Category Archives: AIDs

STS-134 NASA Tweetup: Day 2

Day 2 of the STS-134 tweetup started with great hope for an afternoon launch. I passed this car in the parking lot. LUV it!!

Space Shuttle Team: Doing What Others Dream

Space Shuttle Team: Doing What Others Dream

What a day. We started with a NASA Tweetup marriage proposal and ended with a launch scrub. Oh, and a visit by the President of the United States and First Family somewhere in between.

NASA Tweetup Proposal @tempegirl @chriscardinal

NASA Tweetup Wedding Proposal: Chris Cardinal @chriscardinal + Nina Tallman @tempegirl

Nina Tallman accepted Chris Cardinal's wedding proposal

Nina Tallman said YES to Chris Cardinal's wedding proposal

We took our traditional NASA Tweetup Countdown Clock pic. What a good looking group of tweeps.

STS-134 NASA Tweetup Launch Clock portrait

STS-134 NASA Tweetup Launch Clock portrait. Photo credit: NASA/Paul Alers

Good luck finding yourself in this shot, tweeps. I’m sitting crosslegged in front in white pants. They weren’t quite so white after the shot. ;)

Our Brits celebrated the Royal Wedding in their very own way — complete with flag-waving in front of the Countdown Clock. They are hoping to “launch” Royal Kate and William into wedded bliss. At least, that’s my interpretation.

Brits @tristamsparkes @jackdearlove @DrLucyRogers

Flag-waving Brits @tristamsparkes @jackdearlove @DrLucyRogers

@JackDearLove trying to take over NASA tweetup

@JackDearLove trying to take over NASA tweetup ;)

@JackDearLove's flag

@JackDearLove's flag

We had great lineup of speakers, starting off with Astronaut Ricky Arnold. He’s somewhere in the sea of tweeps in the photo above. Here are a few great quotes tweeted out during his talk. The Barbies were all so excited. Ken too!

@VenusBarbie & friends

@VenusBarbie & friends

@jenniferHuber Ricky Arnold food tweet
@SusanMazza quoting Ricky Arnold
@michaelbmore quoting Ricky Arnold
@TimLillard quoting Astronaut Ricky Arnold

NASA’s Education Chief, Leland @Astro_Flow Melvin came to speak next.

@SpaceTeam tweet about @Astro_flow
@schollem lego tweet about @Astro_flow
@brendajburrell quotes @Astro_Flow
@CarsonSkinner quotes @Astro_Flow

Tweeps heard more about NASA’s activities with LEGO from Daire McCabe, LEGO designer, then heard from Lt. Col. Patrick Barrett, Launch Weather Officer.

@DrLucyRogers LEGO mission patch
@NancyBroden weather tweet

We broke for lunch then lined up along the “road to the launch pad” to wave to the STS-134 crew as they pass by in the AstroVan. But, alas, they drove past, turned around and went back where they came. The dreaded SCRUB!

AstroVan headed to Launch Pad A

AstroVan headed to Launch Pad A

AstroVan returning Crew

AstroVan returning Crew

We went back to the NASA tweetup tent to wait for more information about the next launch attempt. The President and First Family toured the Kennedy Space Center and met with the crew. Some of our tweeps waved to them as they passed by.

POTUS with STS-134 crew

POTUS with STS-134 crew. Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

We found out that the earliest next launch attempt will be Monday at 2:34 p.m. EDT. Many of the tweeps had to say goodbye, sadly. But not before lots of goodbye pics like the one below with the LEGO mission patch.

Space Tweeps

Space Tweeps

We packed up, making plans to start this show again on Monday, if all goes well. Our DC Twitter rep, Adam Sharp, was the very last to leave around 6:30 pm. He has a meeting Monday and can’t stay for the next launch attempt.

Last to leave the tweetup tent....

@Sharp: Last to leave the tweetup tent....

Here’s my last look:

NASA Tweetup Tent Sign

NASA Tweetup Tent Sign

Looks like Seth Green, Clare Grant, Nicole Solomon and Abe Benrubi will be coming back for Monday’s launch attempt. WooHoo! (BTW, thanks Nicole for strongly encouraging me to using Hipstamatic pics. They really are so much fun!

@SethGreen tweet

2 Comments

Filed under AIDs, Bethany House Trust, NASA, social media, space, tweet-up

LAUNCH: Health…FINally!

This is it! The week we host LAUNCH: Health, the second in our series of sustainability incubators.

LAUNCH: Health

NASA partnered with USAID, Department of State, and NIKE to create the LAUNCH initiative to identify, showcase and support innovative approaches to global challenges. Through LAUNCH, NASA can host a global conversation about innovative solutions. We’re problem-solvers, after all. That’s what we do best.

Here’s a quote from our LAUNCH: Health challenge:

Sustaining quality of life on Earth and in space requires transformative advances in science and technology, along with new models, policies and behaviors that will guide human development. The search for innovative technology solutions to ensure healthy astronauts orbiting the planet mirrors healthcare challenges faced by providers throughout the world. The same requirements for simple, rugged, ultra portable, low power devices to provide remote diagnostic capability serves dual needs for humans living within the extreme environments on and off the planet.

We put out an open call through InnoCentive to search for solutions. We augmented the call with an internal search for innovations that might not bubble up through InnoCentive process. Meet our ten Health Innovators:

David Van Sickle, Asthmapolis: a devise to track and measure a patient’s self-treatment for asthma by attaching a GPS receiver and rechargeable battery to a standard inhaler. Can also be used to monitor air quality….

Gijsbert van de Wijdeven, Bioneedle: a biodegradable needle that dissolves under the skin releasing the vaccine, leaving behind no waste products. No medical professional is required to deliver the injection, which is inserted with an air compressor.

Erick Toledo, The Chlorine Bank: a grocery-story-style supply chain network to provide low-cost chlorine-based water purification products to rural communities.

Dieterich Lawson, FrontLine SMS Medic: text messaging solutions that connect doctors and patient medical records with remotely-located healthcare workers and their patients.

Ben Reis, HealthySocial/Food Hero: a social media-based game that fights obesity by teaching children about healthy eating and exercise as they care for a “troll” that can only perform when healthy.

Matt Sanders, Imetrikus Medi Compass Connect: networked technology to connect chronic pain patients with their doctors on a regular basis through home monitoring devices connected via computer, modem, or smart phone.

Aydogan Ozcan, LUCAS: A miniaturized microscope attached to a cell phone that detects parasites and bacteria in blood and water in remote locations.

Samuel Sia, mChip: Lab-in-a-box. A handheld device that can analyze diseases — such as HIV, syphilis, hepatitis, and other sexually transmitted diseases — in 15 minutes from a drop of blood.

Ramesh Raskar, NETRA: portable eye doctor (minus the physician). A small measuring device that administers an eye test and determines necessary correction with the touch of a button.

Jonathan Attwood, ZamZee: a handheld device for kids to encourage and record movement, and reward physical activity with virtual shopping credits.

We’ll be streaming the presentations live. Stay tuned for details on LAUNCH.org website.

We’re also pleased to welcome our LAUNCH Council to the Kennedy Space Center. You can find their bios on the LAUNCH.org website. They represent diverse backgrounds from entrepreneurs to scientists and engineers to venture capitalists to leaders in government, media and business, who will help to guide the innovators as they move forward toward successful implementation of their products and ideas.

Our hope is that they see begin to see “space” in a new light as an integral part of the global sustainability conversation.

LAUNCH: Water was our first forum back in March. We have Mark Tonkin, one of our LAUNCH: Water Innovators, coming back to talk with the group this weekend. We’re hoping to bring in Astronaut Ron Garan for a quick hello. Ron, you may recall, was one of our LAUNCH: Water Innovators for his humanitarian effort to bring clean water to children in Africa through Manna Energy. He’s down at the Space Shuttle launch, and is one of our STS-133 Tweetup speakers.

Yes, it’s going to be a busy, amazing week! We’re also hosting 150 enthusiastic STS-133 tweeters at the press site, AND, let’s not forget the Space Shuttle launch inself, which is what this fuss is all about in the first place.

The STS-133 crew will leave the boundaries of Earth onboard Space Shuttle Discovery for her final flight on Monday, November 1 at 4:40 p.m. EST.

STS-133 crew

STS-133 crew at Launch Pad A

God speed STS-133!

If you want to participate in LAUNCH: Health, we have several options for you. You can watch the Innovator presentations via U-Stream. You can also interact with us through NASA Mind Mapr, cousin of NASA Buzzroom. Mind Mapr offers web-based virtual participation for you by allowing you to create an account to log into the system to add comments or pose questions. You can also follow the LAUNCH twitter account.

Best of HEALTH to you all — LAUNCH: Health, that is. :)

Crosspost on OpenNASA and GovLoop.

4 Comments

Filed under Africa, AIDs, Earth, environment, federal government, humanitarian aid, NASA, poverty, social media, technology

Is Social Responsibility Innate or Nurtured?

I came from a business lunch today with a NASA colleague and Mikkel Vestergaard of Europe-based Vestergaard Frandsen, a unique company that manufactures disease-control textiles. I met Mikkel at our March LAUNCH: Water forum at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Mikkel served as one of our LAUNCH Council members.

Mikkel Vestergaard of Vestergaard Frandsen.

Mikkel Vestergaard

Quick back story for Mikkel. He comes from a textile-manufacturing family in Denmark. At 19, he sought adventure in Africa where he founded a trucking company. Political instability sent him packing back to the family business, but his experience ignited a passion for Africa. In a few years, he turned the company from uniform supplier to humanitarian relief products. Pretty amazing story. WIRED featured his story in April.

Passion Statement from the Vestergaard Frandsen website:

By innovating products and concepts focusing on preventable diseases like malaria, diarrhoea, HIV/AIDS and neglected tropical diseases, we turn our commitment into action. We innovate for the developing world, rather than developing products for wealthier regions, and then trying to adapt to those who actually need them the most.

Mikkel is in town participating in the Women Deliver conference. We were fortunate to catch him on the run between events. We’re busy planning our next LAUNCH sustainability event. Mikkel will be working with us to make it an even greater success than the LAUNCH: Water forum.

I write this today because I’m stirred by his commitment to make the world a better place by focusing his “profit for a purpose” business strategy toward the creation of innovative “life-saving products for the developing world.” He cares about people in need, and he’s poised his company to take swift action in partnership with government, non-profit and profit entities.

Zambian Village

Zambian Village

His heart for Africa touches close to our family. My aunt and uncle serve as missionaries in Zambia, and my youngest daughter, Steph, moves to South Africa in the next few weeks.

Mikkel asked how I feel about Steph’s decision. My answer, as always, “I’m thrilled.”

Steph will spend the next year (or more) working with the Bethany House Trust victim empowerment program.  Bethany House was established in 1998 to provide shelter, primary health services and education to young people in crisis. Steph, who just received her graduate degree in Community Counseling, will counsel kids who have untreated trauma. She specializes in Play Therapy.

Bethany House Trust

Bethany House Trust

So my question: Is social responsibility innate or nurtured?

What makes some of us comfortable with a cosy little routine that never changes? What makes some of us rush out in the world to make change happen?

I’m dying to be one of those out there changing the world. Life placed me here  at home helping others go out into the world. Some work with villagers out in the bush country. Some type on a computer in a government cubby hole. (Yeah, that second description would be my reality.) But, how cool for me to rub shoulders with a cool world-changer like Mikkel, and support my daughter as she reaches out to help those who can’t help themselves.

Bethany House: Toddler Living area.

Bethany House: Toddler Living area.

With our new LAUNCH sustainability forums, I get to help change the world from right here in DC. With our ten disruptive innovations, we hopefully throw a life-line to our planet. One small step…. Oh, I won’t even go there.

Whether or not the desire for social responsibility is born or grown, we should nurture it where we can. Feed it. Water it. Prune it. The needs are too great to be born by the few. Each of us can find small (or HUGE) ways to contribute. Be creative. Make it your own — like Mikkel did with his family’s business.

If you’re out there changing the world already, send me postcards (or twitpics). I’d love to travel along virtually. God speed!

1 Comment

Filed under Africa, AIDs, Earth, environment, federal government, humanitarian aid, NASA

Launch Water Day 2

Quick Recap of Launch Water Day 2:

Innovator Stephen Kennedy Smith: Verticrop. “Large-Scale Vertical Hydroponic Ag System

Innovator Stephen Kennedy Smith

Innovator Stephen Kennedy Smith

VertiCrop water savings

VertiCrop water savings

Innovator Shahram Javey: Aquacue. “Water: Tapped and Untapped

Innovator Shahram Javey

Innovator Shahram Javey

Aquacue

Aquacue

Innovator Dr. Marc van Iersel: “Affordable Soil Moisture Sensors

Dr. Marc Van Iersel

Dr. Marc van Iersel

Soil Moisture Sensors

Soil Moisture Sensors

Innovator Dr. Julien J. Harou: “HydroPlatform

Innovator Dr. Julien Harou

Innovator Dr. Julien Harou

HydroPlatform

HydroPlatform

Astronaut Ron Garan: “Manna Energy Projects in Rwanda” — on his own time, not as an official NASA rep.

Astronaut Ron Garan

Astronaut Ron Garan

Manna Energy Status

Manna Energy Status

Manna Energy Carbon Credits

Manna Energy Carbon Credits

Innovator “Speed Dating” Impact Rotations:

Launch Water Day 2 Impact Rotations

Launch Water Day 2 Impact Rotations

Before heading off to the reception and dinner at the Kennedy Space Center Rocket Garden, the amazing Dr. Anil Gupta spoke on “Water, Wisdom and Well Being: Learning from Grassroots.” He told a wonderful story about the need to empty ourselves before we can be filled. Great advice for our innovators as they met with thought leaders in the impact rotations. We realized, after the fact, that he should have been our kick-off speaker to inspire us with humility and the possibilities of the smallest kernal of innovation at the grassroots level. I had the great fortune to sit with him at dinner. Now I can’t wait to travel to India to “walk” with him through the villages and honor the small innovations he finds among the people.

KSC Rocket Garden

KSC Rocket Garden

NASA’s Mr. Space Station, Mark Uhran, spoke to us at dinner on the topic of “Water Far and Near.” I’ll post a link as soon as we get his remarks up on the Launch.org website. I was inspired and awed by his remarks on the importance of water in the universe and why it’s important for NASA to follow the “water of life.”

“Water lies at the very foundation of NASA’s reason for being. The search for life in the universe is a search for water, becase life, at least as we know it, cannot exist without water.” NASA’s Mark Uhran.

Thanks Mark! Wow!

We capped off the evening (and Mark’s talk) with a toast to water — with shot glasses of recycled waste water from NASA trials at the Johnson Space Center. NASA’s Marybeth Edeen brought the water with her from Houston. Marybeth, you ROCKet!

Recycled Water Shots!

Recycled Water Shots! Here's to our astronauts who drink this every day.

Here’s to WATER — on and OFF the planet!

Crosspost on OpenNASA.

5 Comments

Filed under Africa, AIDs, astronaut, Earth, environment, federal government, humanitarian aid, leadership, NASA, poverty, space

Southern Africa: Story Behind the Eyes

Growing up as a kid in Texas, I remember trick-or-treating for UNICEF, an organization that helps at -risk children in developing countries. We collected donations instead of candy. Going to school in Nova Scotia following high school, I organized a 40-mile walk-a-thon to benefit UNICEF. Only three of us completed the forty miles. I only remember dehydration and an emergency room visit upon finishing. The rest is a blur. I have no recollection, what-so-ever, of how much we earned for our efforts. Probably not much.

All that seems so long ago. UNICEF never went away. At-risk children never went away.

Perhaps I lost sight of the cause once my own life got complicated.

I’m looking at it now though. My daughter’s passion for children orphaned by the AIDs pandemic focused my attention again.

Girls dressed in Sunday best.

Girls dressed in Sunday best.

According to UNICEF:

“About 29,000 children under the age of five –  21 each minute – die every day, mainly from preventable causes.”

Boys in the bush.

Boys in the bush.

The UNICEF website cites frightening statistics for the southern part of Africa:

“The number of children orphaned and made vulnerable by HIV/AIDS is projected to reach 25 million by the end of the decade, 18 million of them in sub-Saharan Africa. This, along with only modest progress fighting malaria, means the threats facing child survival are as grave as ever.”

I’m just now researching the United Nations Millennium Development Goals for 2015. Yes, I know. I haven’t been paying attention.

  1. End Poverty and Hunger
  2. Universal Education
  3. Gender Equality
  4. Child Health
  5. Maternal Health
  6. Combat HIV/AIDS
  7. Environmental Sustainability
  8. Global Partnership
Kids on street in Zambia

Kids on street in Zambia

Goal 6, combatting HIV/AIDS, directly relates to my daughter’s passion for the alarming number of children orphaned by the great killer.  Projections point to 18 million parentless children in Sub-Saharan Africa by next year. These children must assume the parental role of finding food and caring for their siblings, forcing many to drop out of school.

In South Africa, the statistics on the number of individuals, of all ages, living with HIV/AIDs — simply staggering.

This girl's got spunk!

This girl's got spunk!

Everywhere we went during our time in South Africa, the topic came up. Parents are dying. If family members aren’t available to care for the children, the social services steps in. But often, the children slip through the cracks because their parents never informed the schools of their illness. The children simply stop coming to school. As we learned from our interview with the school principal in Soweto Township, she often serves as a detective/social worker at times, trying to determine where the child is, once he disappears from class.

I really started this blogpost to show you the faces of the children we met. Somehow, I felt compelled to add a bit about their world. I don’t know their individual stories to share with you, only the aggregate.

Just look into their eyes. I’ll let the children speak for themselves.

Pretty in pink.

Pretty in pink.

Fighting for the shot

Fighting for the shot

South Africa school uniform

South Africa school uniform

Simply gorgeous

Simply gorgeous

I'm getting a HUGE hug!

I'm getting a HUGE hug!

Now THAT's a pose!

Now THAT's a pose!

Such a tiny one.

Such a tiny one.
He elbowed everyone to get near me.

He elbowed everyone to get near me.

Hopeful, yet measured

Hopeful, yet measured


My daughter is taking a pic of me taking a pic...

My daughter is taking a pic of me taking a pic...

Best friends

Best friends

Full of promise

Full of promise

Not sure of me...

What a dumplin'

She never once smiled

She never once smiled

Play buddies

Play buddies

Thumbs up

Thumbs up

He wanted a "sweetie."

He wanted a "sweetie."

She's not sure about me yet.

She's not sure about me yet.

3 Comments

Filed under Africa, AIDs, poverty

Have and Have-nots: Light years apart

Koome Village

Kooma Village

I’m really strugging with reintry into my 1st-World lifestyle after three weeks in a 3rd-World reality in southern Africa.

I’ve experienced 3rd-World living before. I studied in a tiny town in the middle of nowhere Mexico during college, and built a church in a little village in poverty-stricken central Brazil. And yet, this transition seems harder for me. The situation in Africa — ever more desperate.

In addition to extreme poverty among the citizens, the mass migration of millions fleeing from tyrannical governments, such as Zimbabwe, strains scarce resources to the breaking point.

SnakePark

SnakePark

So, what drew me to Africa? Business? Pleasure? A little of both. This trip was an “occupational survey” for my youngest daughter, who completes her graduate studies in 2010 with a degree in counseling. Her specialty is play therapy, to help children work through traumatic experiences. She has a heart for children of the AIDs epidemic.

Kids from the street.

Kids from the street.

Her time in South Africa and Mozambique last summer introduced her to the “child-head-of-household” crisis caused by AIDs. With parents dying and children forced to raise their siblings, they are forced into early adulthood without the emotional maturity for the job. My daughter wants to help the children cope with tragedy in their young lives.

JAM: Change a Life. Feed a Child

JAM: Change a Life. Feed a Child

We embarked on a “survey” of potential organizations where she might contribute her counseling skills. In South Africa, we met with  JAM (Joint Aid Management), which feeds starving children across Africa; Door of Hope, which accepts abandoned babies no-questions-asked (CNN reported on Door of Hope the day we visited), Bethany House Trust, a home for orphan and foster children with a holistic approach to treatment and placement; and a Soweto Township Primary School and Day Care. In Zambia, my daughter accompanied a Play Therapy specialist to a local orphanage to meet the children.

I offer a few observations from the trip.

South Africa:

Nelson Mandela poster in school.

Nelson Mandela poster in school.

We saw and spoke with people on both sides of the apartheid system of government in South Africa, which is a relatively new democracy after the handover of power from white to black leadership in 1994. South Africa has 1st-World infrastructure in the historical “have” population, and a 3rd-World reality for the have-nots.

In the 19 years since apartheid was abolished, South Africa’s infrastructure for the ‘few’ has been shifted to cover the ‘many’ — straining the country’s resources.

Soweto Po

Abandoned Power Station

Electricity, under apartheid, was only available for the white population in the cities. The black townships had no power. Now that the power stations are supporting the total population, the system shuts down regularly. Without new power stations, the infrastructure can’t cope with the demand. Power is often “hijacked” by makeshift power lines strung from the overhead cables to the ground. These wires, when not properly grounded but held down by a pile of rocks, bring tragedy to innocent children playing in the area who stumble across the hot wires.

Desperate people do desperate things.

SnakePark

SnakePark

Woman Fetching Water

Woman Fetching Water

In preparation for the upcoming 2010 World Cup events in South Africa, the government of South Africa is providing propane heaters and cooktops to lessen the demand on electricity. One of our cab drivers told us how welcome the propane units are, though he held held little confidence the units could put a dent in the problem. At least, he informed us, his wife could cook for him when the power went out. (I won’t even TOUCH the division of labor between men and women. That would fill an entire book, not a just a blogpost.)

Portia's 1-room tin shack

Portia's 1-room tin shack

We visited squatter villages, many filled with destitute emigrants who fled from other countries to the cities in “Hope in Africa.” We met with Portia who came to South Africa from an unnamed neighboring country. She allowed us into her one-room shack. No water. No plumbing. No electricity. She graciously told us about her life (as interpreted by my buddy Mike who speaks a dozen or so languages). Outside her little tin shack she planted little cactus gardens. (You can see her water buckets outside the structure in the picture.)

The human spirit is amazingly abounding, even in the most hopeless times.

Making the best of circumstances

Making the best of circumstances

AIDs epidemic:

This little girl stole my heart.

Big Smiles Day Care

Dan (name changed for privacy issues), our escort for a day in the Soweto Township (home of Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, and Dan), is HIV-positive. He told us the story of how he found out. His second son had health issues. After repeatedly taking him in for treatment, the doctor suggested an AIDs test since the boy exhibited the telltale sign of lumps behind his ears. The boy tested positive. Dan’s wife admitted she was HIV-positive. Dan tested positive too. He felt devastated and betrayed. They lost their youngest boy to AIDs. No medicine was available to help him.

He wants attention

Big Smiles Day Care

Dan had two choices: leave his wife or stay with her. The doctor counseled that their healthy son could soon be an orphan, as so many other children who lose both parents to AIDs. The boy should enjoy his parents as long as possible. Dan chose to forgive his wife and stay a family.

On the happy side of this story, Dan and his wife have enrolled in an AIDs program through a US NGO (I’m not sure which one) which gives them drug cocktails for free. He boasted his white blood cell count as being in a really good range. He threw out numbers that met the world to him, yet nothing to me. I had to ask what was a dangerous vs. acceptable number. I admit. I really knew very little about the battle against AIDs beFORE this trip. I am now painfully aware now.

To quote Dan:

Everyone is either infected or affected by AIDs.

Plight of Children:

Primary School Principal

Primary School Principal

When visiting a primary school in the Soweto Township, the principal spoke to us in a dark office. Power had been out for a couple of weeks. She’d been assured they would have power sometime the following week. She told us of her challenges running the school. Children starve. Their parents die of AIDs. They, themselves, are infected. Older children care for younger siblings. They may or may not have family to help. Many drop out and end up on the streets.

Playground Games

Playground Games

The principal told us a story. One of her young students quit coming to school. She discovered he was caring for his deathly ill Mother, as well as his brothers and sisters. The principal found a hospice organization to take the Mother in. After proper treatment, she returned home to care for her own children.

So, why isn’t the same care available to ALL infected parents?

The principal explained she can’t help when she doesn’t know the family has a problem. Many parents won’t admit they are sick, much less that their children are sick.

Stigma. Shame. Fear.

Can you resist that face?

Can you resist that face?

The government now provides a grain product so that every child has one meal a day at school. The principal told us that she asks for a donation every week from the children that allows her to buy spices, olive oil and other ingredients to add to the porridge-type substance they serve the children — just to give it a flavor. She also has them bring in containers to take the grain home for the days when school is closed. Otherwise, they may not eat until school opens again.

Many of the children experience sexual, physical, and emotional abuse. Rape is rampant. How do you build hope in a child who has so little and so little to live for? (Thankfully, my daughter has skills to help.)

And yet, those with the least keep going…in spite of it all.

Thumbs up after receiving new "tropicals" or flip-flops

Thumbs up after receiving new "tropicals" or flip-flops

Zambia:

Streets of Livingstone

Streets of Livingstone

My long-lost aunt Melody and my uncle Phil are missionaries with the people of Zambia. My aunt found me two days after I joined Facebook. She invited us to visit. Since we planned to travel to South Africa, we decided to hop over to Zambia while in the neighborhood. We spent a glorious week with Melody in Livingstone while my uncle was in the US for surgery. Girl-time!

Power is sporatic in the city. Thursday is their “load-shedding” night where the city goes dark for 3-4 hours. I can only assume the government is selling that “saved” electricity to a neighboring country, perhaps. That’s only my speculation. Power went out Saturday morning for several hours, but I’d gotten up early to download pics to Facebook, so I felt proud to beat the outage. No hot breakfast though.

Lion King welcomes Chinese investment.

Lion King welcomes Chinese investment.

What surprised me the most? Chinese infrastructure EVERYwhere. Roads. Schools. Buildings. Why, you may wonder? Infrastructure in exchange for mineral rights. Zambia is rich in copper, amethyst, aquamarine, beryl, emerald, tourmaline, garnets and more.

Koome Village Community School

Kooma Village Community School

In comparison to the shantytowns in South Africa, the poverty in the Zambian villages felt hopeful. I know that sounds strange. To me, the squalor of the squatter towns in South Africa felt oppressive, yet the villages felt almost quaint. They looked artistic, picturesque. Even the poverty of a one-room school hut seems idyllic.

Mukuni Village: Home of Lion King

Mukuni Village: Home of Lion King

The villages still operate with a strong sense of community. Village elders. Social heirarchy. Family structure. They are established and well-run. The shacktowns, in comparison, come together in chaos of uprooted people with no community ties. Society breaks down. Crime and despair follow.

What’s Next?

So what now? What can I do to make a difference?

Zambian boy

Zambian boy

Over 30 years ago, my Daddy felt a burden for starving people in Africa. He tried to persuade our extended family to cut back on lavish Christmas spending and give gifts to those who needed it most. We adopted the idea later when my girls were little. We agreed with family to exchange Christmas ornaments and give donations in family member’s honor. Our girls chose Toys for Tots. We gave them an amount we would normally spend on gifts and let them shop for toys.

Street Boys

Street Boys

We piled the toys into a mountain, took their picture in front of it, and give the picture as our gift to family. In recent years, we’ve given gifts through the World Vision Gift catalog. And last year, after I met with folks from JAM, I give gifts to JAM in my daughters’ names. And yet, these contributions feel so incredibly inadequate.

Mukuni Village Boy

Mukuni Village Boy

My time in Africa reminded me of Daddy and how God broke his heart for the people of Africa. (And how cool that his youngest brother is now living and serving in Africa!) There I was, in the very place, looking at the very faces he yearned to help.

I want to do more.


Bethany House Transport

Bethany House Transport

Bethany House Trust, a Christian-based organization, stole my heart on this trip. I want to find a way to help get the word out about the amazing things they do in their community. Gert Jonkers told us they spend R4000 per month per child ($510). The government reimburses them R1000 per month ($127). The government is five months behind in payment. Gert and Antoinette have used all their savings to keep Bethany House afloat. In this economy, many like organizations already folded.

Bethany House Playground

Bethany House Playground

$1 each would help. $50 would be a tremendous contribution. I don’t think they are set up for US contributions, but you can contact them directly to see how YOU can help.

So I leave you with this double rainbow I discovered over Victoria Falls. I saw the red flower, walked over to take its picture, and saw the most gorgeous site EVER! What a wonderful sign of hope and new beginnings.

Double Rainbow over Victoria Falls

Double Rainbow over Victoria Falls

7 Comments

Filed under Africa, AIDs, Earth, poverty