Sunday, October 26, 2008

the challenge

with almost two months into the year, i can almost call this place home.

two of the four footprint volunteers -- alisha and emily -- have already left for zambia last week. although it's been such a short period of time getting to know them, i think i've grown quite attached to them. i miss them.

in preparation for mozambique, jessie and i've been assigned to participate/observe/learn a lot what might be called new skills. a lot of what we'll be doing in mozambique will be related to communications, especially that with the donors. and so we're learning how to write project proposals and reports. despite my overall excitement about the projects in mozambique, i can't help but feel a little uneasy about this assignment. not only am i inexperienced in this field, but i was just not expecting to be doing the things that i will be doing.

i guess i was supposed to expect that, though, ey?

ironically enough :)

this past monday and tuesday, i had the opportunity to follow the south african country representative to mbonisweni, another local community in this area. the two days comprised of training sessions for the home-based care volunteers in the area. hands at work has recently partnered with this community, and so the structural framework of how to support this community is still in the process of being established.

in addition to giving practical guidelines and strategies when going out to do home-based care, the training sessions also incorporated time for discussion on the challenges that the volunteers are currently facing. and it seems one of the most difficult challenge to tackle is one that pervades not only mbonisweni or masoyi, but probably all of the local communities that hands at work supports:

care for the caregivers.

it's actually an extremely foreign idea. when you think of a volunteer in the most north-american, westernized sense, you probably imagine a volunteer who already has a regular- and relatively well-paying job taking out a couple of hours a week to provide his services to the local community. he is in the position to give because he probably has something to give.

that is rarely the case in this country or anywhere else in africa for that matter.

volunteers here are poor. they are the poor helping out the poorest. most volunteers do not have regular jobs. this is what they do; caring for the orphaned, widowed, and dying is what they do because nobody else in the community will. many volunteers have said that they have taken food from their own house and paid for transportation from their own pockets in order to provide food on the plates of their neighbors, in order to take their sick neighbors to the local clinics. it's not an altruistic way of saying things nor is it a conscious way to invite sympathy from others because it's a real issue.

hands has tried to address this issue by providing volunteers with income-generating activities or sustainable items such as gardens or chicken coops with chicken. in most cases, though, especially in south africa, hands has been meeting volunteers' needs with small monthly incentives. although the monetary incentives are very small (and i mean extremely small), hands has been trying to steer away from that direction because of the obvious issues that come into play.

victoria, who is essentially mbonisweni hbc's leader/coordinator, mentioned that once word spreads out that monetary incentives are being given out, people actually come and knock on her door saying that he/she wants to be involved in this work. clearly, the motivation and heart for the work may not be there. when incentives are given out, the volunteers and hbc system may also become too dependent on their financial donors. donors can easily draw out their support from the communities. the impact of that would be even greater if the donor happened to be a large funder of the community. what then? furthermore, how would hands communicate with the donors on how the money is being spent? we currently have a donor for mbonisweni, but it isn't quite clear how the money should be spent. donors often have their own agenda on how distribute the money, and they may not understand why monetary incentives are being given out to those who they think of as volunteers.

money always makes things sticky.

it's a little tricky when trying to think of how one should write project proposals for donors, especially if the money is going to be spent on operational costs, not on physical building or item costs.

where do we start, and how can i help in this process?

on the other side of things,

i've just heard that the projects in mozambique will have no financial donors after december of this year.


with the hands' expansion plan for mozambique, i wonder what's going to happen, how things are going to happen.

i wonder what's going through carlos' mind.

anxiety? fear? doubt?

as much as it is a reality, i was so encouraged to hear from others of carlos' vision and attitude.

God is holding my right hand. I just keep on moving forward.

My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.
- Psalm 121:2

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

zooming in

after climbing legogote, i thought i might give you a better picture of where everything's located when i speak of nelspruit, asm, hands village, or masoyi.
to start off, this is south africa.

330 km east of johannesburg (~3-hour drive) is nelspruit, the capital of mpumalanga province. asm is located near white river which is just north of nelspruit.

this is a panoramic view from legogote. on the left, you can see the general area of asm and hands village, while on the right, you can see the masoyi community.

taking a closer look, there's hands and asm.

closer still, you can see that asm, hands, and acts clinic are all in the vicinity of each other. westmont is the cottage at asm in which my housemates and i lived during my first month's stay in south africa. now i'm living up at the dorms at hands across the road.

tour of hands village (still under construction) and asm:

above is the building where the main lounge, kitchen, and dining area are located. to its right and left are the dormitories accommodating long-term and short-term volunteers.

this is one of the two hallways leading to dorm rooms.

the room i share with alisha right now. i'll be moving again next week! (into another room with another roommate.)

the path leading out of hands village.

the road down to asm which is located on the left in the above photo.

beautiful trees on the way :)

entrance to asm. he wanted his photo taken :)

as you can see, acts clinic is right across the main gate of asm.

the building where offices are located. payphones are found at the balcony above the offices with which people can make international phone calls.

a closer look.

inside view of one of the offices. this is the only place where i can use the internet. internet access is becoming more difficult as it isn't allowed to walk across alone on the road at night from hands to asm.

soccer field below the hill where the offices are located. soccer games are held every sunday. you can see mount legogote behind.

swimming pool which is utilized by many on hot days.

path leading away from the soccer field towards westmont.

area where the girls and i lived and where lynn and jamye (missionaries from canada) currently live.

westmont cottage!

random tractor and hand-made concrete table outside the cottage. george was telling us how he had to roll the round concrete table top down the hill.

random flower that was growing outside the cottage. all the girls were fascinated by it; we wondered if it was real.

clothes being dried behind the cottage.

entrance to the cottage.

view inside. to your right is the kitchen; to the left through the door would be my room (photos were taken just before moving out).

kitchen... and alisha's chocolate wheat crisps on the counter :d

my room that i shared with emily. you can also see alisha and jessie's room through the door above the stairs.

view of my side of the room. you could often see monkeys outside the window climbing trees or munching on things.

another view walking out of the door.

walking across asm.

unfinished business

this past saturday, a group of us from hands decided to climb mount legogote, a five-minute drive from asm. apparently, the last time a couple of people from hands decided to climb legogote, they ended up getting lost at night while trying to come back down. a rescue team (i.e. two guys from petra college which is located on mount legogote) had to come fetch them after five hours of the groups' meandering.

and so, this trip was, in a way, for some to redeem themselves from the previous hike -- "taking care of unfinished business," as one put it.

the view from the summit was beautiful, but the journey there was excruciatingly intense. it wasn't a simple hike as i imagined it to be -- lot of sunscreen-applying, a lot of rock-climbing, a lot of huffing and puffing. while i'm glad i finally got to climb legogote, i would have second thoughts if asked to climb it again ;)

walking up the trail in legogote.

there were a lot of thorny bushes along the way.

lize-marie, our exemplary afrikaaner. she works in the finance office.

jon, alisha, and callan stopping to take a break.

darryl, reminds me of steve irwin here.

the end of straight paths and the beginning of... rocks.

melody and darryl smiling from above.

the more adventurous few.

finally reached the summit!

incredible view of masoyi.

enjoying snacks provided by alisha.

crispy rocks.

fuzzy rocks.

how did he get there?

enjoying the shade.
basking in the sun.
alisha contemplating.
paul, another afrikaaner.

our entire group! (minus emily)

this was a bit disturbing. the guys shooting dried animal excrement out of their mouths *_*

maj and the authentic cave paintings we found :)