Stuck in the Mud

My grandfather used to play solitaire everyday (with real cards, not on the computer!). I remember him sitting there, rhythmically flipping cards, studying them intensely. When there were no more moves, he would say "stuck in the mud". He really knew what he was talking about...with mud, there is often no way out. With snow at least at some point you're going to hit concrete or hard ground if you keep digging. With mud, you just keep getting deeper, lower, and all the way to China (I'm sure grandpa said that too) if you're not careful. lol. Here's a pic of my mud adventure. It took 5 strong men and all the 4x4 could offer to get out.

On the other hand, our container preparations are not stuck in the mud. Our slab is finally finished. The rain is actually helping our purpose by keeping it drying slowly - 7 days is ideal for it to cure (as long as it took to make the earth). It should be done just in time for the arrival of the container (fingers crossed it's next week).

A busy day...

Things are certainly getting busy here now. This morning, I spoke at a youth conference. The conference was about marriage/love/sex from a Godly perspective. It was a lot of fun, and the young people were certainly interested in my Western perspective. They are really hungry and interested to know about building good relationships. Many people here get married too young (teens) and end up divorced and remarried many times. In the village, the situation is even lady I know of, has 8 different kids each with their own father. Education is essential to help break this cycle. I told the youth  all about waiting...waiting...waiting. Building a strong foundation in their relationships and waiting until they are sure they're with the right person--the stuff I learnt the hard way. lol

From the conference I jetted down to the village to follow up on day 3 of our construction project. The foundation is really starting to take shape. Here's a picture of the crew!

This morning our truck we organized was quite late in arriving, so I chipped in as much as I could to help make lunch for our hard workers. Life has changed and cooking has taken on a whole new meaning. This is the same "kitchen" the women use everyday to make porridge for the 300+ kids at the Luyando community school. I cleaned and scaled fish and made Nshima—a staple made from maize. It’s really thick and heavy and pretty hard to stir. I didn’t my best while the ladies laughed and I teared up from the smoke in my eyes. They are amazing women to do this everyday! 

On the downside there was a situation that happened that really struck my heart. A young man who had been faithfully coming everyday to help, was absent today. Just as we were leaving he came to the car. He was very drunk. In his broken words, he told me he had been there early but because we were late, he left. Had the truck arrived on time, this young man's day would have been very different. It made me feel very sad. Alcoholism is rampant in the village and I had just been discussing the issue that same morning. Out of sheer boredom and lack of direction, this small village of 300 families is overwhelmed everyday by drunkenness. Beer is cheap and provides an escape. 

There was a time a few years ago when a local football team had been sponsored for the community. It was such a good opportunity for these young men. They were really motivated by it. We have so many opportunities in our countries that sometimes we don't realize the importance of social programs like sports and arts.  I hope that we find new inspiration for these young (and old) people. I hope that in the container there is something to light a new fire in them. I pray that we find solutions in the long term to compel them to move towards healthy futures. 


Community Mobilization

This week the community came out and volunteered with the preparations for the container and some general improvements around the school. It was great to see how many people showed up (I'm sure the free lunch helped as well lol).

We had ladies cleaning one of the Give Hope houses that will be used as an office, the classrooms where we will store the goods while we sort them and tidying the grounds.

The men worked on (and are still working on) the container foundation and did all the heavy lifting--three guys to a bag of sand! My little Spirit truck groaned at carrying the heavy loads. 

The foundation will take a few days to complete but we are making progress. Thank goodness for the pastor I live with, Jonathan Sichilima. He's a construction engineer and came down this morning to make sure we're on track and doing everything properly. Living as a community has its benefits when you need help.

Here are some pictures from the last few days. Click on them to see the larger picture.

Cleaning the Give Hope classroom--complete with baby-on-back. 
Misheck fixing tap #1 and trying not to get wet
Clearing the area around tap #2--complete with baby-on-back

Gathering sand for the foundation
3 men to one bag--heavy!
Day one: foundation build
Day 2: bricklaying
Little promise rainbow at the end of day 1--look closely under the lowest branch. Rains are on their way...

A long awaited update...

Hello everyone. Sorry, for the long delay but here's the update you've been looking for.

I've been here for a month and a half already (is that it?) and things are going quite well. A lot of my time has been spent getting settled in and sorted out. Lots of paperwork, finding my way around and getting a routine going. I have to say that the transition, although slower than anticipated, has gone quite smoothly and I am very happy in my new environment and am making new friends (although, of course, there is no replacement for all you lovely folk back home!).

Other than working out logistics, I've been making trips down to the village about three times a week. There hasn't been too much to do until the container arrives so I try to manage my fuel costs by visiting just a few times a week.

I've engaged Misheck Ngambi, a local Zambian, to help me organize things on the ground and cover for me once I'm back home. We've been cleaning up one of the Give Hope houses to use as a temporary office and have done some minor repairs. He's also organizing a crew of volunteers to prepare the ground and build the foundation for the container. And while we wait, I've started training Misheck on basic computer skills so that he can manage the inventory of stuff once it arrives. Misheck has lived in the village for about three years now, and really has a heart to give people opportunities. He also likes working with youth and is an awesomely talented singer (Zambian "American" Idol, top 30--no joke!). I'm really excited to work with him.
Misheck (in red) with his family

We've had a few community meetings this week. One with the teachers at the Give Hope/Luyando Community School, one with the Parent-Teacher's Association and another today with the general community. I can't tell you how encouraging this was! The community leaders and I want to be as transparent as possible about what's in the container and what it will be used for. We hope that this will reduce theft, bickering and gossip. We also hope that this will help with community engagement. We had lots of good questions from people today--how they could get involved, who was responsible for what, how we would make the projects sustainable, general suggestions and support. We found tailors, bricklayers and musicians in our midst (who can teach others as we move forward). We got several volunteers signed up to help with preparations, building the foundation and security for both the school and the container. Did I mention how happy I was?
Community meeting in Give Hope school (a good point was brought up by one of the men--where are the men? Next time.)

We will start the construction Monday and hopefully have the foundation ready in just a few days. The rain is coming here so everything needs to be done urgently. We don't have an exact day for the delivery of the container but it will be very soon. Please keep the delivery process and customs clearance in your prayers so that it all goes smoothly (we still have a few bumps that are not smoothed out).

Thanks to Give Hope for making all this possible. Please continue to pray and send me you're wonderfully supportive emails and comments--they mean a lot. If you would like to assist with financial support, please click the Donate tab at the top of the page. Also, follow this blog by signing up and get all the latest stories...

Here are a few other pictures for your enjoyment.
Kids around Ndola. Love their cars and their poses.

Caterpillar. Before they were fried. Yes, I ate one. Does not taste like chicken. Doesn't really taste like much...but they're pretty ugly. lol