Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Past, Present, Future

I was "pulled" from my village, Fiwila, on Monday September 10th, 2012. It was a day that came full circle. The first time I visited my house and I was so unsure of whether it was the right placement for me, if me and the family would mesh well together, and how the hell was I going to survive without cell phone service!?! I laid on my floor, with only the furniture left behind by previous volunteers in the house, and cried my eyes out. On Monday, shortly before departure, I laid in that same spot, this time my house totally vacant and barren as I gave all my furniture away since I am not being replaced by another volunteers and all my bags were packed up and ready to go, and I balled my eyes out, this time for a different reasons. It turns out that I had been placed in the perfect village for me, with the most wonderful family who became my real family, and in the end I ended up getting cell phone coverage. Sitting with my family the night before I cried through the whole meal realizing "this is the last time that I will be eating nshima with you." The morning I left I was able to go to the opening day of preschool and see the children and the teachers begin the term.

I came to Peace Corps with the loftiest of goals, to change the world, to save the community and every person in it. I didn't even think it would be that hard and while I knew I would change I didn't know how I would change. Peace Corps has been one of the most humbling and educational experiences. Every time I though that I had an aspect of Zambian culture figured out, or understood, or thought I was a Zambian something would happen to remind me that I will never totally understand this world, because it's not my world. However, I feel I gave Zambia everything that I had, and it gave me everything it had to offer and what more could a person ask for?

My family is sending my best friend and Zambian sister Paxina to nursing school starting in (hopefully) January. Her life will be forever changed along with her family's. She kept me for two years, and now it's my turn to help keep her. Some of the people I met inspired me and melted my heart. The tradgedies that they had endured, the struggles they had overcome, and they will still forging ahead trying to make life better for themselves and their families.

Not everything was beautiful. There were some ugly things, such as the corruption and the manipulation. There were deaths, and failed projects. But there were also births and successful endeavors. I learned to celebrate small victories, because if you only focus on the big picture and the big victories, a lot of beautiful and wonderful moments in your life will pass you by.

My two years in Zambia have been the most amazing, challenging, educational, uplifting, eye-opening, healing, and wonderful two years of my life. I don't know what really lies ahead (other than an amazing Euro trip to see my sister and old friends that it has been to long since I have seen) but Zambia has taught me that even the best, most carefully laid plans can go completely astray and how to deal with the chaos that may ensue.

For those of you who helped with my preschool, either helping to promote it to your friends/family/coworkers, donated money to the grant or supplies for the school both me and my community can never thank you enough. You have helped to make a difference in these children's lives, I have seen such a change in them since they started their lessons in February and they are SO excited about their beautiful building full of toys, art supplies, and what they don't know is educational material that is meant just for them to enjoy. They all get to sit in their own chair, many of these children have never had a chair that they get to sit in all by themselves and they don't have to share or give up to an adult or older child.

And to those of you who have followed my journey, and who have supported me through my journey, I couldn't have done it without you. There where days when you just wanted to throw in the towel, days when you were so sad, or angry, or frustrated but then I would remember all those at home who loved and supported me (I kept a constant reminded on my wall and saved all your letters) Your love and support has meant more than you will ever imagine

Leaving is bittersweet. I am ready for the next chapter of my life, but leaving this important chapter behind is not easy. I have built a life here, a network both of Zambian and American friends. I have gotten used to life here (even the horrible transportation system-which is the number one thing I will NOT miss about Zambia) and I am about to leave all of it behind, and I can never return to it. I am returning to a life that I left behind two years ago that isn't the same life it was, because though I didn't realize it at the time, I was leaving behind a life then that I could never return to. We can only go forward, we can only fight through the bad, savor the good, and celebrate any success (even if its just sweeping the house, or typing a report, or building a preschool) No matter the size of the success it is a success and it should be enjoyed and celebrated. It is the small moments that make up our lives, and if we don't appreciate and enjoy those small moments we're going to miss a lot of life.

This chapter ends, an another begins

so it goes.....

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Building the future...

George & Phil
3 1/2 and 4 Years Old

George and Phil are two boys who live in my village.  A few months ago,  I took this picture. It was a weekday morning and their brothers and sisters, who were in charge of taking care of them, had wandered over to my house to see if I had anything fun to give them. Because the boys parents both work, their care fell onto their older siblings. Their older siblings weren't in school because they had to take care of these guys, and these guys weren't in school because there was no option for them to go to school. In a few years they would have started school totally unprepared. The grade 1 ciriculum in Zambia is designed as if children attened preschool, however in the village set up, this rarely occurs. Even if their is a preschool accessible, the cost is usually astronomical for a village family. Children go into grade 1 totally unprepared, behind in school before they even start. In my community 50 percent of the grade 1 students just stop going to school. They can't learn because they are behind and get embarrassed and discouraged. I'm working to help change this in my community, and I need your help!

These kids lack the foundation to succeed in school. Can you imagine building a house without a foundation? Preschool is the educational foundation that these children lack. If they are behind in grade 1, they are never able to catch up, thus are always behind in school. Some get away with it until it is time to take their grade 7 exams. If they can't pass their grade 7 exams, they cannot advance to grade 8. For many, grade 7 becomes the end of their education. Girls are often married off shortly after failing their grade 7's (or before) and sons are sent to the fields to work. These are the lucky ones. For those that drop out before grade 7, they end up becoming domestic or field workers. Any chance of success and upward mobility is squandered.  All because they weren't prepared for school as a toddler. 

We forget sometimes how important preschool is for a child's development, cognitively, but also emotionally, socially, and physically. True in preschool children get introductory education such as learning their abc's, counting to ten, writing their name, knowing colors, days of the week, the months of the year. But there are other valuable skills a child obtains in preschool. These are things like developing fine motor skills, by doing things like drawing, cutting and pasting, running, jumping, and holding pencils, or developing social skills and learning how to interact with other children. They also get some lessons on things like hand washing after using the toilet and before eating. Their small, developing brains get the stimulation they need in order to grow. Early childhood education is a new concept in Zambia, one that only a few appreciate. 

The new govenment is trying to institute more "community" pre schools because they don't have the money to institute government run schools. I have written a grant whose funds will be used to rennovate a building donated by the local orphanage in my community. We will turn this building into a one room preschool class room. We will also use the money to buy supplies for the children, everything from tables and chairs to pens, paper, paint, and scissors. We currently have nuns who are trained in teaching preschool that are volunteering to teach, however outlying communities also want preshcools. They are receiving, and will continue to receive training, on how to manage and run the school. We will be able to hold a training for them on how to institute, run, teach, and mange a preschool in their areas. Parents are anxious for their children to attend preschool. We have opened already in Fiwila, my community. The orphanage has a small room we are using and some wonderful friends and family have sent a few supplies to get us by. These supplies are running out, as is my time in Zambia and I need your help to raise the additional $2,000 needed to complete the project. The kids that are in school love it. George and Phil above can now count to 10, recite their abc's and are even learning a few words in english! Their brother's and sister's are able to also attend school since if the boys are in school, they don't have to stay home to take care of them. There are suddenly 20 little lives who are being given a chance to succeed in school, and thus succeed as functional adults in their communities. These children are the future of Zambia, please help me give them the foundation they need. 

If you have already donated, myself, and the kids, are eternally grateful to you! If you haven't donated and are interested in donating, it's really simple. Every little bit helps! All donations go 100% to my project and are tax deductible! Just go to this link: which is my specific project. You can also go to and in the "search for a project" section enter either my last name (Neft) or my project number 611-078. I have put a lot of work into organzing this program and the community is extreamly dedicated to the program. Please feel free to share my blog with anyone who is interested, and please always feel free to contact me with any questions!! Twatotela sana!

Sunday, November 27, 2011


I was not a huge kid person before I left America, frankly I found most of them to be whiny and obnoxious, thus I thought the majority of my work here would revolve around adults. However, almost by accident, a very happy accident, most of my work here has revolved around children, and thus by consequence, with mothers. I have learned how important a mother is to a child's life, and how dire the consequences can be without one.

Recently a grandmother showed up to my door cradling the tiniest 6 week old baby I had ever seen. The child'd mother had died when she was just 2 weeks old, thus taking away the child's best chance for survival and health, breast milk. The family had no money and no way to continue to pay for formula. In conjunction with my clinic, we are making sure that this baby has formula and is well taken care of. Her grandmother carries around two bags, one will the baby's feeding cup (the dirt of the village set up makes using a bottle unhygienic even dangerous) formula and boiled/slightly cooled water, in the other bag she carries extra diapers and baby powder. Though she has children of her own, her youngest is 9, she has now devoted her existence to making sure this child is fed, bathed, and loved. In lieu of a swing, she rocks the baby by hand until she sleeps, and is excited to see that the child is not only alive, but growing! Last week, the baby, Veronica, was smiling and holding my hand, a positive sign in her development. While it is going to take a village to make sure this child survives past 6 months, the smile on Veronica's face makes it all worth it.

The worst part of this story is that it didn't have to be this way. Her mother gave birth at home, as so many village women do, and for whatever reason died 2 weeks later. She was unconscious when she arrived at the clinic, so she could have died from anything ranging from malnutrition, malaria, or complications from child birth, no body knows. The one thing that is certain is that her death was most likely preventable. If she had just given birth at the clinic she would have been in the care of trained birthing attendants and nurses, and if there had been complications transport to the hospital could have been arranged. However to use the words "If she had just" makes it sound like giving birth at the clinic was an easy task. She lived 25 kilometers from the clinic, and even though I have never been in labor, I have heard enough stories that walking that distance while in any stage of labor would be torturous, if not impossible. Also, culturally it is acceptable to have your children at home, and changing an idea about culture is a sensitive subject to breach. Sadly, her story is not that uncommon.

While the chance of maternal death in America is slim to none, the rate in Zambia is alarming. An infant being left orphaned, or a mother left without the child she carried for 9 months is an an acceptably high rate. Formula is not a feasible option for most families, breast milk is what keeps babies alive and healthy. For Veronica, the option of a wet nurse was not possible. In Zambia, only family members can breast feed family members babies, and the only breast feeding family member at the time is HIV positive. Again, this is not an uncommon story.

I cried for Veronica, but I also cried for her mother, and all the mothers like her, who die a senseless death while bringing life into this world. Being a woman in Zambia is difficult, being a mother is even more so. But I salute these mothers, these mothers who love their children dearly, who derive so much happiness from their children. Who work tirelessly and thanklessly for their children. I also salute mothers every where. My cousin just became a mother for the first time this year, along with a dear friend of mine, and I am grateful beyond words that these birth went smoothly and mom and baby are in good health, and thriving. I also got so share part of my life in Zambia with my own mother this year. Mothers are a wonderful thing, and they have an often thankless job. To the mothers of the world. and in my life, I salute you.

What is the solution to reducing maternal mortality rates? While there is never one answer for complex problems, there is a way forward. Helping women to understand why it is important to give birth at the clinic, why it is important to take care of themselves while pregnant, and why it is important to make sure their child gets the right types of foods and are all key first steps. Also getting the fathers to understand and participate in these habits is vital. What I can do as a Peace Corps Volunteer is little, and I struggle with this fact. I can't build more clinics in more remote areas, I can't pave roads and bring ambulances. I can't train midwives or provide bicycles to those that are trained. I can't go preform the deliveries myself. All I can do is talk, and educate, and reach out to mothers, and hope they listen, hope they understand. I am trying to get a safe motherhood promotion group going in my area. My clinic is trying to take steps to keep a program they instituted going to to be promoted. Right now there are outside funds from the UK coming that is allowing the clinic to house mothers in their 9th month of pregnancy, so that when the time comes to give birth, the birth occurs in a safe environment with trained professionals. So all I can do is to be a voice, to be an advocate, and sometimes that is the hardest person to be, because you never know if you are making a difference, if people are actually listening. You just have to hope that one does, so that there is one less baby Veronica in this world.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

My African Bubbie

These two boys (not the baby) are Advent and Terrent, affectionately known as Addy and Tally. They are brothers, they couldn't be more opposite, and they couldn't have a sadder story.

Advent is one of the sweetest children I have ever encountered. I decided this my first few weeks in Fiwila. While most people here, especially children, will throw rocks or sticks at dogs, or even kick them, I saw Advent reprimand another child for doing this, then bend down the pet the dog. While this is a gesture of kindness and decency in American culture, in Zambian culture it is almost unheard of. If I need water, I have to make sure Addy is not around, because if he sees me walking with my water container he will come and take it from me and go get me my water, no matter how much I protest. While the other kids all want their picture taken, sweeties, dollies, peanut butter, bread, plastic bottles and pretty much anything else they can see in my house the only things advent has ever asked for was laundry soap so bambuya (our grandmother) could do laundry and a candle for bambuya. The baby he is holding is Godwin, his cousin whose mother works full time. Though Godwin spends the day at Bambuya's, Addy does a lot of the care for him. I gave Addy a piece of bread with jam on it once and he immediately found Godwin and gave him 90% of the treat.

Tally is the complete opposite, I tell him all the time he is a troublemaker! He does not have a mean or a cruel streak, but he is a little mischievous guy! He only wants to get water for me if he can use my bike, and he's often in trouble for doing something or another. He has the same kind heart as Addy, but he's got a hellion streak in him too. For example, he climbed onto my dish rack and brought the whole thing tumbling down.

I love these boys, and their story weighs heavy on my heart every day. Their father married their mother and had them. Shortly after Tally was born (he is the younger one) the mother decided that she didn't want to be married to their father anymore, nor did she want her children so she dumped them off at her husband's mother's house, my bambuya. Bambuya was a little over 60 at the time, didn't have a job, and had no way to care for the children, so their father agreed to take them. It turned out that he was a raging alcoholic and shortly after taking them, turned them over to his now ex-wife's mother. Later, Bambuya was told through the village grape vine, that she needed to go to Inshinso (about 50 kilometers away on a hilly dirt road) and rescue her grands, they were dying. So Bambuya and another member of the family made the trek. Nothing could have prepared them for what they found.

They found tally, just a little over 2 years at the time, practically unconscious and skeletal. They found Addy, about 5 at this time, out foraging for fruits on the ground for the two of them to eat. The grandmother they were staying with was also a drunk, and would abandon the children for days at a time, and when she was around did not care for them. So bambuya strapped the dying Tally to her hunched and arthritic back, and helped Addy stagger the 50 kilometers back to Fiwila. She had no idea how she would manage to care for these boys, how she would manage to feed them, to send them to school, to cloth them, but at that point it didn't matter, these were her grandchildren, she loved them and if she didn't take them they were going to die.

So Addy and Tally still live with Bambuya. Addy helps her out with a lot around the house, and Bambuya works hard all year to maintain enough crops to feed the three of them (plus the one or two other grandchildren she is usually taking care of). She rents out a house to some school boys and sells some of her cassava so she is able to buy basic supplies for the boys. Last week I brought Addy a belt because his pants did not fit but bambuya didn't have the funds to buy a luxury like a belt, so he was tying his pants up with string, but he never complained. She doesn't know yet how she will send Addy to school after grade 7 when she will have to start to pay school fees. But she loves those boys, she takes care of those boys, she protects, nurtures, and disciplines them. She is raising and loving them, and you can tell the love and respect they have back for her.

I don't have any grandparents that are still alive, I was very blessed to have four wonderful grandparents for part of my life, but now I have none, or rather I had none. Bambuya treats me as one of her own, she calls me a Mulomo, which is the family name, and I have adopted her as my grandmother. When my parents came to visit, the only way I could describe the visit to her was that my American family was coming to meet my Zambian family. This woman is truly an amazing woman with a deep and long history to tell. This is just one of the many great things this great woman has done.

Monday, September 12, 2011

I swear I am actually working here!

In a moment of narcissism, that I prefer to think of as past reflection, I was reading through my blog posts over the past 14 months and realized that many of them could be classified as journal entries, trying to paint a picture of my life, the Zambian bush, and the inner workings of my brain during my service. I have however neglected to discuss much work, probably leaving most of you thinking that here in Peace Corps we really just travel and hang out in the village. So today, I will write some about my work, just so you all can rest at ease that your tax dollars are going to a worthy cause.

One reason I haven't written a lot about work is because it took me a while to find it. This may sound strange, you may be thinking "isn't she living in a developing African country, with one of the worst HIV rates in sub saharan Africa (not to mention the world) out in the village, shouldn't she be overwhelmed by the amount of work that is available" and in thinking this you would be right. However, it is a bit of a delicate situation. In the village community 99.9% of all villagers are subsistence farmers, meaning their entire lives revolve around being farmers and growing enough food for their families, and often families here are not small. Even if parents have only a few children (and this is a rarity) there are usually a rotation of other family members living with the family periodically. For example, my bambuya (grandmother in icilala), though all of her 12 children are grown, is responsible for raising at least three, if not more at any given time, of her grandchildren, many of them single orphans (meaning at least one of their parents is dead, an all too common occurrence in Zambia). So, for most people, their top priority is their fields, their crops, and buying fertilizer for them. So even though there is the need for health education campaigns, it is sometimes hard to convince the community that these things are important. And even if you can convince them that they are important, even if you can train and teach them, getting them to change generations of behavior is its own frustrating challenge.

Finding reliable and honest counterparts also presents its challenges. A counterpart is a person in the village (they can be from the village, or someone from outside such as a teacher or clinic staff member) who helps you with your project, usually is a translator for it, and who often either has a background in the topic or goes to a training with you for the project. The tricky aspect is finding someone who actually wants to be your counterpart because they believe your project is important, and will be dedicated to working withtrainings you for an extended period of time and then continue the work after you leave. Often people want to be counterparts in order to go to , but not to become more knowledgeable, but to get out of the village for x amount of days, stay at a nice guest house, and get a certificate and maybe a little spending money. It's not rare that following a workshop the counterpart abandons you and the project. I was very careful about who I selected as counterparts, though I had my follies, I believe I have found a few good ones. Because the project, if not supported, and understood by the community, will fall apart.

So now a year in, I have two main projects, with good counterparts and community support, that are taking off and will absorb most of the remaining year of my service. For those of you who knew me before coming to Zambia, you will be shocked to learn that both projects focus on children. One is a child nutrition/re-feeding project and the other is the building of a preschool. I have other projects, such as helping to organize and run central provinces annual girls camp Camp GLOW, teaching life skills to high school and upper basic students, hopefully training a neighborhood health committee on what exactly their job is, but my two children projects will be my primary focus for the next 12 months.

PS/Ishiko is the name of the child nutrition program. Me and my friend/counterpart Paxina attended two trainings, each two days long in Kasama in Northern Province. The first training was a training on what the program was. It is an internationally recognized program known as PD/Hearth that PC Zambia has adopted and adapted to be PS/Ishiko. PS stands for Positive Support and Ishiko is the local word for hearth. The program has had great success in Haiti and Mali (in Western Africa) and NGO's such as World Vision and Africare have adopted the program in Zambia. The core concept is to identify malnourished children, re-feed them, teach their mothers the recipes for re-feeding and basic nutrition, and get the children up to a healthy weight and then maintain that weight. The key is to use only local ingredients (for example you wouldn't make eggplant parmesan because the ingredients are not available) and also to identify "positive support families" who are regular villagers i.e. not wealthy whose children are all healthy. Those families help to "support" the mothers enrolled in the program.

We conducted a baseline assessment in the Fiwila community (we will later conduct the same baseline assessments in the outlying communities) and discovered that out of the 114 children we weight and measured, 40.5% of them were malnourished, about 12. 5% of them were severely malnourished! The mothers whose children were malnourished wanted to waste no time they wanted their children in Ishiko sessions NOW. So we invited 13 mothers and their malnourished children, 10 showed up. We spent 12 days together. They learned how to make a porridge that was fully balanced and highly nutritious, bean burgers, and we even went over how to properly feed an under 5 child. When we made a common household meal and they showed me how they fed their children, most of them were just dipping huge lumps of nshima into the relish (vegetables and peanuts). We also discussed nutrition, what is a balanced meal, did 24 hour meal recalls - where they told me what they had fed the children that day and then we discussed what was good and what needed improvement. We also talked about malaria, hand washing, family planning, and identifying what foods are available when. The biggest challenge was that I had no translator during the sessions so I was preforming them in very very broken bemba/lala. On the last day we weight the children and 8 of the 10 had gained at least 400 grams. In the past month 9 of the 10 are still gaining weight. When I return to the village we will conduct home visits and have one of one discussions about HIV/AIDS and Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission.

The preschool project just fell into my lap. It was something that I had thought was needed in the community and had expressed this opinion to people and they always said, that while they agreed they had tried to have preschools before but the teacher was never paid so the school fell apart. I was at a loss, I continued to put feelers out there, letting people know it was something I was interested in. Then something changed, Ba Eden moved back to Fiwila.

Ba Eden grew up in Fiwila, he left and got educated at Copperbelt University and has been working for various USAID funded projects in Zambia. He decided recently that he needed to go back to his "hometown" for lack of a better word, and do work there, so he is now back in Fiwila, on a voluntary basis, trying to "lift the community, life the orphanage, lift the people up". He found out about my interest in a preschool and it has been full speed ahead ever since. Two nuns have volunteered to teach without payment. We held a large meeting with village leaders and teachers the other day and their support was incredible. We will not begin the process of getting the building ready, sensitizing the community to the importance of early childhood education, and set up a training for the nuns. THere are a few villagers who have been trained in how to teach pre-school along with childhood psychology who are going to use the national standard, adapted for Fiwila, to train the sisters to offer the best early childhood education to the children. Parents that have money (for example teachers and clinic staff) will pay a fee so that materials can continue to be bought and maintenance of the building can be done. Those that cannot afford to pay in cash, will pay in kind, either in food, seeds, fertilizer, or even maintaining land within the orphanage. The preschool will be based out of the orphanage and will be directly affiliated with it. We created a "preschool task force" that will begin meeting, planning, designating assignments, and hopefully we will be opening the school in the next 6 months. I will keep you posted.

Both of these projects found me, while I was busy trying to find other work, these found me, engulfed me, taught me, and now hopefully will become integral parts of the community. After all, the children are the future, and without education, proper nutrition and care, parents that are alive, and healthy to care for them and opportunities to better their life, the future would look very bleak. I am just hoping to bring some of these elements to these young children's lives, even if the sight of my terrifies some of them and send them crying into their mothers arms.

Wish me luck! I'll keep you posted!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Where There Is No GPS

So yesterday I was out in the bush, desperately trying to find a meeting that it turned out wasn't ever scheduled, trying in the limited amount of icilala I know to find out where Tazara West was and once I was in it how to get to the depot (pronounced de-pot). My bike chain was full of sand, and I was exhausted from the 30k bike ride and all day "how to run an under 5 clinic" workshop (which seemed to be a huge success, though I won't judge for sure until after they continuously hold under 5 clinics in their community) I had done in Chibanga the day before. I had also managed to get myself lost in the bush earlier that day trying to find the stream to wash my clothes in, so the last thing I wanted to do at that moment was to be biking through sand trying to find a meeting. I had my ipod on shuffle and had been listening to a variety of america house and pop music when I finally decided I had had enough and was going to head home. At that moment I looked up and took my headphones out, because I had to stop and take in what I was looking at. The maize field in front of me had been harvested and lay in dead dry stalks across the ground. A weed had overtaken the field, it's tall with soft downy red on the top, it blows quite beautifully in the wind. Behind this was a grove of dark green trees, and behind that a dark purple mountain shrouded in fog. It was a beautiful, peaceful moment. Suddenly all the frustration from not finding the meeting spot (and later finding out that the meeting had never been scheduled in the first place- classic pc zambia volunteer conundrum), the exhaustion from bike riding and bush path blazing, the homesickness that still comes in unexpected and unusual waves was all worth it for this moment. It not only made me appreciate the beauty of the place I am now calling home, but also an appreciation of the people I live with and interact with on a daily basis, and an excitement for the work I am finally starting in the village. I have a quote on my wall "there is a lot in life that is hard, but find the good" Life as a peace corps volunteer isn't always the beautiful and magical life that I had envisioned, but I'm starting to learn when is anything ever what exactly what we envisioned. Not that I don't have the beautiful and magical moments, and this was one of them. I appreciate those moments so much more now, not because they are rare, but because they are beautiful, and usually they are all mine, I don't have to share these moments with anyone, sometimes it's the only moment I feel truly alone in any given day.

Monday, April 11, 2011


With every loss, there is always something to gain. We bid farewell on Friday too our volunteer's COS'ing (Close of Service) and welcomed our new LIFE (which is the PC Zambia agriculture program) volunteers on Sunday. They are still in training but stopped by for the night on the way back to Lusaka following second site visit. We are getting 7 volunteers from LIFE and 4 RED (the education program) volunteers. It's exciting to get new volunteers and puts your service into perspective. 6 months ago I was the new volunteer, scared shitless, showing up at the house for the night following second site visit, and now I'm the one answering questions, discussing challenges, and trying my best to make them feel welcome. Central Province is an amazing province, we are like a little family here, and having other volunteers that support you and allow you to come and just vent about what was hard in your village, or help you celebrate your successes, no matter how small, is key to keeping you going.

So at the end of the month we're going to be "sophomores" and the intake that was a year before us are going to be "seniors" and will be COS'ing before we know it.

I went to a nutrition workshop up in Northern Province, and I'm hoping to implement the program in my village. It's called PS/Ishiko. PS stands for Positive Support and Ishiko is the Bemba word for hearth. The idea of the program is that it is the community teaching the community. First we do an initial baseline assessment to identify the malnourished children in the community, while at the same time identifying the very healthy children. From there we ask some of the mothers of the healthy children to be our "positive support mothers" and then we set up Ishiko sessions, where 10-12 mothers and their children attend for two weeks and we teach them how to cook meals high in nutritional value. One day they learn how to prepare it and feed it to the kids and the next day they prepare it and feed it to the kids. The hope is to get the kids re-nourished during the 2 weeks then have the mothers continue to keep them nourished. I did a test run observation during my under 5 clinic last week and noticed that about 75% of the children were under their baseline weight. Starting this week I will be training my volunteers to collect the data since I will be in Tanzania during child health week, then in August we will have our first Ishiko session. In the mean time we need to start having meeting with the NHC's (Neighborhood health committees), local leaders, and the church in order to sensitize the community to the program. The hope is that after I leave they will continue to make the baseline assessments and hold the Ishiko sessions. It should take about a year to complete the program, so I am looking forward to getting started. It is also going to be conducted in my entire catchment area, which is really good because I haven't had a lot of exposure in the surrounding villages. I struggle with that because the person that is supossed to be helping me to go to meetings in the other communities, and i need him because I need him to translate for me. He is a wonderful person and very hardworking but I get very frustrated with him because its hard to catch him in a free minute.

The weather is changing its starting to get really cold at night and in the mornings. The rains should be going soon and we'll move into dry cold season. So, new programs, new weather, new volunteers.

Much love to all of you!