December 15, 2010

The Little Things

A few weeks ago I was at a Peace Corps Training. It was the best PC training that I have been to yet during my service. Generally with PC training workshops you bring a village counterpart that is supposed to help you bring the things you learned back to the village that way there are two people within the village that are equipped with the knowledge and so that when you leave the village after your two years are through the knowledge remains.
This most recent workshop was our Pepfar workshop. Pepfar stands for Presidents Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief. It was developed by President Bush and the reasons for which it was created are all in the name. People had a lot of problems with Pepfar when it first came to fruition but slowly the kinks are getting worked out. However regardless or how you feel or felt about Pepfar now or then please realize this program has done amazing things for all of Africa and especially Zambia. According to my our trainer, who came to Zambia from the UK in 2003, the only people who had access to ARVs were very wealthy people living in Lusaka. Now only 7 years later all due to the funds provided by Pepfar 350,000 people are on them. To many Americans that does not seem like a large number when you consider that it is a country of approximately 11 million people and the amount of money that the US government has been pumping into Zambia. However, when you also take into consideration that this is a developing country with a crumbling infrastructure, unreliable transport and government corruption 350,000 people is a HUGE amount of people.
ARVs are the drugs that are given to people living with HIV (PLWH) to help them keep their viral load down. A low viral load means that their less likely to infect their partners which also helps keep PLWH numbers down in Zambia. 350,000 is a large number. A lower viral load means that it is less likely that a mother would pass the virus on to her child while in the womb or during breast feeding. 350,000 is a large number. A lower viral load means that people will live longer to see their children and the world change around them. Again, when we are talking about the number of lives that have been dramatically changed 350,000 is a large number.
Pepfar funds 75% of anything HIV/AIDS related in Zambia. Non-profits helping PLWH, support groups that help people get the medication or teach them better nutrition...anything HIV/AIDS related you support 75% of! You should feel proud.
During the training we tried to do multiple activities that we could bring back to our villages to help people maintain a positive attitude. One of these activities was something in which we did a life plan goal list. The purpose was two fold. One to help people remember their goal so that they could stay focused and reach them. And secondly, to help people remember that they did have something to live for. They had things that they wanted to achieve for themselves and for their children. Everyone got a piece of paper and a marker and we were supposed to draw pictures of things that we wanted to do in the next three years.
Going around the room all of the PCVs drew pictures of college and a family and places they wanted to travel and cars and houses they hoped to own in the future. Big elaborate plans that our society has set us up to expect. Forgetting all about all of the things that we have started to take for granted. Our counterparts take nothing for granted though. They drew pictures of food and mud houses with tin roofs. They drew pictures of they children going to school. And during describing their goals they left nothing out..."this is the house that I would like to some day have with a tin roof so that it won't leak and my children will be healthier because there will not be mold and they will not be wet when they sleep." ..."These are my children, a boy and a girl. Only two because I want to be able to feed them year round. And they are healthy." ..."These are my children going to school so that they can learn to read and write since I did not get to." ..."This is my field of corn, it is bigger than lasts years and will hopefully get bigger every year so that I can try to give a better life to my family a little bit at a time."
Made me realize how big picture Americans are and how much we forget about along the way. Sure in America college and grad school are great goal, but it wouldn't be a terrible thing to say that all I want out of the next three years is to have food on my plate at every meal and a dry place to sleep every night. Does not sound too bad to me.

All misfortune is but a stepping stone to fortune.
-- Henry David Thoreau

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