My first week in Katima

This is a photo of the bridge between Namibia and Zambia at Katima Mulilo. This particular spot is called “Stone City” because when the water is low (around September/October), the bushes you see currently in the river are trees that sit on rock islands and this is where people come to hang out, have a picnic and cool off. Right now it is totally underwater, so we can only imagine what it will look like.

Here is a map of the regions of Namibia. See the little grey part sticking out up top? That’s the Caprivi strip and if you look out near the end of it, you will see a dot. That’s Katima Mulilo. The Caprivi region is bordered by Angola, Zambia, and Botswana and it’s very edge touches Zimbabwe right where Victoria Falls is. If you know anything about the spread of HIV & AIDS in Africa, you may recognize that such a border area is a likely hotbed of all the behaviors that lead to the spread of the disease. And indeed it is so, with the HIV prevalence rate in Caprivi reported at 35.5% of the population according to a 2010 survey by the Namibian Ministry of Health and Social Services. That is why VSO Namibia is working in the area of HIV & AIDS up here and that is why I am volunteering here. My work is to help build the capacity of Caprivi Hope for Life, one of the stronger local organizations working on the issue. One of the organization’s goals is to have the capacity to apply for, and be awarded, grants from USAID. This requires a very high standard of administration and financial management. The reporting requirements for USAID are insane. But if CHfL can meet that standard, then they will be able to meet standards for the Global Fund or the EU or other major funders.

Is this achievable in the year I will be here? That might be too ambitious. But I would really like to see them very close or well on their way towards that.

I spent my first week at Caprivi Hope for Life in a training session on Data Quality Management. The data geek in me loved that and the OD consultant in me picked up some useful information about the issues at CHfL and some of the interpersonal dynamics. Then we moved office – packed things up, loaded a truck (several times), unloaded a few blocks away and set up the new office. It was done fairly efficiently except that we brought everything with us, including a bunch of what is surely trash. And we don’t yet have our phones reconnected. Ah well.

Next week, our Technical Manager from our major funder is coming and we will go out to the field to see our projects in action. I’m hoping it’s “we” because I really want to get out and meet our Promoters and see what they are up to – and see village life in Namibia.

I am currently staying in a guest room at the Cheshire Home for children with disabilities, where another volunteer works. It’s a nice place. I’ll take some photos and do a separate post on that. Hopefully CHfL will find a house for me soon because Cheshire is quite a long way away from both work and town and I’m spending too much money on taxis. . .


About Seth Longacre

primal health coach, vision fast guide, itinerant discalced Episcopal Deacon, barefoot runner, photographer, spiritual director, yoga teacher, minimalist, pilgrim
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