Let’s bring it back to the beginning

Okay so as I have been saying for the past 4 blog posts I’m going to really figure out what I am saying about this whole experience and I think that I need to bring it back to the beginning. I need to bring it back to when I was talking about sustainable development and the whole process of development in general and really what the roles of NGOs are.

So we started this whole new approach thing this year and I think that it has been a massive improvement for SAM and has a lot of potential for whatever the future brings for SAM. Of course, since the time that we had our first meeting about the plan, everything has changed and been modified and we have learned so much in the past 3 months, and I am beyond excite to see what happens in the next 3 months.

So let’s talk about how this new approach has helped. It has allowed us to get to know a community better and allowed us to get to know all the people we are working with in a much more personal setting. It has allowed us to find out some underlying problems that communities have that we probably would not find out using the approach that we had used before. It has allowed us to figure out what the real problems are and in what fashion the SAM Project can actually help, if there is actually anything that SAM needs to do.

For example, we assist with setting up nutrition classes and help to provide curriculum. We try our best to figure out what the local and available foods are and build off of that. Unfortunately when we came we came with curriculum already, bases off of another location. Now it was great to have material to build from but unfortunately it just wasn’t applicable for the area we were in. There was no one growing cash crops or oranges in the area and small fish was just too expensive for people in the area. Now we did not discover this until a little later when we got to have conversations with the mothers or when the mothers said to us, well where are we going to find a green pepper?
Or the fact that when we have nutrition classes we just assume that everyone has equal and adequate access to the foods we teach about. But that is not true for a lot of the moms we work with. We met one mom who told us her 5 kids had never tastes an egg before, due to lack of resources. So how can we expect people to use the knowledge that we have given when they don’t have the means to practice this. This is everywhere and I think it’s an important lesson to note. You can have all the education in the world but if you don’t have the resources to use it, what do you do.

It’s really hard not to just pick out the people that are doing well with the program and telling us their biggest problem is not knowing how to use a vegetable. If allows you to think tht everything is fine and dandy and if that is the biggest problem, it is solvable. I had a hard time with this. I really wanted to hold on to the idea that the resources were there we just need to figure out what to do to make sure we can use them properly, and that’s not the case at all and it makes the situation look not as optimistic.

A lot of these problems also go much deeper than having the means to make nutritious meals. The problems we have run into are very much based from socio-economic factors. Things like gender equality. I feel like I have been ignorant about it. I have turned a blind eye to it, thinking that yes everyone recognizes it and people are just use to inequality so they have accepted. And in no way am I saying that this right. Women that we are working with have told us flat out that their husbands do not care if their children eat nutritiously or anything. And it further perpetuates this viscous cycle of poor nutrition and inequality. Let me break it down, there are many contributing factors and it makes this problem of malnutrition bigger than what you see at first glance.

Polygamy is common in the area that we work in. When we were there, there was a wedding for a man to marry his 7th wife. Now, something that happens is that a man will then split the money up amongst the wives. Then that money is used to buy food etc. unfortunately the women still have to run their purchases by their husbands. The men in a lot of families also have control of the “savings” this being the livestock and cattle and what not. They save the livestock to sell when they want to make a big purchase, like a maize grinder. So no money to buy food, no food to make healthy meals.

The next issue access to water. So on top of the inequality that has come from years of gender roles, this year has been particularly difficult for Zambia as the rainy season has just been horrendous and it did not rain enough. The water tables are low and the crops did not get enough rain. Maize, the staple in Zambia, is eaten almost 2 times a day. Most of the time people can make it through the dry season and almost until the next harvest. This year people are worried they will run out in September. The next harvest is March. So what are people going to do…. The government provides some help.

Okay so then having all these things interacting it’s hard to figure out what to focus on. Do you use good nutrition and the betterment of children as a motivation by spreading knowledge. Or do you focus on growing cash crops and teach more sustainable farming techniques that would conserve water. Or what about building more water sources. It’s complicated and can’t be treated lightly. I came in thinking it would be hard but I did not expect it to be this complex.

So what’s next? My good friends and co-workers Leah, Taylor and Jake. Are currently working hard on implementation stuff as me and Payman did a lot of relationship building and meeting of people. It’s exciting. I think SAM is on the way to hiring some local individuals to carry on the project, in which case the SAM project does not have to be there anymore, which is the goal for any development project. In my opinion it would be great if SAM would go to a community to set up jobs that are relevant to the needs of the community. Using interns like the 5 of us to develop and understanding of what is needed and what help a community what’s if any at all. For example a new project could start in another location same way it did this year, then the development of nutrition classes and some sort of Microenterprise. This way an individual can be paid and it can be self sustaining.

Just thoughts and I’ll probably have more later on. This may be my last Zambia post until those thoughts come about. Until next time Zambia, thank you.



Ending thoughts -1

So it’s been awhile since I have posted anything. I just haven’t wanted to write anything and I think it’s because I’m sad that everything is ending and the project had just changed substantially in the past month or so. Maybe the best way to recap the past month is via pictures of people. What will probably happen is that ill start rambling off on each picture. Anyway here goes nothing. Since my last update these 2 amazing people showed up….


These guys will be carrying the project out through to November! And I’m sure that it will go well!

Okay yes, I have seriously been putting this blog post off. I wrote that top part two weeks ago and just came back to it now. Which also means it has been a crazy two weeks since leaving Zambia. And in some ways it feels like I was just there yesterday and other ways it feels like it was years ago.

I am currently in a bangkok hostel writing this and a lot has happened and I think I have processed things a little bit. I am currently sitting here extraordinarily overwhelmed by the city of bangkok with people everywhere, mostly tourists, crazy roads and being by myself. It’s incredible. Anyway that’s a whole other blog post….

The last month in Zambia

This is a dam. Now the dam provides a substantial portion of the water that the people of Muzya use. In the Muzya area there are 3 dams. Surround the dams are small garden plots that look like this…

And it makes send that these types of gardens surround the dams as the water is readily accessible. But it also makes it easy for livestock to get into the water too. This means that there are pigs and cows bathing and urinating and deficating in the dam. Now the even worse part is that people are drinking from this disgusting water too. Unfortunately I only have a picture of the shallow dug wells on my digital camera so I can’t upload it just yet. But what people do is they dig these little wells that are maybe 2.5 meters down until they get a small pool of water that can’t be any more that 4 inches deep. And they use a bowl to collect the water. The amazing thing is that the water runs clear, it is not clean but it doesn’t look murky in the least. It amazed me. And this dam that we visited serves a large amount of people. It is incredible. It takes so long to fill the buckets too, which is unfortunate because people end up collecting water for their whole day. It may sound like a cliche thing to say and you hear it all the time, but when you see people walk for km to get semi clean drinking water you really appreciate the clean water that we have readily accessible at home. It’s really incredible.


I’m on a roll with this whole water thing so I’m going to keep talking about it. This is a borehole with a pump. This pump is broken. In Muzya there are 10 pumps of those 10 more than half are broken or are going to run dry before the rainy season even starts this year. Water is something that is really precious this year especially. This is because of the fact that last years rainy season was not good. It wasn’t good because it didn’t fill all the dams, it didn’t rain enough for the rainy season crops to grow, and people don’t know what they are going to do. There wasn’t even enough water to get the right yield of maize. People live off this stuff. If there is no maize I don’t know what is going to happen. And when you ask people what they are going to do when they run out they have no answer. The worst part is that you can’t if they will run out what will they do, you have to ask when they run out what will they do. The government in Zambia does give out some food relief, but not nearly close to the amount that is needed.

The women I have met are truly inspiring and incredible. The women I have met have pushed me to be more like them and it is amazing to see strong women and work with these women. They are strong in all aspects of themselves, mentally, physically and emotionally. They have taught me more than I could’ve imagined learning. The stuff that they have to do on a day to say basis in incredible. They do not get thanks and do so much work, it pushed me to work harder and learn from them. I got to know 2 women in particular very well. And I think this would be a good time to talk about them. Internet, meet Eunice…..

This lady is incredible. She works hard and supports her family. And she has so many skills. She has an incredible garden, well she actually has 5 gardens, is a mom to 5 children, keen to learn about everything and has the skill and equipment to be a seamstress. It is truly incredible to see her so hardworking.

This is Ennie.

Ennie is one of the strongest women I know. Single mom of 2 and the most hardworking lady I know. I think of Ennie as my older sister, she helped me and taught me so much. She had so much dedication to the project and just purely for the sake if helping her community. It is incredible. Her determination and courage was something to admire.

I think I’m going to do another post about my actual final thoughts….


An update

It has been a little while since I have written a blog post. I think it is partly because we have has very little Internet access and partly because I have procrastinated writing a blog that there is just so much to write about that I feel overwhelmed.
I guess I can start from the beginning of last week. We headed back to Muzya for our second check up. It has been wonderful having the car up and running again, because we can finally get going on the work that has to be done.
There was some lack of communication between us and the clinic in Muzya so none of the mothers knew that we were arriving, but fortunately for some quick communication and rapid word of mouth by the community health workers we were back on track by Tuesday.
It seemed like the mothers were still interested in learning about nutrition, although a lot of the information taught at the last session seemed to not have stuck which is totally understandable. I’m sure that if I was asked a month after classes ended how to do a specific ochem question, my memory would take some time to remember.
It was really exciting though to be back because we introduced cooking classes for our third visit. The moms were all very keen for this to happen and volunteered to bring all the cooking ware and the food! The male community health workers were also very keen and said that they would be bringing food as well. I cannot wait to return and be a part of the cooking classes!
Another awesome thing that is going on in Muzya is the fact that they have started construction of a nutrition garden. When we arrived, community members had just started to bring large logs to build the fence around the garden. It is really neat because there are 3 dams in the Muzya area, and the plan is to build a nutrition garden at each of these dams and use it as a sort of demonstration garden! Mr. Teddy was very excited about this and next time we go back he is going to be teaching gardening workshops. It will be wonderful to tie together the nutrition and the agriculture.
It was interesting to hear that people in Muzya were calling us satanists. People were very skeptical of our hemoglobin machine, because we had to draw blood from the babies. Apparently we needed to establish trust with the headmans of the village. And fortunately we got the opportunity to meet with the headman this past week and so hopefully by the next time we show up there will be less of this.

We were welcomed in Muzya and accommodated! It was very nice of Mr. Richard, he had coordinated it such that we stayed in is abandoned teachers house behind the clinic. The house was empty, but it was perfect to protect us from the cold. So we set up tents inside the house. Unfortunately we had some visitors on our 3rd night. The house was invaded by these tiny black ants. They are completely harmless, but a completely pain. They crawl over everything. They were all over the tent. We were advised to buy baby powder because ants apparently don’t like it. So we did and to my surprise they stayed away. We had sprinkled the powder around our packs and the ants did not cross the powder. So here’s a tip, if you have an ant infestation, the simplest solution is some baby powder, plus your house smells nice.

The whole week were accompanied by the lovely Ennie. She is community health worker who also has a daughter under the age of 2. So she is a mom that is participating in the program. She was with us everyday that we were there and she was keen to be the teacher of the classes and she did amazingly. She was such an engaging teacher and despite the fact that I didn’t understand much of it, because she was teaching in tonga, I still wanted to listen to her. Due to the fact that we spent so much time with Ennie, I got to learn a lot about her and her family. Her life has been far from easy and she has been trained to be an elementary school teacher and due to conflicts and unexpected events at home she has been unable to get a job. It is heartbreaking to here. But despite her hardships, she is probably one of the most hardworking women I have ever met. She lives about 20 minutes away by car and the walk is ridiculously long. And everyday she walked to us, ans this is all the while taking care of her family and doing other chores that need to be done.
To me, meeting people like Ennie is inspiring. Despite having so little, her hard work, perseverance and determination have pushed me to be a better person. It was the weirdest thing. When we were talking Ennie said that she finds it’s motivating that I came over to spend my summer here. And I was in shock. At home I don’t need to worry about having enough food, walking 2 km to get somewhat safe drinking water, having a shower on the daily or worrying about getting an education. I’m just a 20 year old girl, without her bachelors degree, here to learn about different cultures, medicine and really trying to help as much as I can. But when you look at Ennie, the things that she has accomplished, is amazing. There’s no electricity at her house or water nearby. Her garden has recently been destroyed by the local goats, but she is still determined to have this project be a success and see that it will help her community. It makes you think if someone can accomplish something with so little resources, look at the resources we have at home that we can use to make society and our communities better.
Which brings me to my next point. Being here has made me realize how individualistic home is. We all are proud when we can say that we independent and don’t need help from people. Which is great, it’s awesome to be able to say hey look what I can do. But once in a while I think we all need a little bit of help. When you see the strength that people have in a group or when there is a common goal it is amazing. Every women’s association, farming group, or nutrition group we have met has proved this to me. I think that back at home we need to work on this and I’m sure there are restraints due to our cultural beliefs and structure but I think it would greatly benefit our communities if we can try a little bit more.
Being here has also made me realize just how important family is. When I tell people that my immediate family is just 4 people are shocked. Lots of family’s here run upwards of 6+, I mean Mr. Teddy has 16 children. And everyone in family has to pitch in and work together. The other day near Mr. Teddy’s garden I saw this 5 year old girl named Sephiso, wheeling around this wheelbarrow to collect water. And this girl is barely tall enough to see over the wheelbarrow. This trip has made me truly appreciate and recognize the support that family has for you. I’ve been so lucky to have such supportive parents and family.

Well that’s all the thoughts I have for now, until next time!




Over the past week I have gotten the opportunity to talk to many people from not only Zambia, but all over the world. Staying at hostel has the perk of meeting new people everyday and I am so excited to see who else I get to meet throughout this trip. Talking to these people has given me a lot to think about when it comes to culture. I have been able to talk to 3 doctors from Chile who have told me all about what Chilean culture is like, and truth be told the more they tell me the more I want to visit it! I have also made friends with many people from Europe, people from the states and I even met a few Canadians! It’s interesting to see how much everyone differs in their customs and how they approach the issues and successes that they encounter. Despite all these differences, everyone has so many more similarities and to me this is one of the greatest pleasures of travelling and just meeting people in general!

I have gotten just a glance into Zambian culture and it is quite different from the culture that we have in Canada, or atleast the culture I grew up in, in Vancouver.

Here are some things that I have learned about the culture here….
1. People are very polite here and they attribute it to the fact that they are a Christian country. The amount of times that I have heard that is crazy. During our entire visa week, we had to go and see these ladies to certify our papers. Now we were a bit frustrated and the ladies quickly called us out on it and bluntly said you are showing that you are annoyed and we are not going to be frustrated because we are Christian country and anything bad that we do is a direct reflection of God. So I am not a religious person and have a hard time understanding this. But I think this is part of the reason that Zambians are in general very friendly, welcoming and kind people.
2. Everyone greets everyone. It doesn’t matter if you know them or not, it is very easy to just say hi to someone on the street. You see everyone doing it and just stopping and chatting with the next person. It is different from Vancouver, it almost seems like people almost avoid eye contact with each other when walking down the street ans sometimes even, I feel like people are surprised when you smile at them and you don’t know them.
3. Handshaking is a must. You must shake hands in the Zambian way whenever you meet someone. A Zambian handshake consists of first shaking hands then holding their hand, grasping around the thumb and then another handshake.
4. Going along with handshakes it is not uncommon to see men holding hands down the street when they are talking to each other. As they talk they hold hands it’s very neat and I wish we did that in Canada. Just hold hands with people while you talk to them.
5. Asking if you are married and how old you are is not rude and actually a very common topic… I I have had 2 marriage proposals so far, but that is a bit strange.
6. There is no beating around the bush around here, people just say what they want. It’s nice becaus I am a very indecisive person and I like seeing people who can make decisions easily
7. People here are not confrontational. Despite being blunt, people will never say anything mean about anyone. Sometimes this can be a negative though. For example my supervisor and I I were shopping and this drunk guy on the street kept talking to us and touching our shoulders ans really getting in our personal space. And even though many people saw our discomfort and we could see them wanting to say something they just watched. This is not the only case, I have seen this multiple times. Conflict it not a good thing.
8. I don’t know if this is a culture thing, I think it is. But I think the fact that there are a billion NGOs and charities around here plays into the cultur too. You see back at home yes you see the charities that people volunteer at and what not, but there are just so many here and it is much more apparent. I haven’t quite figured out what it is about this that I find very interesting but I’m sure I will be thinking about it a lot over this trip and hopefully by the end of this trip I will figure it out.

I still have a lot to learn about culture but I am very excited to explore it!


Mr. Teddy’s Home


So I have now been in Zambia for just over a month and it has gone by so quickly. Needless to say I do get homesick sometimes, especially when things have not gone the way it’s supposed to, as it has been going over the past week, with the car and the visas. Mr. Teddy saw that we have essentially been sitting ducks for the past week and invited us to his house this past weekend, and I have felt more at home than ever since being here.
On Saturday we were supposed to meet one of our friends to get a ride to Mr. Teddy’s unfortunately due to a miscommunication in time we ended up heading out of town much later than when we were supposed to leave and we had the dinner( nshima, veggies and we thought we had chicken). So we ended up heading out later and we had to stop at the car shop to get our camping gear, because the car is still in shop and the stuff is in the trunk. So we show up at the shop and because we were so late the shop was closed. Luckily our friend offered some of her camping gear so we were good to go and were off to Mr. Teddy’s. Halfway through the drive we realized we forgot the chicken. We had a whole chicken sitting in the fridge at the hostel, so we showed up to Mr. Teddy’s without the protein…. But luckily Malvina was quick to save the meal! And she said she had beans and eggs that she could easily prepare.

Ah the food was wonderful! We felt so bad for forgetting the chicken but everything else tasted amazing! And I wasn’t really a fan of the nshima but for some reason Malvina’s just tasted extra good and all her relishes that went along with it were delicious. The food is made over the fire and the admiration I have for her being able to cook over a fire is great. Anytime I cook over a fire my food is over cooked or undercooked. Her food was amazing and I sat with her the whole time and I tried to absorb as much knowledge as possible. The second night Malvina cooked up a feast. Her niece Woomba caught us a village chicken and killed it. And Malvina also prepared the much feared kapenta. Kapenta is a dried fish that has the strongest smell you can imagine. I personally really enjoy it, but everyone else kind of looks at me funny when I say that. The thing about the chicken was that they were plucking it, and cleaning it and all the other chickens were just looking at and then they threw the fat out and the innards and the chickens all went crazy trying to eat it…. I don’t know how I feel about it. But despite watching the food I eat get killed and cleaned, it was still delicious, sorry chicken. I promised Malvina that by the end of the summer I will cook her a full Zambian meal! I’ve got a lot to learn if I want to accomplish this goal….

So before we do a little tour of Mr. Teddy’s house I think it is important to mention the animals that are living on his property. Mr. Teddy has a lot of cattle, and unfortunately I didn’t get a photo of them but he does have a lot. They are everywhere. He uses the cattle for a lot of things, for milk, food once in a while, and plowing, they are very useful animals to Mr. Teddy and his family! He also has dozens of village chickens running around his house and he also has this funny chicken that has no hair on its neck, Malvina says that it was born this way and you can’t do anything about it. He also has one dog named Disco. And he has 6 cats. They are used to chase the mice and rats away. Malvina was shocked when we told her people pay lots of money for pets back home and told us to take the cars back home with us ans send her the money for them.


So let me give you a tour of his house! This is the outside and the side room was my room…

They had a double mattress just sitting around and told me I could use it. I was just happy to be in the house, because of how cold it gets at night. It was nice and homey. It’s supposed to be their kitchen. And they hope to put in a stove and fridge. I was sleeping in a sleeping bag and a down blanket and that’s when I felt warm enough to sleep. It gets quite cold at night here.
Last time I was here, Mr. Teddy had just finished the shell of the house and this is what his living room looks like now….

We sat in here after dinner on both nights and watched tv with Mr. Teddy and Malvina. The tv I think only has one channel and it’s this Zambian news channel/random tv shows. Like I heard the greys anatomy theme song and freaked out and then it showed 3 minutes of it befor the Zambian news returned. Mr. Teddy was surprised by my reaction, but what can I say, I miss my greys!

Mr. Teddy has been working very hard on finishing up his bathroom here is a picture of the toilet and shower!

I took a shower here and I realized how much water I probably use at home and how much I actually need. Malvina filled that little tub for me and I only used about 3/4 of it.

And he spent a good chunk of the Sunday attaching doors to the bathrooms.

I’m the end it looked great!

And of course to end the tour, here is a picture of the kitchen!


On the Sunday, we asked Mr. Teddy put us to work so he sent us to the gardne to work with his nephew Tobias. We had to tie the tomato plants to this wire such that they can stand tall… We were probably really slow. We then had to water them. They had this weird hose that had holes in it… Unfortunately due to the spacing and lack of pressure only 6 plants could get watered per row…. So I ended up watering them by hand…


But it was fun and I realized how much I like the smell of tomato plants!

I had a blast being at Mr. Teddy’s and cannot wait to go back and work on her garden and learn more from Malvina and Mr. Teddy! That was probably the most rewarding part of the 3 day excursion. It was learning about Zambian culture, village life and really just more about the lovely people I have the pleasure of working with this summer. So Mr. Teddy, Malvina, Woomba, and Tobias, thank you for the lovely stay or Twalumba!