The second month of my 3-month community entry period proved to be very productive in more ways than one. And as each week passed, I felt more and more at home, settling into a groove with work, projects, and home life. It’s also really nice hearing my actual name on the bush paths of the villages I pass on foot or on bicycle, instead of “muzungu,” “chindeli,” or “Ba’China,” name-calling that I’ve been struggling with since I got here.
On the workfront, I continued to meet as many community members as I could in each of my six catchment area zones, attending meetings and doing community presentations. Working at the health centre three days a week in the mornings gets me up and starting my day early. Tuesdays are usually the busiest day of the week for us, with Under 5 Clinic. For the past handful of months, even before I came, there was an issue with vaccinations for the children; our health centre’s solar panels couldn’t support and operate a fridge to house the vaccinations and since our District Health Office (DHO) is 15k (roughly 9 miles) away, transporting the vaccinations every Tuesday turned out to be a challenge for both the health centre and the DHO. In short, imagine every under 5 child in a catchment area of over 5,400 people, including newborns coming in at 19 newborns per week (that’s almost 80 brand-spanking new babies), not receiving any immunizations. Huge problem, huh? I really wanted to do something about this issue, thinking of the children and families affected. With a lot of trips on bicycle back and forth to meet with the DHO in late September and early October, the health centre leadership, staff, and I were able to work out a temporary solution, and immunizations were administered to over 200 children in just three Tuesdays in October; the last Tuesday we saw 94 children! Such an exhausting day! In additions to immunizations, we also weigh the children and update paperwork, including Birth Cards, which show growth of the children over a span of 5 years (similar to our First 5 program back in the states). Wednesdays are Family Planning Clinic days, where I do health education sessions on family planning methods (in Zambia, options include condoms, contraceptive pills, 2-month or 3-month injections, and 5-year implants) and condom demonstrations (with both male and female condoms). And Thursdays with Antenatal Clinic, I support the health centre staff with teaching mothers (and fathers, at times) about Safe Motherhood, The First 1,000 Days, birth planning, and proper child nutrition and healthy food preparation. When the staff are tending to the mothers’ check-ups, I ready their medication, including Fansidar, a Malarial prophylaxis and do weight checks and blood pressure checks.
In addition to work at the health centre, I implemented and finished my first big project with community members here in the catchment: Malaria and Bednet Check Training. (Read all about it here). Very excited to see the results from the training when the Malaria Champions turn in their work this week. Another project that started in October began with meeting with two Neighborhood Health Committees (NHCs) in Chalimbana and Yamakwakwa zones and goal-setting for the new year. Both NHCs want to become an official registered organization with the district, as well as opening up bank accounts with the district bank, which means a lot of training and work is coming down the pipelines for us. With the Yamakwakwa Women’s Club, a registered community organization, thanks to the previous Peace Corps Volunteer before me (shout-out to Amy!), our first project together will be opening up a bank account for the club, so that the women can apply for assistance with the Ministry of Community Development to help them with their club activities. And last, with new community counterparts, the establishment of two new Youth Clubs in Chalimbana and Mutoma are in the works; their goal is to learn about and implement income-generating activities, a skill that will help them with current group activities, as well as their own livelihood in the future.
Also, work with the schools continued strong in October. Kamabuta Youth Club met every week in October, despite Grade 7’s having their end of term examinations. Our sessions this month focused on PACA (Participatory Analysis for Community Action) and HIV/AIDS. My computer literacy lessons with the Grade 8’s at Kifuwe Basic School continued with teaching the students about word processing and spreadsheets. Just having theoretical lessons and not having enough computers for practical learning is turning out to be very problematic, but Mr. Shimishi, Grade 8’s computer teacher, and I are doing the best with what we’ve got. I think it’s time to think outside the box to come up with solutions that will allow the students some more realistic computer learning. Grassroots Soccer for both the boys and girls in Lubilo are currently on hold, due to a death in one of my counterpart’s family. I’m hoping they’ll pick up again in the new year.
In other news, at home, I finally finished plastering, lime coating, and painting the exterior of my hut! It took all of September to secure the supplies and resources, and a total of two weeks in October to finish everything. I’m SUPER happy how everything turned out. It’s great to finally come home to something inviting and comforting. It really does help, especially after the long, exhausting, hot season days. Pictures to come soon!
And last, but not least, all 5 Peace Corps Volunteers in our district finally got together for the first time for our first BOMA Night (nights where all of us travel into the district town to hang out, cook, eat, play board games, watch movies, and relax together) on the last day of the month, just in time to celebrate Halloween! Super fun and a great way to end a productive and memorable month. One more month of Community Entry to go, and it’s time for a long-awaited reunion with my fellow cohort and friends in December for training in the capital, Lusaka!