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.]

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