Monday, April 27, 2009

Opening Doors with Donation of Medical Supplies

Poduct Donation from Smith & Nephew and GlaxoSmithKline

Project HOPE is known for its ability to effectively procure and distribute needed medicines and medical supply donations with high levels of accountability. We call this Gifts-In-Kind or GIK for short. It can act as a great introduction when one is beginning work in a new country.

In South Africa the Ministry of Health spends the largest portion of its budget on procuring drugs and medical equipment for the country’s patients. Therefore any donations are very welcome, and in fact are relied upon to make sure that the people living in South Africa have access to healthcare when they need it.

Project HOPE UK had been working for a number of months to get product valued at £200,000 (more than $293,000) from S&N and GSK to South Africa. After a few weeks on a ship and it passing through customs it arrived at our container warehouse from where it is being stored and distributed throughout West Rand to NGOs and clinics benefiting the community which we serve. Some of the itmes include peak flow meters, blood pressure monitors, scales, blankets, tissues, gloves, crutches, bandages and more.

To show our appreciation we had a ceremony inviting the South African representatives of GSK and S&N as well as the Executive Mayor of West Rand District, representatives from the West Rand Ministry of Health and other NGO beneficiaires including our partner The Haven.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The first couple weeks...Setting up office in South Africa

I have lived in Africa for a few years, so coming here I didn’t anticipate too many problems immersing myself into South African life. But I have been living in London for 2 years and Portugal before that so I have been away for a while, and I guess you forget certain things that are not applicable to the country that you are living in at the time.

You’ve heard of the saying, “what came first? The chicken or the egg?” The past couple of weeks have been trying to figure out what needs to be done first – I need a phone, but I can't get one until I have a bank account which I can not get until I have updated the registration documents for Project HOPE. I can't do that until I have a place to live and so it goes on!

I arrived and wanted immediately to start sprinting, getting it all done. By the end of the second night, I realised I was back in Africa, not London and things dont happen that fast. An old mentor of mine years ago when I first arrived gave me a piece of wisdom that has proven so true here, “life here is not a 100m sprint, but an ultra-marathon.” In other words things move slowly here, and we need to adapt to that too. I’m adjusting back to that mentality.

The other thing that I had forgotten about was to do with culture and shame. When someone is struggling with something, they wont admit it and ask for help, but carry on as if nothing is wrong. To ask for help is to admit failure and that is viewed as shameful. This plays itself out in meeting with my staff. I will be explaining something and then ask if they have any questions. The answer most of the time is no. I ask if they understand and they say yes. Yet I have realised very quickly that they did not get what I was saying (this is not because they are dumb, but rather a combination of English as a second/third language for them, plus me talking too fast, plus assuming that what is said in English translates exactly into their own languages!). So now instead of assuming that they understand I ask them questions to make sure. There is a great book called “African Friends and Money Matters” written by David Maranz on cultural differences between westerners and Africans. I read it along time ago, I must re-read it again soon!

Enough for now. I’ll write more later! Stefan

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Our Program Site in South Africa

As you can see from the picture we are based at the moment out of a container office in the middle of a township called Munsieville. Munsieville’s most famous resident was the Archbishop Desmond Tutu (Nobel Peace Prize Winner) who went to school there. Munsieville is situated in the Mogale City Municipality and the West Rand District of Gauteng Province, South Africa. The whole area has been a target for African population movement over the last few decades drawing people from all over the continent to come work in the mining industry. At the peak of the “gold rush” many immigrants (predominantly males) found lucrative work, and over time brought their families from their home countries. However, with the downscaling of the mining industry, thousands of people have become unemployed. Formal rates of unemployment exceed 30%, with estimates up to 70% for the informal settlements. This is continuing with the shedding of jobs due to the current global financial crisis. With the rapid rise in food prices and tightening of credit availability, thousands of people are facing increased hardship. Even though many immigrants are now facing unemployment, the majority are not returning home, but staying in South Africa, as they have been in the country for multiple years.

Munsieville has two parts – a formal part and an informal part. In the formal part many South African residents live in low cost concrete houses to which services such as water and electricity are supplied. The informal part is made up of predominantly foreigners living in the country illegally – mainly Mozambicans and Zimbabweans. They live in shacks made from scraps of wood, plastic and metal. They have no electricity, water or sanitation services provided. Disease is prevalent in the area and unemployment is high. As they are in the country illegally many cannot access any form of healthcare, education or social service grants because they have no formal identification documents.

If you want to read more on the history of Munsieville you can follow the link:

Keep on checking this blog to see how Project HOPE is meeting some of the many needs in this area!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Welcome to Project HOPE in South Africa! Meet the Staff

It's taken a long time, but finally Project HOPE has arrived in South Africa! Project HOPE in partnership with Project HOPE UK is setting up a country office in the West Rand District, on the outskirts of Johannesburg. Over the coming months, I (Stefan – the new Country Director) will be sharing my thoughts, feelings, experiences of what it is like to set up a new office, try to strategise and focus on specific need areas, implement programs and generally try to make you feel part of what Project HOPE is trying to do here! So enjoy!

Our Staff

At the moment Project HOPE in South Africa has 4 staff members – 2 full time and 2 part-time. Here is a little bit about each of them:

Betty Nkoana – Betty was born in the West Rand District and has been living in Randfontein for 27 years. Her husband is a retired pastor and she has 4 children of her own and has also adopted her sisters 1 child. Betty is muli-lingual speaking English, Xhosa, Tswana, Zulu, Sotho, and Shangan. Betty has been working for PH since last November, and before that was employed by the Haven (our partner here) to run a small Village Savings and Loans VSL) program that was funded through UK donors. Betty is our VSL Project Officer and has been overseeing the formation of the groups as well as supervising our two part time staff members.

Eva Mogopodi – Eva comes from Munsieville and is a native Tswana speaker. Her husband is a local pastor and she has 3 children. She is one of our part time volunteers who predominantly oversees the Tswana speaking VSL groups and is passionate about helping orphaned and vulnerable children

Engeliniah Mogebisa – Engeline came from Limpopo Province, but moved to Munsieville 3 years ago. Her husband is a traffic officer and they have 2 children. Engeline speaks fluent English and Shangan and oversees the Shangan speaking VSL groups.

Stefan Lawson – I am the new PH Country Director here in South Africa. I love Africa and I love my job! After school I came to Mozambique and for the most part have been on the continent ever since. I met my wife Jenni in Maputo and we have a son aged 2.5 called Sam and another baby due at the beginning of May. It's my job to build our portfolio of programs with lots of help from my great colleagues around the world here in South Africa starting in the West Rand and expanding outwards throughout the country.