Sunday, March 6, 2016

Teaching Boyd...Reading Glasses Distribution...Animal Husbandry Workshop...

 Teaching Boyd

     I had been approached by a child's mother a couple months back asking if I can tutor her son, Boyd. I readily agreed knowing how well-mannered and willing to learn her son is. 
     I meet with Boyd after school at my hut everyday. Just like I did with my own sons, I'd ask Boyd how school was and if he has any homework. He would tell me what he learned that day.

     In the village, Boyd is considered a 'school boy', which means he takes school seriously and is able to speak English, unlike, I'd say, most of the children. There are many obstacles children face, such as high student/teacher ratio (it is common to have over 50 students per class), needing to stay home to help with chores, or parents unable to afford school fees, uniforms, or shoes. 

     Boyd is 11 years old and in sixth grade. He is a joy to work with, in fact we are friends. I mentioned to him I wanted to go to the river to collect sand for my mud-brick-patio-turned-mud. Boyd told me he knows of a site where there is gravel on the side of the road, so we went together with sacks, bike, and shovel and collected gravel together.

Boyd working on my laptop at my host family's house.

One day I asked who his favorite teacher is. 

He said, "You are."

He wants to be a teacher someday.

Reading Glasses Distribution

     School is important for village kids. As mentioned in the previous post there are several obstacles children face making it through school. 

     Another obstacle is being able to read a text book. 

     A strapping young man visited my hut one day asking for assistance. He had trouble reading his books for school due to poor eyesight and inability to obtain reading glasses.

     I had heard of missionaries doing eyeglasses drives back in the States and bringing them back to Zambia for distribution. I felt maybe if I ask people back home if they were interested in collecting and donating I could have a Peace Corps Volunteer bring them back after his or her visit back home.

     This idea worked. Some of my friends back home spread the message the need of reading glasses in my village. They would be distributed to students who have reading difficulties. I partnered with the village clinic and screened students (8th and 9th graders) and found ten out of 50 students in need.

Testing students which magnification is suitable. 

     The clinic received over 80 glasses; mostly readers and a few pairs of prescriptions. Justin was the first to receive his glasses. He is now attending secondary school and is in grade ten. He is most thankful for his new glasses. I am thankful for him to helping me, the clinic, and the school become aware of the need for reading glasses for students. 

     Speaking with the head teacher of the school I worked with mentioned he had lost students because of their inability to read their books.

Justin wearing his new glasses.

Students wearing their new glasses with head teacher among them smiling proudly.

If you are interested in donating to the Reading Glasses Project please see the side-bar for the address or you can email me for more information. Glasses are also distributed to others in the community in need of glasses. 

Majila Falls Animal Husbandry Workshop

     My journey began with a four-hour bus ride with my counterpart, Jameson Kahokola to Mwinilunga, aka Lunda Land and Land of Pineapples. We were to attend a three-day workshop on animal husbandry held at a farm run by a former Peace Corps Volunteer and missionary, literally in the middle of nowhere.

     My host father, Elack Shikamo, joined us later to attend as the interpreter. Volunteers invited brought along farmers from their villages interested in using animals in farming.

     Once we arrived in Mwinilunga we spent the night at a lodge and left early in the morning for a two-hour canter truck ride to the farm. A canter truck is a large flatbed. Twenty of us rode in the open air along with our bags and supplies on a rutted dirt road. Not comfortable, but, we are used to it.

      We arrived at the farm. A picturesque farm you read about in storybooks. There are turkeys, cows, goats, sheep, chickens, donkeys, rabbits, ducks, pigs, and a dog named Vicegrip who greeted us by pushing his nose into our crotches.

     Volunteers staked camp in a barn shelter while the counterparts bunked in one of the houses. The main house, where Paul (the man who runs the farm) was used as a dining hall and a sitting room with a library and television. It was a comfortable venue for all of us and nice to be on an actual working farm with animals that are taken care of very well.

Volunteers' camp.

     We were expected to meet at the main house at 6:30 for our first session before breakfast. We were all split into three groups and each day we were taught a different part of farming, including, goat milking, cow milking, and visiting the poultry houses. 

     I brought along Jameson who I consider the star farmer of my village. He is interested in milk goats as a business. I trust that he is serious about venturing into this new line of farming and becoming successful. My host father, Elick, has already started a goat farm on his own and came to learn more about the intricacies of this focus.

From left to right: Jameson, me, and Eliack

     Throughout the day we learned everything from nutrition to forestry. The Volunteers helped facilitate many of the sessions. I facilitated the forestry session and made sure everyone understood the importance of trees and how they can be used for income generation.

     We engaged in conversation during meals after the long days of walking around the farm stepping in dung and smelling smells that were difficult to breath in at first, but were used to them after a while. We bathed in the nearby river. I mixed sand in with my soap to get off the dirt caked on my body. 

     I sat a a table with tribal cousins, Lundas and Kaondes. The endearing thing about tribal cousins is they tease each other. I loved sitting in on their discussions listening to them laugh and watching having fun. These farmers really enjoyed themselves. All of us got to know one another quite well. 

Elijiah, Kel, David, and Jameson. A mix of Lundas and Kaondes.

Eliack on the donkey wagon.

     Eliack worked very hard translating from English to Kaonde and vice versa. It is a lot of work, especially doing this all day. I could tell when he got tired he would mix up languages, like speak Lunda instead of Kiikaonde. I admire Zambians' ability to speak multiple languages. There are 72 tribal languages in Zambia. I know several Zambians who can speak three or more languages, including English, and switch at the drop of a hat from one to another. 

     Our host, Paul, as mentioned before, was a Peace Corps Volunteer back in the 1980's and served in Guatemala. He has lived in Zambia for 16 years and built the farm from the bottom. He employs several people who are from surrounding villages, including a deaf mute who cares for the cows. Paul gives out milk and other food to people in need. Without this farm, I don't know how these people would survive. 

     Below is a link to a short video of Paul and Eliack.

     The products produced on the farm, such as cow and goat milk, eggs, meat, and yogurt that is made on the premises is sold in town. Paul has to make two visits to the United States to raise money through the churches to help fund running the farm. 

     The evening of our last day, certificates were handed out to the counterparts in recognition of their attendance. This is a heartwarming event seeing the proud faces as their names are called to receive their reward. Photos were taken afterward and a lot of hugging and handshaking followed.

     We were to meet at the bunk house at 6:30 the next morning to meet our transport to take us back to Mwinilunga. There was a small canter truck waiting; only enough room to take our bags. We had to wait four hours for the truck to come back to pick us up. So, we waited which is a common thing to expect to do in Zambia. 

     We reached Mwinilunga and said our goodbyes and went our separate ways to various parts of Northwestern Province. On our way home we stopped to pick up some pineapples to take back. Fresh picked pineapples, only 40 US cents! And they are the best pineapples I've ever had. 

     This is my second year attending this workshop. It is a wonderful opportunity for Volunteers and members of our villages to learn about what animals can offer us. Animals are not used widely in Northwestern Province. The two main tribes, Lundas and Kaondes, have recently transitioned from the hunter/gather way of living. Animals have only been meant to hunt; not to care for and live with. So, this is a fairly new concept for them to learn about and adapt to. 

     So now I will help guide Jameson and Eliack the best I can in their undertaking of keeping goats for food and for generating income. Not only will this benefit them, but their community, as well. As of today and the past, fresh milk is not available to members of the village, but I hope these two visionaries will be successful and change this. Protein is very important for children and adults alike. This kind of change is what will make a difference in so many lives. I am so pleased to be a part of this.

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