Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Holidays in Africa; Projects Continue

Dear Friends and Family:

We are quickly approaching the holiday season, time is really flying by. We are busy and hardly have time to be homesick, but we manage to squeeze that feeling in periodically, especially around Christmas.  We celebrated the Thanksgiving holiday with the two other missionary couples by going to a very nice restaurant with beautiful tropical landscaping, not home, but nice.

African Wind Chimes at Thanksgiving Dinner

"O Christmas Tree!"
African Nativity
We didn’t have turkey or pumpkin pie, but it was nice to be together with our missionary family here.  We then went back to our office to work on our projects. A SKYPE session had been arranged with Roger, Brett, Julie, Janell and Garrett, who were having Thanksgiving dinner at Roger’s house.  It was fun to talk with the family and Elder Bean had a smile on his face all the rest of the day.  It doesn’t feel like Christmas here, so we decided to decorate a small Christmas tree and put a wreath on our door to see if that would help.  We also set a hand painted pottery nativity and a hand carved nativity that we bought in the country of Malawi on a shelf in our front room.  We bought a woven reed Baobab tree and decorated it with handmade pottery ornaments from Malawi. So we are decorated and trying to make it feel like Christmas.
"O Christmas Tree" v 1.2

We are now in the rainy season.  Usually the mornings are clear and warm and by afternoon the clouds move in and it rains very hard with lighting and thunder.  Soon the storm passes and it becomes very warm again, but the past few days it has started raining in the morning and continues all day and into the evening, with a very impressive amount of rain fall combined with thunder and lighting.  The locals say this is unusual, we hope so.

Making Sure the Door is Locked
Our water and sanitation project in Muzarabani is going very well, at least the sanitation and hygiene classes are.  The drilling of the boreholes is somewhat slower and we are afraid they will not be finished now that the rains have started.  We drove there a week or so ago to check on the drilling progress and to see why it is going so slowly.  We also wanted to observe the hygiene and sanitation training classes.  It was very hot and when you open the car door, it is like stepping into an oven with a hot wind to dry things out even more.  Our training team leader and project monitor met us at the district council building to escort us to the different training areas.  We are using this building to store our mosquito nets, soap and hygiene kits for the upcoming graduation ceremonies.  It is not a very secure building as people wander in and out. We bought new locks for the storage room doors because some how things disappear and no one know where they have gone or who made off with them.  Stealing is a big problem here and our driller had to post a guard over his supply of diesel, which is needed to operate the drilling rig.

We then drove another hour and a half on bumpy dirt roads to get to the furthest point where our team is training in sanitation and hygiene The bridge that crosses to Mutemakungu, which is our furthest village and borehole sites, had collapsed and we had to drive down into the dry river bed to cross. We bounced along the riverbed and then really had to gun our truck to get up on the other side.  The truck slid and struggled, but we made it. This site will become inaccessible when the rains come and water fills the river bed.  We had the driller drill these boreholes first because of that problem and hope it and the training classes are completed before the heavy rains come.  We visited the boreholes and saw that they were almost finished.  We than visited the training areas.   Training in this area is very successful, the villagers hardly ever miss a class and they are really putting it to use.  As we drove by their huts, we saw “tippy taps”, hand washing facilities, hanging on trees around the latrines. This is a plastic bottle full of water with a string tied around it and when you pull the string, the bottle turns upside down and the water pours out onto your hands.  This is a hand washing method being taught in the training.  They had also erected wooden dish washing stands, so their dishes and pots are not left on the ground for animals to get into.  We also noticed that a lot of debris had been cleared away from their huts.

Huts with Tippy Taps

More Huts

Elder Bean Speaking at Sanitation Training Class

Sanitation Class

Woman Searching for Water in Riverbed
On the way back across the dry riverbed, we saw a lady with a bucket standing in the river bed digging with her hands to find water to fill her bucket.  She was almost waist deep standing in a hole she had dug.  It was very, very hot – miserably so, and we realized the extreme measures people have to go to find a little water in this area. We also were told that quite often the ground around them collapses as they dig and because there is nothing to grab onto, they are buried alive. We were glad that soon there will be a borehole up and running for this village.

Searching for Water
Class under the Baobab Tree
At another training site the people were seated on the ground under an open air thatched roof structure they use for village meetings.  At other sites, they were sitting under big trees trying to stay out of the sun.  My favorite site was people sitting under a very old and large Baobab tree being trained.  These trees are very unusual in that they are only found in very hot dry areas and they are called the upside down tree because they look like the roots are coming out of the top.  At several of the training sites, they welcomed us by dancing and singing and then of course we had to join in.  One group sang a water song in Shona to us and we did hear our names mentioned a few times.  I hope it was complimentary. They have been practicing and will sing this song at their graduation ceremonies. There were a lot of women, babies, small children and some men in this class. We talked with them about their training and what they are learning and it was great.  They were very enthusiastic and seemed to love the lessons.

Dance Party
We supplied our training team, as well as the community volunteers and the van driver with blue T-shirts that have the logo “Latter Day Saints Charities” on the front and on the back so they are easily recognizable.  They love the shirts and they look very professional and the shirts really helps them standout as official trainers.

Snazzy Shirts

It is now the next week and we are ready to graduate the villagers that have attended the sanitation and hygiene classes.  We will be handing out 2,400 graduation certificates, mosquito nets, and soap and hygiene kits for the next two weeks to the people who have been trained, they will return to their villages and train approximately 15,000 additional people who live there.  There will be six individual graduations held.  We are attending just the first and last because it is such a long way for us to travel each day.   We have invited the dignitaries and chiefs from each training area, as well as the news media and other interested people and/or organizations and we hope to get a lot of good publicity for the Church.  The most important issue however, is to help each village solve their health problems associated with water borne diseases and illnesses. We will be tracking for a year how many diarrhea cases have been treated at the local clinic, as sort of a measuring stick on how and if the training and clean water are really making a difference in this area.  Each week as the 2,400 families come to their training class, they report on how many diarrhea instances they have had in their family.  The report from the start of their training was very high approximately 372 cases in the one village and now it has gone down to way below a 100. We have also asked the local health clinics to help us throughout the coming year to report to us how many cases they have treated. So we hope it will be considerably lower than usual as a the result of our sanitation/hygiene training classes  The Church is also building two latrines in each borehole location as an example to the community and to make sure the water doesn’t become contaminated.

Handing out the Goodies
The first graduation ceremony was held on Tuesday, November 30, 2010.  It was a big success.  We had approximately 500 people in attendance.  It was held in a big partially covered structure that had been used for one of our training sites.  It was a rainy day, but most of us kept dry under this thatch roof.  It was almost a relief from the heat.  The lorry was there loaded with mosquito nets, soap, hygiene kits, soda and biscuits (cookies).  The primary school that is nearby released all the kids to join in the celebration   We had made certificates of graduation for each person that had completed the training.  An attendance roll was kept at each training class and those who had attended a majority of the training classes were given a certificate with their name on it. We set up four sites for handing out the certificates and as each name was called, they were presented with a certificate and then handed a mosquito net, soap, hygiene kit, soda and biscuits.  This was a very orderly way for them to receive their reward and also kept others who were not involved, from cashing in on the goodies.
We have had a few problems with the chief administrative officer over this district the project is located in.  He decided that he wanted one of the four boreholes scheduled for the ward or area he lives in, to be drilled in his yard by his house.  This of course means that it will be his and no one else can use it.  It is hard to believe that there are people with such self serving demands, when all the villages are in such dire need of water.   He had threatened to make trouble for our project if his request was not granted.  Because of the terrible political problems that have been and are in this area, we held our breath that all would go well with this first graduation, and just hope we can finish with the next seven graduations and the rest of the boreholes and latrines without any problems. The borehole will not be drilled in his yard and if he makes trouble, we will just pull out.  I think the people in this village would make a little trouble for him if we left before they received the promised boreholes. Sometimes it is hard for the “big drums”, as we call them, to realize that the boreholes are for the community and not for them.  They are so used to taking what they want
All went well with this first graduation.  We started with the Zimbabwean national anthem, had a prayer, Elder Bean spoke, we had African dancing and a play depicting the things the people had learned about hygiene and sanitation.  They then sang a water song and we could hear our names mentioned three or four times (the singing was in the Shona language) so all we understood was Elder Beany and Sister Beany, I guess they were saying that we were the ones that brought the training and water to them.  We then heard speeches from the chief and head man in the district, enjoyed another African dance and drumming, and then divided the people into four groups and handed out the certificates and the gifts. Everything went very smoothly and I think we all had fun and enjoyed the day. The rain even held off until we were on our way home.  We worried about the river crossing, but made it with a little holding of breath. We invited Elder and Sister Bowen from the mission office to go with us and it was a very fun day.  One down seven to go.
Drilling the Boreholes
We are starting are second big water project in the district of Goromonzi.   We drove to Goromonzi and held a meeting with the head man to tell him the news.  He nearly jumped over the desk to shake hands with us when we told him it was approved.  Just a few days before we arrived, the Zimbabwe Electric Supply Assoc. (ZESA) had cut off the power to the district water utility because the district could not pay their electric bill, which means the water utility can’t pipe water into the major parts of the community, the whole district is totally without water. So when we arrived and announced that we had looked over their project, sent it in for approval and had it approved, it was very welcome news. We are going to provide 14 new boreholes and rehabilitate 16 broken ones.  Included in this district are a very large elementary school and the city’s administrative complex. In these two areas alone, help will be provided to hundreds of people.  This should be a great project. We will also provide hygiene and sanitation training classes.  We discussed sites where the district and local community wanted the boreholes and stressed that the boreholes were for the community and not for politicians and officials for their private use.

A few weeks ago we flew to the country of Malawi for training in the Church’s wheelchair project.  The Church will be supplying 359 wheelchairs to Malawi and another 359 wheelchairs to Zimbabwe.  Wheelchairs are now distributed using the World Health Organization’s standards.  Each person now receiving a wheelchair must first apply by sending in their name residence location and reason for needing a wheelchair, to the organization in charge of the distribution.  The organization will than make an appointment with the patient and with a physical therapist arranged for by the Church to measure, fit and assess each person’s individual needs. The chair is a like a prescription, made to the personal specifications and problems of the person receiving the chair.  It is a wonderful program and we spent the week learning about how a wheelchair is made, how to put a chair together, riding in one, fitting the chair to personal specifications and then each trainee had an opportunity to help prescribe for and fit a real disabled person into a specific wheelchair, which will ultimately be given to them.  Four young disabled men were brought in with all kinds of spinal injuries and they were personally fit for a wheelchair. It was very sobering.  We each had a chance to use a wheelchair and to negotiate barriers and try to get up and down ramps. It was very hard and we learned how difficult it is for people in wheelchairs, We also know how much better it is now that they will now have a chair that fits and eliminates pressure sores and other problems. The wheelchairs should arrive in Malawi the last of December or first of January and we will return to help with this distribution.  They then will arrive in Zimbabwe and we will do the same thing.

Wheelchair Training

Shades of Things to Come?

Craft Time Begins at Noon
Malawi is a very beautiful country and it reminded us of Uganda.  It is more tropical looking than Zimbabwe and is very green and hilly.  We are anxious to go back, but this time we will drive.  The Air Malawi flights from Harare to Blantyre, Malawi only fly two times a week and then maybe will not show up at all.  Our flight retuning from Blantyre was canceled because a group of business men had rented it for a business meeting that day.  We spent a whole day trying to get home. 

We had wonderful news this month, On November 19th Kami, Brent and Sarah Kate flew to Oklahoma for the final proceeding n the adoption proceedings.  It took about 10 minutes for the Judge to sign the official papers.  An appointment has been made on December 4, 2010 at the Newport Beach temple to have her sealed to them.  This is a wonderful event that we would love to be a part of.  Many friends and family will be there and her uncle Matt is flying from Seattle to be a witness.  We know that this will be a very spiritual and wonderful day. We are all filled with gratitude and thankfulness to our Heavenly Father for this wonderful blessing.  It will also be a fun time with friends and family, and we would very much love to be there.  We feel so blessed and happy that this has finally happened. Many prayers have been answered  What a wonderful Christmas present for our whole family.

Welcome Sarah Kate (officially) to the Family!

We are doing well and are remaining healthy and busy.  We are enjoying the adventures that this country offers.  We are a little concerned about the politics here, especially with upcoming elections.  There are still concerns and everyone we meet has a story. It hasn’t been that long ago that this country was in a bad situation.  When Elder Christofferson was here at attend conference, he gave Zimbabwe an apostolic blessing, saying that if the people continued to be righteous and live the commandments, the Lord would bless this country. It really needs that special blessing.

We have an upcoming country director’s meeting in Johannesburg in March.  We also have the person from Salt Lake who is in charge of water projects for the Church all over the world, coming the week before the conference to spend a week with us to get first hand information on our water projects and to also advise and to learn more about the water problems in Africa, so we have a lot to look forward to.  We miss our family, especially at this time of year.  We love all of them very much.

Love, Elder and Sister Bean.