November 27, 2006

Here are some more photos,

This is Chinoya, my boss and the rest of the YDF lot outside my house:




One good week, one bad week

November 23, 2006

YDF workshop prioritisation exercise

Last week I had a really good week at work. This week was really frustrating. There wasn’t really any obvious difference between them and the weathers cooled down so I should be happier. But I think it’s the realisation that however talented and motivated they are, and whatever the quality of the fundraising applications we write, there is a limited pot of money and an unlimited number of organisations trying to get it.

I began last week by establishing committees to look at all of YDF’s programmes for 2007, and their fundraising work. Loads of people signed up to them, and most of them turned up to the meetings. They wanted assignments to do for the next week and most of them had finished these before the next meetings.

On Saturday morning they had agreed to come to my house for a workshop, where I could get to know where the organisation wants to be in a year and their needs. 15 of them turned up and participated really well. Reassuringly they didn’t bring up anything too new, and seemed sold on the idea of focusing on a few achievable objectives for this year. In a short session on fundraising, they came out with pretty much everything I know (this added to the fact they’ve written some pretty decent applications) left me thinking my job would just be to edit these into better English. Great!

This week I realise that my job isn’t going to be just editing their funding applications. There is a big gap between their knowledge of the issues, and their knowledge of how to run programmes. More specifically, the few people who do know how to run an organisation are busy going to network meetings, so I’m working with people just out of school who haven’t had a job before. Unfortunately I have to spend lots of times talking about being SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound). I’m hoping to introduce some more acronyms to keep it interesting.

There’s more jargon here than you can shake a stick at so it can seem that they’re light years ahead in their thinking. For example 18 year olds will often talk about participation, facilitation, empowerment, corporate strategic plans, sensitisation etc. etc. But scratch the surface and there is often no substance to this talk. I’ve sent off my first funding application for a couple of computers and internet connection designated for young women in Chipata so we’ll see how that goes. After that I’m going to attempt to tap up all the Embassies.


November 6, 2006



We’re living in Chipata, the capital of the Eastern Province of Zambia. So far I really like it. Its big enough to have everything you need, and not so big as to have all the problems of an urban centre.

Depending on where you draw the boundaries, Chipata has around 350,000 people living here. Most of the people are Zambians with a few thousand Muslim Indians, and a handful of us Muzungus.



There are busy markets, a Shoprite (South African supermarket chain) and a collection of shops in ‘The Downs’, a few streets which look like something out of the Wild West. These sell anything and everything and the Indian owners have been here for around four generations. Tradesmen can also be seen moulding bricks and making furniture on the roadside. However unemployment levels are high, and there are lots of people whose days seem to lack any structure.

One of the noticeable things about Chipata is the amount of space. There aren’t the same high-density slums you would get in Lusaka or other capital cities. It even has a golf course of sorts! Cross the border to Malawi 20km away and you notice much greater land pressure.

Chipata is in a valley surrounded by hills. About an hour away is South Luangwa National Park, by all accounts one of Africa’s best safari parks. It’s currently the height of summer here and temperatures hit 35 degrees everyday. In a couple of weeks the rainy season will come. For four months or so, there will be torrential rain every afternoon and travelling will become much harder.

Most people travel on foot. If they’re bringing goods into town to sell they stack them high on the back of a bicycle and walk, sometimes for a couple of days. It’s common to see a live chicken, goat or pig on the back of a bicycle, or 2-3 human passengers. Cars are owned by a small number of businessmen, tourists and development workers and travel through at about 70 miles an hour.

Formerly Fort Jameson, Chipata was the regional post for British colonialists. It’s border location has led to the growth of a sizeable town since independence. It’s going for city status by 2010.

As I said I really like it so far. While the poverty and other problems are evident, as a privileged Westerner it’s pretty nice living here.

Where I work

November 2, 2006

1940 Building where I work

I’ve been working for a few days at my organisation now, the Youth Development Foundation (YDF). They are located in a really nice old colonial building.





Sharing a small office with one computer with another organisation, the capacity to get much done is quite limited. But then there isn’t a huge amount to do at the moment anyway. For the elections last month, YDF ran education and registration campaigns in the District in an attempt to increase turnout.


The members of YDF are all really nice, bright young people with massive potential. Two of them find out next month if they have got into the University of Zambia. Their names will be published in the paper if they were successful. The lack of study or work opportunities, has left them attempting to do something to improve their situation. And this is a common past-time in Chipata. There seem to be a limitless number of organisations working on poverty, AIDS, food security, gender…..But at the moment, most NGOs including mine don’t seem to do a massive amount.


This isn’t really surprising considering they have no money, very few resources and there isn’t a single paid member of staff.


My job for the year is to work with YDF to create sustainable sources of funding.


The most interesting schemes so far are potential income generating activities. I am looking into small-scale solar panels for use in remote rural areas and rubbish collection and recycling schemes as businesses to raise money for the activities of YDF.


It’s a bad idea trying to approach things the way you would in the UK. The logic just doesn’t translate. Instead it seems you just have to keep trying new approaches and see what works.