Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Ryan's Thanks!

So it turns out this whole blogging process is not as tough as I thought (that is of course if this blog entry actually works).
The existing entries have covered the events of our exchange really well, but I just wanted to say a big thank you to all of you who have helped make the 2008 Group Study Exchange between Rotary Districts 9600 and 9210 a success.
Firstly, thank you very much to everyone in Southern Africa – Rotary District 9210 GSE organisers and all D9210 Rotarians, especially those that hosted us along the way!! Also, South Africans, Andy and Jenny and Johannesburg Rotarians.
Thanks also to the District 9600 GSE organisers and especially the Rotary Club of Caloundra for sponsoring me.
Lastly, many thanks to my family, work and of course our GSE team, Chris, Fran, Jodie and Greg. In particular, a huge thank you to the Team Leader, Chris T.L. Goninon who's prior Rotary and GSE experience, enthusiastic attitude, thorough preparation and leadership skills were a huge part in making this exchange run smoothly.
I personally didn't anticipate the workload the GSE program required of me, but I can confidently say now it was all worth it, as the value of the program's rewarding, once-in-a-lifetime experiences far exceeded my expectations!!

Chris' Blog - The End

As Jodie and Greg have covered the end of our experience so well, I'm not going to add anything about Livingstone, beyond Ryan's big vocational experience (pic attached) and to direct anyone to the pics on Jodie and Gregs Blogs.

We did meet with one more RC - the RC of Bedfordview - who missed out on our presenation due to a broken piece of plastic on our plane. They still hosted us and gave us a very quick tour of J'burg. To them thanks and think that they saved the Rotary Foundation at least $500.

And so home. (and a pic with all of our supporters.

Jodie has covered a lot of the thank yous, so just ot add to them, thanks to everyone (sponsors) that gave us things to give away, most of these have ended up with people who need them in hospitals, schools or orphanages. Also thanks to the Rotary Foundation and the district management teams (both D9600 and D9210)that were involved in the organisation of thie exchange. I'd alos like to thank TA my wife, for acting as the blog updater while I was in Africa, and for doing a lot of follow up bits and pieces for the team while we were away.

And finally as team leader - Thanks to my team - Fran, Greg, Jodie and Ryan a great team that really made this exchange the success that it was. They showed themselves to be a true credit to our country Australia, Rotary, their professions and to themselves. WELL DONE!!

This exchange had its hard moments, things such as 12+ hour road trips, nearly 7 weeks away from loved ones, sights that were heart breaking, processes that are frustrating, and conditions that are not what we are all used to. Yet we all survivied and have grown from the experience and have made a great group of new friends and professional contacts.

So from me, Cheers and thanks for sharing our experiences.

Chris 'TL' Goninon

Back home on leave, awaiting demobilisation.

Today is the first day since leaving Australia that I have driven on a road - there were no pedestrians on the side of the road except for one jogger, and instead of spotting Impala, Kudu or Buffalo I was admiring the beef cattle, the flooded gums and the iron barks. That and the rain.

It was an odd feeling not having Fran yell at me "Smile, damn it! Keep frowning at the camera like that and you'll crack the lens!"

My time waiting at the Oliver R. Tambo Airport (Johannesburg) was rewarded with the purchase of 4 locally printed books regarding southern Africa which I am unlikely to find in Australia - I would like to thank the hosts who allowed me to rummage through their libraries and quiz them incessantly about what were and weren't good books worth my reading. Many things are cheaper in southern Africa than in Australia, and some things are more expensive. Books are one of the things that are more expensive, and with a low rate of literacy there is a low market, coupled with a low average income, which is a vicious circle coming against the spreading of literacy, education and an informed society.

Against this backdrop the Rotarians of Bedfordview, Johannesburg, are distributing superceeded textbooks from America free of charge to underprivileged schools in South Africa. With the extra distances and hold ups the cost would be significantly more for them to get these same books (which we wouldn't doubt would be very much needed in many of the schools we've visited on our exchange). South Africa also has its own problems in education: we were told by one of the Rotarians that 12 teachers died per day of AIDS in S.A. Although the parts of Johannesburg our hosts showed us through was very beautiful and well kept, they acknowledged there was a high rate of violent crime in the city (higher than anywhere on our exchange) and as a result many residential areas are now enclosed behind gates and fences.

Also whilst in Johannesburg we were able to gain extra insight into the violence against Zimbabwean and other African immigrants; on arrival at my host's house we waited for his wife to come home from a meeting at their church which was helping to coordinate a relief effort. The fine line which had to be walked was that they didn't at the same time neglect poor South Africans who were also inn need and thus provoke further resentment against the immigrants. There are problems of unemployment in South Africa among those who compete for low-paying work, and in places like Johannesburg this is exacerbated by an additional 1-4 million illegal immigrants - South Africa could nearly cope with its own unemployed, I was told, but to add so many from neighbouring countries makes a solution to the problem so much harder. There is also then the issue of people who used to cross freely the borders that now exist that were set up by Europeans.

These issues not only dog security and the economy but also the ability to provide free public health care.

Something to think about.


Livingstone, Johannesburg, Singapore and HOME!!

Livingstone - The last part of our GSE adventure was spent in Livingstone - home of the Victoria Falls. We had sent through a number of recreational activity requests to the Rotary Club of Livingstone, and the club was very accommodating! On Saturday we headed across the border to Botswana to a game park in Chombe. This was an amazing day for the team. We crossed the Zambia / Botswana border in a small boat before jumping into an open jeep for our game-spotting adventure. In the morning we were on the water, where we saw herds or elephants playing, eating and drinking along the river bank. As well as pods of hippos and a number of crocodiles that were all to close to the boat for my liking! We saw one croc enjoying his breakfast of impala (small deer), which the other crocs were eyeing off jealously...
In the afternoon we went through the game park in the jeep and saw a number of other animals, including giraffe, baboons, more impala, mongoose, and a number of native birds. We went along the river bank and were within a few metres of the elephants.

The next day saw us take flight over Victoria Falls. Chris. Ryan and myself opted to travel in a microlight - a small two seater plane without any walls with an engine that sounds like a lawn mower (and yes - we waited until we landed safely to tell our families exactly what this adventure entailed). Greg and Fran opted for the safety of the helicopter - with equally stunning views of the falls. We then headed for an Elephant Walk. This involved 'boarding' the elephant via a platform and touring around the park for an hour. They do not move fast at all, and we were well protected as the leader of the tour carried a rather large rifle in the event we come across any wildlife that may disturb our elephant friends... After the walk we were able to feed our elephants, as well as the two baby elephants. This was great, until the baby elephant got an itch in his trunk and sneezed all over my pants...

In the afternoon (yes, our tourist day continues!) we went to Vic Falls and the sound and the spray was amazing! Although we'd been warned about just how wet you would get, our raincoats provided little protection from the almighty spray that the falls produces. The photos we took will not do the falls justice, as they were taken through the safety of a plastic snap-lock bag!

Our final tourist destination was the Livingstone Museum. We were there close to closing time and had a quick look around the displays on Zambian wildlife, cultural traditions and also the stories of explorers in the area, particularly David Livingstone.

We did manage to squeeze in some visits to Rotary Projects on our last full day in Livingstone. We visited St Joseph's Hospice, an Orphanage, an Old People's home and a home for sexually abused girls. The amazing thing about these Rotary projects is the clubs focus on the sustainability of the projects and empowering the organisations to become as self-sufficient as possible. We then attended a fundraising lunch boat cruise down the Zambezi River.

The afternoon provided us with the opportunity to wander through the market stalls for some last minute shopping. The locals are interested in bartering for the goods you carry in your backpack, and also the clothes and accessories you are wearing (including hairbands and bobby pins).

In the evening we were treated to our last bbq - which doubled as Greg's Birthday Party. Our hosts for the evening, Sue and Mike, provided us with great food, fabulous music and a few quiet beverages the celebrate the end of our GSE journey.

On Tuesday we left Livingstone for a brief stopover in Johannesburg (made even shorter due to our flight being delayed 4 hours) before heading home via Singapore on Wednesday.

We arrived home at around 8pm last night. There was a few tears at the airport as our families came to greet us and take us home to warm showers, flushing toilets and familiar foods!

Thanks to everyone who has supported our GSE Exchange. Particularly to our sponsoring Rotary Clubs (Albany Creek, Brisbane Mid-City, Buderim, Caloundra, and Murgon), the families and Rotary Clubs that hosted us in Disctrict 9210, our employers, and our families and friends who have followed our adventure!

Take care, Jodie : )

Chris' Blog 23 May


Today Fran had her most exciting vocational expereince in at the Ministry of Health. The team (minus Greg) met with with and was able to gain some very interesting facts, figures and stats about the number of health workers (and an idea of the size of the shortages) across Zambia. We also were able to learn about some of the (few) incentives that health workers have to work in rural areas. A quick summary of how they get staff there is - MD's - must do some of their internship in rural areas, if they accept a role in a rural area they are entitled to a car and the more remote it becomes the greater the financial / housing incentives are. For other staff there are also similar (although not at the same pay scales) incentives. The scaring thing is the shortage of health and allied health staff in the country, but at least they have an idea of how many they have, where they are needed and how many more they need. Thanks to the Minstry of Health.

We then revisited the Gem shop and some purchases were made (two happy ladies in the team and one happy TL's wife when we get back)

In the mean time Greg visited a research farm that grew (wait for it) lucerne. I'll leave it to Greg to expand on this.

The rest of the day for the rest of us was spent travelling to Livingstone. Unfortunaly we were sent on two flights, with Fran Ryan and I arriving in the ealth afternoon, and Greg and Jodie about half an hour after our presentation to the RC of Livingstone.

Yes, our final presenation was delivered by the three of us. I delivered both my presenation and subed for Greg, Fran played Jodie and herself and Rayn had the luxuray of being just himself (but then had to run heads and tails). Overall the presenation went very well and the club (and over 25 visitors which included a group of Rotarians for the US and the youth exchange members from the US (Hannah) and Canada (Jolene) (who become our honourary GSE little sisters) . Jsut sad that this our final presenation in D9210 (and it ended up being our final presenation) was missing 40% of the team.

Chris' Blog 22 May – The Trip

Lusaka – This morning we broke into two groups. Greg and Ryan went off to look at some construction sites, While Fran, Jodie and I went to the University Medical Hospital. We started off with a meeting with the CEO / Chief director of the facility who was able to answer a lot of our questions, and when he didn’t know he told us he didn’t know, but at least gave us some suggestions where to find it, (and who). Following this we met with one of only 4 OT’s that are in Zambia (1 of these being Jodie). Jodie has covered her meeting the OT well in her blog of 23 May (Jodie I added a picture I hope that is ok!!).

While Jodie met with the OT Fran and I busied ourselves trying to find some info about medical programs at the hospital, and then how long they are. But we did (We hope). The difficulty in understanding this was they have both Postgrad and Undergrad (U/G) entry, + for the U/G you can enter directly, or with an extra year undertaking O levels, or after completing 2 years of another program.

Our next visit is to the Paper Mache project, where the staff (all who have some phycial disability) make items that can be used to assist other with disabilites. These items include tables, chairs and items to assist people to stand up. The items also include straps to assist people to stand or stil in place, with then can address other issues such as bed sores, and the proper development of joints, muscels etc. (This is really Jodie's specialist area so sorry for using very basic layman terms).

Following this we visited a wheel chair + building facility run by staff with mobility difficulties, where they build wheel chairs (predominatly using bike parts) used in rough terrain and make changes to other wheel chairs (such as the foundation wheel chairs) so that they can be used in villages. (Basically they remove the existing front wheels and replace them with wider wheels. The other recent development that has is an ambulance bike trailer that can be towed behind a bicycle. A great development.

We then all gathered for what ended up being our final presentation as a full group at the RC of Lusaka Central. This was also attended by DG Nickole, which was great as he had missed our presentation at the conference. The afternoon saw us again spilt into our two groups, with Greg and Ryan visiting Zesco (the electricity producer) and Fran, Jodie and I learning about gem stones and then visiting the Ministry of Health to try to get some info about rural health (unsuccessfully that afternoon, but wait till the blog tomorrow). The evening saw us get together with members of both clubs, and for most of us a fantastic seafood meal.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Chris’ Blog – 21 May

Our travel today is to Lusaka via “Public Luxury Coach”. The coach is in comparable to our coaches, except it has opening windows, no air con, and the seating arrangements are two across, the aisle and then three. The bus is scheduled to leave somewhere between 9 and 10am, depending on when it fills up. As you can imagine, after we have been in the bus awhile everyone starts to close their windows and it warms up and becomes very stuffy. At every stop there are many street vendors trying to sell us food, drinks, cd’s DVDs and other “interesting goods”.

We are joined on the bus by Jolene, the Canadian youth exchange student, who is also on route to Lusaka and then on to Livingstone. As we drive to Lusaka we see (incredibly) some hay bales (interesting for Greg) and arrive at one of the maddest bus stations I have ever seen. We are then driven to our hosts, and enjoy an evening home with our hosts. (Fran, Ryan and I are all hosts by Arnie and Emily and so stay up to watch Man U beat Chelsea in the Champions League match)