". We in the States have zero concept of what a Zambian village is. It's not a bunch of thatched huts. The indiginous building material now is the red sandy clay that is all over. They form blocks of this and then fire them in a huge pile. Portland cement is made locally so that is used for the mortar to hold it all together.  The closest thing I can describe is think "Bags End" with zero grass and these houses tight together in a rabbit warren-like arrangement.

The quest for the lady who makes pots was quite an adventure. Not knowing exactly where it was, I nagged Charlie to ask one of the local residents for directions. Two women said they knew where it was but the directions were way too confusing, so they got in the van and off we went, not without some very close passages up and down through the village market.

Finally we got to a place where Charlie parked the van and stayed with it while we went off on foot to find the lady. Traditional coil pots, beautifully decorated, and one just keept saying "buy me, buy me" so I did. It's going to have to be carried onto the plane because I don't want to chance it in the check baggage.

And after I told her I wanted that one and why, she went back into the house and came out with a lid for it. I was perfectly happy to pay the 50KWA for the pot and lid. I'll treasure it and it will  also be used for beans soon after I get home.