Deuteronomy 31:8

"The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged." Deuteronomy 31:8







Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Invest in the Future, Defeat Malaria.



April 25th is World Malaria and this day has a lot more meaning to it for me since I have suffered from malaria myself. It is 4 days I will never forget in my Peace Corps service.

Here was a little about my firsthand experience with malaria…One late afternoon/early evening on s Saturday in the beginning of February 2012 I felt a little off. My neck and back were sore and I just felt really fatigued, but I didn’t think much of it because the previous 2 days I had done a lot of biking and just thought it was because of that that I was feeling sore achy and tired. The next day, I still felt really tired and sore and just overall really weak, which again I thought was due to biking and just stress from the village life. The only new thing that happened to me that day was that I didn’t really have much of an appetite. Still I had no clue I was suffering from malaria because I slept under a mosquito net every night and I took malaria prophylaxis medicine.

That Sunday night was awful for me, I woke up with a fever and would wake up alternating feeling hot and then cold. Monday morning I woke up with a fever of 104 and a splitting headache plus an overall weak and fatigued feeling. Once I woke up with the headache between my eyes I thought, “Wait, could this be malaria?” So I went and read my PC Medical handbook and saw that I was missing only 2 of the symptoms but very strongly had everything else including headache between the eyes, fever, sweats and chills, fatigue, aches and pains. So I went and took a malaria test at my local clinic and the result came back negative because of my prophylaxis medicine so I took the Coartem to kill the parasite in my blood.

The next 3-4 days were the worst I have felt in my entire life and I am not even being dramatic by saying that. And since I take the prophylaxis medicine I was told my malaria was just “ break through” malaria and supposedly less intense, but I hope that is not true because if that was only a bit of malaria I don’t know how people survive the full force.

The worst was just doing something small and feeling so exhausted by doing that. I didn’t really get out of bed for those 3 days and I was still so tired. I had no appetite so I am pretty sure I lost between 5-7lbs, and the worst thing with malaria is that it’s cyclic which means that maybe in the morning you feel okay so you start moving around a bit, but by the afternoon you feel as if it’s your first day with malaria all over again. Then for me about a week after I was still feeling some of the effects of the malaria but this time with severe pain in my joints, specifically my knees. Bending my legs and walking was so painful!

Even with all this coming from such a small insect I survived and sadly to say many people in Sub-Saharan Africa, especially children, don’t survive. Many don’t have access to nets, or when they go to the clinic they find there is no medicine available to kill the parasite, or I found in my community some people think all they need is rest to cure malaria and therefore don’t make it to the clinic to get the needed medicine. 

 
Stomping Out Malaria in Africa is a Peace Corps initiative that uses strategic partnerships, targeted training Volunteers and intelligent use of information technology to support the local malaria prevention efforts of over 3,000 Volunteers in sub-Saharan Africa. For more information go to stompoutmalaria.org and follow Stomp activities at http://www.facebook.com/StompOutMalaria.


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

It's Not Easy Being a Woman

Being back at work after a wonderful month of home leave and then 2.5 weeks of a fun-filled Zambian adventure with friends is really tough. I've decided that I love vacation and wish I could do it more often! But alas, I can't so here is what's been happening at work lately.

We here at SFH sell male and female condoms and we have like 20,000 pieces of female condoms that are going to expire in the next few months so we've been working on selling them and then giving away the generic brand. So far we have given away our entire stock of 14,000 pieces of the generic brand to clinics, individuals, and brothels around the Kitwe area. You would think it would be easy giving away condoms, but it's not. Zambians prefer the male condoms and therefore when we went to give a box of the female ones to them for free they were hesitant in taking them and requested free male condoms instead. So if it's hard to give them away imagine how hard a time we have had in selling them!

One interesting experience I had while selling these female condoms was in Kasumba Lesa which is right on the border of DRC. We went to what could technically be called a guest house, but was more like a brothel. Each room comes with a girl in it. We went on a Tuesday afternoon to meet with some of the ladies to try and teach them about safe sex to protect themselves against HIV and other STIs and sell them condoms (a dispenser comes with 24 condoms for the equivalent of about $1). Some of the ladies were not wanting to buy and instead wanted them for free because they said that business was slow and they couldn't afford it. They have to pay for there room ($20/day), and since they don't normally even have that much they share it with at least one other woman, and then to get customers they have to look nice so they have to eat, buy make-up, clothes, get their hair done, etc. To make this money they have become commercial sex workers who charge $4 for every sexual act. $4 can you imagine that?!?!?! Just to make their rent they have to have sex with at least 3 men per day and then to buy all their other things they need just imagine how many more times they need to perform. It was an eye opening experience and one I will never forget. Some of these women come from all over Southern Africa just to sell there bodies to make just a little bit of money.

Another area that has been the focus this month is cervical cancer screening. The First Lady of Zambia is a huge advocate for women going to for cancer screening and so women are really wanting the service. Our screeners have busy traveling around the country and I have gone with them a few times to see them work. Unlike America, here they don't do a pap smear and instead do something called a Visual Inspection with Acetic Acid (VIA) test where they take a piece of cotton and put it in vinegar and then insert that into a woman and let it stay for 3 minutes. The vinegar works to bring out any white spots on the cervix which indicates pre-cancer cells. Then the providers take a picture of the woman's cervix with a digital camera and can see if the cervix pink and normal, has white pre-cancer lesions, or has cancer and needs to be referred for treatment. The pictures they take will blow your mind!!! So many woman have VIA positive results and several have to be referred to Lusaka CIDRZ for treatment. If women don't have cancer, many of them have cervicitis, which is inflammation and swelling of the cervix. This is overly common in women here, especially in rural areas, because women insert things like Snuff tobacco (think of chewing tobacco), fresh marijuana leaves, crushed African herbs, into there vagina because of a belief that it will make them "warm and tight for their husbands to enjoy sex more." They also think that vaginal fluid is very dirty and will wash inside with harsh soaps (one woman said she even uses laundry soap), but in fact this is causing lots of damage to their cervix.

There are so many of these myths and misinformation about the woman's body that I would love to spend more time focusing on this and really educating woman on taking care of their bodies because a lot of this practice has come from tradition and they are unaware the harm it is causing. 

So that's my life as of late in a nutshell! I can't believe March is already half over!


Thursday, January 31, 2013

A Tour of Zambian Life


2013 is off to a great start thus far! I spent a month on home leave, which was wonderful! I missed the Minnesota cold and snow and of course my family and friends! Then when I came back I travelled with two of my friends so they could get a taste of Zambian life. We started off their tour of Zambia with a stop at my boyfriend's family's house in Lusaka where they got to meet everyone, make the traditional meal of nshima and see what city life is like!
Riding on the mini bus
Sarah making nshima
Excited for the bus ride up to Kitwe


 Once we arrived at my home in Kitwe, we went and visited the Chimfunshi Chimpanzee Wildlife Orphanage in Chingola, Copperbelt. It was a chance for Anna and Sarah to glimpse at life in the bush and for all of us to get up close with primates. The chimps are rescued from all over the world from circuses, homes, and poachers and are kept at the orphanage. In total there were 125 chimps and we were able to walk with 6 of them...Dominic, Didi, Karla, Kitty, Cindy and one more whose name I have forgotten.After that, we went around with my colleagues to do some school programs, and then we did a tour of SOS Children's Village-Kitwe, which is an orphanage and has a school and clinic as well. 
Playing with the pre-school kids

Dominic and Anna
Our pockets were filled with treats for the chimps to find
Baby Kitty. We weren't allowed to pick up this baby because the mother wouldn't allow it
Me and Didi, who got to be quite heavy. She weighed about 75lbs
These male chimps aren't allowed to walk with people. This one was the leader, and he's only 12 years old.




 After about 5 days in Kitwe we took a 12 hour bus ride down to the Southern Province and stayed in Livingstone, which is home to Victoria Falls. We spent a day exploring the Falls, went on a 2-Day, 1-night safari in Chobe National Park, Botswana, did a lion walk, and watched the sunset at the swanky Royal Livingstone Hotel.


Good morning to you too!

going for a walk

Posing for a pic with Luba, a 2 year old lioness

Simba, the male lion

Victoria Falls

There was so much water coming from the Falls we got soaked!

Relaxing

Preparing ourselves to face baboons for the walk down to the boiling pot
Boiling Pot

All you can eat at the Royal Livingstone

Getting ready for an amazing sunset over Victoria Falls


Sarah is a little nervous about the hippo behind here

I love safari!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Coppala Swag

Here is a conversation I just had with a neighbor boy, Grant, yesterday:

"Auntie, where is your dish?! I don't see any dish here!"

"I don't have one."

"WHAT?!? You mean you just watch ZNBC (Zambia National Broadcasting)?"

"No I have GoTV and it just uses an antenna"

"So how many channels do you have? Do you have power rangers? I love power rangers."

Grant is 7 years old and lives such a different life than any 7 year old in my village that I can't help but thinking I am in a completely different country here. In Misengo kids played with empty containers (seriously, they would fight over an empty shampoo bottle or tin can), or played church in my front yard (complete with sermons, songs, bible readings, and casting out of demons) while kids here in Kitwe would never really be satisfied with that. They know all about satelite dishes, LG vs. Phillips plasma screens, and the latest Blackberry phone. Aside from the stuff they have here, these kids can also speak English far better than most adults in Misengo. They are more educated in grade 2 than a lot of pupils are by grade 9 in the village. And sadly the majority of people in Zambia aren't like the people I am finding in the Copperbelt, but have experiences more like I found in the village.

It makes me wonder how I am going to cope with being back in America for a month. I think the transition will be easier than coming straigt from the ville because most of my co workers have cars, and smartphones, but I think the amount of stuff is going to be a little overwhelming, but nonetheless I am excited to be there and be back in America after being gone for about a year and a half!

Things here in the Copperbelt have been going well. I was busy organizing a workshop we hosted for teacher's about male circumscision because the Ministry of Health is having a big push to have every male in Zambia circumscised by the year 2015. We wanted to educate the teachers so that they can be our focal point people in the schools to help us educate the boy pupils since the age of 16-25 is one of our main target groups. To my teacher friends, imagine having the responsibility of teaching your pupils about protecting themselves from HIV/AIDS and MC?!?

Other than that my other latest project was the creation of a facebook page for our copperbelt platform. If you want to take a look and see some photos of our events or be in the loop on where we are going you can check us out on

http://www.facebook.com/sfhCopperbelt

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A Month into Working Life

I have been a Communications Assistant at SFH for one month now. And it has been a busy month! My body is still trying to get used to the 8-5, Monday thru Friday schedule after being in the village life for 2 years where my days consisted of killing time by reading, washing clothes, cleaning, and hanging out with people with a scheduled program every now and then. So far it's been a good month. My job as a CA is to go out and create demand for SFH products and services. So we sell items like condoms, clorin for safe drinking water, birth control pills, and then we educate communities and schools on things like male circumcision, long term family planning methods (IUDS), and going to get tested for HIV and create demand for them to get these services. As the Copperbelt platform we have insane targets that each department has to meet each month (for example, the MC team has a target of providing 2,175 circumcisions every month) and so the CA is very important to help these departments reach these numbers. We've been going around to a few schools and doing some of the GrassRoots Soccer activities I learned to teach about HIV in a non formal way. Then we also go on outreaches where we attack some speakers to the top of the cruiser and drive around talking in a microphone alerting people that we are there and they should come and get the service we are offering. Going around like this with the PA system is really effective. Even though we can tell a clinic we are there and hope word spreads around, most times in the more urban areas the correct message doesn't reach everyone so this method targets a large number of people. So far in my month I have seen not only a lot of Kitwe, but also a lot of the Copperbelt thanks to the outreaches we've done. I've been to many of the districts including Chingola, Chililabombwe, and Mufulira.I still have yet to make it to Ndola, the provincial capitol, but I am hoping that one of our trips will take me there. Next up, we as a communications team have been planning a workshop for teachers to train them about MC so that they can tell their students about it and hopefully be referring them to our site so they can get circumcised. Being that pretty much every baby gets circumcised in the States I had never thought that much about it, but here it is really being pushed because it can help lower the risk of getting HIV by 60%, and lower the chances of the man passing on HPV to women which can cause cervical cancer. And MC is being provided for free to Zambian men thanks to funding from USAID. So thank you America! Otherwise, life outside of work is going well. I am slowing figuring out where to buy certain things in town and I am loving living in my house that has running water (most of the time, I still stock it up in a dish just in case it stops), power, a stove, and a fridge. Only a little over 1 month until I am in America for the holidays! I can't wait to see everyone and be back for some American living!!!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Life after the Village

I have been out of my village for a little over one month now, but it seems like a lifetime ago. Saying that getting pulled from my site was 'emotional' would be the understatment of the century. In the week prior to getting pulled I felt excited for what was to come next, sad to be saying goodbye, anxious, disappointment, and anger due to a HUGE mistake by Peace Corps. I won't get into too many details, but to make a long story short they didn't have Misengo on the list of sites to be replaced so one week before I was to go I find out that no one is coming to replace my site and continue on in the work that I was doing even though I had many times told many members of staff that I HIGHLY recommended it to be replaced. However, as we were driving away good news came and a girl is coming to my site for one year after previously being a volunteer in Southern Province. So at least, Misengo will have a volunteer again! Saying goodbyes was the worst experience ever and something I would never want to repeat again. Ever. Luckily though since then I have been able to communicate with some people from my village by phone which has been so great. The drama that Misengo has never ceases to amaze me and I find myself missing it so much!
But now I have left Misengo and Northern Province and have found myself in the Copperbelt Province, in the city of Kitwe. It is a HUGE step up from Kasama town which had one traffic light, one Shoprite, and very little else. Kitwe is huge with a population of over 500,000 and lots of cars, areas, and shops not to mention delicious pizza. I live in the Nkana West part of town which is really close to town center and a short walk to the Society for Family Health offices. I live in a flat that has two bedrooms (with closets), a bathroom (with a flush toilet, shower, and tub), a kitchen (with stove, fridge, countertops, sink), and a big sitting room. I really like it and slowly but surely I am making it a home :)
My job at Society for Family Health has been going well after week one and I have to say I forgot how tiring it is to actually have a job from 8-5 every day Monday-Friday. As part of the communications team we are asked to go out a lot and provide information to the community before an event takes place. Last week we went to Mufurila right on the border to the Democratic Republic of Congo to prepare people for male circumcision. The beginning of this week we went to schools to watch their programs in promotion of global handwashing day, and this weekend I will be traveling again up near the Congo to promote family planning methods. So far it is busy, but I am liking it!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Preparing for the end

This is it, my final month living in my village. Where did these last two years go? I have been brainstorming ideas about a going away party which I will throw for myself and figuring out what things of mine I will carry with me to my new place and which stuff I will leave in the village. Besides thinking about these things, I haven’t really thought about leaving and saying goodbye to my home and the people I have grown so close to over these two years because it is just too hard. Sometimes I have tried to think about saying goodbye but I have to stop because I get lots of anxiety and end up crying. It’s a bad scene. I mean leaving America was hard and sad, but at least with friends and family back home we can communicate frequently with email, letters (kind of), Skype, phone calls, etc, but in my village people just have phones and only limited network. And I spend a majority of my time with children ages 5-10 so they do not own phones and cannot really write or read a letter so how am I supposed to keep connected with them? I am also struggling with a “should of, could of, would of” mentality. I keep thinking that I could have done more in my village, wishing I would have tried to do a preschool, thinking I could have spent more time in my village, and many more things. However, it seems when I really get down thinking about all the things I didn’t do I get a word of encouragement from someone in my village that I did well and they will miss me. The biggest compliment I have received is from the head teacher of Misengo Basic School. We were riding on the bus coming back and talking about me leaving and he just told me, “Emily we will miss you so much. You dedicated your time to Misengo and really invested in our people and learned about us and let us into your life to learn about you. You will never be forgotten.” It’s a good thing we were on a bus because otherwise I would have cried right there on the spot! The one thing that will make leaving my village more bearable is the fact that I am not yet leaving Zambia. I have been approved to stay for a third year and have FINALLY figured out where I will be and what I will be doing. I am moving to Kitwe which is in the Copperbelt Province. It’s the second largest city in Zambia so it will be a big leap from the simple life I have been leading in the bush. And it’s also SO much closer to Lusaka which will make any travelling so much better. Instead of a 10-14 hour ride I will only have to face one that is about 6 hours. I will be working for Society for Family Health (SFH) as a Communications Assistant. In reading the job description it sounds a lot like things I do now but this time I will work with a team instead of by myself. SFH does all sorts of health marketing things like family planning (pills, IUCD), male circumcision, HIV testing, cervical cancer screening, and I will be a part of a team that goes out before they do these technical things and give the community education about it to prepare them for it. And because I have a nursing background they have asked if I would be willing to do quality assurance as well after they give me training. I am not totally sure what they mean by quality assurance, but from the description is sounds like I will just be making sure that standards of care are being met. So now I go for my final weeks! I remember when I first came I was hoping some days or weeks would go by quickly, but now I am just hoping that time will slow down a little bit.