Sunday, July 4, 2010

1 Year Complete!!

First of all, we are at the 1 year mark!! Can you believe it? It's crazy to think that the new volunteers are already here and have been in home stay for at least 2 weeks by now. Speaking of home stay - Paul and I are headed there after our Community Theater training here in Morogoro - the training focuses on using theater in teaching about and addressing issues with HIV.

Ok so jumping a few months from February..

The big news though is on May 31st Paul and I were officially married here in TZ so I am now Mrs. Francis :) We did it in the District office, Paul of course had on one of his hiking shirts and jeans, I borrowed my friends summer dress, however, the hair was nuts - it's in the awkward growing out stage. We did the whole ceremony in Kiswahili, but thankfully ours is at the point where we understood it all. It was beautiful though and fits us well I think, we are having a celebration wedding soon for all our friends here in TZ and plan on having another for our family and friends back home.

Two weeks ago Paul was OFFICIALLY moved into my(our) village. We had a meeting - even though everyone already knows him and he's been there quite a bit but
TZ's need everything to be official or it doesn't really count. He had to go back to his village just for a day to have a meeting and explain why he's been gone and is leaving for good, but they all took it well.

So looking at work.. Paul and I have started a toilet building project with the dispensary and have been going house to house all over the village to know if there is a toilet or not. If there is we look at it to see exactly what we're working with, and if not then we find out why there's not a toilet and what they are using. It's a big project but at the same time great because other TZ's

We have though already ran into the issue of TZ's going to other TZ's homes for the survey and because they want to help the other person out they automatically write No Toilet. But we know there is a toilet because there's no way a whole section of the village there is not a single toilet. This may cause a hiccup in the project but I think they just got carried away with the survey because before we even started we stated all the criteria the house and people living in the house had to meet before receiving a toilet.
are helping us and VOLUNTEERING their time and their efforts to get this project done. When we return after our few trips we'll start training people to be able to build the toilets. For this we will pay 1 or 2 people who already know how to build them and have them train others so the others will get that training. Then those who have learned how to build them will get all the tools for building but will then volunteer their time for the actual work. As of now everyone is in agreement and it seems to be going great - but who knows what might happen later.
School has been out of session for the past month so in that time we had our Girls Empowerment Conference which went incredibly well without a hitch!! All the girls seemed to really enjoy it and according to the test scores actually maybe got something out of it. It was 5 days long, the first day just getting to know each other playing games, doing introductions, and taking the pre-test. The 2nd day consisted of HIV/AIDS education, woman's health, periods, pregnancy, STDs, we had a nurse come and she answered any and all questions from the girls, also Kihumbe group came and taught about HIV and they did drama, acrobatics, and such to really get the girls engaged. The 3rd day was all Life Skills which we did on a rotation with lessons about relationships, communication, gender differences, self-esteem, how to say no, how to use condoms, etc. Another volunteer, Linda, also taught self defense which was great!! The 4th day was about future goals, so we had the girls do goal planning and had women from various jobs come in and talk about their work, what they had to do to get there, and how it has benefited them thus far. The remainder of the day they made pads for their periods and bracelets to keep track of their periods. The girls were also taught about business skills for the future. The 5th
day was wrap up, going over what was taught, taking the post-test, and of course a talent show. All the girls sang or did something and all the volunteers got together and made up a dance to Single Ladies by Beyonce. It was amazing all the girls got up and where shouting for us!! Something we all did not expect.

Paul and I have also held a tree seminar in which we taught about the importance of planting trees, the benefits of planting trees, and the characteristics and job of a specific tree - the one that we gave to all the people that came to the seminar. We taught about 6 different times and each time about 15 minutes, and after each person completed the seminar they received some seedlings. It was a great mixture of men, women, and young adults, it also allowed them to see some of the work we've been doing with the Environment Committee and we also explained some future projects we'll be working on - although seeing how time flies I don't know if we'll get to most of them.

I've also been continuing my work at the dispensary and helping weight babies, counseling, and teaching. I've been teaching a lot recently about diarrhea and next it will be about water borne illnesses then nutrition. I would say the worst thing I've seen so far is this mother came in with her twins and they were both obviously malnourished suffering from marasmus - they were 2 years old but looking about 3 months old - I tried to explain what was wrong with them, what she needed to do to help them, and explained the importance of the intervention. Well you know I thought maybe I made some sort of impact - but she came back about 2 months later and on of the twins looked horrible was starting to have edema in her feet and legs and on her face. We made the mother send her to the hospital and as far as I know she went and the baby is doing well.

Well that's it for now - the training starts tomorrow so it'll be great to see everyone! Talk to you all soon~

Sunday, January 31, 2010

December - The beginning of Feb

Going all the way back to Xmas… The holidays were spent at my site, Xmas in the village consists of going to church all day to sing and dance while stuffing yourself with rice and meat between breaks. The New Year was spent with some friends and my fiancĂ© at Matema Beach – Lake Malawi or Lake Nyasa – it’s really close to Mbeya, depending on the roads and buses only about 5 hours. It was a great trip, absolutely gorgeous!! On New Year’s Eve day, we all hiked to this beautiful waterfall, a great way to bring in the New Year.

After the holidays, Paul (my fiancĂ©) came to my village for work leave to help me start a tree garden with the Environment Committee we planted 6 different types of trees – however, I just went to check it out and only 3 out of the 6 grew but apparently that’s great for tree seeds. In Jan. I also attempted to teach English, but it was just not good timing because there were funerals EVERYDAY preventing people from being able to come. In Tz when someone dies it’s generally a 3 day event and people will stop all their work and spend all day with the families, some may even stay the night, whether they knew the person that passed away or not. I am still asked frequently when I will teach English again but I think I will wait on that because it is not really a priority for me.

Together with Bibi Kili, we have started a People Living with HIV AIDS (PLWHA) group – the 1st one ever in the village. The group initially started with only 3 members, but we are now up to 7. It may not seem like much but it is a huge accomplishment because the biggest challenge here is fear and stigma causing those living with the disease to not come out and reach for help. Right now, my main goal for the group is for them to learn about the disease they are living with, and how to continue living a healthy long life. Later we will focus on fears, stigma, income generating projects, and anything else that may be of interest to them. Around our 4th meeting, I read a very emotional and touching letter my amazing uncle wrote to share with the group about living with HIV. It really inspired all the members (as well as myself) and helped them to realize if you are living with HIV it is not a death sentence – it is possible to continue living a happy and healthy life! We have a great group, they are all motivated, they really want to learn about HIV, and want to help themselves.

In Jan, I held a meeting with the village officials to share some ideas I had for the future. During one of my 1st meetings, people expressed the needs for a water system – preferably pipes as oppose to wells. For that project, a water engineer must come out to the village and survey the land to see if it is possible. Before the water engineer can come to the village, a water committee needs to be established to show we are serious about this problem and to express the village’s ideas and concerns about the current water situation and why the village needs a water bomba system. The committee has been started – there are 8 members half male, half female and we have our first meeting next week.

Currently there is not group or committee organized to help Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVCs). Together with Mama Stella we have gathered all the names of the OVCs within the village and hope to start a group in the near future. The aim of the group will be to provide support and help for the OVCs through education, income generating projects, and receiving help from various NGOs in Mbeya and from the district office as well.

The School Feeding Project is slowly on its way - I have talked with the teachers but still have not been able to schedule a meeting with the school committee and parents. My school is not the most organized and although the teachers are good people, they are not the most motivated to help more or less teach their own students.

I started teaching at the primary school in late Jan - I'm starting with HIV/AIDs and then will move in to more Life Skills, other health topics, nutrition, and environment. The first lesson was the Bridge Model which introduces Life Skills - it is definitely the most difficult for me to teach as well as the kids to understand which was a little discouraging but every lesson after that has been great the students are really getting involved and opening up much more. I also started teaching at the secondary school - again starting with HIV/AIDS and will move on to different topics later. The secondary school is about 5K one way from my house so I'm only teaching on the first and last Tuesday of each month. All the students are great and the teachers seem more motivated and wanting to help there students more so than the primary school. The first lesson went incredibly well the form 4 students even started to get into a debate over different questions I was asking, it was great watching them discuss the topic between themselves and not just with me.

My time is about to run out I'll update more later about Valentine's Day, International Woman's Day, and my trip to Dodoma..

And for those who didn't see on Facebook - Paul proposed to me and we hope to have our wedding at the end of July at Utengule in Mbeya TZ!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


Since returning from Dar and our Thanksgiving celebration I've been working nonstop to prepare for World AIDS Week (WAW). For those of you who do not know December 1st is World AIDS Day (WAD) and many PC health volunteers want to do something with and for their villagers to celebrate, educate, and bring awareness to HIV/AIDS. Well this year we decided one day is not enough and changed it to a week.

Total in my region there are 6 health volunteers and we all came together to plan WAW. On December 1st we each took 7-10 villagers from each of our villages - I took the mama's group, the veo, and baba stella - and we went to the districts WAD celebration in Kikondo. There people who live with HIV/AIDS talked about their life, various groups sang songs about HIV/AIDS, and there were people doing acrobatics. We wanted to take our villagers so they can see and learn what WAD is about and hopefully understand more of the reasoning for having a WAD/WAW celebration. The whole day was great and everyone had a wonderful time watching, listening, and learning.
On Dec. 2nd we went to Adrienne's village where again choirs sang, we played games, the District AIDS Counselor (DAC) spoke about the importance of being tested, stigma and people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) and helped to explain the significance of WAD/WAW. A local NGO also came out to the village and they helped to test for HIV/AIDS, teach about HIV/AIDS, safe sex, and they also perform doing traditional dances, acrobatics, and skits.
Dec. 3rd we continued on to my village doing much of the same thing. I had three choirs sing - kwaya ya watoto upendo (which were a group of little girls ages 14 and under), kwaya ya PCG (one of the church choirs who are amazing) and kwaya ya Edina (this was a choir that came from town and was created by this woman Edina who has HIV/AIDS), there was also a drum group that my VEO surprised me with that came and sang. Anderson the DAC came to my village as well to again explain the importance and significance of WAD/WAW, testing for HIV, and stigma associated with HIV/AIDS.
Kihumbe group came as well and tested for HIV, performed dances, skits, and acrobatics. They also showed some videos as the end about HIV and safe sex. The community theater group from Meesh's village came and performed some skits about orphans and HIV/AIDS. I did have one woman come who spoke about her life and HIV, I wish I could have had more but at the time there was no group for PLWHA and I had not yet met anyone in my village who had HIV. I had also set up a table where we taught how to use male and female condoms - my fundi made 4 wooden penises for me to help teach about condoms.
After my day the rest of the volunteers continued on each day to the rest of the villages, however, I was unable to go because I had my In-service Training (IST). Total for WAW we had 660 people test for HIV and 47 were found to be positive. In my village, total 70 people tested and 8 were found positive - 4 women and 4 men. Sadly I'm unable to get the names of the women and men here are positive but I am hoping now that I have started at PLWHA group they will come out and ask for help.
I hope to put up some videos and pics soons of WAD/WAW so keep a look out!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Meeting with the Prez

First of all GO BUCKEYES!!!

So a lot has been going on since I last updated the blog.. I finally finished my garden - double dug and everything and planted some seeds last week. Although I'm a little nervous because I've been gone for a week in Dar because of medical reasons - a bad rxn to the Malaria medicine but everything is OK!! I just hope it's not taken over by weeds by the time I get home.

A few weeks ago I went to Ilembo village which is about 40-50K past my village where Meesh, another volunteer, lives. They were having an opening ceremony for the new health clinic and community theater and President Kikwete (the prez of TZ) was supposed to make an appearance. So Meesh calls me up and I go up there on Friday morning to help get ready for his visit - peel potatoes, clean rice, make fresh juice, set up, etc. We also made signs for some of Meesh's groups - the widow's, orphan, and community theater so when Kikwete would arrive he'd see the group and that they are apart of PC. We made a sign for us that said US PC Tanzania with the names of our villages and it was the first thing he saw when he arrived!

Kikwete got out of his car greeted us right away put his arms around us and just started chatting. It was crazy how welcoming and calm he was - he wasn't trying to rush through and he actually spent time with us. We got a lot of great pictures with him and we were actually in the newspaper with our names spelled correctly!! The first time we met with him he asked our names, where we lived, what kind of volunteer, and the work that we do. We hung out for awhile listening to some of the speeches but then decided to finish helping out.. well while we were helping out back Kikwete mentioned in his speech how when he met with Obama he wanted more PC volunteers here in TZ and that there are actually 2 here right now and called us up to the stage... but sadly we weren't there and when we were told about it we came running out hoping he'd see us and call us up again but it didn't happen. Thankfully though we were able to talk to him again and explain we were helping out and that's why we weren't around.

After Kikwete's visit we met with the HIV/AIDS coordinator of the district office to plan World AIDS Day.. but we are changing it to World AIDS Week. :) December 1st is WAD and each of us - there are 6 health volunteers in Mbeya region - are going to take around 10 people from our villages to go to the district celebration in Kikondo. Then on the 2nd we will start in Adrienne's village then mine on the 3rd, and so on until we've hit all of our villages - we are having a celebration in each village to celebrate, educate, and bring awareness to HIV/AIDS.

In my village I'm having a guest speaker come - a lady who is living with HIV/AIDS and works with an NGO working with orphans, she is also part of an amazing choir which will come as well - the PCG choir will write and sing songs about HIV/AIDS, there's a chance Meesh's community theater group will come to perform some of their acts about HIV/AIDS, and an NGO the Kihumbe group is coming as well to test for HIV/AIDS, counsel, and they also perform to provide entertainment and to educate. There will be stations as well to teach about proper condom use and safe sex. We're going to have sports and games for the kids and try to make those educational as well. Hopefully it'll be a success and I'll be able to put up pictures as soon as I can!

Some other projects I will start working on as well as soon as I return from Dar and then IST - which is next week so I'll be able to see all my friends from training! I'm going to start teaching English to adults, work with Mama Stella to talk with yatima (orphans) and get a yatima group started, have the well guy come from the district office to survey the land to see about digging a well in the village possibly close to the dispensary, start income generating activities with the mama's group, and start working on lessons plans for teaching in January - trying to adapt Program Energy to Kiswahili and making it more applicable to TZ.

Until WAD... we are having a T-giving celebration in Mbeya, all the close volunteers just getting together cooking, eating, etc. it'll be nice to all be together but it'll be sad to not have the delicious food of home!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

PACA Tools

I baked my first batch of cookies at site last week. Although technically there was no real baking involved since they were no-bake cookies... but they were DELISH and I handed them out to all the villagers and they absolutely loved them. I would say any Tanzanian loves it when they get free food, but even some people asked the price - so maybe that's a good income generating project later for my mama's group. I baked the cookies for my PACA tools meetings which were a success!

The first meeting 14 villagers showed up which is good because we asked 14, I wanted 30 but the VEO changed it without asking.. oh well. The women and men separated and they both drew a map of the village. At first there was a big discrepancy on where the village began and ended because it had recently been split into 2 villages, but after about an hour we finally began. It was very different from Mkanyageni when we did it during training - in Mkanyageni the maps looked completely different but this time the maps turned out very similar with very few differences. In the end it took about 5.5 hours and there was a great discussion about the village layout and what the villagers think the village could use - 1. electricity 2. a new school 3. a better road 4. water from a pipe. Those are all great goals but don't know how much help I'll be with them.

For the second meeting we split up again into groups of women and men and this time they filled in the seasonal calendar and the daily schedule. For the seasonal calendar I had questions for them to answer and they just marked which month(s) answer the questions. The questions were about when is there sickness, hunger, rain, school, harvest time, etc. The daily schedules were by far my favorite!! First each group filled in their daily schedule - what they do each day at each time, then they made a schedule for the opposite sex. The gender roles here are very apparent compared to in the states - the women work every day all day doing every kind of work, and the men work about 3 hours out of the day then pumzika (rest) the rest of the day, of course you have the very few special men who do work all day. The daily schedules and the seasonal calendar differed completely between the women and men. When we were discussing both the men had the same answer for why there's was different - "it's incomplete." The women did a great job during the discussion of calling the men out when normally women in TZ culture tend to keep to themselves and don't challenge authority let alone men. The daily schedules are great because the men realize how much work the women do and it's on paper so they can see the amount of time it consumes and what little work they do. I am not bashing men in anyway talking about this, but in TZ culture it is very real and very true that the women carry the family and the men sit back and watch.

Hopefully, from what they observed during the meetings things may/will change the relationship men and women have here - maybe men will help to cook, clean, do laundry, cut firewood, take care of children, fetch water, etc. and that is why I love my VEO because he brought that up - "men what can we do to help the women?" and all the men gave some input but others were just saying "but we don't know how.." After IST in December I'll be posting all the schedules, calendars, and maps in the village office so the other villagers who were not involved can see their work.

Last week I also met with the mama's group, I've been wanting to meet with more but this groups seems to be the only organized one - they have meetings on the 15th of every month. I missed the first half of the meeting because I had to go to the school but when I returned we discussed what issues they have and what they want help with. In the end it all involves around making money for the group, and they agreed to help me start a group for orphan's and vulnerable children - which is a huge problem in TZ. We will try to start income generating projects to help make money to buy uniforms for the children, pay any school fees, feed the children, etc. Things will take time to get rolling but now I'm just brainstorming for income generating activities which I will maybe learn more about during IST - and feel free to give any input or ideas for projects you may have as well!

For my garden I "drew" it in the dirt so the general layout has been made and now I just have to double dig. I've been advised I need to start seedlings before I plant, because I guess planting directly into the ground doesn't always work, so I'll be starting that this week as well when I get back to my village. I can't wait to get the garden rolling because eating the same food over and over again is driving me nuts!

Well that's it for now, there's a chance I might come back into town this weekend because I need to talk with an NGO about coming for World AIDS Days and it's Halloween!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Bustani and Dog Attacks

So this past week has been pretty eventful..

First of all, I finally started doing work for my bustani (garden)!! I am so excited to plant all my veggies and herbs - that is the hardest thing to get used to here for me... eating the same thing over and over again. There used to be a small building where my garden is so I first had to finish tearing down the building and removing all the bricks. They make bricks here just from water and dirt so it wasn't very difficult to remove. Then I had to remove all the grass and plants and I used them to start my compost pile. I put the compost pile on the side of my house and built a small shelter to protect it from the sun, because it needs shade and where my house is there isn't a good spot that offers enough shade. I just put four thick branches in the ground and used a cut my potato sack to use as the top. To make compost I used dry leaves, green leaves, manure, dirt, and water - hopefully I did it right, but I guess we'll find out soon! After I made the compost and finished clearing off my spot I leveled it out and tried to make a rough sketch of where my beds, water holes, and trenches will go. I'm going to go to the market to try to find lemon grass, aloe vera, and matengele to plant on the berms to protect my bustani - I just hope I can find it all. In all it took me 3 days to finish everything but I did have a break in the middle...

This past week was also the first time I've been really sick in country. There was an msiba - like a funeral where everyone comes together after someone has passed away and people drink, cook, eat, sing, talk, pray, etc. well that whole day I had been hanging out with other people - eating at their food, ndizi polini, maziwa mgando, chai, etc. My guess is at some point I ate bad food or I just wasn't that careful myself being sanitary - it's hard to wash your hands every time you eat... Well that night I was about to go to bed when I was talking with my friend and just felt really weird - needless to say I didn't sleep all night from having to run out to my choo every 5 minutes. Being sick put a damper on things, but my neighbor is amazing and took great care of me - cooking me uji, cleaning my house, checking on me, turning away visitors, etc. I am so happy and grateful she was there!!

After I finally recovered on Tuesday, I had a mild repeat on Monday, I was able to finish the garden - which was great because I was headed to town on Wednesday for my meeting on Thursday. Wednesday I came in to town to get some things down and just hang out with some friends. Well I was staying at my friends house where there's 3 dogs and the female dog is super protective so she barks and attacks the other dogs if they come near you. I was trying to go to the choo and the male dog comes over so the female dog freaks out and they start fighting and their fight gets closer and closer to me and I can't go anywhere because the door wouldn't open... Tristan who thought it was the dogs trying to come in... anyways, my leg got in the middle and I got a nice bite on the back of my left leg. Everything is okay though it's not that bad and both myself and dogs have all had their rabies vaccines!! :)

This morning all the health volunteers in my region had a meeting with the district office and our training manager. It was basically just to talk about what everyone has been doing for the past year - projects, events, challenges, etc. - it was good to hear what others have done to give me ideas for the future, and also good to talk about challenges they have faced in case I will run into the same ones. Our district office is also very helpful - they are super supportive of us being here to help and they offer great ideas and support with projects others have done and want to do. I think the first big project I will attempt to tackle is have an event for World AIDS Day - Dec. 1st. There's an NGO in town that will come to the village to test the villagers for HIV/AIDS, put on little skits and sing about it, it's all about educating and bringing awareness to HIV/AIDS. Hopefully I'll be able to pull it off... and if not this year there's always next.

This week I have my PACA tools meetings where about 30 villagers will come and they'll draw a map of the village, make seasonal calendars, and daily schedules - they'll be doing all of these activities separated women and men because it's also used to bring awareness to gender roles in the community. I'm hoping it'll be a success! Well I guess that's it for now I'll be heading back in town in about 2 weeks :)

Saturday, September 26, 2009


So the past 2 weeks at site have been great!!!

I went to the school and chatted with the teachers, observed their teaching styles, talked with the committee, and got a full tour of the environment around the shule. The school has a few shambas (farms) where they grow mahindi (corn) and cabbage. The students are the ones who do the farming and they sell the crops at the markets. I'm not totally clear where the money goes but they mentioned something about sports - so I think it helps to buy balls and other equipment.

There's a sport here called netball that only women and girls play. The point is to get the ball in the net - like basketball - but they play like water polo. There's no dribbling and they pass it from person to person and they can't travel with the ball. It seems pretty fun but I'm not entirely clear on all the rules yet so I haven't tried to play - but I will.

I also started my house to house survey. The survey asks questions about the family - how many, who goes to school, tribe, name, age, what do you do for work, what kind of crops do you grow, etc. There's also questions about committees in the community, NGOs, what resources do you think the kijiji needs, what are the health issues, what work do you want to see done, etc. It's to help get an idea of what the people want and need in the kijiji. So far I've talked to about 10 families and I don't know if I'll do too much more because I'm getting a lot of the same answers, and some people are not completely comfortable answering all the questions.

When I visited the school the committee and the mwalimu mkuu said I am able to teach about basically anything I want - nutrition, life skills, health, VVU/UKIMWI (HIV/AIDS), and safe sex. The safe sex topic is usually an issue but they were all for it which is great! I'll start teaching in January when the students head back to school. Other than teaching at the school, the kijiji is interested in income generating projects for various reasons. I think I'll start with wine making! I'll be making my first batch this week - I'm going to try out maembe (mangoes) hopefully it'll be delish :) But all the women are super interested in making it so I told them I'll teach them after my first batch. They are also interested in exercise! Everyday they ask if I've exercised, when I'm going to do it, what am I going to do... and they want me to teach them - so a running club might be a good idea, or even yoga - although I need to brush up on my postures.

This past Thursday was the day the women brought their children 5yrs old or younger to be weighed. So I helped the zahanati (clinic) to weigh the watoto (children). They use a hanging scale and the women bring overall type clothes for the child to sit in and hang from the scale - some of them were using bathing suits! I was able to snap a few pics so when I have the chance I'll be sure to share 'em. It costs 50 shilingi per child to be weighed and the women bring their growth chart cards and I wrote the weight and marked on the graph where the child was. The doctor said I could teach about nutrition too if I wanted but I'm not ready yet with my Swahili. Every month the women come so in the future it'll be a great opportunity to teach about nutrition - esp for those who fall in the gray or red areas of the graph.

Soon I'll be having some village meetings to do a needs assessment, have them draw a map of the kijiji, make seasonal calendars, and daily schedules. Hopefully everything will go smoothly! Tomorrow is my friend Tristan's birthday and we are all going to Utengule resort- there's a POOL , tennis courts, COFFEE drinks, etc. it's going to be great to be able to relax :) When you tell Tanzanians you will swim they are amazed you know how and want you to teach them - they want you to teach them everything, which is great because it means they are ready and open to learn.

I also rode my first Tanzanian bike this past week to visit the school - needless to say it was a little scary because the brakes are pretty much non-existent and the roads are crazy bumpy with rocks everywhere and dips and divots all over. I can't wait to buy my own though because I miss riding my bike everyday!! Okay well that's all I have for now....

Siku njema!