Thursday, February 19, 2009

Travels in Zambia

Volunteers who go out into the community to teach about HIV
I've see so many new places, new countries and new sites on this trip that I'm just not sure where to start.

So here I am just going to talk about the last 7 days in Zambia and hopefully I will find a way to talk about Mozambique, South Africa and my day trip to Swaziland in future posts.

One week ago I arrived in Zambia. I spent 5 days in Livingstone visiting African Impact, an org that does voluntourism. Through them I was able to visit schools, farm coops and medical clinics. One day I was able to work at the clinic at first taking blood pressure, temps and weight to help the nurses out and then getting to weigh all the babies since Monday was baby weighing day. The walk through the HIV building was sobering. In one way I was proud to be an American and know that PEPFAR now makes it possible to give free ARTs to anyone
who needs them in Zambia. (In my mind, this is George Bush's great moment. The irony about how happy Africa is to have Obama as president, when in truth George Bush was the best president so far for Africa and may be for some time.) In another way, I looked at all their faces and saw the front lines of the HIV fight. In fact, another program at this clinic was to send a whole band of HIV positive people who wear t-shirts with HIV education messages out to go door to door in the community.

Livingstone is also the location for Victoria Falls, the largest waterfall in the world. The sheet of water flows down a long long stretch of land and visitors walk on the other side of the crevice getting soaked by the spray.

At Victoria Falls, I decided to finally try bungee jumping. The jump is off a bridge that connects Zambia to Zimbabwe, so not only did I get to jump 110 meters connected via rubber band towards a roaring river, but I got to talk Zimbabwean politics while I was waiting and after I was done.
Bungee jumping over Victoria Falls

I was surprised that the border is very open and Zimbabweans cross all day long to buy goods in Zambia, since these days hyperinflation and other problems make it impossible to purchase anything within their borders. Apparently people get a pass that is good for the day and they just have to cross back over the border by the end of the day. As always, I'm an experiential learner and having direct conversations about bad governance in Zimbabwe with people from there makes the issues so much more alive.

After volunteering and surviving bungee jumping I headed north to Lusaka, Zambia's capitol to visit Kucetekela Foundation. This org pays for private secondary school for vulnerable children. In Zambia, public schools are weak and to achieve real success a child need to attend private schools that cost an enormous amount of money and thus are out of reach to most children. For two days KF has brought me to government and private schools and introduced me to
Dancing after school in Zambia
students, teachers, principals, parents and mentors and let me see the work they do. I finish feeling very inspired that at least 36 kids are being well taken care of and being given unbelievable opportunities for the future. This might be a small organization, but it is changing lives one family at a time.

This morning in addition tour of schools, my KF escort took me out into his mother's village where I was able to wile away the morning playing with kids and exploring a world that is very far from the one I live in.

I promise to write more when I can. The intensity of my work here and the heat of the sun are slowing me down.

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