Sunday, September 14, 2014

Malawi's dusty menagerie of animals

      Life in rural Malawi always involves the presence of animals.  If all the world’s a stage, then livestock roam in the background, providing the occasional sound effect and comic relief.  The set consists of sand blistering in the midday sun, a grand baobab tree swaying gently in the breeze, and the sky-blue waters of the lake of stars twinkling invitingly.  A rooster caws in the distance.  Suddenly, a brown cow staggers onto the scene, bleating frantically.  It rushes off the path and toward the lake, where its lost herd grazes contentedly on sun burnt elephant grass.  A white goat with a belly bulging from a feast of Winterthorn seed pods clambers onto a narrow three meter tall termite mound, looking over the land triumphantly.  A flock of fuzzy chicks line behind their clucking mother hen as she raids a forgotten bucket of cornmeal.  A woman appears and shoos the chickens away, igniting an angry cluck of protest from mother hen.  These are the cast of characters I write about.  

Livestock represent an investment in rural Africa where access to modern banking is reserved for the urban elite.  Need money for a new thatched roof?  Sell a rooster.  Need to pay a bride price?  A trade of a few cows will do.  Animals also provide protein in the form of eggs or meat.  Almost every week, a goat is slaughtered and its meat sold by the kg in the village market.  In individual households however, the slaughter of a goat or chicken is rare and reserved for big events, such as weddings or the arrival of an honored guest.  The other purpose of livestock is for transport.  In the Northern Province of Zambia, cows were rare because the Bemba people were not historically pastoralists and disease ravaged herds.  However in Zambia’s Eastern province, the Nyanja people relied on cows.  In Malawi too, the Chewa people (descended from the Nyanjas of Zambia) revere cows.  During the day, a young boy is responsible for leading the herd to water and to graze.  At night, the cows are rounded up to rest in a small wooden kraal near the owner’s house.  A couple oxen can be hitched to a cart and used as a form of transport, often to move construction materials such as fired bricks or sand.  


Aside from that, they’re a horrible nuisance.  From the turn off to Salima town, the paved road is poorly maintained, with eroding shoulders and the occasional crater.  Driving means straddling the center line until oncoming traffic forces you back to your own lane at the very last second.  Brazen bicyclists and bicycle taxis also share the roadway, vying for the smoothest route and having utmost faith that the drivers will avoid them.  Further complicating this is the fact that I can’t really drive stick shift.  Shifting gears means studying the gear box intently and often ending up in 5th gear when I was really aiming for second.  If there’s too many bicyclists and oncoming traffic, I won’t shift gears and will just adjust my speed accordingly.  I can also never find neutral and sometimes just stop the car by stalling it.  As if these weren’t enough problems, there’s also the livestock to contend with.  Chickens run across the road clucking angrily, there’s always an ox cart just ahead of you moving leisurely to its destination, and a young boy with a whip chooses that moment to lead his herd of cows across the road, leaving a cloud of suffocating dust in their wake.  But worst of all are the goats, especially the young ones.  They graze peacefully by the side of the road, then spy an oncoming vehicle and decide to dart across the road at the last possible moment.  It is up to the driver to avoid these hairy kamikazes, as striking and killing one accidentally would result in an owner materializing and demanding payment.
          If you need further evidence that Malawian livestock aren’t a cast of characters from “Charlotte’s Web”, then I’ll relate another scene I experienced today.  My co-worker at the office, who works as our cook, is also a close neighbor.  I sat in the shade of her cooking shelter with her on a grass mat telling her my plans for Monday as she sifted cornmeal flour.  Suddenly she started yelling at a small child in ChiChewa, the only word of which I picked up was imbuzi, or goat.  The girl didn’t move, so Annette leapt to her feet and started screaming “Tiye!  Tiye!  Tiye!” as she ran to her house.  Seconds later, a brown and white goat came rocketing out.  No doubt raiding the stacks of cornmeal flour kept in storage, or pooping on the cement floor that she carefully cleans with Cobra floor wax.
           My mixture of disdain and reluctant amusement over Malawian livestock does not extend to companion animals.  While living in Zambia, two dogs belonging to our closest neighbors adopted us.  We often had these two dogs, plus Wilo, lounging at our house or following us around the village.  After Wilo gave birth to a litter of puppies sired by one of these dogs, our little pack temporarily grew to nine dogs.  So it didn’t surprise us that two dogs belonging to our neighbors here in Mudzi also decided to adopt us. 
Tiger: just as goofy in real life
Tiger is a medium size tan dog belonging to our landlord’s daughter.  Unusually friendly and playful for an African dog, he approached us first and decided we were friends for life when we accepted his advances with reciprocated kindness.  He often follows me all the way to work in the morning, and will sometimes sleep outside our house gate.  Bruce is his more timid friend.  Bruce is a tan Basenji type dog with big ears that’s often found slumbering in the shade of an ox cart.  The two dogs are often together, so Bruce usually follows Tiger, who follows us.

      Lastly, there are Peace and Calvin.  These are the two-year-old brothers who are guard dogs at the office and guesthouse.  As guard dogs they are quite effective, because the locals make a point to stay clear of our property fences.  However, before my arrival, they began biting volunteers who stay at the guesthouse.  They are territorial of different locations on the property, and often nip when someone encroaches.  Armed with a bag full of dried fish, I slowly entered these areas, sprinkling fish onto the ground for them to reward good behavior.  


... and Calvin
 It took a couple of weeks, but I’ve earned their trust, and now they are different dogs, seeking out my company and begging for scratches.  They also haven’t bitten anyone in nearly a month.  After this shift in our relationship, I introduced them separately to Wilo on neutral territory.  Then Wilo came inside the parameters.  I have been bringing Wilo to work with me regularly, any time that I know I will be around the office and not out at project sites in the village.  She really enjoys having space to run and chase birds, and gets along well with Peace and Calvin.   
My office and its three guardians

Some other critters

Weird prehistoric-looking gecko

An inch long frog that lives inside the drain of the sink in the bathroom at my office                                    
A bird and its nest on the guesthouse veranda

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Better Homes and Gardens: Malawi Edition

Better Homes and Gardens: Malawi Edition

The boundaries of our village are lineated by the shore of Lake Malawi to the South, and the unpaved road (prowling with baboons) stretching to the provincial capital to the Northwest.  Our house is located close to the market, at the base of a hill that leads to the health clinic.  The market, the bustling heart of the village, teems with women relaxing in the shade and selling their husbands’ catches of fish, male tailors sewing outfits out of beautiful chitenje fabric on hand powered sewing machines, and people selling eggs and soap out of closet-sized shops.  During the school term break, children often work in the family business. The other day, while buying Chinese cabbage, we observed a boy, aged approximately seven, buy a single cigarette out of a pack from a female vendor aged around ten, presumably for his father or uncle.  

If you walk for approximately 200 metres in the opposite direction of the market, you’ll reach the borehole.  One of half a dozen in the village, it draws clean water through a hand pump.  Small girls methodically pump the handle to fill several buckets full of water without pause, while my arms ache after one bucket full.  No matter, because the girls often insist on pumping water for us themselves.  

Another landmark in the village is the cemetery.  It is a swath of land covered with scrubby trees and dotted with wooden crosses.  Located to the side of a path we use to traverse between our house and the guesthouse/office, we’re overly cautious about stumbling upon it in the night time.  To do so may impart rumors of witchcraft among village inhabitants.  Witchcraft is the solution to all that is unexplained.  Recently, one of our local staff members explained to Chris that on several occasions he found small sums of money missing from his house.  Rather than question his family members or search for it in his house, he immediately suspected witchcraft.

As I mentioned in the last post, two mountains tower over the village on either end.  One is uninhabited and is habitat for baboons and hyenas that occasionally skulk around the village at night, resulting in a cacophony of angry dog howls at 2am.  The other mountain contains some houses, as we can occasionally glimpse tendrils of smoke from cooking fires rising from the trees.  On Tuesday, inhabitants of the mountains attempted some controlled burning of the bush.  This is usually done at the start of the dry season, to prevent wildfires from careening out of control as the months pass and the land becomes parched and highly flammable.  Rarely, however, have I seen truly controlled burning.  Often times there is collateral damage as winds change.  As night fell, the burning bush stretched down the sides of the mountain, molten twinkling.  By moonlight it looked like a volcano erupting.  

Our closest neighbors, whose yard borders our back wall, is a family of four.  Matthews and his wife Janice are in their late 20s, and they have a five-year-old son named Moses and a 7-month-old named Davies.  They invited us to dinner this week, and we feasted on the staple food of nsima (known as nshima in Zambia), beef with a rich soup, and cooked Chinese cabbage.  We also watched a Bollywood movie poorly dubbed over in ChiChewa.  There was a lot of violence, and a glaring lack of musical numbers.  

Many of the houses in the village have some sort of wall, often constructed of thin reeds and tall grasses, to separate the dwellings of one family to the next.  Our house is a square white building surrounded by a sandy courtyard and a brick wall.  Housing is provided by my employer, which pays K 20,000, or $50 a month, to rent the four room building.  

 In the front of the house, there’s a large living room with four comfortable, brown couches and a coffee table.  A small hallway leads to the rest of the house.  On the left there is our bedroom, equipped with a double bed shrouded by a green mosquito net, a shelf, and a pole for hanging clothes.  Next to that room is a guest bedroom, (which lies empty in anticipation of Todd and Maureen’s Christmas time visit!), which we use mostly for storage.  The right side of the house is composed of a pantry/kitchen area.   
The living room
The hallway behind the living room

The bedroom

The rememberance wall in the bedroom

The guest bedroom

The pantry/indoor kitchen

Our "sink"
Water storage
The pack porch, used as our outdoor kitchen
Our actual cooking are is on our back porch, as we are currently using a charcoal burning brazier.  To cook on one of these, you add a small pile of charcoal, some parafin or a candle stub to get the charcoal lit, then fan it vigorously until all the charcoal ignites.  It takes about 20 minutes to get it hot enough to actually cook on, so no meal here is ever instant.  However, during the week we eat breakfast and lunch prepared by our excellent cook at the guesthouse, and often take home leftovers for dinner, so we only have to cook for ourselves a few times during the week.                
...which is a re-purposed USAID container of cooking oil.
Our "stove," a charcoal brazier...

Lastly, our "chimbudzi," or latrine.  There is an inside wall dividing the structure into two small rooms.  Our bathing area is on the left, and the latrine is on the right.

Electricity has been a new development.  Some of our neighbors have reported waiting years for the ESCOM electricity company (based in Salima)  to come install electricity, but our wait was only about three weeks.  Our landlord has been very persistently asking them to come, which probably helped.  Our house was already wired for electricity, so they only had to connect the line and install a meter.   We will have to   
purchase prepaid units of electricity in Salima, then enter a code at our meter at the house to use that power.

Our steadfast security guard, hard at work protecting the compound from errant chickens and curious children.

Friday, August 22, 2014

True to the title of this blog, we have once again traversed on the bush path less traveled by, this time to a rural fishing village on the shores of Lake Malawi in southern Africa.  What's brought us here for the next year or so is my new job as project manager at a Swiss non-governmental aid organization.  As project manager, I oversee four Malawian staff and 1 American in various projects benefiting the community as well as volunteers who come from all over the globe.  Our current projects include partnerships with the local clinic, a pre-school and primary school.  At the clinic, we are in the planning stages of constructing a new building to house patients with tuberculosis, are supplying the maternity ward with new mattresses, and travel twice a week with clinic staff to administer "under five" baby weighings and public health awareness in the surrounding rural villages.  The pre-school, which is run by an HIV/AIDS community based organization, caters to orphans and vulnerable children affected by HIV/AIDS or other chronic illnesses.  Every day, children between the ages of 3-6 come to be taught in two different classes divided by age, by volunteer teachers.  The organization is currently offering English classes to the volunteer teachers, as well as support in the classroom.  We are also constructing a third classroom building.  Finally, at the primary school, we are offering merit-based scholarships to the top three standard 8 students so that they may attend secondary school in an urban center that would otherwise be financially unattainable.  Our volunteers also co-teach standard 7 and 8 English classes, and offer computer classes during term breaks to the highest performing students.  My responsibilities include overseeing these many projects, as well as supporting the international volunteers, handling logistics for the guesthouse where the volunteers stay (also my office), and accounting.

The village where we stay, Mudzi*, is situated on Lake Malawi, an expansive Rift Valley lake the size of the state of New Hampshire.  Although predominantly Christian, there is a sizable Muslim population, which worships in a large brick mosque next to the pre-school.  We live across from the Catholic Church, so Sunday mornings always mean that we will be listening to gospel music in ChiChewa language from 7am-11am.

Many of the men in the village are fisherman, waking up before sunrise to prepare to spend the day on the lake catching small fish.  They return in their small wooden boats at sunset, and dry their day's catch on long reed mats suspended above the sand.  Other people make their livelihood through agriculture, growing pumpkins, Chinese cabbage, millet, and maize.  The village is a sandy conglomeration of a handful of large houses built on the lake by wealthy Malawian retirees, medium-size houses equipped with tin roofs and electricity, and small, traditional mud huts with grass roofs.  Goats and sheep roam at will, and ox carts driven by gaggles of children with whips careen around the twisting, sandy paths.   A bustling market serves as the center of the town, selling small, dried fish, vegetables, eggs, and other necessities.  From the north and south, the village is overlooked by rocky mountains.

Many people have wondered how our dog, a black and tan Basenji mix born and raised in a small Zambian village, then transported to the luxaries of American dog food, dog beds and toys, will adjust to living back in Africa.  She is already getting used to eating small, dried fish mixed with whatever staple food we've eaten.  Our house is in a walled compound, so she has a sandy yard to wander in.  We've been extraordinarily busy in the two weeks we've been here, so unfortunately she's only been out in the village once.  We elected to walk her on a leash to avoid harassment to the many goats and chickens that have free range of the village, as well as to avoid frightening the many people here who are terrified of dogs.  She left an impression on many of our neighborhood children, who now ask to see our dog every time they see us.  Their favorite game involves me and Wilo running towards them (with her on a leash), them running away and shrieking in fear, then returning with big smiles on their faces and asking to be chased again.

*The name of the village we live in has been changed to protect he privacy of the people mentioned within.  I will also not mention the name of the organization I work for, as this blog is my personal account of my life here, and does not represent the views of the organization.  If you want to know, I'd be happy to send you the details through private correspondence. 

This one is just for you, Debby!  They play beach volleyball in the evenings.  Now you have to come visit us!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Site Report

For those of you that are interested, and don't really get what I did in two years here, I present my site report. It's a detailed summary I had to write for Peace Corps on the demographics, physical and cultural environment, education-related work and secondary activities of my site. It has a lot of detail that I probably never mentioned on here, and gives a more in depth view of what it's really like to be a Peace Corps volunteer in a rural Zambian village.

(Some names and identifying features have been changed for privacy.)





APRIL 2009 – APRIL 2011

Executive Summary

Nicole Barren arrived in Zambia in February 2009. After two months of intensive technical, cross-cultural, medical, and language training, she was posted to Mumana Lupando village in the Kasama district of Northern Province as a second-generation Peace Corps volunteer. She replaced John Eli (RED ’07).
Ms. Barren worked in Lupando zone under the Rural Education Development (RED) project. She worked extensively with teachers at the Mumana Lupando Pre-school, taught adult literacy classes, and facilitated HIV/AIDS education with pupils as part of her primary work. She also engaged in a plethora of secondary activities including water and sanitation work, soya bean promotion and cooking demonstrations, HIV prevention activities with adults, and implementation of a redistribution programme for condoms and the oral contraceptive pill.


Lupando zone is roughly 80 kilometres by 80 kilometres, with an adult population nearing 15,000. Due to its size; the difficulty of traveling to some of the most remote schools; and conflicts between Munkonge Basic School, the zonal centre school, and Mumana Lupando Basic School, the true spatial centre of the zone; there has been discussion about breaking it into two separate zones.
Ms. Barren lived in Mumana Lupando village, 84 kilometres west of Kasama in the Munkonge chiefdom. Mumana Lupando has an adult population of less than 2,000 people. The village proper stretches for one kilometre east and west down Luwingu Road, then extends for up to five kilometers north and south, deeper in the bush. Main landmarks in the village include the basic school, five churches of different denominations, and a handful of small shops stocking very basic supplies.
Ms. Barren lived with her husband, Christopher Audette, a LIFE volunteer, beside the Mwene family. The family consisted of a father (Moses), a mother (Linda), and eight children: Mary (daughter, age 19), Kabwe (son, age 17), Chileshe (daughter, age 15), Mwenya (adopted son, age 12), Patience (daughter, age 10), Musa (daughter, age 7), Juliette (daughter, age 4), and Kandy (daughter, age 7 mos).
Mumana Lupando consists of people from the Bemba and Lungu tribes. Most families have been there for several generations, although some are first or second generation to the village.
Ms. Barren lived in a house that was roughly one kilometre from Luwingu Road, which connects to Kasama. She was able to wait on the roadside and hitchhike to Kasama on canter trucks or private vehicles. Sometimes she had to only wait a few minutes before getting a ride, other times she waited as long as five hours. When Ms. Barren arrived, only 20 kilometres of the road closest to Kasama was paved. The rest of the road was in very poor condition, and traveling time from the village to Kasama took around 3 hours. In February, the road was finally paved and it now takes only an hour to reach the boma.
Ms. Barren’s side of the village did not have cell phone service or radio signal. However, there were a few spots on the road where one could stand to get service, depending on the day. The service was reliable for SMS text messaging, but less reliable for calls.

Physical Environment

Ms. Barren’s house was part of a larger section of Mumana Lupando village housing the Mwene family. It used to house Moses Mwene’s family, but was being used for storage for several years until PCV John Eli arrived in 2007. Moses Mwene was able to save up enough money to buy a pickup truck and build a large house with iron sheet roofing, and lived 30 meters away from Ms. Barren. The rest of the houses, about 50 meters away from each other, belonged to brothers of Moses Mwene, their children, and other relatives.
The closest water source for the majority of Ms. Barren’s service was a small, open spring which served as the headwaters of a small stream about 200 meters from her house. Two boreholes are located in other parts of the village, but were broken for most of Ms. Barren’s service. Concerned both by Mr. Eli’s struggles with water related health problems and the community’s uninspired attitude towards water hygiene, Ms. Barren and her husband boiled their drinking water, cooled it, and then filtered it. After an intensive community sensitization program about the importance of clean water and initiating a project to construct a protected spring box, water quality improved such that straight filtration was sufficient. Ms. Barren and her husband fetched their own water.
Mumana Lupando village is characterized mostly by trees, grasses, and shrubbery; the vegetation typical of miombo forest subjected to years of chitemene agriculture. Luwingu Road, which connects Kasama to Luwingu, cuts right through the middle of the village. The village slopes slightly down on either side of the road. On each side about 1 kilometer from the road are two large streams wich most people utilize for irrigation of gardens. From Luwingu Road, there are many small paths circulating throughout the village. There is a small, seldom used government road leading south from Luwingu Road to another village, Mfuba, which then continues to Kapanda.
The nearest clinic, affiliated with the Catholic church, is 15 kilometers away in Lubushi village. Construction began on a new clinic in Mumana Lupando in December of 2010, but due to the slow pace of the work, it is likely to be a few years before the building is completed and it begins serving the community. Mumana Lupando Basic school is located 1 kilometre from Ms. Barren’s home. There are several churches, the most prominent being the Catholic Church, 2 kilometers away from Ms. Barren’s house. Most meetings and village business take place either at the school or the Catholic Church. The headman’s home is located directly across Luwingu road from the school. Some meetings and dispute hearings take place there.
There are six basic schools and eight community schools within Lupando zone. Mumana Lupando is considered the spatial centre school, as far as meetings are concerned. The farthest school, Chasasha, is located 60 km away. The terrain to some of these schools is quite steep and paths are fairly rocky. Within the zone, only Mumana Lupando and Munkonge offer grades 8 and 9, which results in students from other villages either commuting long distances or boarding.

Cultural Environment

Ms. Barren resided in the Munkonge Chiefdom. The chief’s palace is located 20 kilometres away in Munkonge village. When Ms. Barren arrived, the chief was a young man. A year and a half into her service, he was transferred for disciplinary reasons, and an older chief took his place. This new chief is stern and a big change from the previous one.
CiBemba is the local traditional language spoken in the area. Only a handful of people communicated to Ms. Barren and her husband in English, so they learned ciBemba well out of necessity. It is likely that more people were conversant in English and were just afraid to use the language. The majority, however, spoke only ciBemba and many adults, mostly women, were not even literate in their mother tongue.
The traditional leaders are headmen. Each village in the chiefdom has their own headman, which are appointed by the chief and usually run along family lines. In Mumana Lupando, the headman was a hard of hearing man in his eighties named Michael Mubuka. He had only been schooled up to grade three, but was very friendly with Ms. Barren and her husband and supported them in their development work.
The most common religion in Mumana is Roman Catholicism, while two congregations of Pentecostal Assemblies, Seventh Day Adventists, and Jehovah’s Witnesses are also found. Most people are practicing Christians. In addition, belief in traditional witchcraft is rampant. Witchcraft is attributed to most unexplained illnesses and deaths. There are also a few traditional healers offering medicines made from herbs, plants, and wildlife.
Gender issues are the biggest cultural factor impacting educational practices. The people in Lupando zone, as well as nationwide, have a patriarchal culture which puts girls at a marked disadvantage. From grades 1-7, the number of female students is proportional to males. For grades 8 and 9 however, the number significantly decreases. Some of the female students become pregnant or marry, often through parental pressure, and drop out. Others cannot afford school fees and have to drop out so that their brothers can receive higher education in their place. There is also the problem of male teachers sleeping with their pupils.

Increased Quality of and Access to Education

Mumana Lupando Basic 1 km Yes HIV/AIDS education, SHN implementation, co-teaching, academic award ceremonies
Chisamba Community 5 km Yes PTO support, learning materials
Mfuba Community 6 km Yes Teacher training, PTO support
Nsange Community 10 km No
Mubanga Lupiya Community 10 km No
Kapanda Basic 18 km No
Munkonge Basic 18 km Yes Anti-AIDS Club
Johnny Chikula Community 23 km No
Kondamu Community 24 km No
Chanda Katebo Community 25 km No
Malonda Basic 28 km No
Mutale Munkonge Basic 35 km No
Kashinka Basic 43 km No
Chasasha Community 60 km No

During Ms. Barren’s service, enrollment has increased throughout the zone. In 2009, the Kasama DEBS Office mandated that only Mumana Lupando and Munkonge could offer grades 8 and 9, leading to an increase in enrollment at those schools. In December 2010, Chisamba community school was established, increasing the opportunities for forty pupils to receive access to education.

Capacity Building of Zone

Ms. Barren worked extensively to develop the capacity of the village’s pre-school for orphans and vulnerable children, the only such grade one preparatory school in the Munkonge chiefdom. She attended pre-school classes regularly to help the teachers out, observe instruction to see if they were utilizing concepts they were taught, and to build relationships with the children. She also coached the Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) in budgeting and proposal writing. As a result, the Pre-school received $200 through the Small Projects Assistance grant to hold a five-day long training workshop for the volunteer teachers. Two facilitators from the Kasama Pre-school Teacher Training College taught the teachers about important concepts and practices in early childhood education. This workshop inspired the Pre-school Teacher Training College to reach out to other village pre-schools, and the Mumana Lupando teachers increased class frequency and were able to teach more effectively.
She also developed over thirty learning aids using locally available materials and instructed teachers in their usage and replication.
The pre-school PTO, through Ms. Barren’s assistance, also wrote a proposal to receive books and educational materials through the Kasama Rotary club. This resulted in the donation of over 200 new or barely used books.
Ms. Barren taught English literacy classes to six men weekly for about a year. All students showed improvement in both competency and confidence. She did try to initiate CiBemba literacy classes for women in collaboration with a local man, but had problems with her counterpart making false promises and not listening.
Ms. Barren briefly began to co-teach grade 8 and 9 English classes at Mumana Lupando Basic school with help from the School Inset Coordinator, Mr. Malasha. However, she found that the majority of students were lacking even a basic competency in English language, which made it very difficult for her to teach. Ms. Barren did not have the confidence or language ability to lecture proficiently in ciBemba, and felt that translation defeated the purpose, so she stopped.
Ms. Barren also trained six teachers and two community leaders for School Health and
Nutrition (SHN) implementation at Mumana Lupando Basic school. Unfortunately, the teacher in charge of the programme, Mr. Phiri, received a transfer, so it was never implemented to its full potential. However, through this school-community partnership in improving health, a protected spring box was constructed.
Ms. Barren facilitated bi-yearly HIV educational sessions for 82 grade 7-9 pupils and life skills to grade 9 pupils, empowering pupils with the knowledge to prevent HIV and pregnancy and make positive decisions. She also tried to discourage the practice of teaching abstinence as the sole prevention method, as evidence shows this is ineffective and impractical in rural Zambia, where sex is seen as a bartering tool.
Ms. Barren taught the head teacher at Ilibwe community school learner-centred teaching methods, including games. He was very enthusiastic about what he learned. Shortly afterward, in September 2010, the Ilibwe community school shut down because parents weren’t paying school fees. Ms. Barren tried unsuccessfully to negotiate between the teachers and parents so that the children could learn. John Eli, Ms. Barren’s predecessor, reported similar problems with school fees at Ilibwe in 2008. This is likely to be an ongoing problem unless the village realizes what an asset the school is.
Ms. Barren had difficulties with the head teacher at Lusasa school, so she did not spend much time there. She did, however, work with the anti-AIDS club there. She helped them develop a skit which was performed for over 250 people.
Shortly after Ms. Barren was posted, the head teacher at Mumana, Mr. Kanya, received the transfer he had requested as the result of an explosive disagreement with parents in June 2008. Mr. Kanya was replaced by Mr. Muli, who lacked Mr. Kanya’s ambition for the community, although he was an agreeable counterpart when Ms. Barren took the initiative.
The zone is divided by a hot issue over which school is the true zonal centre school. This did create problems as Ms. Barren was viewed as Mumana Lupando’s volunteer. Mumana Lupando is spatially the true centre of the zone and the venue for many zonal meetings, but Munkonge is the zonal centre school recognized by the DEBS.

Community Investment in Education

Ms. Barren worked closely with the PTO at Mumana Lupando Pre-school to write a proposal, budget, and raise money for a $4000 Peace Corps Partnership Programme grant. This grant covered the cost of construction materials for a classroom building. Previously, students were learning in an ill-suited abandoned tuck shop, and were frequently moved around depending on the shop’s availability during harvest time. She also introduced the concept of and helped plan an Open House to sensitize parents and the community on the importance of early learning and preparation for grade one, and increasing parent support.
Ms. Barren also worked with the PTOs at Mfuba and Chisamba community schools to offer support and encouragement, especially in resolving conflict for the good of the students. The PTO was formed at Chisamba even before the insaka classroom was built, and still had a lot of enthusiasm and hope and obviously dedication, for they established a community school where previously young children had to walk 5 km to Mumana Lupando, the closest school. The organization has not had any training, but they comprehend their roles and were planning Income Generating Activities to support the teacher.
The PTO at Nswaswa Basic school has lost much of its enthusiasm, and often has difficulties in persuading its members to attend meetings. There has also been no trainings, and members understand in theory that they should support the teachers, but have a difficult time putting this into practice. One reason for this is that they are frustrated with the quality of education their children receive; teachers are frequently absent and spend more time in the boma than in the village. Many parents view education as a lost cause; they don’t see the benefits and it costs too much money.

Capacity Building with the DEBS

As a bush volunteer with a half-day’s journey to Kasama boma, Ms. Barren did not do much work with the District Education Board Secretary Office (DEBS), other than to brief them with quarterly reports and ask for occasional support. The DEBS did not do regular monitoring of schools during Ms. Barren’s service; they only visited Mumana Lupando Basic school once in two years, and never got as far as the community schools.
In the cold dry season of 2010, the Kasama DEBS, Mrs. K, unexpectedly died and was succeeded by Mary Kakasu. Mrs. Kakasu, like her predecessor, is very busy but relates well with PCVs.

HIV/AIDS Activities

Ms. Barren worked closely with the Mumana Youth Care and Supporting Group, a community group supporting orphans and vulnerable children (OVCs) in education and home-based care for HIV+ people and their families. The two primary home-based caregivers in the group, Allan Mwango and Catherine Chisha, attended President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) training with Ms. Barren and her husband. Both got a lot out of the training and would suggest educational programmes or facilitate enthusiastically or add information while Ms. Barren facilitated.
In addition to facilitating sessions on HIV/AIDS with teenagers at the school, Ms. Barren also sought to reach adults in the community. With help from Mrs. Chisha and Mr. Mwango, she did multiple programmes with the Mumana Farming Co-op and Mfuba community members. For World AIDS Day 2010, she worked together with the Mumana Youth Care and Supporting Group to organize activities for over 200 people, including voluntary counseling and testing, a candlelight vigil, and games. During the FIFA World Cup in July 2010, she organized a football match (USA vs. Zambia) to raise awareness for HIV, with dramas and informational sessions during half time and between matches.
In Mumana Lupando, most people who know they are HIV+ are widows. Most children born HIV+ die before they reach school age, but several dozen more without the virus have lost parents to the opportunistic infections accompanying full-blown AIDS. There are two transient high-risk populations which have the potential to infect young women in the village, thereby increasing HIV prevalence in Mumana: bean traders that come during harvest season and road workers. These men typically have more disposable income than the typical man in the village, and have wives far away in their home towns, so they seek village women, who often don’t protest as they’re showered with gifts or money.
In response to this phenomenon and the prevalence of school girls hooking up with sugar daddies, Ms. Barren went to the worker's camp to educate 25 workers on the basics of HIV and prevention. She also supplied many condoms to the workers through her family planning redistribution programme.

Secondary Activities

When Ms. Barren arrived in Mumana Lupando, the closest clinic, 15 km away, was under the jurisdiction of the seminary and the Catholic Church. As a result, clinic officers were prohibited from handing out contraceptives, unless the individual was HIV+. Women in Mumana complained to Ms. Barren that they were “like animals, having baby after baby” and were unable to adequately space births for their and their babies healths, were contributing to household poverty, and were unable to control their own bodies’ reproductive capacity. In response, Ms. Barren stocked SafePlan, the Society for Family Health’s oral contraceptive pill, and resold it along with two counterparts for 200 kwacha for a month’s supply (4 cents). She also stocked free male and female condoms from Northern Health Education Programme. With the condoms, she found they were less likely to be used inappropriately (for bangles or balloons) if people came to her house to get them, rather than handing them out at events. At the first meeting in Mumana to introduce the correct usage of these methods, over one hundred and two dozen men came. Ms. Barren subsequently taught another two hundred women from three other villages about family planning.
Ms. Barren’s counterparts are enthusiastic about the difference they are making in the community and will continue to redistribute family planning for the same price after her departure. They have already made a plan to buy a large box of SafePlan and pick up condoms when they come to Kasama boma, about once every four months. After the completion of Mumana’s clinic, hopefully within a few years, the clinic can take over the programme.
Ms. Barren also taught budgeting skills to 35 individuals in order to prevent economic hardship, seasonal hunger, and to encourage saving for school fees as an additional secondary activity. She conducted these sessions with her host father, the Mumana Farming Co-op, and the Chisamba PTO.
Ms. Barren collaborated with her husband on one project; soya bean seed distribution and cooking demonstrations. Most children are malnourished and don’t receive enough protein. Ironically, some farmers were already growing soya beans, but rather than improving their families’ nutrition, they were feeding it to their animals. This was because no one knew how to cook soya beans or fully understand their importance for food security and nutrition. Ms. Barren encouraged her women’s group to grow soya beans, then held a cooking demonstration for the community in which she prepared several soya bean products using locally available food items. She also printed recipes in ciBemba. As a result, 60 households are implementing these techniques.
Ms. Barren also spoke about nutrition in conjunction with her husband’s permaculture gardening demos.
Upon her arrival at site, 20 households and the basic school were using an open spring contaminated by free range pigs, human feces, and rain water from uphill. The village had two boreholes, but these were not functioning and no one in the village knew how to fix them. Ms. Barren facilitated sensitization on water and sanitation repeatedly to her section of the village, initiated a door to door campaign to reach the whole village, and reached mothers during a monthly United Care International baby weighing. She also redistributed Clorin (water purification chlorine) from the Society for Family Health. This project culminated in a $500 grant from Appropriate Projects to construct a protected spring box so that the community can have a sustainable, safe water source.
When not demonstrating gender roles as she went about her daily life, Ms. Barren also met with a women’s group once a month and taught them about HIV/AIDS, heat retention cooking, IGAs, crafts, and nutrition. She was also a member of a planning committee for a district-wide Girls Leading Our World (GLOW) camp. She organized logistics and facilitated sessions on gender equality, sexuality, and goal setting for a five-day sleep-away camp attended by 21 teenage schoolgirls and 10 teachers.


Since the beginning of 2011, transportation on Luwingu Road is no longer the problem it once was, so there is great potential for future sites for PCVs.
There will be a LIFE replacement volunteer in neighboring Kaseke village, and if that volunteer has the interest, a GLOW specific or just a girl’s club could be formed in Mumana Lupando. One community member, Joanna Chanda, attended Camp GLOW as an adult leader, but unfortunately all three girls that attended transferred shortly afterward. Young women in the village could greatly benefit from increased sensitization on life skills.
There is also always the potential for more soya bean promotion in farther flung villages. Lubushi village especially is sensitized to PCVs and has a highly motivated farming co-op.
In Mumana Lupando village, Ms. Barren was hard-pressed to find a more motivated, eager counterpart than Allan Mwango, who often ended up motivating her instead of the other way around. As a jack of all trades, a volunteer can work with him on projects involving the pre-school, HIV prevention, health, or farming. Catherine Chisha was also a great help and a good friend. BanaMaria Kulu attended a Permaculture Gardening workshop as Ms. Barren’s counterpart, and although she doesn’t speak English, she speaks ciBemba in a way easy to understand.
Ms. Barren had one safety and security issue around 6 months after she arrived at site. Her house was broken into while she was away. The youth who did it was apprehended and taken to the Kasama Police, but was later released and proceeded to break into two tuck shops. Since this incident, a guard always slept in her house while she was away, and there were no further problems.