Sunday, September 6, 2015

Thank You Africare!

By Samantha Madden

Post was completed the last week in Zambia (August).

It’s hard to believe my time in Zambia and with Africare is coming to a close! The second half of the summer really began to pick up speed as the management team in Lusaka completed the final hiring process for those individuals that will be working out at the two sites of the project; Lundazi and Mansa. The M&E officer, project director, and officer in charge extended contracts for the following positions: M&E assistants (2 per site) and site contractor/building specialist.
In July we all came together in Lusaka to collaborate as a team and solidify the objectives and deliverables associated with the next 18 months of the project. It was a unique experience as Africare HQ individuals were present, along with every other member involved in various aspects of the ZaMs project. We discussed gaps in the project, constraints, budget adjustments, community sensitization efforts, and the production of required quarterly reports for the donors involved.  Additionally, we assigned roles to the incoming Boston University interns that are scheduled to arrive in Zambia at the end of August. Various presenters, including myself, exposed site staff to the proposed business plan, IGAs per site, and ongoing operational and financial logistics. Overall, it was a highly effective conference. It was great to see such collaboration amongst team members, all with varying roles and responsibilities speak to their ideas or concerns in moving forward. I was quite impressed with the openness and professionalism of the Africare HQ staff from Washington; though they oversee the project from a distance, it was important that they were brought up to speed with on the ground efforts here in Zambia. In our talks, of course, were the ongoing concerns with the energy crisis and lack of water supply in Lusaka and beyond.

Outside work, I made a final in-country weekend trip to Lake Kariba and the town of Saivonga. It is the largest manmade lake and reservoir in the world and splits the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia.  It was an experience to say the least; much like my other personal travels in country!  I woke up early and walked for nearly an hour and a half just to locate the correct mini bus area where buses were headed to the area I wanted to go. (“Down this street, on your left”, “No, not here. Back that way a few blocks”, “No, not here. Over that direction”)  Yikes! I finally boarded the mini-bus around 830 on what was supposed to be a 3 hour ride south to the lake.  After a flat tire, a broken wheel rod on the trailer, a 2 hour stop in the village (because the bus wasn’t in fact going to Siavonga, but across the border post to Zimbabwe) I finally caught a bus to the village of Siavonga.  I arrived early enough (4pm!) to head down to the lake and catch the sunset and I must admit, my time spent there was some of the most relaxing and tranquil days I’ve found during my entire visit to Zambia J It was lovely! (See attached pictures!) The ride back was great- I hitched from Siavonga to the turn off to the border post without any issues and then managed to hitch a lovely ride from there all the way to Lusaka from a South African couple also visiting the lake for the weekend. I even met up with them later in the week for dinner!

Moving forward I am hopeful that I will be back to see through some other parts of this project!  In speaking with individuals from Africare HQ, that I have been in contact with throughout the summer via e-mail, and then at the conference, they were persistent on me coming back to Zambia post-graduation in December. This project won’t conclude until May-June 2018 so the opportunity still exists to come back and be a continued part of this implementation project (Yay!)  It is a bittersweet feeling to be leaving- though I’m excited for certain aspects of the States again, I will miss the simplicity (or lack thereof!) of this country.  It has been a humbling experience to come work for such an impressive organization.  I can say that I truly admire the work they set out to do and the projects for which they’ve completed.  They really stand for many of the things I value in an NGO and it was an honor to work alongside them! Thanks Africare, I will miss you all!  : ) 

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