Giving to Get?

March 14, 2013 § 13 Comments


Kalingalinga Sunset

Being in Africa and working in the NGO world has awoken me to the realities of development work. The truth is that the work is inexplicably tied to the money. It costs money to feed orphans and take care of vulnerable children (speaking of which, have you SPONSORED A CHILD yet?). It costs money to build schools and provide supplies so that children can learn and teachers can have a salary. It costs money to buy medicines and supplies for the sick.

In addition to private or public funds, this has caused many organizations to start income generating activities. An example would be local Africans who make jewelry, clothes, or purses and attempt to sell them in order to gain a profit. Most of the times, these items are marketed towards Westerners to purchase. The items are either sold in country and marketed to tourists or shipped out and sold in America or other developed nations. « Read the rest of this entry »


How YOU Can Help the Least of These: Sponsor a Child with Special Needs

March 12, 2013 § Leave a comment

VerticalLogo copy

In honor of Zambian Youth Day, I want to highlight an easy way for you to help a child here in Zambia:

Sponsor a child with special needs.

Maybe you’re reading this and dreaming of living in Africa yourself. Maybe you want to teach your children about giving. Maybe you are waiting to adopt a child and are looking at other ways to help. Maybe you are looking for a good organization to give a charitable donation. Maybe you are tired of living for yourself, your own children, and your own well-being and want to give to someone who doesn’t have as much as you do. Maybe you have a special needs child and know the extra challenges involved in special needs parenting.

Sponsor a child with special needs.
« Read the rest of this entry »

Why You Should Consider Adopting a Special Needs Child

March 6, 2013 § Leave a comment

The Boy, Lusaka, Zambia

Nathaniel was born in 2007 and was diagnosed with hydrocephalus. He has an ETV (endoscopic third ventriculostomy) shunt for aqueductal stenosis. His left side is weak and he is learning to walk. He is a Special Needs Child. He is our son.

If you are considering adoption or are waiting for a referral for a healthy infant or child, have you considered adopting an older child or a child with special needs? Without a doubt, all children eligible for adoption may have special needs to some degree, whether physical, emotional, or otherwise.  However, for the sake of clarity, I am defining special needs based on physical and/or intellectual disabilities.

Consider the following issues, based upon a number of journal articles and resources that are listed for references at the end of this post:

– Have you considered your motivation for adoption? Do you want to give a needy child a home or are you looking for the perfect child to fit into your desires and family?

– Have you considered that many agencies and countries have queues of a year or longer for those wishing to adopt a healthy infant?  That means that families are waiting in line to adopt a child that has not yet been born (or perhaps even conceived).  Is this truly a vulnerable child if families are waiting in line for years to adopt him/her and he/she is not yet born? « Read the rest of this entry »

This is Zambia: Kitchen Party

June 12, 2012 § 12 Comments

This white girl can’t dance.

Exhibit A

And I had a paparazzi of Zambians with their cameras and smartphones trying to document the mzungu making a spectacle of herself.

The Bride


My Zambian neighbors invited to me to join them for a kitchen party for one of their relatives. Usually, a kitchen party is given in honor of a bride to prepare her for married life. Gifts are given for her household and especially the kitchen (think pots and pans, casserole dishes, utensils, dishes, etc.). Dancing is done as a way to show the bride how to behave in the bedroom to please her husband.

Learning to move my hips properly

To plan the party, a committee of close friends and relatives is started months ahead of time and is usually quite formal (I’m currently the secretary of another kitchen party planning committee. I take official minutes and read them back at meetings. Not. even. joking.). The committee forms a “mother’s parcel” gift that usually includes the larger items that are needed for a household such as refrigerator, stove, etc.

Having a good time!

At the party itself, it is often a large joyous event held for all the women in the bride’s community. The food will include Zambian cuisine such as chicken, rice, tomato and onion sauce, beans, and of course nshima.

Once all of the guests have arrived (a few hours after the starting time in concordance with Zambian time), the Matron will begin the introduction to the guests about the kitchen party. Historically, the matron was often an older relative or auntie of the bride. In modern times, this is often a woman hired for the position.

Finally, the bride emerges and the dancing begins, in order to entertain, honor, and teach her. All of the gifts are placed in the center and the matron calls on each gift giver to come and present their present to the bride. This is done with a big ceremony of laying down both ways on your side and doing a clapping motion to show respect. A dance is then performed. Of course, you have to have a chitenge (piece of African fabric) wrapped around you when dancing. Duh. When you have concluded, you then explain to the bride how to use the gift you have given to her.

Explaining the gift

After all of the gifts have been given, the groom is brought and the wife honors the husband by laying down in front of him in the same way. They then dance together. A chitenge may be tied around them to show how their lives are being tied together forever.

Showing respect

Together forever

{Post by the husband} This is Zambia: My Neighbor’s Challenge

January 26, 2012 § 1 Comment

World Vision Field Visit

Us ourselves, we are discovering that Zambians are less direct than Americans.  Allow me to explain.

In America, we don’t like to “beat around the bush”.  If we have a problem with someone, the most respected way to deal with that problem is to confront the person face to face and share what the challenge is.  Of course we don’t always do that in America – thus the occasional gossip (but never by me of course). However, directness is something we generally strive for.

In Zambia, we have discovered that people are often much less direct.  That is because in Zambia, saving face is very important.  In social interactions, it is important to make every effort to preserve each party’s dignity.  Thus, even if the other party has somehow wronged you, calling them out on it is discouraged and may not elicit the desired result.

This “saving face” also affects how business is done by World Vision Zambia.  During the first two weeks of January, I had the privilege of visiting several of our programs in the Southern Region of Zambia.  As part of my visit, another colleague and I had the assignment of confronting an issue that has presented a difficulty to many World Vision Zambia staff.  While at each program, meetings were called and all staff members were assembled.  Pretty soon, I was sitting at a table with 30 or so wonderful Zambian co-workers and after some pleasantries and introductions, I shared about the difficulty faced by many of them and asked if they can explain why the difficulty exists.  Predictably, complete silence.

Taking my growing knowledge of Zambian culture, I tried another tactic: “Well, perhaps you aren’t faced by this challenge.  But perhaps it is something that your neighbor is struggling with.  Can you please share what your neighbor’s challenge is?”  The room erupted in laughter.  And pretty soon, for the next ten minutes, I finally start getting answers to the question as Zambian after Zambian answered: “Me myself, I am not having a problem.  But my neighbor’s challenge is…”  Every time a person would share in this manner, we all would laugh, because we all realized it was a cover for sharing one’s own challenge.  But we did learn a lot, and the dignity of each person was preserved.

Only in Africa…

December 19, 2011 § Leave a comment

Fountain Swimming

Only in Africa…

…is the city fountain the community swimming pool
…is there a fly swatter in the operating theater (OR)
…is 9pm “late at night”
…are cockroaches in the dining area “normal”
…is a man with muscles and a machete the lawn mower
…are three people on a bike a car pool
…is an unfinished house a savings account

Chabwino (It’s good)! 3 Months in Zambia

December 12, 2011 § 4 Comments

We have now been living in Zambia for 3 months today! We spent last week visiting one of Zambia’s treasures of the world at Victoria Falls with dear friends Elizabeth and Kelly. We said goodbye to Elizabeth and she headed back to Malawi and Kelly left for Seattle this morning. We are missing them already! More on our trip tomorrow…


It’s been a challenging 3 months but both Ben and I are so happy living here – we know this is where we’re supposed to be. I’ve been learning one of the local tribal languages in Lusaka. I was practicing with the grocery clerk yesterday and she was so happy to talk with me. Many of the mzungus don’t learn the language and so Zambians feel very honored when you take the time to learn to speak it. I can only do short phrases and greetings now but am practicing every day!

The best things about living in Zambia:

  • The community of friends we have. We have so many friends, both Zambians and mzungus (foreigners). It’s been great having such a great variety of people in our life
  • Being forced to learn to cook well – Trader Joe’s hasn’t made it’s way to Lusaka yet
  • The friendliness and hospitality of Zambians. We stopped at a small village to use their latrine on the way home from Livingstone and they wanted to make sure we used the “clean” latrine and they didn’t make us pay to use the facilities ($0.10 in USD) just because we were strangers passing through town.
  • The slow pace of life. We go to bed around 9pm each night and are up from 6-8am. We mainly only have social activities on the weekends and enjoy quiet evenings during the week.

The Worst Things about living Zambia:

  • Having people always ask you for money because you’re a mzungu. It’s part of the culture but it gets tiresome.
  • Errands taking 3 times as long (or an indefinite amount of time).
  • Gastro-intestinal issues. Need I say more??
  • Not being able to get what you want when you want it…for a good price. You have to learn to make do with what you have. And when you do get those things you want, to savor it. I found ricotta cheese at the grocery store. Case in point.

Even with the hard things, we know this is where we’re supposed to be and we’re savoring each day. October 2012 will come quickly enough and I’m sure will miss this place that we now call home.

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