Growth

Exif_JPEG_420

Exif_JPEG_420

One of the best things about living within the very communities I work with is the opportunity to see growth as it happens in real time. This is very true of Chalimbana Youth Network, a group of 20 young men and women, some of whom came to me during the very first month of service at my site and told me that they wanted to establish a space for them to learn and gain skills for their future. They chimed in sync that learning beyond the classroom or even beyond the village was something that couldn’t be grasped. Family obligations, delivering newborn babies, cultivating fields, herding cattle, building huts… the list continues. These inherited (and often times inescapable) responsibilities didn’t allow them to venture far from home to obtain what they truly desired: continued education, training, and advancement. Their passion for learning motivated me to create tailored lesson plans and trainings, and within two weeks, we starting learning together as the Chalimbana Youth Network.

It is now almost March 2016, 6 months since we first met, and I’m happy to share that the Chalimbana Youth Network has grown in more ways than one. Yes, the size of the group grew from 6 to 20 members, but the real magic and growth lies within the confidence and self-efficacy of these young men and women. In just 6 months time, they’ve learned how to organize and mobilize as a community based organization, how to create and write a constitution, and how to apply for and open up a bank account. Most recently, they received an introduction to small business, where income-generating activities were shared and some best practices for small businesses were discussed, including how to create and interpret a budget.

Last Friday, February 19, 2016, I rolled up my lesson plans and flip-chart paper, hopped on my bike, and headed to meet the members of Chalimbana Youth Network, second guessing what I had planned for the day. I thought, “It’s only been a week since you taught them budgeting. How are they going to get into small groups, create a business plan, and propose a budget?” I learned quick never to second guess this group ever again.

Sixteen members were present that day, splitting themselves into groups of four. I gave them the assignment and instructions and when I called them all back after an hour of planning and teamwork, I found myself listening to very organized presentations on four specific small business proposals: 1) Poultry Cooperative, 2) Garden and Produce Business, 3) Charcoal Business, and 4) Baked Goods. And their budgets and balance sheets? Flawless***.

Chalimbana Youth Network will be continuing their learning next month with a series of workshops on grants and scholarships, allowing them to utilize their budgeting skills in a different context. The hope is that by the time I finish my service in Zambia, these young men and women will be equipped with enough knowledge to not only seek funding opportunities, but to be able to apply for (and be awarded) these grants and scholarships that can be life-changing.

Advertisements

Two Pizzas, One Cake

One of the nice things about some Peace Corps site placements in Zambia is the clustering of Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs). Site clustering allows PCVs to be able to support each other, and it gives us the opportunity to collaborate on programs and projects. Although my site isn’t technically a cluster site, I do have other PCVs who live within my district.

A total of 5 PCVs live in our district, Mufumbwe. Kat, my closest neighbor, lives in the district capital, Mufumbwe, which is about 15km (roughly 9 miles) away from me. Kat is German-American and loves to sew. I visit her whenever I head into town to do market shopping for fresh fruits and vegetables and whenever I need to do some work at the Internet Cafe; this is about once or twice a month. When I spend the night at her site, we enjoy each other’s company over Cappuccinos or Vietnamese Coffee, as we cook extravagant dinners together. And by extravagant, I mean cheeseburgers.

Heading east, past Kat, is MarMar, who lives in Nyansonso, which is about 75km (roughly 47 miles) away from me. MarMar and I flew in together into Zambia, and out of our entire intake of 64 Health/Education PCVs, we were the only two in our language group, Kiikaonde. MarMar and I spent A LOT of time together during training, since it was just us two, but now that she’s so far away, I don’t see MarMar often. When I do, it’s nice to hear what she’s been up to.

And making a U-turn back west for about 140km, heading past Kat’s site and past my own site in Lubilo, you’ll find the other two PCVs living in Kashima East. Kashima East is about 45 km (roughly 28 miles) away from Lubilo. Chad and Aubrey (otherwise known as Chaubrey) are a married couple from New Hampshire; the nicest, most sincere, and querkiest couple you will ever meet in your life. Chad is an Education PCV; Aubrey, a Health PCV. Chad worked as an Adult Literacy Teacher back in the states, and Aubrey helped save lives in a hospital as a Registered Nurse. Whenever we get together, it’s always a good, memorable time, fully equipped with food, boardgames, and fun. They are both running enthusiasts, as well, so it’s nice to have them close so I can have some running buddies.

Kat and I traveled to Kashima East this past weekend to celebrate Chad’s 30th birthday, deep in the bushes of Africa! Kat brought some fresh vegetables from the market and I brought some Trader Joe’s goodies to share which were sent to me two weeks ago from my cousin back in the states. Thank you, Lynn! Love you!

Together, we rang in Chad’s dirty 30 with two pizzas, a chocolate cookie cake, snacks up the wazoo, movies, and boardgames.

Exif_JPEG_420

Exif_JPEG_420

We watched 21 Jump Street (super funny movie; totally missed this one when it came out back in 2012) and The Revnant (as much hype as it got, I didn’t really like it) and played Muchkin: Adventure Time (one of my new favorites) and Querkle (so fun!). We even snuck in a 15km morning run through brambles and bushes on Sunday morning. Chad and Aubrey are currently training for and running the Mt. Kilimanjaro Half-Marathon, and as many of you know, I’m training for and running the Victoria Falls Marathon in July (you can follow my training here!)

Exif_JPEG_420

Chad, Aubrey, and Kat will all be finishing their service in August this year, so they’ll be leaving in 6 months time, and a new intake of Health/Education PCVs will be coming in when they exit. I remember the very day when I met each of these amazing PCVs, all of whom welcomed me with open arms into our district, Mufumbwe. They’ve helped me in more ways than one, showing me the ropes, answering questions and giving advice, and just simply being great, new friends. I’m so grateful for them and will miss them so much when they leave. You got big shoes to fill, incoming PCVs!

Namusanchila Youth Network

Exif_JPEG_420

Meet the Namusanchila Youth Network! This group of young men and women wanted to extend their learning beyond the classroom, so together, we met for the first time today, and created the Namusanchila Youth Network! “Namusanchila” means “I thank you” in Kikaonde, one of the many local languages here in our catchment area.

Members of Namusanchila Youth Network are all youth, ages 15-25, who all reside within Kajilakwenda Village in the Kamabuta zone of our catchment area. They’ve voiced collective interest in acquiring entrepreneurial skills to become future businessmen and businesswomen of Zambia. “I believe these skills will help me with my future. I want to learn how to be a business owner so I can help my family,” chimed in Slyvester, who was elected today as the Network’s Secretary.

Looking forward, all members will teach and learn from one another, as well as professionals from the community. The Namusanchila Youth Network is invested in learning about various income-generating activities and learning English. And after learning and acquiring these skills, helping their community is of utmost importance to the them.

Sylvester continued, “After I become successful, I want to be able to give back to those who have helped me. It is important to be thankful always.”

#peacecorps #zambia

Yamakwakwa Women’s Club

Exif_JPEG_420

Meet the women of Yamakwakwa’s Women’s Club! Twice a month on the first and last Fridays, I travel 10km into the bush and find myself in the company of these amazing women. Our sessions begin at 9:00 and usually end around 14:00. All mothers, these women have prioritized this learning space for them to continue attaining skills to not only improve their health , but the health of their family, as well.

Our sessions usually begin with an opening prayer, followed by some English lessons. Some days, I focus on grammar, other days, vocabulary, but nonetheless, we all enjoy each other’s company as the learning continues. Simultaneously, these women teach me Kikaonde (one of the local languages) and give me an opportunity to work on my language skills!

After English, I teach a health session, usually a nutrition talk that follows a cooking demonstration. This is an opportunity for the women to learn the value of preparing a balanced meal, but also, I get to share a little bit of America with them! I pick American favorites like spaghetti and meatballs, pizza, grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup, and so on to share with them. I bring ingredients with me, and while they prepare a Zambian meal for me, I prepare an American meal for them!

We end our sessions with lunch, where America meets Zambia in a cross-cultural explosion of food fit for the queens that they are.

#peacecorps #zambia

History Made Today

Exif_JPEG_420

Today is a historic day in our catchment. This morning, 4 Senior Headmen and 6 Neighborhood Health Committee (NHC) Chairpersons and Secretaries joined the staff of the Lubilo Community Health Centre and me in establishing our Advisory Council, a council of community leadership that I will be training next week on Project Design & Management. After training, the Advisory Council will be annually setting health priorities for our community and helping NHCs implement specific, measurable, and attainable health projects that will improve the health of villagers in all 6 catchment area zones. ‪#‎sustainability‬ ‪#‎knowledgeispower‬ ‪#‎peacecorps‬‪#‎zambia‬