Monday, November 9, 2009

Food Gardening Update

It's been a while since I last wrote about our pilot food gardening project in Munsieville. To be honest, at the beginning I was a little bit apprehensive because I wasn’t sure if people would remain enthusiastic or if they would quickly loose interest after we handed it over to the community.

All my fears have been laid to rest! I am so proud of our group of women and men who took on this challenge. It's not just a gardening challenge, but it is also a direct challenge against the hand-out mentality that is rife in the community. These guys are a light to the rest of the community. When people grasp the right vision, it can create such a powerful movement that very quickly it begins to indirectly impact people outside the program looking in and seeing what’s going on.

We have created 23 gardens, plus the keyhole garden and all are doing really well. We planted potatoes, butternut, maize, carrots, beetroot, runner beans, tomatoes, water-melons and pumpkins. The rains have now arrived and with our terracing technique we have managed to prevent the top-soil from being washed away.

If everything goes to plan in a few months time people will harvest a bumper crop that will benefit them nutritionally and any excess will be sold off providing an extra bit of income as well. In the mean time Project HOPE will keep monitoring the progress making sure that no pests attack the crops and will continue to provide help when needed.

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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Project HOPE Volunteers work in the West Rand

I had the pleasure of co-hosting a Project HOPE volunteer team from the U.S. for two weeks with the help of my colleague Andee from our headquarters in Millwood, Virginia. The team (profiles in the previous blog) came to carry out a comprehensive survey in Zanzele which is an informal settlement in the West Rand. Their first task was coming up with a sampling methodology which involved google maps, and some dice to determine the random houses that they were going to sample.

Armed with clip boards, scales, blood pressure machines, tape measures and a translator, they spent the best part of two weeks walking up and down Zanzele surveying people. The survey was designed to give us a comprehensive insight into life in the settlement. It asked a variety of questions from demographics, socio-economic, to health and well being. At the moment we are in the process of analysing the results which will determine the type of work that we undertake in the future.

The West Rand government on hearing that we were going to have this team requested that they spend a day doing a facility assessment. Volunteers Brian and Michelle spent the day with the EMS department and learnt that there is only one functioning public ambulance for the area, and Eric and Torrey spent the day at Bekkersdarl clinic which houses a maternity unit and is where most people from Zanzele walk to get treatment. The team used their experience to provide the government with a list of recommendations to improve service delivery to the area.

We were also asked by the government to provide a two day training on Chronic Diseases to the Community Health Care Workers (CHWs) that the government pays. We trained around 30 supervisors, who supervise a further 150 CHWs. They have received basic training on HIV and AIDS, TB and STIs but never anything on chronic diseases as this has not been a priority in the past. We were able to train them on food and nutrition, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and mental health. For many of them it was the first time that they had heard anything on this, so it was very fulfilling for the team to teach them basic tips on how to prevent and identify the diseases. These CHWs will now go and share the information that they received with the people that they supervise and in turn this will begin to benefit the wider community when these CHWs do their weekly door-to-door visits.

Overall the volunteer team made a huge impact in the lives of many people in the West Rand and both Project HOPE and the West Rand Government are thankful to them for the time, energy and expertise that they brought to the field.