Akaboko Kakonka Kabiye, or “one arm follows the other”

The meaning of the nsoselo: What happens to one, happens to the other.

Positively interpreted, this means: As once someone helped you, now you help others.

Within three days, we exceeded the original $228 request to reach a grand total of $250!  Thank you to all friends and family who helped cover the shipping cost of the equipment.  One hundred percent of donor-based donations got turned into kwacha.  To ensure that 100 percent of the donor funds made it to Zambia, I covered the remittance fee and added some mbasela, or “extra.”

Our Contributors (count the RPCVs!!)

David — Served in Luapula 2011-2013; Southern 2013-2014

Gary — Family!

Lyann — [Extended] Family!

Michael — Family!

Morgan — Served in Eastern 2013-2015

Rich — Friend!

Siobhan — Served in Northwestern 2010-2012; Luapula 2012-2013

Stephanie — Served in Luapula 2012-2015

Much appreciation for donors and sharers alike for being the essence of the nsoselo.  Who knows the extent of the impact of the sewing machines and computer equipment on this community many miles away, but as much as I can, I will keep you informed.

Mushale umutende.  Stay in peace.



The News from Lubunda Basic Is GLOW[ing]!

The last time I uploaded a post to this blog, I was still in Zambia, under the grass-thatched black plastic, trying to distill my thoughts into 300 character articles. As tempting as it is to wax poetic from my current vantage point–on a citenge in an air-conditioned room in the city of the great and powerful Washington (aka the ever-demanding, unquestioned, omniscient entity that was always changing our policies, delivering dry powerpoints, or requiring more reports…or so said we in the field, at the time)–I’ll cut to the point:

Sixteen months after I left my site, I received confirmation that the application Mrs. Alice Namonje Mwesa and I submitted at the tail end of my service had been approved! To remind you, she is the leader of the reusable sanitary pad school entrepreneurship/movement that became the enduring program of my service.  (The fact that my presence on this was peripheral is probably a reason the program has continued to succeed.)  The application requested assistance from the U.K.-based organization, Tools with a Mission (TWAM), which has an office in Kitwe, Zambia. Last week, I learned that TWAM has approved the following items:


[8 sewing machines, a great GRE word, 1 computer, 1 scanner, and 1 printer]

While all of these items will significantly improve the capacity of the club’s operations, the group hasn’t just been sitting on their heels.  Rather, they have continued to receive support from the government and interested NGOs.  This past March, for example, Water Aid collaborated with the GLOW girls on an advertising campaign.  Ba Alice has continued to travel throughout the provinces to promote improved female hygiene practices, fearlessly addressing this cultural taboo.

The agreement with TWAM is such that they will secure the equipment as long as the applicant pays for the shipping costs.  The shipping cost of these materials is equivalent to 2,230 ZMW (about one month of a teacher’s salary), or $218 USD (+$10 for the money wiring fee; grand total = $228).  TWAM’s deadline for receiving these funds is the year’s end.  Though Ba Alice could probably amass the funds over time, I am concerned that the time frame is too short to collect the money AND get it to the Kitwe office within three months.

So my request to you:  Help me cover the shipping fee.*

Extra benefit: If you pledge any amount, I will write you a letter with an enclosed SASE (throwback!) in which you can tuck your dollars.  I don’t have Venmo, so this is the second easiest way for me to collect your contribution (the first being to download the app, which I’m resisting).

How to help:

Help me cover the shipping costs of valuable equipment to the GLOW Lubunda Women’s Club** in two quick steps.

  1. Fill out this contact form, so that I know where to send the awesome letter (even if I don’t know you, I promise it will be worth it).
  2. Return the enclosed letter to me ASAP with your donation!

I will update this post once I receive enough pledges to cover the fee.  If contributions exceed the $228 request, 100% of the contributions will still make it to Zambia.  Excess money will support GLOW program needs, defray school fees for students who can’t afford the uniforms, books, etc., or whatever else Ba Alice and the group deem appropriate.

* I will send the money upfront now, but hope that you will also like to contribute to this important community development.  For those of you who have supported us in the past, thank you!  For those of you who are supporting us now, thank you!

**GLOW: Girls Leading Our World

A Fond Farewell

“She can’t go,” Ba Loveness said to a small group of women who were clustered nearby. She turned toward me. “We must eat you, take you and cut you into bits and consume you, so that you always stay with us.” A woman after my own heart, quite possibly literally. I don’t know if anyone will be able to top that sentiment as my last full day in the village begins.

Note: she’s also the one who told me the folktale of the woman who stole someone else’s skin to wear as clothing.

A Fond Farewell

“She can’t go,” Ba Loveness said to a small group of women who were clustered nearby. She turned toward me. “We must eat you, take you and cut you into bits and consume you, so that you always stay with us.” A woman after my own heart, quite possibly literally. I don’t know if anyone will be able to top that sentiment as my last full day in the village begins.

Note: she’s also the one who told me the folktale of the woman who removed her skin to walk around in someone else’s.

The Aftermath

I didn’t take a video.

Just imagine rustic Black Friday taking place. Perhaps a couple folks walked away without offering the nominal fee I requested, but for the most part, everyone who came purchased items appropriately. Though my mind was pulled by ten different stimuli for the hectic hour, at least I got to see most of the folks with whom I’ve worked these two years. Proceeds paid the next two terms of an OVC (orphan/vulnerable child) that the school and I had independently picked!

The Day Before I Undo It All, IV

I’m absolutely filming this.

There is a slim chance that all well go well. I’ve been told that it’s all in my presentation before the yard sale opens. The true test of my Bemba and the character of my comrades comes in the final hours.

Let’s hope we do right by each other, especially since I’ve started us off a little in the wrong! But how else to appease the masses than to turn control over to them?

The Day Before I Undo It All, III

I’ve invited the villages where my counterparts live, where the majority of program attendees live. I’m getting rid of a lot, but not enough for six villages. This is definitely my fault. I’m hoping for the best, that I’ll be pleasantly surprised by people’s behavior in the face of limited supply and too much demand. But history and social science has told us otherwise. So I’m setting my favorites up for disaster. Mrs. Mwesa offered to help supervise. I think she was alarmed at my plan. I am, too.

The Day Before I Undo It All, II

For two years, I’ve made a distinct effort to work regularly with diverse groups and individuals in a 8km radius. My area is relatively densely populated, which should explain the small catchment area. So in the name of remembrances, the bane of my exit, I’ve been trying to figure out how to show my appreciation for folks while not disrupting the peace via jealousy (or worse accusations of bewitchment) or personal guilt. Thus, a yard sale, where I’m selling everything at a 90 percent discount.

The Day Before I Undo It All, I

I can’t remember the last time I posted. Perhaps February? Community Exit has been busier in a more relaxed way than I would have imagined. Surprising affairs have taken place, and now the farewells have begun. Starting two weeks ago, we wrapped up both school programs, one celebration on the very day of the closing. Then came the shared meals with the people I liked. And soon, tomorrow, the day that might undo this mutual affection that has pervaded my entire service: the Zamerican yard sale.

On measuring one’s growth by activity

And for sake of recall, I spent the two year marker, having mostly forgotten its significance, chasing a mouse with the highly toxic Doom insecticide (and partially poisoning myself), weeding my garden of weeds, and assisting the start of Grassroot Soccer-Malaria, which included kids playing parachute with curtains and kids with whistles. Then a strange army of ticks appeared on my floor, so I crushed them with a bottle and left their hard exoskeleton and guts smeared beside the reed mat.