Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Day 17: Ups and Downs

Highlights o Day 17
  1. Delivering bikes to Kalingalinga Clinic
  2. Reality of malnourishment

As promised, we delivered 6 bikes to Kalingalinga volunteers first thing in the morning! We loaded the bikes into a hired truck and made the short drive to the clinic. Mary Kaumba and Leah C from the Ministry of Health accompanied us for the delivery. After getting permission from the Sister-in-charge and the volunteer coordinator, we unloaded the bikes to a collection of volunteers.

Globalbike gave 6 bikes to a collection of 10 volunteers at this clinic. They were very eager to try out the bikes and take pictures with their bicycles! I spent a few minutes talking with each of the volunteers--Emson, Eness, Jennipher, Matthew, Bridget, Christina, Riebeck (I think his name is so cool!), and Maureen. We were making quite the scene, even overshadowing the arrival of medical students from the University of Zambia. People gathered around the parking lot to watch the procession of bikes and attempt to jump into pictures.

As the other partners had decided, Valid International decided the volunteers with the most experience and travel the furthest would be the first to receive the bikes. The volunteers have zone areas surrounding the clinic that they cover. They are asked to make visits for at least two hours a day after the nutrition clinic in the early morning. Majority of them spend many more hours beyond that everyday going to visit defaulters, most of which is spent walking. I may seem as a broken record at this point but these bikes are crucial for making the volunteers' time more effective in serving the community. Think of when you were a kid and wanted to go play at a friend's house--how did you get there? There's no way you would walk to the other side of the neighborhood even if it was your best friend (I say 'you' because I just ran there...). You grabbed your bike and pedaled over there to to make sure you could spend as much time there before it was time to come home for dinner. The same principle works here: the volunteers need to be able to spend as much time with the defaulters they visit to ensure the mothers understand that their attendance along with the child's is important. They need to know someone in the community cares and wants to help their family; this can't be communicated in just a 5 minute visit like we get with our family doctors in the States. Just as a reminder, a 'defaulter' is a mother who has been absent for three consecutive nutrition clinic/workshops. The volunteers go out to visit them to see about the condition of the child and ensure the mother has stopped attending because the child died. In the process of going into the community the volunteer careworkers will also look for other malnourished children that may need to be admitted into the nutrition program. Therefore, the community careworkers are crucial in preventing the death of children in the community.

Then, as I did in Shuko with PCI, I rode a bike for a home visit. This time I accompanied two volunteers to visit a defaulter. Mary, Yvonne, Isaac, and Leah met us there with the car. For the sake of time, we didn't travel far from the clinic for the first visit of the day. The volunteers have zone areas they cover and they are asked to make visits for at least two hours a day after the nutrition clinic in the early morning. Majority of them spend many more hours beyond that everyday going to visit defaulters

Once we got there, I realized that this was not far from Jen's house. Literally a 10 minute run from the lush American style ranch I was living was this cement hut. The income disparity of developing countries like Zambia was never more apparent than this. Mary accompanied us to the house where we sat outside in between clothes lines covered in laundry. I met an 18month old girl Eveylyn and her mother. After a short discussion about the child's health, Mary inquired as to why the mother had defaulted. She said that she attended a funeral one week and then stayed in the village for awhile before returning. And this morning? Well she didn't have laundry powder the other day but had some this morning so she wanted to do the laundry. Mary was quick to chastise her saying that she could have come to the clinic early in the morning and returned to get the wash done.

visit mutendere and walked street market wth yvonne--caterpillars!

lunch with Isaac Bunda, the driver, at Thornpark for my last zambian meal of nshima, ...

talked with him about his family of 12 siblings living in the copper belt; then shift to village or lusaka; only sibling besides brother working; eldest son; worked as security guard at US embassy; security guards not paid much and not have much respect; became driver which are paid significantly better; has 2 kids with another on the way

after lunch joined mary for a visit to Kamyama clinic; has higher defaulter rating; big area with lots and lots of kids; next delivery of bikes will prob go here or George clinic;

saw some children that broke my heart; at Kalingalinga saw a tiny tiny child with diarrhea; literally skin and bones with big eyes that watched my every move from his mothers arms; it made me sick to my stomach to see the harsh reality of malnourishment

didn't get much easier when visit 18month old evelyn who's mother wanted to do the wash rather than take her child to the clinic

at Kamyama saw a 9 yo boy who's malnourishment has stunted his growth so much that I thought he was 6 years old. He barely came up to my hip and had an arm circumference of 10cm---very small; but still smiling

saw a child being taken from the ward to the hurse. The child had died from malnourishment. The child had died while I was talking with another mother about why she hadn't brought her child to the clinic since June. What?!

Then a thirteen year old walked in with her 18 month old child. A thirteen year old girl. 18 month old child. My heart sank. the girl can't read and is too ashamed to go to school anymore. My stomach churned.

Even after that Big Stuff, I didn't feel depressed or disappointed. These images have become the reminder why I must earn my Masters in Public Health and MD. I have to come back to Lusaka. I want those children to be playing with Grassroot Soccer in a few years not leaving a ward with their mother wailing. It was a necessary reminder as my last day in the field in Zambia before I head back to Wofford for my final semester. There is a reason I am in college. There is a purpose beyond the diploma.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Day 16: Chelstone Nutrition Clinic with Valid International

Highlights o Day 16 (Tuesday Jan 26)

Interviewing over 10 careworkers

Seeing the work of a nutritionist at a community clinic

After a shift in schedule, I started shadowing Valid International today instead of yesterday. Valid International's office in Zambia focuses on Community-based therapeutic care (CTC programs) in all 25 healthcare primary clinics in Lusaka. Many of these clinics are the ones that PCI also works in and therefore PCI and Valid interact and involve the same volunteers. PCI and Valid both have programs targeting Orphaned and Vulnerable Children (OVC) under the age of six. However, from what I experienced PCI focuses mainly with the volunteers in the HIV/VCT/ART department of the clinics. Valid International focuses on the Nutrition department specifically. Valid, much like PCI, conducts cooking demonstrations to teach mothers what and how to cook nutritious meals. While PCI and Valid International do not have the same coordinated partnership like Grassroots Soccer and Breakthrough Sports Academy have, their coordinated efforts will allow donations to PCI program volunteers be helpful to Valid International clinic volunteers (and vice versa).
Valid's main efforts in Lusaka pertain to treating malnourished children by providing mothers with Ready-to-Use-Food (RUF) or Ready-to-Use-Therapeutic-Food (RUTF). RUFs are calorie-dense and do not require any prior preparation, dilution, or reconstitution. The closest comparison I can think of is Cliff bar but in a paste-like form for severe acute or moderate malnourished children above the age of 6 months. Valid International in Lusaka is also in the midst of conducting trials on acceptibility effectiveness and cost effectiveness of Soya Maize Sorghum based RUTF; this research is comparing the widely used, popular, but expensive "plumpy nut" RUTF compared to the locally produced soy-maize-sorghum RUTF. The children enjoy plumpy nut, which is currently supplied through the Clinton Foundation, but Valid International would like to know whether this newer, cheaper RUTF is equally "accepted".
I joined Beula, one of the Valid research Staff, for a nutrition clinic at the Chelstone community clinic. They use the word "clinic" in the dual sense of a healthcare center and as a workshop. At Chelstone, there are 31 women (and their child) enrolled in the nutrition study. The "prerequisites" so to say to be enrolled is to have a malnourished child; sometimes the women are referred to the clinic while others attend after hearing about it. The referrals come from the community careworkers that survey their "zones" for children in need. Each week the women come to the clinic to get advice on what foods--that they can afford--provide essential nutrients (sardines, nuts, beans) and ways to cook them. Beula reminds the women that not all "good foods" have to be bought but can be cultivated such as the various common vegetables (pumpkin leaves, ben leaves, tomatoes, onions...). Meat is often too expensive so the nuts and beans are really pushed to get iron into their diet; iron deficiencies have seriously detrimental effects on child development. Mothers offer suggestions for each other and discuss the difficulties they are experiencing.
Then the record keeping and measurements begin. They weigh the babies ages six months to five years that are malnourished. They compare the weight to the baby's birth weight, age, and especially the weight from the previous week. They also measure arm circumference, which is a widely accepted indicator for malnutrition status. Again, each week they are looking for an increase in the arm circumference or at least maintanence of the same measurement. Then the Valid or clinic staff test the feet for edema by simply pressing the feet and looking for a quick return to normal form. They also ask the mother a standard set of questions about the child's habits and health from the past week--i.e. diarrhea, loss of apetite, losing noticable weight in the middle of the week, feet swelling all of which are signs of malnourishment.
The mothers' are then provided with RUTF supply for the week. The supply is free and varies in quantity depending on the needs of the child. It usually ranges from 18 to 30 packets of Plumpy Nut per week. (I love the name of the RUTF brand!) They keep diligent records of how many packets are distributed and even more attention is paid to the absentees.
It it noted when a mother does not attend the weekly nutrition clinic. After three consecutive absences the mother/child is classified as a "defaulter". The community careworkers are asked to visit the mother to find out why they have not attended the clinics and encourage them to continue to come. This is where the globalbikes come into play. As I mentioned earlier with PCI, the homes may be 5 kilometers to 15 kilometers away from the clinic. These bikes make it easier for the volunteers to visit all the defaulters after the nutrition clinic. Depending on the size of the admissions/clinic class, the clinic can last from anywhere from 4 to 6 hours. This puts the conclusion around 4PM meaning there is limited time left in the day for the careworkers to visit families. It's important for the careworkers to find out why the mothers have defaulted--did the child die? is the child doing better so the mother doesn't feel the need to come? is the mother sick?
While we were waiting for the Nutrition room to open up, I was able to interview a group of community care workers of the Chelstone clinic. It started as a group of four but quickly grew to a roup of 10 volunteers interested in talking with me. I know some of them because of the novelty of talking to a mzungu girl with a camera, but they all reiterated the need for transportation. I noticed a a tone of frustration when I asked them to elaborate. It seemed so straightforward to them as to why a bike would be beneficial; granted, I understand the value of a bike in these communities, but I need the video camera to hear them explain it. They were also critical of what good all this talking as going to do anyway.
To be honest, I understood their frustration. Here I am asking them all the things they need but I had not brought them anything. Would talking about their work to me be effective in improving their ability to do the work? I was disappointed to learn that the bike delivery had been delayed yet another day so these community workers would have to wait another day after their seven to ten year dedication to the community. I also knew though that Yvonne, Valid International Zambian country director, was navigating through some bureaucratic hoops at the moment to make it happen.
On the same token, I had reached a point of frustration with the blanket expectation put on every mzungu: I am white, therefore I have money or something to give... so how much 9was I there to give them? While that is a broad generalization it is still a very popular sentiment. In fact that sentiment would cost me my bracelet later in the day when a mother considered it a gift for her because her son liked it.) The conversation started to stray from bikes and requests like a subsidy for their efforts, raincoats for the rainy season, more free trainings. Again, it was insightful for me to hear but there was an obvious disconnect between what they believed I had the power and money to accomplish and my actual purpose for being there.
During the nutrition clinic an hour later, I realized these cultural nuances and the language barrier had officially gotten to me. I have become really good at picking up on gestures and facial expressions in order to determine the jist of what is going on around me, especially when people are talking about me. While the women were waiting to visit with the nutritionist I knew several women were discussing my presence. I just wanted to know what they were saying! Explain why I was there, that I care about their situation, that one day I want to be the nutritionist they were waiting to see. I wanted to play with their adorable children and talk about life in Zambia. Rewind a bit, I wanted to know what Buela had actually said to the group and what they were discussing. I was frustrated that Buela didn't lead the clinic in English so I could follow along more and get more information than I did. I could only sit idle and in silence for the entire clinic.
Me--idle. just watching. not talking. not helping. not fully understanding what was to come next. You all know I don't enjoy any of those sorts of scenarios!
I hate to sound ungrateful or that I did not enjoy today. Today I got to see what a nutritionist does in a primary healthcare clinic a developing country. I talked with a nutritionist while in Zambia. I quasi-heard the concerns of mothers with malnourished children. Cool stuff. Way cool. It only affirmed that yes, yes I want to do this for my profession. It's just that today was the day I had hit the cultural dividing wall...really hard.
Yvonne promised that tomorrow we would deliver bikes. But really this time. Let's hope so!

Day 15: African Cup

Highlight o Day 15
Watching Zambia play Nigeria in the quarterfinals
The 2010 African Cup of Nations, hosted in Angola, started the day I arrived in Zambia and the final match is a few days after I leave. Naturally, the Zambian national pride is widespread and football is the hottest conversation topic. In fact, I've used the African Cup as an icebreaker with almost every Zambian I've met, especially the drivers that pick me up in the morning.
Honestly, I only became a true soccer fan my freshman year of college when all of my close friends, girls and guys, played soccer for Wofford. I proudly watched my friends win the Men's Southern Conference Championship this past fall. As a result, when I heard about the African Cup I was eager to" get into" another football tournament and support the Zambian team as a way to connect with people here.
I have watched Zambia make their way to the quarterfinals; including a game they lost to Cameroon (that could have cost them the chance to move forward!) that I watched with an international conglomerate in Livingstone. I've become a regular Chipolopolo (Copper bullets) fan, even joining in on the jokes about the French movie-star looking coach Herve Renard.
Tonight, Zambia played Nigeria for a spot in the final four of the African Cup. It was the best I've seen Zambia play the whole tournament! 20 shots on the goal, majority possession in the second half, great defense that won nearly every ball...I had fun watching the game on a huge screen in a pub crowded with Zambians rooting loudly to the point of being obnoxious. Lena, Libby, and the very enthusiastic Emily and I huddled into the bar to cheer. The Nigerian team members are MASSIVE; they're built more like rugby or American football players rather than soccer players!
It was an insanely long game--over two hours with no goals for either team. So it came down to the penalty kicks, which I had already decided was a lame way to win or lose a game. Unfortunately, the Nigerian keeper blocked the 4th penalty kick from the Zambian team. Nigeria made all five of their penalty kicks, which means the Nigerian team won :(
I was really upset! They had played so much better than the Nigerian team! The Zambian team missed the semifinals by a penalty kick?! Come on!
So now Thursday at 11am Nigeria plays Ghana and at 2:30 Algeria plays Egypt. Looking at the final four, everyone is predicting Egypt to take it all and win the African Cup again. I'll be watching the 230 while I'm waiting in the airport to leave I'll be glued to the television to see how Egypt fairs.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Day 13: Saturday with the GRS Interns

Highlights of Day 13
  1. Going to Adventure City
  2. Going to Alpha Bar

I got invited to join the GRS interns and some of the BSA staff to a day at Adventure City in Lusaka. It's a waterpark, put-put, play place with soccer field and volleyball court....It has everything really. And since they had been planning this trip for six months, it rained for the first few hours we were there. Luckily, there was a shelter so our group of 14 did our own energizers to get introduced.

Determined not to have the rain ruin our Adventure, we headed for the slides. Despite the rain I went running up the cement paths and wooden stairs to the top of the slides. Without lifeguards anywhere around, I went down the slides and into the pool below. And even though the bottom pool was about 4 feet deep, I charged down head first. Despite the thunder and lightning, I continued the rampage on the slides and playing in the pools. You could call it peer pressure, but I prefer to think of it of relying on the local expertise that the lightning does not strike the ground as often as it does in North Carolina. (Lightning strikes the ground more often in NC than any other US State) Nevermind the lifeguard trainings I have because I had fun in the storm anyway! It was great not having to abide by US waterpark rules--going head first down a really long slide is awesome! Brian streamlined as he came down and skidded a solid 25 ft past the slide on the surface of the water.

We came back to warm up (the temperature drastically drops when it rains here) and dry off as we started getting the food ready for the lunch barbeque. I helped peel some potatoes then went to play with Lazarous's son Naditzo. He's such a cute kid! I spent a large part of the day chasing him, kicking the soccer ball with him, dancing with him, teaching him how to blow a raspberry; quality play time!

The only down side is that I only understood "emway", which means "hey you" in the formal sense. Everything else he said beyond that was over my head! Fridah and Lazarous have tons of pictures of me with my new buddy so I hope to get those before I leave!!!

Around 5 we all headed home and crashed. Some of the GRS interns didn't come to Adventure City but joined us that evening to go to Alpha Bar. So Brian, Tommy, Grace, Fridah and boyfriend and friend, Lena and Kennedy and myself all packed into the car. I was so excited that Grace and Fridah was joining the dancing group--those two know how to break it down! We went to Alpha Bar which is a club in Lusaka. Bruce joined us later to dance the night the away. Again, it was just a blast!

Monday I'm slated to start with Valid International. Then I leave on Thursday. I hope the next few days crraaaawwwl by!

Day 12: Chikumbuso

Highligts o Day 12
  1. Meeting the craftswomen of Chikumbuso
  2. Attending an intervention meeting

After spending a lot of time in the office earlier this week, they all acknowledged that this was a slow week for the staff because of the EOY reports. Everyone I asked said they'd be doing paperwork Friday morning. On top of that, they (and everyone in Lusaka) was having internet difficulties. Supposedly "all of Zambia" had lost their internet connection Thursday. Jen's luckily was up and running late that evening but I knew the GRS office wouldn't be working.

I told Lena that Naomi didn't need to pick me up at 8am Friday morning if there was nothing going on. In all honesty, I had my share of meetings and taking notes and I really really needed to finish my study abroad application for this upcoming fall. I just planned on joining the GRS crew for the afternoon graduation at St. Lawrence.

Lo and behold, the internet wasn't working Friday morning at Jen's. On top of that I later found out that Gesh and Bruce went to TWO graduations in the morning while everyone else was at the office. I just asked the wrong people what the plans were for the next day. I was disappointed that I missed the opportunity to go to more graduations and interventions.

Anyway that afternoon, the staff piled in the car to travel to St. Lawrence for a graduation. This one was much more organized than the one at Kampala ground because it was enclosed within the walls of the community school. Barefeet mentors lead the group in energizers, which are response songs and dances that get the enthusiasm level up. It felt like I was a counselor at Camp O again! During one of the dance offs I was pulled into the middle of the circle. Felix, a nine year old boy, was trying to show off so I whipped out my dancing skills. Of course, it set off laughter to watch the mzungus dancing (Brian was in the middle as well). I know I keep saying "I had fun" but I have no other way to say I thoroughly enjoyed being part of children's laughter and games.

For the graduation portion, a group of girls recited poems. One of them gave quite the theatrical performance for the group of kids and the line of teachers that came to process over the ceremony. David then called the names of the children. They made their way down the line of teachers and some GRS staff shaking hands before they were handed the certificate and I got to hand them a pencil, pen, or crayon. I was kind of a big deal, in case you didn't catch that. haha

It's all running together but I think it was that same afternoon that we all traveled to Chikumbuso to see an intervention. Chikumbuso used to be a bar and run down place that Linda bought and turned into a community center and shop for women's crafts. Linda, wife of Bruce the head of WBR, knows Jen therefore the women I talked with in the shop also knew Jen. For such a big town, it has quite the small town feel! The women here use plastic shopping bags to make purses, bags, and clutches of a variety of colors and sizes. They also make aprons, quilts, bracelets, earrings. The aprons and quilts are made from the chtenge cloth-they looked so awesome! Each woman has a craft speciality so buying goods from their store goes directly to them and their families. Naturally, I bought a bunch of stuff.

Grace started working with the girl's soccer team that was started at Chikumbuso. The team has about twenty girls and this was the first intervention for them this year. Again it started out with energizers (I really got into these!) then transitioned into a meeting-type setting. Again, the intervention is conducted in a local languaged so Fridah and David spoke in Nanja the whole time. I could get the jist of the conversation based on the posters on the wall.

They established that the meetings would always be held in an environment of Respect, Participation, Sharing, and Caring. Agreeing to these terms the girls and staff all signed the poster-sized contract. David then moved into the three Ways to Win. Here the analogy of football came into play for the girls to understand the way life choices are important in being HIV free.

At the end of discussing the three topics, David pointed out that all it boiled down to one thing-- being "Resilient", as he wrote in big letters on the poster. I thought it was so poignant that he used that word. I have already mentioned how resilient these Zambians are. Here it was being ingrained in these girls that being resilient is crucial in a such a tough world. After the girls struggled to pronounce the word in English, David used an illustration to help explain its meeting. He had a ball in one hand and a marker in the other. He dropped the two to the ground saying the ball was resilient. Of course, the ball bounced back up and the marker didn't. "Being resilient means to bounce back," he said, "You can make a mistake and still recover.You may have already had unprotected sex but that doesn't mean you can't bounce back to the right decision. Things make go wrong but you can be resilient to go and accomplish your dreams". If I hadn't already fallen in love with Grassroot Soccer, looking around at the girls who were so intently listening to David I would say that was the defining moment where I wholeheartedly supported Grassroot Soccer's efforts. So much reminded me of the impact and education that Girl Scouts tries to impress on girl's and their life decisions. But more than that these are issues so important and valuable for these girls to understand and act on NOW.

Then they handed out the pre-tests. The tests are printed in English so Gesh took a significant amount of time explaining each question properly. This is hard to do without giving them the answer! David and the other staff took the time to help the girls who could not read. David worked with one gorgeous nineteen year old girl who was in the seventh grade. Her name is Agness, as I saw her sign her name very slowly on the contract earlier, but she could barely read or understand English. She had also never heard of a condom or talked about sex before. As a guy, how do you explain a condom to a shy girl? I have no idea how he did, but kudos to him!

We drove around dropping the staff off at bus stops, houses, or key intersections that were close to their house. In the process we cranked up the volume of the South African musicians and danced until the car shook just as every other afternoon this week had ended. I'm really into Zambian, Malawi, and South African music now!

That evening I had dinner at the the GRS intern house as Jen went to see Avatar with her expat friends. I figured I'd be in the States soon enough to see it and it costs just at much here as it does to see the movie back home. Loads o' fun

Day 10: Staff and Partnerships

Highlights o Day Ten
  1. Getting to know the GRS staff
  2. Meeting some key people from Breakthrough Sports Academy
  3. Watching a 5 yearold Michael Jackson dancing prodigy at an Intervention Graduation at Garden, Kampala ground

I quickly got to know the different personalities of the young, energetic Grassroot Staff. There are 5 interns from the States and then 6 staff from Zambia. Here's a quick synopsis on the fun staff:

Lena, Emily, Brian, Libby, and Tommy L are all US interns that live in the house next to the GRS office. Lena is on a six month extension as a fellow following her year-long commitment as an intern. The internships run from August to August. All of them but Libby played soccer in college (for Dartmouth, Brown, or U of Vermont).

Izek, Lazarous (who has an adorable 3 year old son), Gesh, Felix, Grace, Fridah, Bruce, and David are all Zambian. I think only Izek, Lazarous, Grace and Fridah have a paid position in the office. The rest are volunteers as coaches and program coordinators. There was a flux of people coming in and out of the office for meeting this past week as people prepare their End of Year narrative and financial reports.

Lena, Lazarous, and Brian are the coordinators for the Nike/UNHCR NineMillion Campaign for the two refugee camps Mayukwayukwa and Meheba. Those three are also working very closely with Breakthrough Sports Academy. Grace and Tommy are the coordinators for the interventions based in Lusaka sponsored by Barclay's bank. These programs are partnered with an organization called Peers Educating Peers, which is again a like-minded organization that works with soccer leagues in Lusaka.

Bruce is a local program coordinator along with David. Those two were quite the sight to watch at the graduations. However the rest of staff can easily match them in enthusiasm!

Today I sat in on a meeting with the UNHCR/GRS project staff and the BSA staff. It was really interesting to listen to how Grassroot Soccer and Breakthrough Sports Academy coordinated their efforts last year to graduate over 1500 children.

Some of the major changes they are looking to make include:

  • The curriculum is going to focus on "behavioral change"; The prevalence of HIV has not dropped as drastically as everyone expected after the big HIV information push throughout the country. The information is widespread now and the prevalence has dropped from 17% to around 13%, from what I remember from talking with Namonje. However, this drop is not as significant as it "should have" so the push is changing from the scare tactics to how the information should cause them to change their behavior.
  • Logistically, they have to prepare for the children that will still be in the leagues from last year and have already graduate from the GRS Intervention program. They need to ensure that previously graduated kids do not receive another certification in order to avoid "double counting" them as graduates of 2010. Tracking the number of children they reach is a crucial component of their reporting for the UNHCR NineMillion campaign; it's essentially their success rate.
  • There was discussion about facilitating communications between partners and even more talk about transportation logistics. Transportation is always a hot topic around here!

It was exciting to hear that according the number of children and the ambitions of having 180 coaches, the GRS goals of reaching all children in the refugee camps in the 11 to 18 age range is very feasible goal for 2010. To learn more about GRS, check out Brian's blog at

The executive director for Breakthrough Sports academy, Owen Mukando, was present for the meeting. I was given a few minutes at the end of the meeting to speak on behalf of globalbike and assure them that we wanted to continue to grow in our capacity and partnerships. Forgive me for being so bold in the meeting, but I promised Owen to increase our communication with BSA and look into a more direct partnership with them. In my opinion, BSA as an additional partner is not far fetched because their volunteers are already receiving globalbikes through GRS as a filter. GRS and BSA work so closely that having a partnership with one is like working with another.

The entire meeting wasn't directly pertinent to thisblog, even though I found many parts interesting and some seemed to drag on, it was helpful to hear how the two organizations work together. I have a much better understanding of Breakthrough Sports Academy and the staff. The same energy that the GRS staff have is just as abundant in the BSA staff too! And besides, I got to network with another NGO executive director! (Curt, I have his contact information and gave him yours)

That afternoon I went with Brian, Gesh, and Bruce to see at graduation at Garden on the Kampala ground. The graduation was held at the Chiyanyang Community school for over 50 kids. I had no idea what I was going to see and there's no way I could be prepared for the entertainment that was to follow!

As we waited for the children to arrive from school, Gesh explained that the Kampala ground is a rough neighborhood for kids to grow up in. HIV is rampant in this area of Lusaka particularly which can create a lot of family isssues. There is a lot of effort put into keeping these kids off the street and at home despite a terminally ill caregiver as well as keeping these keeping them away from vices like alchohol and prostitution. In garden, GRS intervention is done in conjunction with Barefeet, a performing arts group, and PCI. Barefeet was started by a Zambian street kid that got himself through college then came back to Lusaka.(His name is Tobias and I got to meet him briefly the next day).

The graduation was open to the entire lot of kids that were around playing soccer or just hanging out. So as the children arrived from school so did the mass of children from the community. The group of children quickly massed to 150, easily. The Barefeet crew got the drums going followed by some energizers and a dance performance from some girls. I never knew a 7 year old could move her hips like that! The most entertaining part of the whole thing was the dance competition that occured; there was one kid that got to the middle of the circle that broke it down like MJ. No joke, this kid was sick! To watch a 5 year old dance that well was so awesome! That's gonna be the first thing I add to the blog when I can upload stuff. There was even a group of kids that showed up with their drums and played the national anthem for us!

After the drumming and dancing the GRS/Barefeet staff tried to hand out graduation certificates in an orderly fashion but it was just pure chaos with the number of kids that were there. They let me sign a couple of them to make them "official" which made me feel quite special since I know these kids treasure the certificates. The whole process was crazy but I enjoyed being around that many kids again.

After the two hour procession of events, Gesh took me over to sit in on a Peers Education Peers (PEP) and GRS coach's meeting. We arrived during the discussion part of the agenda. Tommy, Grace, and David were leading the meeting because these particular group of coaches are part of the Barclay's sponsored project. Izek was also there to offer some insight and comedic relief. They were discussing the question "Has the introduction and use of condoms brought any harm or good?"

I was getting introduced to yet another partner organization as well as see Zambian twenty-somethings discuss a hot topic and highly debatable issue. I offered my input when it was my turn in the cirlce, but of course I spoke too fast and it was lost on majority of them. By the end of the discussion, it was decided that no matter how they personally feel about birth control, condoms, pre-marital sex, etc, they as coaches, counselors, and peer educators have the responsibility to give the children unaltered, unslanted factual information. The children, no matter their age, in the end cannot be forced into a decision or action. Granted, your opinions will always find a way of being expressed but the effort of being open and unbiased is crucial.

Touche, Grassroot Soccer, Touche.

Day 9 Part B: Suggestions for globalbike

Highlights of Day 9 Part B
  1. Finally getting hearing some serious analysis of the bike "donating system" in Lusaka
  2. Hearing concrete possibilites for improvement

Lena and Lazarous are the Grassroots Soccer staff overseeing the UNHCR project. (Brian will be taking over for Lena in the next few months as Lena's fellowship ends) This is another topic I can best cover in bullets. Also keep in mind that these suggestions were made in a light of ways to increase globalbike's capacity and continuing relationship with Grassroot Soccer

  • Repair budget for each bike. Each bike will eventually need repair or replacement no matter how well they are taken care of or high quality simply because of the constant use and rough conditions. The budget doesn't need to be a very large amount and could simply be a form of subsidy for the cost of repairs.
  • Guidance on where to find reliable, high-quality, reasonably-priced bikes in the local area. (I didn't say these suggestions were totally feasible) GRS spent a significant amount of time talking with people and bike shops trying to evaluate which bikes were the best deal. They were nervous about the budgeting of it all but I think that speaks to their dedication to cost-effective decisions.

In 2010, they would like to donate the bikes to the GRS/BSA coaches not just the local program coordinators. That would be 180 bikes. The value of a bike as a commodity makes the donation of a bike a big deal in the refugee camp; it's like giving them a car. Donating a bike to be shared among the coaches would be a logistical nightmare considering the distances the coaches are from each other and from the meeting places for interventions. Deciding who would get a bike, especially for the GRS coaches, is putting a higher value on some coaches but not others; a scale that really can't be established universally and objectively. That brings me to the next suggestion:

  • The next donation for GRS needs to cover all 180 coaches. Granted, they can be given in installments to the GRS office but they need to be delivered when the money has mounted to 180 quality bikes.
  • Transportation supplement. The best value bikes are found in Lusaka which means they must be transported to the settlemet. Getting the 8 previous bikes to the refugee settlements was difficult because the staff normally uses the public bus system and then company cars. Can you imagine a) trying to get 8 bikes into a Subaru forester? b) traveling 12 hours with bikes or even c) trying to find a place to put 8 bikes on a public bus? After my trip on the bus back from Livingstone, I have no idea how they managed to use the bus storage space to get them there. For 180 bikes or even two deliveries of 90 bikes they would have to rent a Fuso truck and driver. To get those 180 bikes to the refugee settlements, it would cost at least 4 million kwacha each trip based on the transport estimations they have experience with. Later on we discussed the possibility of having UNHCR help transport them but there would be a fee with that as well.

Don't be fooled that this conversation was purely based on ambitious goals and idealism. Our conversation quickly reverted to the logistics of how a donation this large could and should be best managed.

  • Bikes would still be used as an incentive. Only after completing at least one intervention successfully would a bike be offered. The coaches need to prove they are serious about their dedication as a volunteer first.
  • The recruitment of coaches and the training would never mention the possibility of getting a bike. This tactic is just to ensure the motivation for getting involved is altruistic. Even though the GRS staff were upfront and clear about these coaching positions being nonpaid volunteer only, they still received requests last year for money or subsidies in exchange.
  • The bikes would remain Grassroot Soccer property; donating a bike to a coach does not mean they own the bike. Once they stop volunteering for GRS, they forfeit the bike as well. While we are not naive or even bothered that they would use the bikes other than to travel to intervention meetings (i.e. going to the market or the ministry offices), the bikes are not for them to keep forever.
  • The coaches would be responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of the bike. This is where the suggestion to pay for repairs comes into question--if someone will pay for every flat tire, what's the point in trying to dodge the potholes? Despite the difficultly in financing the repairs, Felix assured me that the benefit of a bike far outweighed the financial costs. I also wondered, what would happen if the coach rendered a bike completely useless because he refused to fix any of the minor problems? Or if he was careless enough to lose it or not lock it up so it was stolen? There's no way the coaches could afford to replace a bike completely.
  • Contracts. Signing something is a big deal here. The terms of the bike donation would be made clear to each coach and they would have a copy of the signed contract as well as GRS. Even if that means they have to replace a stolen bike, a signed contract has some serious weight to it that is not taken lightly.
  • Tracking system. The contracts would aid in this process. I mentioned the sheets that PCI uses every time they deliver a bike they get the recepient to sign off that they did receive a bike and they are now responsible for it as a result. Perhaps globalbike could create a universal bike record booklet to send with the financial donations to any partner to help the organization keep track of who, when, and how many received bikes. As a result, this would help globalbike's efforts to maintain a record of the INDIVIDUALS who got the bike along with the pictures we receive.

Obviously a donation this large to a place that far away would have its fair share of logistical hurdles. I thought about how they would even travelin the camps to give the bikes to the coaches--would they go to the coach's homes? intervention meeting sites? That would make for cool pictures if the coaches got a picture taken with the teams/leagues they works with. Or perhaps a common meeting place would be more feasible? Would they deliver them all in one day? Telephones access is only in the ministry zones so how would they know where to be and when? And taking the pictures of each recepient...this plan definitely needs more details. Nonetheless, I think it's great to know where globalbike stands and where we can strive to be.