Finally settling down in Harare

written by: Chantalle Okondo
posted in: 2011, Zimbabwe - No Comments

July 6, 2011

Some of the friends I have made here in Harare enjoying an afternoon together!

Some of the friends I have made here in Harare enjoying an afternoon together!

After having a memorable time in Buhera district, it has taken me a while to get used to the peacefulness and quiet nature of Harare and the IRD office.  In the last couple of weeks I have moved into a separate cottage of the IRD office and, in order to avoid things becoming too monotonous (from living at the same place that I work), I find myself going the extra mile in search of fun social events. Most of my time here in Harare has been occupied with work, now that the survey is done, Patrick (the other IRD intern) and I have to enter in all the data and analyze the information. The main purpose is to document impacts of the REVALUE program that were not expected in the original design and to use the information we collect to mobilize resources, so as to implement economic growth programs that impact orphans and vulnerable children (OVC). My main focus areas in the survey include the diet diversification of the children, so, I composed a diet diversity indicator based on the guidelines of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). That basically entailed a 24 hr household recall where we asked what the children had to eat the day before and we singled out children under 2 and asked different questions to reflect their breastfeeding needs. I was also in charge of the psychosocial aspects, so I adapted a set of questions based on a previous OVC survey conducted in Zambia. Lastly I constructed some questions on the basic health status of the children.

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A Hot Meal, a Shared Cup, and BANANAS!

written by: Peggy Jean Craig
posted in: 2011, Laos - No Comments

June 27, 2011 

“Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.” -Romans 12:13

Chief“Make yourself at home.  You are like family!” said the chief of Pon Kam village.  I sat on a mat on the floor of the chief’s house eating a mango that an older woman had peeled and given to me.  I’d only met the chief an hour ago.  He didn’t even know my name yet, and he was telling me I was like family.  We laughed as we talked about the differences in Lao and American culture, and recited the names of different fruits in Lao, English, Korean, Japanese, Spanish, and French.  He found the English word, “banana” particularly funny.  He looked at his wife straight-faced, then blurted out “BANANA!”, and burst into unrestrained laughter.  The plates of jackfruit and pineapple that surrounded me came from his trees.  The chief went and picked them himself, and proudly presented them as part of the feast that we shared that evening in his home with about 15 other villagers.  READ MORE

Working together…

written by: Lindsey Haeger
posted in: 2011, Mozambique - No Comments

June 24, 2011

Working together for better care for orphans and vulnerable children

Market streetHello from Quelimane, Mozambique! My internship partner Marques and I have now relocated from Maxixe to Quelimane for the second project of our internship. But before I tell you about that, a little bit about what I’ve been up to since I last wrote.

During our field visits with IRD’s local partner organizations, we noted the many unfulfilled needs of the orphans and vulnerable children in the province of Inhambane. We also met with government representatives who oversee programs with orphans and vulnerable children. They told us that they did not have a lot of information on these children in the province, and they would be happy to receive data on them from organizations such as IRD and its partners which are implementing programs to support them. READ MORE

Religious Leaders Help Fight HIV/AIDS in Africa

written by: Patrick Gallagher
posted in: 2011, Zimbabwe - No Comments

July 1, 2011

We’ve continued to delve into the analysis of our survey data over the last two weeks.  We’ve found a few interesting and important trends, which I’ll mention in a later post.

Today, though, I want to tell you about the role of religious leaders in the fight against HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa.  Please note that these are solely my opinions, based on my work experience in southern Africa.

If you haven’t heard about the scale of the AIDS crisis in this part of the world, you can readily find frightening statistics with minimal Googling.  The disease is devastating people of every tribe, class, education level, gender, and age.  Some African nations, with the financial backing of the west, have stemmed the tide, but others, for various reasons, haven’t even made a dent. READ MORE

Week 4 in Colombia

written by: Lisandro Torre
posted in: 2011, Colombia - No Comments

June 7, 2011

This weekend was supposed to be a long weekend because Monday was a holiday, but we had to come in on Saturday because we were a behind on the distributions.  We came in on Saturday and there were a ton of people there – 85 families, which included over 50 children whose height and weight we had to take.  We should have been finished around noon, but there were problems with the internet (all the surveys and nutritional surveys are done online) and we ended up staying until after 2.  I hurried to get lunch, worried that I was going to get there and there would be no food. The women at my restaurant know I come every day so they had saved me food and I went home happy.

During the week Richard had organized a soccer game between the guys at IRD and a bank for Saturday night. I got a ride and we went to a “synthetic” field, the size of a basketball court with netting all around. The game was an hour long and it was back and forth, but we finally won 11-10 with Richard scoring the winning goal with less than a minute to go.  It was early evening and it was hot and it felt like the heat and humidity had grabbed and squeezed all t the juices out of me.  It’s been a long time since I sweat that much.  I scored 4 goals and afterwards one of the guys told me that he could tell I was Argentine.  I’m not sure what that meant, either that I was too offensive minded and played no defense or that I was scrappy, which is to make up for a lack of skill – either way I took it as a compliment.  We stayed afterwards and had a few beers, which was a little awkward for me because I was soaked in sweat.  It was nice though and on the way home I sat in the bed of the truck and saw what Tumaco is like at night as the wind cooled me off.  Halfway home, as an homage to Rick and Peace Corps, I stood up in the bed and road standing up the rest of the way – absolutely the best way to ride in the back of a truck.  After we got home from the game, my neighbor, who works for IRD, his girlfriend and another IRD guy and his girlfriend sat around the pool at my place drinking whiskey and not really talking.   READ MORE

Craft, art, and creativity in unexpected places

written by: Lindsey Haeger
posted in: 2011, Mozambique - No Comments

June 10, 2011

A child demonstrates on the apparatus used to make woven reed mats

Mozambicans engage in a number of crafts for everyday purposes. For instance, when we have been out in the field, we often see homes with an interesting-looking apparatus for the weaving of reed mats (see picture). This is something that can be done at home with readily available materials, so it seems that many families just make their own mats rather than spending scarce money to buy one. For me, who can’t even mend a shirt, this is pretty impressive. I get excited and ask to take pictures, and people very kindly indulge me.

Even more impressive than the homemade reed mats are the houses and walls, which are constructed from extremely tightly woven palm fronds or reeds. I asked my IRD coworkers and they told me that these palm/reed houses can be constructed in less than a week, and then they last about 5 years. Wow. READ MORE

Miracles, Better Vision, and Better Life

written by: Peggy Jean Craig
posted in: 2011, Laos - No Comments

June 13, 2011

Pheangma and his grandmother, Chone

On a sunny afternoon, a 4-year-old boy donned in a green action figure t-shirt jumps around laughing and playing with his brother and friends. There’s nothing unusual about the scene. Lao children all over the country are doing the exact same thing on this particularly beautiful, hot and humid Thursday afternoon. For Pheangma, though, this mundane act is a miracle.

“Before Pheangma got his glasses we worried about him all the time. He couldn’t see anything more than a meter in front of his face. Our house is close to the road, and we constantly worried about him being hit by a car,” said Chone, Pheangma’s grandmother. She looked down at the piece of straw she was twiddling with her fingers as she spoke, remembering the constant anxiety she felt before Pheangma received his glasses. READ MORE

Those who sow in tears will reap songs of joy

written by: Chantalle Okondo
posted in: 2011, Zimbabwe - No Comments

June 23, 2011

One of the beneficiaries proudly stands by her traditional Zimbabwean kitchen, which displays all the pots, pans, and utensils very decoratively; this is one example of numerous others that I saw in Buhera.

I just returned from a ten-day trip out to the field in Buhera District/Murambinda, which is in the eastern part of Zimbabwe, only three and half hours away from the capital of Harare. It was ten days of no internet, no television, 6 a.m. bucket baths and constant power cuts, and despite all this, I really enjoyed my time there. The people were kind and very friendly and I finally got the chance to practice what little Shona I have learned. With no rainfall since the early months of the year, the landscape in Buhera is filled with dry grass, green bushes and trees but clear blue skies and sunshine almost every day. READ MORE

Conditions in the Invasiónes: Hospitality in an Inhospitable Place

written by: Jonathan Navas
posted in: 2011, Colombia - No Comments

June 22, 2011

Me retrieving information from persons seeking humanitarian aid from IRD at the barrio of El Timi

Winter in Florencia is very different from winter in the northeast of the United States. There is no need for heavy coats, snow shovels or heaters here. Rather, one is well suited for the winter with a poncho, rain boots, and an umbrella. It rains almost all the time.  However, some days the temperature reaches 90 degrees with clear skies, which make for very, very hot days. I change shirts, socks, and sometimes pants every siesta because I’m either soaked from the rain or soaked from the sweat I worked up at IRD. There’s literally water everywhere—filling up potholes, causing rivers to rise several feet, seeping through house walls/tarps/wood that line people’s homes. But, like Coleridge penned, “nor any drop to drink.” READ MORE

On Fertile Ground

written by: Marques Harvey
posted in: 2011, Mozambique - 1 Comment

In the 30 days since my arrival in Mozambique I have witnessed the tremendous impact IRD is making in the lives of persons who participate in their programs. From the corporate headquarters in Washington DC to the various offices throughout the provinces, one can’t help but be impressed with the coordinated effort that unites donors and beneficiaries in such a transformative way. IRD’s effort to reduce the burden of mortality and morbidity caused by HIV/AIDS has been a textbook example of transforming communities. Their motto of ‘Improving Lives…Building Livelihoods’ is appropriate since so much of their work seems to focus on helping individuals by strengthening the existing communities in which they live. By giving technical support and forming partnerships with dozens of neighborhood associations, local CBOs, provincial health departments, non-governmental and governmental organizations alike, IRD provides a more sustainable and measurable impact in the local community. From the dozens of orphaned children whose parent(s) have died from AIDS to the local farmers learning new methods in agriculture, IRD has helped to improve their lives through strengthening local capacities and experiencing community with those they aim to serve. READ MORE