Sunday, July 27, 2008

"Look at Me" Video

Graduates singing "Look at me! Look at me! I can read! I can write"

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Look at me! I can read! I can write!

It's Graduation Day in Malueka for those participating in the Literacy Program. They sang a song, "Look at me, Look at me, I can read, I can write."
Do you remember when you learned to read, how excited you were. Remember when your child learned to read and you saw their world open up to wonderful possibilites.

These women and men are celebrating their 9 months of effort to learn to read and write for the very first time. They are so excited to be able to accomplish something they have wanted to do all their lives. This is a result of a project conducted by Humana People to People and funded by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Malueka, the same neighborhood we reported on for the Family Health and Hygiene training also has been busy taking literacy classes. The classes were held in nighborhood churches and under mango trees in neighborhood yards. The project funded 200 people to learn to read and write in their native language of Lingala. No one was turned away who wanted to learn and the classes mushroomed to 500 participants. A community voluunteers were trained to teach the class by a professional teacher. Along with learning to read and write the classes used matereials supporting the strengthening of the communitysuch as health and Hygiene, ethics. etc. There were about 30 community teachers that taught 2 hour classes 3 days a week. Participants ranged from 15 yrs of age to 80 yrs of age. Most were woman but there were a few men.

When we visited a class we observed the students writing the letters in the sand, then writing the letters in the air, then writing the letters on the chalkboard in front of the class (with much cheering and encouragement) and then they would write the letter or word in their notebook.
One lady stood during the class and said, " Five weeks ago I could not read or write, but now I can read and write. Now I can help my children with there school work. I have always wanted to know how to read. Thank you for this gift."

We were touched by the joy we saw on all the participants faces. We attended the graduation for six classes of participants. It was a joyous occasion with a demonstration of their reading and writing. They performed a skit about a woman who got in to trouble because she couldn't read a letter that was sent to her. The skit went on to show that by being able to read many problems of our lives are solved and we can make decisions for ourselves.

Each participant was congratulated by the HPP leaders, the church missionaries, bishop of the church from the area and a representative of the Minister of Education who was over adult education. Some came up very reserved and tearfull while others clapped their hands and sang and danced.
An 80 yr old man spoke and told how all his life he had gone with out being able to read or write. He said that when he was young they drove the white man away and declared independence and now today here is a white man coming to help me learn to read and write. Now I can read just like my children and grandchildren.
What a choice experience to share with this community the gift of literacy. The community has taken on a new life with woman being proud of who they are and what they can accomplish.
Everyone was dressed in their best and many were dressed alike matching the class they were associated with.
"We are getting better. We are getting stronger. We are getting smarter," said one woman.
Humana People to People are a solid NGO with many partners. The church is in good company in their support of this organization and their programs for the community of Malueka.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Good changes are happening in Malueka!

Last Sept. a group called HPP Congo (Humana People to People, Congo) came and asked if the church would like to be their partner in helping mobilize a community. This is an international NGO that is trying to improve the quality of life of poor areas of the world by teaching communities independence. They have a 10 arm plan to implement into communities.
1. Hygiene and Sanitation
2. Security for children without parents
3. Pre-school
4. Strengthen the economy of families
5. Youth activity in political, social , cultural and economics
6. Education/ Literacy
7. District development
8. Safe and healthy envirnoment
9. Food Security
10. Limit Malaria

The HPP Team
The church agreed to fund two arms of the HPP program, Health and Hygiene and Literacy. The Health and Hygiene program started immediately and used the church's Family Health and Hygiene manual for training.
littered pathway family well
cooking facility
Malueka is a community of 4200 families. There is high unemployment rate and a lot of illiteracy. Most of the people speak Lingala only. Often the families have to choose which child to send to school as they can not afford to send them all. Families average 5 - 7 children. Water comes from family wells which are often contaminated and their is little knowledge of healthy living practices.
Coordinators Family Hygiene Class
HPP mobilized the community by calling family action group coordinators from the community and training them to be educators for the program. Two family action group coordinators became responsible for 10 families. They followed up with their families offering encouragement and helping them to see how to improve their families living conditions to reach a higher standard of living and there by avoiding illness and disease.

Health and Hygiene training for coordinators
This is a class conducted in Lingala by Rochelle (yellow sleeve shirt). She is an employee of HPP and is teaching the Family Coordinators how to teach the class. Most classes are held outside under the Mango tree at various places in the neighborhood.

The project required that each family in Malueka would revise their latrines to meet the minimal standards. They needed to have a door that would open and close and they needed to have a cement base with a cover for the hole to keep flies from entering the holes. Thirty latrines were funded for the project. The community groups voted which families would receive the latrines provided by the church funds. They were chosen as to their need and level of risk (widows, elderly, handicapped), etc. Those receiving the latrines had to provide the labor and if they were unable to do all the labor their neighbors pitched in and helped them there by learning to care for one another, learning to cooperate and learning how to be a community.

Latrine holes were dug deep enough to accommodate 2 ½ 50 gallon drums that had their tops and bottoms removed and were welded together in a tube. This would keep the holes from collapsing in the sand. The latrines were build of wood and covered with a galvanized medal roof. Note the pop bottle lids used as washers to secure the screws.

We observed the community making many changes because of the Family Health and Hygiene program. We saw yards being swept clean. Refuge pits were dug and used for disposing of garbage. Cooking areas were cleaned and sheds were built with a shelf to put cooking utensils up off the ground.

Washing stations were set up where people could wash their hands before cooking, eating or after using the latrine. Mothers were taught nutrition for their families and the importance of protein, carbohydrates and the need for a variety of foods to meet the needs for vitamins and minerals.

The before and after of the latrines.
The new latrines are easy to clean and have a cement base to stand on with a cement cover for the hole which is easily moved on and off the hole. UNICEF funded cement bases with covers for all 4200 families in the community.
This elderly woman was so excited to get a new latrine and was very appreciative of the Health and Hygiene training she was able to receive.
We had planned on giving Family Hygiene Kits to each family who received the new latrines. The community leaders had been so responsive and had worked so hard, volunteering many hours to the project and had been very responsive to their responsibilities. When we held our closing ceremony it was decided to give the kits to the Family Action Group Coordinators as a thank you for all their hard work. They were pleased and were grateful to have their efforts acknowledged. One coordinator spoke for all the leaders. She said, ”In five years (HPPs time frame for the mobilization of the community) Malueka will be a model community. We are learning to help each other. We are learning how to take better care of our children. We didn’t know what foods were important to our children. We now know that our children need protein every day. We know that we need to boil our drinking water to prevent getting sick. These hygiene kits are very much appreciated but the best thing in this kit is the bar of soap. That is what we will use the most, a bar of soap. Thank you for your help for our community.”

Who will benefit the most from this community raising their standard of living? The children will be the biggest beneficiaries.
This first Health and Hygiene project went so well and was so successful we were able to get the church to fund 50 more latrines.
More to come on Malueka as we are ready to close the Literacy project. We can't wait to report on it.
Things are changing in Malueka.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Gift of Mobility

Mobility is another thing that most of us take for granted. We jump in our car and drive to work, pick up some groceries or take the kids to school. We walk 3 miles for exercise and complain if we have to mow the lawn.

Mobility in Kinshasa is a daily task and quite an adventure as most people do not have cars and have to take commvies. (See past blog). Transportion is in high demand and many times we see people pushing and shoving to get on a bus or commvie so they can get to their destination in a timely manner. Many people just walk where ever they have to go and 10 miles is not a big deal.

If you are handicapped and unable to walk mobility is very limited. Imagine standing on the side of the road with 50 other people fighting to get transportation except you are on the ground on your hands and knees. Impossible!

The gift of mobility is priceless as most people can not afford the $330 to purchase a wheelchair. They don't even have a hope of ever affording a wheelchair for trasnportation. So that is why it is such a wonderful experience to see people given the opportunity for independence and mobility through the gift of a wheelchair.

This past week 21 wheelchairs given to people. That is 21 dreams came true. Twenty one people now have the freedom of mobility. These wheelchairs were a gift, a hand up for those whose hands were hanging down.

Anticipation is high as people wait for their name to be called.

What does this really mean to these recipients?

It means that fathers can take resposibility and help generate income to care for their famlies

It means mothers can go outside and play with their children and be independent in the care of their children.

It means opportunities to qualify for jobs they have up to now been unqualified for.

It means a person can be independent and care for themselves.

It means dignity and being lifted out of the desperation one can feel when they have no control over their own life.

It means a great deal to 21 people who received a gift of a wheelchair on July 8, 2008.