Thursday, May 24, 2007

Sew What?

So on the home front I have been working with sewing non-stop. First I helped our landlady and dear friend Mavis with her sewing orders. I didn’t do any of her sewing, just kept her moving along with the orders so she could complete them. I also helped pick out fabrics I thought would be desirable to Americans. She pre-made some bags and aprons and sold almost all of them. This sewing is a big thing for her. She really relies on the income and it helps keep her kids in college. She made about $500 in April, which is a lot for this country. Most people make about $100 to $200 per month if they have a good job. I have helped her with her patterns and ideas and have added some new things to her sewing repertoire.

2 years ago I worked with the MWB Sewing Club teaching some new things and working with the 15 to 20 women who belonged to it. I now have seen the positive results of not just my work, but many other American volunteers as well. Anyone who comes here with sewing skills can teach new things or reinforce old ones. Needlework, crocheting and sewing are all quickly learned and if the materials are available can literally put food on the tables of families here. That is where I am focusing now. Many of these women just need a little help sharpening their sewing skills and having new ideas of things that will sell. It has been a real flashback in time for me to go back to my early days of crafting and sewing. It is amazing how simple little projects that I did years ago can turn into something creative here that can be sold. Of course if it is to be sold to Americans or non-Zambians, then it needs to have a local “slant” to it…such as bright African fabrics or turning a cute white rag doll into a black one.

The sewing club met at my house last Friday. There were 17 ladies there. The purpose of the club is to join together with a common interest (sewing) and try to support each other in making things to sell. They each learned to make pj pants and all of them actually finished a pair. I decided to donate the fabric for one pair to each member and then from the profits they could in turn buy a 6 meter piece of fabric that could yield 5 more pair of pj pants. If they sold it would benefit each woman immediately. That is the plan and we will see if it works. All we need is for them to sell at the market on Saturday. I made them an American lunch of stuffed cabbage, barbequed beans, homemade rolls and cream puffs. Needless to say, I was pretty wiped out by the end of that day!

This week I have done some follow-through work with 3 of the women. They have come every day to make pj pants and rag dolls with matching dresses. We are hoping they are well-received by the buying public at the local craft market. Those that come and buy are almost all Americans and ex-pats (people who work here from other countries.) The next group of hopeful sales will be to the next American team of volunteers. It is hard to imagine that there are single women with 8 children to support and no jobs. How do they do it? That is what motivates me to keep thinking of new ideas for them to make. It is an interesting challenge. I explained to them the concept that I could give them a fish and it would feed them for the day, but if I teach them to fish it will feed them for a lifetime. It is still a lot of sewing to be able to feed 8 hungry kids....

Developing the Land

Life is not dull for us here in Africa. As ground support staff to Kathy, we get very busy when there is a team of Americans here. We will often attend the daily activities which is a field trip to a rural village, a visit to the hospital or orphanage or a day at the MWB farm…now known as the Children’s Resource Center. At least 3 of those days are spent at the new land helping to ready it for the major job of brick-making and development. We are currently enjoying a month between teams when supposedly it settles down a bit. Not a chance…

Here is what needs to go on to develop the land. We need electricity and water. In order to get electricity we had to prepare a way for the electric company to put poles in. So that means blazing a road for a big truck to come onto the land. Now our land is what we call the “bush”… lots of trees and bushes and really tall grass. It isn’t like a Tarzan jungle area, but more like a plain or plateau with quite a bit of foliage. So this particular task was a very large one. Once this was done we needed to get the electric company to come out and inspect the land and see if it was clear enough for them to work on. They did and it was. THEN they could prepare an estimate of how much it would cost to put in the electricity. That alone took a couple of weeks. We just got the estimate and as soon as it is paid they will put us on the list to have the work done. Then we wait up to 9 months for them to get around to us on their work schedule.

The next thing we need is water. We have to contract with a well-digger to have one or two wells dug. There are some wells there now but we need better and deeper ones. In order to make bricks for all the construction, we need water. We bought some used 55 gallon drums to hold the water for the brickmaking. We dug holes and sunk 5 of these drums into the ground. This is to make them lower and easier to access and to prevent thieves from stealing them. In order to fill the drums one needs to go to the well and drop the bucket to the bottom and then haul it up. That means you haul a 5 gallon bucket that weighs 40 pounds up out of the well 11 times making 5 to 6 trips with the wheelbarrow to fill each drum. Multiply that by 5 and you get all the drums full. By the way, the well is about a quarter of a mile from the drums.

When the April group was here they really helped clear the land and level it off in spots where things were going to be built. They also planted some banana trees. 25 people working hard for a day accomplishes a lot.

One thing we try not to tell too many people is that there are some snakes in the bush. Noone has been hurt so far, but many have been seen. The snakes are mostly cobras and some are spitting cobras. If you wear glasses you protect your eyes. They say the venom makes you go blind if they spit at you, and they always aim for your eyes. Mike found a cool snake skin. The biggest snake he has seen was about 8 feet long. They usually just slither away if they see humans, so no need to worry!