Thursday, April 14, 2011

August 2009 (2 years in 20 days continued)

Pictured: Igoda Community Hall construction progress- August 2009

CHILDREN’S VILLAGE (ORPHANAGE): We now have three houses in operation, and at capacity with 11-12 children in each house. There are 10 girls and 24 boys. This year we have seen a slight change in the usage of the Children’s Village (Orphanage) from the community. There are several examples of 'foster-care' type situations now here, where the family has asked that a child stay with us while they adjust their home situation, i.e. build a new home, fix up their living quarters, or get a more regular income organized through farming, or finding employment. This month we welcomed 4 children from a family from Luhunga village who lived in one of the worst living conditions imaginable in the village. The Mother and Father have just recently had their health improve as they receive their treatment for HIV/AIDS, and they are building a new house for the kids to return to at the end of the year. We've had several situations already where a child or children have returned home after some time at our center, and have made a smooth transition back to village life. This is important as we are encouraged that although the children have a good life in our center, they are not forgetting their culture, and the environment of village life, and they WILL be able to return to the village when they reach an older age.

COMMUNITY OUTREACH: Our Community Outreach program is a project designed to address our first goal for care for Orphans- that of caring for children as they live in the village, by supporting them and their families. This has included the dispensing of basic needs such as blankets, clothes, soap, and school supplies to those families in most need, and especially those caring for Orphans in the villages in our area. In addition to this, we are starting some income generating projects for these families so they can have some self-sustainable income in order to provide for their families. Our communications with local leaders in the village has become even closer this month. We have been in contact with the Ward Executive officer of Luhunga ward (WEO- Filipo Mgovano) who has connected us with the committees already formed in each village that meet regularly to discuss the issues of Orphans and vulnerable children- children living in difficult environments. Our community outreach/orphanage manager, Jenny Peck, has opened conversations with these committees (there is one in each village) and has been working with these committees to see how our NGO can fit into the community and work under these committees. As we continue, these committees will be vital for our services as an NGO and will insure that our services are being utilized appropriately, and that those most in need are getting access to our services. Peck, has also created a form that will be filled out in order to take a family history of each family in need in the village. This has been looked at as a great idea by the members of the village committee in Luhunga, and will be used by its members to assess the various family situations. This will lead to the NGO getting all of the information it needs from a reliable source- people living in each of the villages. Also this month, members of the Seventh Day Adventist church in the village invited Peck to be a member (the secretary) on their board for community outreach. One idea already discussed is the church members deciding together to go out into the village each weekend to re-thatch a roof of a grandfather or grandmother who may be ill or otherwise unable to fix their homes by themselves. This is a wonderful development, and on honor for the NGO to be invited to join into this community group to take part in such a great cause. Income Generation continues to be a main priority of Community Outreach, and ideas for future projects (such as our Chicken Banda project) will undoubtedly come out of these close connections with the community.


Mdabulo CTC
The Mdabulo Counseling and Treatment Center is potentially the most impactful project the NGO is currently undertaking in terms of literally saving lives. The building has the sole specific purpose for the treatment of HIV/AIDS. To give an idea of the need for this building- two times each month the staff from the closest facility of its kind (over 50km away in the town of Mafinga) comes to give partial CTC services. Each visit, which lasts from 6 to 10 hours, is met with over 300 patients arriving to be treated. When completed, the building will give full-time services, and the desperately needed full-time prevention methods of education and testing that have the potential to completely alter the devastating toll this disease is taking on the people of this area. All outside construction is now complete for the building of our CTC. Outside cement plastering, and pebble-dashing ('chupping') has been completed, as has all cement plastering on all inside walls. After the floors are complete, ALL masonry work will be finished, and plumbing, electric wiring, carpentry work, painting and finishing, will be all that remains before the building may be opened. When the CTC opens, it will be important to know how big the problem of HIV/AIDS really is in our area, and then perhaps a few years from now we may see what impact the building has had on the pandemic in our community. Currently working to get an idea on the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in our area are our two temporary volunteers, Will Metcalfe and Vicky Milne, who will be here until the middle of September. Since their arrival they have been taken to have meetings with local leaders in the village, health workers in Mdabulo, and Luhunga, and we have all arrived at the District Medical Officer's (Dr. Christopher Jakoracha) office in Mafinga twice to discuss a possible way to sensitively address this issue. After coming up with several different methods, we have finally started on an acceptable way of running our project- The HIV Prevalence Project. With local permission, the volunteers will compile numbers of patients (with names omitted) from Mdabulo, and Lugoda CTC (a private Hospital over 50km away where some patients receive treatment) to see what percentage of people who come to be tested are HIV positive. This will at least give us some idea of how prevalent the disease in our area is, as estimates are quite high when compared to the Mufindi district number set by the National campaign for testing at the end of last year (15.9%). Earlier this year Form 4 students who were working on their graduation project, did a study on HIV in the area, and got informal estimates from Dr. Ndenga of 45% prevalence from those who come to Mdabulo to be tested, and 60% prevalence for women who give birth at the Dispensary. What we know about HIV already points to the facts that our area is indeed most likely the most hardest hit in the country by the AIDS pandemic. Iringa Region is rated as having the highest prevalence in the nation, and within the region, Mufindi district is most prevalent. According to numbers from the district offices, Luhunga ward is one of the top 5 wards (administrative areas with 5-7 villages) with the highest population of orphaned children, and the other wards with highest orphaned population all are neighboring wards in our area. The most predominant reason for the orphaned children, according to the social welfare office in Mufindi, is the prevalence of AIDS. As Tanzania is consistently one of the world's most affected countries by HIV/AIDS, it is no exaggeration that this building is being placed in one of the most highly affected areas in the entire world by the HIV/AIDS pandemic. All of this emphasizes the importance project, and the immense impact it will have on the community.

Ibwanzi and Chogo Health Care Facilities
In 2007, the Tanzanian Government at the National level stated a goal of having each village equipped with a Dispensary, and each ward a health center. On September 14, 2009, Ibwanzi Dispensary will be officially upgraded to a Health Center, giving Ihanu ward its Health Center. Not only will in-patient service start at the facility, but more staff will be placed there, and it will become the central location for medications to be given out to all of the neighboring dispensaries. Now, we have embarked on our 3rd health care facility renovation location in the isolated, very remote village of Chogo. Similarly to Ibwanzi Dispensary, currently the staff at the dispensary consists of only 2 nurses, and the area surrounding the Dispensary is in dire need of basic health care needs. Chogo village is located over 100 kilometers from the closest town (and closest Hospital) of Mafinga. With the success of our Ibwanzi project, we feel that making a similar (but smaller) addition to the Chogo Dispensary, will greatly improve the overall health care of this isolated area. This addition to Chogo Dispensary will not only allow for in-patient services at the facility, it will also mean more staff provided by the government, as is the case at Ibwanzi. Hopefully, fundraising efforts may be more focused and specifically allocated funds for this project can speed up the process of construction for this project.


Igoda Primary School Library
Yusto chumi continues to be teaching well at the Igoda Primary school library. Currently, the students from the upper classes (Standard 3 and above) are learning English through reading Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. The methods used in teaching are that of a combination of story-telling, and a 'teach-English' program designed to follow what is learned in the Tanzanian English subject syllabus. The proof of the library's success came out this month as results from the National Mock Exams were released, and Igoda students scored highest in the ward with regards to English scores! Igoda Primary School Community Hall Another project currently under construction at the school is a large Community Hall that will stage shows, and educational events for the village and surrounding area, to enable HIV+ members from the community to educate everyone about the prevention of this fatal disease. The building is designed to host events for hundreds of people at a time, and the local authorities have informed us that the building will be a focal point in the area. At the end of August, all of the masonry work, including the floor has been finished. The painting phase has begun, as all of the roofing has been painted. Some serious carpentry work remains, including the back walls extension, and the stage.

Luhunga Secondary School Library
As the students from Igoda Primary will be accustomed to using a library by the time they graduate on to Luhunga Secondary school, there seems to be a need to build a facility to keep the school resources and reading books. Currently, all foundations including the veranda are completed, and outside brick work has already started. Carpenters are working on the window and door frames, and plans are in place to get this facility running water, and electricity wired over from the solar panels received last year. This building promises to be a perfect learning facility to improve the quality of education at the school.

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