Hello! I'm back state-side and after several days of jet-lag recuperating, AG's first birthday celebrating, and family visiting, I'm ready to share about my whirlwind adventures across the globe!
This post will simply recap my time in Zambia and we'll dedicate more detailed blog posts to some amazing news and stories we cant' wait to share!
David and I both had a crazy, slam-packed, three weeks apart. While I had a blast in Zambia, David was stuck in North Carolina with four excruciating Law School exams. He finished exams just a few hours before my plane landed in Raleigh - its called perfect timing!
It was fantastic to reconnect with all my loved ones in Zambia. Pastors Haelian and Ursula hosted me in their lovely home again. During our time together, Haelian and Ursula have become like a third set of parents to David and myself. They open their lives up to lodge, feed, and transport us anytime we say we're coming. It was easy for me to decide to travel alone because I knew I would never actually be alone-- I would be with my Zambian family the whole time!
For me, this trip was all about seeking confirmation. Are we on the right path? Are we pursuing the right projects? How are things progressing and operating? These were all questions I needed answered. And I'm happy to announce I received all the confirmation I needed plus some.
I can break down my trip in the three ways I operated during my time there:
1. OBSERVATION & TEAM-BUILDING
When David and I left Zambia in July, the poultry house was still under construction. Therefore, one GIANT purpose of my trip was to observe Chicks Empowered in full operation swing. I wanted to sit-back and watch Alexandre and the women at work to know exactly how things operate in my absence.
However, simply observing isn't always easy. Especially when your arrival has been anticipated for weeks or even months. In Kunchubwe Village, I'm sort of like a movie star, and believe me I'm cringing as I type that out. It'd be really easy to become an ego-maniac in this work. But the truth of the matter is, me coming to check in on their progress was a really big deal for the village.
In the past, white MEN have come to Kunchubwe Village, set up projects, turned it over to the village and walked away to never return. Unbeknownst to me, this was in the back of our ladies' heads the whole time! That we would build this poultry house and never come back. So when 2 WOMEN showed up to check in on the state of the project, immediately walls started to come down. And very quickly it became very obvious to me that simple team-building and quality time spent with our ladies would be one of the most important things to do during my stay.
And so I spent a lot of time hanging out, teaching, and getting to know our ladies in Chicks Empowered. Next time on the blog, I'll introduce all our ladies for you to get to know!
I expected to encounter problems with Chicks Empowered. When we left in July, we left a chicken house that was half-complete, a new employee with a manual and an abstract idea of his role and work, and a vision we simply prayed would come to pass. It was exciting to see that for the most part Chicks Empowered was operating splendidly against all odds! The chickens are growing up healthy and fat with few deaths, the women are progressing in their understanding of business principles and leadership skills, and Alexandre has stepped into his responsibilities very naturally.
Of course, there were still several issues that needed to be tweaked during my stay. Working in a village and problem-solving a lot of the times feels like simply choosing the path of least-resistance. Every problem seems to have a billion solutions with each solution presenting 5 new problems. My mother-in-law who traveled with me for the first week said, "who knew there could be so much involved in a chicken-rearing project." And its true, there are so many spokes to this wheel. Some of the problems we worked to solve the past three weeks are:
- Market! Zambians on the whole tend to be super optimistic people when it comes to business. For our second batch of chickens, we raised 330 chickens, under the impression the village provided enough market to sell all our chickens. However, reality set in with a delayed rainy season and villagers with no money left from their vegetable sales.
We bought 8 extra bags of feed for our last batch of chickens. Now you wouldn't think thats a big deal, except each bag of feed costs about $22! And, so we were drastically cutting into our profits the longer our chickens stayed in the poultry house.
And thats how we entered into the slaughtering business. Now, we will be slaughtering chickens as soon as they are of weight and freezing them at Alexandre's house and cutting costs of extra feed. If you've never slaughtered and dressed chickens before... you're [not at all] missing out.
- Co-worker Conflicts: For almost everyone in this project, this is their first time having to work alongside other people! Having co-workers is a whole new world for them! The ladies have adjusted surprisingly well but reinforcing unity and teamwork helped push aside silly squabbles in their workplace!
- The Economy: Zambia is currently facing a HUGE economic downturn. The dollar rate was nearly double since we were there in July. Seemingly every day the dollar rate fluctuates a lot! While great for me during my visit, its not great news for Zambians who are facing huge increases in cost of living and crazy inflation. Now, there isn't much we can do to fix the Zambian economy... but we can help our ladies by teaching wise personal spending practices, like savings and budgeting!
For a long time, my biggest concern about starting my own non-profit was am I enough of a boss-lady to do this?! I'm not naturally a very assertive person nor am I good at giving (or receiving truth be told) constructive criticism. Leading up to my trip, I prayed about this very thing, becoming the leader I need to be for Love Abounds to be successful.
Y'all, I became a real boss lady this trip. I strongly gave my opinions, corrected people where correction was needed, and laid a strong foundation of my expectations.
The best part about all of this was its exactly what I needed but more importantly, its exactly what Alexandre, the ladies, and Love Abounds needed to take the next steps.
This trip was the incredible "YES" I needed. Words cannot describe the joy I feel at our progress in 2015 and the hope we have for 2016. Stay tuned to the blog for the next several weeks as I share more about Chicks Empowered, our impacts, and upcoming projects in Kunchubwe Village!
Until next time,