Tuesday, April 26, 2011

March/April Update - Walking with Lions and Riding Elephants

 Hi to Family and Friends:

Head Man's Wife
The last week of February we had a visit from Matt Heaps from Salt Lake City, he is in charge of water projects for the Church - all over the world.  He came to see our water projects and was especially interested in attending some of our sanitation and hygiene training classes.  He was given a demonstration on water dousing and went with us to meet the head man in the Goromonzi district where the drilling and classes are taking place.  We were invited to attend a meeting with the Head Man and the chiefs of all the villages in this area to discuss our project plans. There were 25 chiefs representing all the villages at the meeting.  We met in a thatched roof shelter on the Head Man’s property.  We discussed the training and borehole sites and the Head Man asked them to cooperate with our sanitation team and drilling team and to support us in any way possible.
He also attended and observed several of our training classes and interviewed people attending, asked many questions and took many pictures.  He was very complimentary about what we are doing here regarding training and borehole drilling and gave us the go ahead to do several more during our mission.  He then accompanied us to Johannesburg where he was a key trainer and speaker at the Country Director’s conference.  We enjoyed him very much.  We had also met him previously in Salt Lake City, so we were very comfortable together and he gave us some good counsel on water matters.

The first week in March we attended a Country Director’s meeting in South Africa, where we discussed water projects, wheelchairs, safety issues, creating projects and other relevant issues that had to do with performing our jobs. We met some very interesting Country Directors from Kenya, Ethiopia, DR Congo, Madagascar, Mozambique, South Africa, Uganda and Rwanda.  It was interesting for us to hear what is going on in their countries and to listen to some of their challenges and successes. We stayed in a beautiful old British hotel that at one time had been a private residence.  The food was delicious, buffet style, which makes eating too much a big temptation. 

We also attended two sessions in the Johannesburg temple; one session was just for the visiting country directors.  We stayed an extra day after the conference ended and attended the temple one more time, as well as enjoying some sight-seeing.  The flight back to Zimbabwe only flies on certain days, so we loved having this extra day in Johannesburg before our scheduled flight.  The Johannesburg temple is small, but as all temples are, it was beautiful.  We also went to the distribution center and bought some books and music to take back to Zimbabwe.

South African Transportation
On our extra day, we also went with some of the country directors to visit a world heritage site. It was like visiting the Polynesian center in Hawaii.  It consisted of several Zulu villages, where they performed native dancing, played native music, displayed their bead work, wood carving and other cultural crafts.  Our only problem was we got lost on the way and only had time to see a few things. We did see a wonderful display of the crafts and Sister Bean bought a pretty hand beaded collar necklace and took many pictures.

At Zulu Center
We brought a list with us of things to buy in Johannesburg. It is a very modern city with many malls, which are full of things to buy that are not available in Zimbabwe.  We bought hand lotion, energy bars, and two blouses for Sandra, since the bleach we use to wash dishes, food etc. had somehow ruined several of her blouses.  Things are very expensive here, so we had to curb our spending, but it was very fun to look. We did splurge and bought a beautiful hand crafted Zulu basket, which was expensive, but beautifully made.  We were told it can take a month or two to weave one of these beautiful unique baskets.

Upon returning to Zimbabwe, we received word that the wheelchairs had arrived in the country and drove to Bulawayo to attend the last training session before they are to be distributed..  We met with Brother and Sister Dow, who are the wheelchair experts for the Church and have conducted wheelchair training all over Africa.  We had a scary experience with them.  We were trapped on the elevator at the Holiday Inn.  We were there with the Dows and also a man, who got on the elevator with us, and we pressed the button for the lobby.  The doors closed and the elevator at first wouldn’t move, so we pressed the down button again and this time it shot up to the top of the shaft and then stalled and jumped up and down, like it could not make up its mind to go up or down. Then it kept jerking.  We kept pressing the emergency button, and the elevator would again jump up and down, finally it moved and went clear to the top of the shaft again and then descended to the lobby, in what felt like a free fall, and then the doors opened.  It seemed like forever before it stopped.  The man trapped with us was not a happy person either. It was such a relief to walk out on to solid footing.   We all tried to be good sports and not panic and scare the others, but each one of us admitted after, that we were very nervous. We asked the staff at the desk if they could hear the emergency button and they said they could and they had called a service man immediately. I think the button was pressed numerous times.  From then on we walked up and down the stairs.  We did not take the elevator again. The next day, whenever we saw someone waiting for the elevator, we would think, “you will be sorry”. Our room was on the third floor and the climb was not that bad. Better than being trapped on the elevator again.  We noticed the next day the elevator was still out of order.

Bro. and Sis. Dow from SLC

Two new couples have arrived as missionaries in our mission, Elder and Sister Eyre from Wyoming and Elder and Sister Jeffrey from Idaho. They are much needed.  Because of the unstable political situation her, for many years there have only been three missionary couples here; one in the office, one in CES and a country director couple.  Now we are expecting another couple in May, so this is great. The mission will be divided in July and Malawi and Zambia will become a new mission.  However, we will remain the country directors for all three countries, at least till the end of our mission.

With the Bentleys
We had a wonderful visit from Dr. and Sister Bentley from SLC, the last of March. They are the specialists that will be conducting the neonatal training in Zimbabwe. They came early to make all the arrangements for the actual training session in September.  We helped them locate a training venue, met with doctors from UNICEF, which the Church is going to partner with, and discussed who from the medical community should attend this training. They visited hospitals and met with staff to gather information pertaining to this. Their plan is to train doctors, mid-wives, nurses, and other medical people in these procedures; they will then go back to their villages and train others.  They will first train people in what is called, HBB - Helping Babies Breathe.  This is a fairly simple procedure and doesn’t require a respirator or a lot of specialized training or equipment. The neo-natal training will be a bit more involved and complex. When they return in September, they will bring 600 infant resuscitator’s with 2 masks and suction devices and clinical stethoscopes to be given out to the people they train to take back to their clinics, offices, and villages. They will also bring a NeoNatalie complete kit along with the resuscitation babies that are filled with water and are used for hands on training in teaching how to clear a baby’s airway. They also will bring printed materials, such as manuals, DVD’s, wall charts, etc.  Each training session will last two days and will be quite thorough.  The Church is very insistent that anything that is sponsored by them is first rate. We will assist them in any needs that they have when the training is actually done.  There are so many babies here that die because they are not breathing when born. They are considered dead.  They are in reality healthy living babies and it only takes a simple procedure to clear their air passage way and to start their breathing, but few know how to do it.  This is a wonderful program and the Church is paying and sponsoring this training in many undeveloped countries all over the world.  We will also be attending and assisting with another Neonatal Resuscitation training program in Zambia later this summer.

The Bentley’s and their family have done a lot of humanitarian work on their own in Africa and South America.  We meet so many interesting and wonderful generous people involved in humanitarian work.  It is a blessing to know these people and see what is being done, not only by the church, but by individuals who are giving up their time and personal money to help others. 

We had a wonderful busy time with the Bentleys and when all was in place for the upcoming training we took them to Antelope Park, for a little sight-seeing in Zimbabwe.  This is a great park and we all rode on an elephant and walked with the Lions.  We met with a park ranger prior to walking with the lions and she explained and warned us of what not do while walking with the lions.  One warning was to not cross in front of them, especially if they are lying down, but to always approach from the back and kneel down on one knee to pet them, so you can make a fast get away. Always watch your back if they are behind you. We then went to a big fenced in enclosure where four lions were waiting for us. We were all given a big stick to carry, but we wondered how effective a big wooden stick would be against a lion attack.  Maybe you use it on yourself so you are unconscious while being eaten. Actually it is to hold out in front of you and give a stern command, if they decide to turn on you.  You should never run, but stand your ground, or they will think you are some kind of game animal and will surely bring you down. Also we were told not to wear anything that dangled down, like a sash, necklace, belt or whatever, anything that would pique their curiosity. The rangers do not carry guns and that was a little disconcerting, because also only had wooden sticks.  They are not full grown lions, but are about 14 to 16 months old, but age doesn’t matter, they were wild, big and powerful and plenty big enough to inflict harm. They ran wild all around us.


This can not turn out well.

I had a scary thing happen, one of the lions came running by and then stopped and laid down in front of me, the ranger asked me if I would like to pet it.  Of course I wouldn’t, but on the chance that I might look bad In front of the others; I approached it from the rear, knelt down on one knee and carefully petted it on the back, I did not enjoy it.  When I went to get up, I stepped on some loose rock and my feet slipped out from under me and I fell hard on my bottom, nearly on top of the lion.  It appeared to be more frightened than I was and jumped straight up and took off like a shot and, of course, Elder Bean loved it, but I was really scared, it would not have been good to fall on it. It was exciting though, and I bought a T-shirt saying that I had walked with the Lions.  There were about 10 people on the walk and I was surprised how the lions ran close by us, around us and through us and fought and played with each other and how easy it would be for one or all of them to really attack someone.  The rangers appeared to be in control, although the lions did what they wanted to and I wondered how in control the rangers really were. When the lions are fully grown they are released into the wild. We asked if they were taught how to hunt. The rangers said teaching a lion how to hunt is like teaching a person how to breathe.  They just know how to do it from birth, no one teaches them. 

After the lion walk we decided riding an elephant was not as risky.  It was fun to ride one, but they have a hard spine running down the center of their back and it was not too comfortable being bounced up and down on it, especially as I was tender from the fall.  They are huge and we rode single file.  They kept tossing their trunks back so we could feed them. We had some sort of oats and would put it in their trunk They begged for food all while we rode and kept their trunks back over top of their shoulder and close to our lap.  I kept thinking that trunk could just whisk us off their back and throw us in the air, in a flash.  When we disembarked, they let us feed them.  Their trunk is so amazing. They are very smart.  I am reading a book now called The Elephant Whisperer and it really makes you realize how smart they are.


We have a busy schedule ahead of us for the next two months.  We have three branch conferences that we will speak and teach at, as well as other projects to complete and start.  The mission will also hold a couples conference the middle of May.  This will be held at a place called Kariba/Manipools which is supposed to be 
a beautiful area, with a game drive, a boat cruise and is considered a much desired place to visit.

Our big water project in Goromonzi is now completed and we have just held three separate hygiene and sanitation graduations associated with this.  Graduates of the course received a certificate with their name on it, a hygiene kit and two long bars of soap This was to acknowledge and congratulate them for their completion of the 8 week course. We arranged a nice program at each graduation site with music, speeches, dancing and skits.  We handed out biscuits and soda for 1,815 individual families.  A man from one of the villages was so proud of the certificate he received, he said to us,” no one in our village has ever earned a graduation certificate before and I am so proud and so is my village.” It has helped so many, not just with the knowledge of their training, but with self esteem, confidence and the respect of the people in their village.  The blue shirt people are given much respect. It was a good idea to provide T-shirts for our trainers and volunteer trainers, and helpers.  It seems to give them some sort of status.

At the end of the week we held the water handover for the 14 new boreholes and the 16 rehabilitated ones We had many dignitaries in attendance, as well as President and Sister Dube, our mission president and wife.  Speeches were made, skits were preformed demonstrating how to wash your hands, dig pit latrines and other sanitation methods,  We watched some wonderful African dancing, and even participated in a few.  Each one of our training groups participated in the program with singing about sanitation issues.  One group danced in singing “LDS - number one” over and over.   They sang directly to us. We didn’t understand the rest since it was sung in Shona, but our interpreter said they were praising and thanking the Church over and over.

Handwashing Skit
Elder Bean asked our “blue shirt people”, along with the mission president and his wife and the Beans to sing “As I have Loved You”  to the huge crowd.  We thought we should also provide a little entertainment for the event.  The people seemed to like it; at least they didn’t laugh or boo, but clapped for us.  We figured there were approx 900 to 1,000 people there to celebrate the handover.

This is always a big deal for the villages.  There was music in the background.  The Member of Parliament over the district provided food for everyone, which was surprising.  We couldn’t believe that all those people were actually fed. The meal was chicken, rice, sudza and cold slaw, and was served on real plates, not paper.  The women from the villages cooked and served the food and somehow managed to gather together all the plates in the villages to serve our food on.  This will set a very high standard for the Relief Societies back home, it shows that it is possible to feed way over a thousand people, outdoors, cooking on a small outdoor primitive stove with a fire burning under it and then serve it on real plates. Amazing!!!

Cooking for thousands

Road Crew
The celebration was held at just one borehole and the local villagers had decorated it and placed ribbon around the fence, so we could hold an official ribbon cutting ceremony. The scissors even was decorated with a big blue bow.  President Dube, our mission president and his wife, and Elder and Sister Bean, along with many dignitaries, cut the ribbon to loud cheers and clapping and dancing. We pumped the handle and clean water came out and there was more cheering and clapping. The boreholes now will belong to all the villages and is their responsibility to take care of them.  

The next day a final training session was held for 14 people, selected as pump minders, and trained in how to maintain the pump, if it should someday have problems.  We are glad the celebrations were such a success. These celebrations and graduations are so much fun and are wonderful to attend, but they are always a lot of work, they take many days, weeks, and many hours of planning and a lot of running, buying, organizing and hauling things around to put these plans in place.  It also involved the help of many people. It was so wonderful to be there and see all the people that benefited from this project. Sometimes, I can hardly believe that we are so blessed as to be able to actually participate in and see the results of what clean water means to the people here. 

We are trying to find time to go to Malawi again for distribution of wheelchairs and to also look for another 
good project, since we have a budget for that country and would like to find a good project to help them.

We attended a three hour meeting in an area called Centenary. This is the area where we are having a little trouble with our borehole drilling.  The meeting was with the Muzarabani district, who wanted an update on our water and latrine projects.  We were the only white people there and we sat for three hours on a hard bench, while the only language spoken was Shona. We did not understand one word.  Elder Bean whispered to me that he thought he was getting a pressure sore.  We were last on the program and it took about two minutes to make our presentation. It was really awful.  We didn’t understand a word and I spent most of my time watching and keeping track of a large spider crawling up a crack on the far wall.

We are researching areas to start a new water and training project.  We hope to do two more large ones before we leave to go home. We also checked on the poultry project we are doing to help an orphanage. We are supplying the fencing materials, a roof for the coop, the chicks, when things are ready for them, and a few months of feed. We also purchased a heating unit to keep the baby chicks warm and a freezer for later when they are ready to be sold to the market.  The orphans are so sweet. when our truck drives up, they all hurry out of the huts or wherever they are and stand in a bunch.  They will not approach us, or ask for anything, but wait patiently for me to bring sweets from the truck to give out. The women, who take care of the orphans, told us the kids know that we will bring sweets, but will never ask for them. They just wait silently until we bring the candy to them, then they bow and clap their hands in thanks. We also give sweets to the women too, who love the sweets as much as the kids.  The people at the orphanage always send us home with something, like tomatoes, eggs, live chickens, which we thank them for, but tell them we do not have any place to keep chickens. We would like them to keep the food to feed the kids, but it would hurt their feelings if we didn’t take it, so we distribute it to whomever we think could use it.

Children at Orphanage
In April, the Church will do another neonatal training seminar in Zambia, so we will get an opportunity to go there.  We are responsible for humanitarian aid in this country also, but so far have not had the time to go there.  This should be interesting and will be fun to see another country and to assist again in this great program.  The capital is Lusaka and the training will be held there.  Lusaka will be the location of the new mission home for the mission that will be formed in July.  We understand the new mission president has already been called.  This will be wonderful for President Dube as he is spending so much time handling the work and problems in three different countries.  He will then just have Zimbabwe to take care of.

We are still having a few problems with our water project in the area called Muzarabani. There is a culture of stealing here because the poverty is so great, so workmen and others have to be watched very carefully when they are doing a job for us.  Some would feel it was OK to put in old used pipes, cylinders, rods  and other parts, that they have stolen from a broken down borehole and, tell us they used the money to buy new parts and pocket the rest, We hire a site monitor to watch carefully when the boreholes are drilled and  fitted.   The good part is that we have supplied clean water for a large amount of people.  The people living there are in desperate need of water, since most NGO’s will not drill up there, and it is very expensive to get your rig there and because of the sandy soil, the sand just keeps pouring back into the hole, so the hole has to be double cased and flushed out if the sand collapses in it.  We have supplied them with 17 working boreholes with good clean water. Our plan was for 24 boreholes, but the other seven holes were dry. So even though many times, we have been discouraged and have threatened to give up and pull out, we have at least done a lot of good. We have been told in order to get water from those dry holes, we may have to have them dynamited; we are trying to decide whether to take that risk. It is very expensive to drill a borehole and then find there is no water.  We are going to send our water douser up there to make sure there really is water in that area or if it is a hopeless situation. We have to decide to either try again or to just cut our losses and leave.  It is such a dry, hot, sandy, remote, politically sensitive, expensive place to drill; we sometimes feel like giving up, but for these very reasons the people there have been neglected and are very desperate for water. There is a lot of water borne diseases in that area, so when our douser comes back with his report and it is or is not promising, we will make a decision.

We have also just heard that there is severe flooding in northern Malawi and are investigating what the Church should do, if anything.  The mission president wants us to help if possible.  There is no Church presence in that area yet and so it would be good to help and also to have people aware of the Church’s contribution for future missionary activity.

We have many challenges ahead, but are enjoying the work and the people and missing home as well.

Love Elder and Sister Bean