Articles on GSC and volunteers HIV/AIDS work from the Tanzania Arusha TimesOct. 2003 - How women can protect themselves from HIV/AIDS
Having Fun Doing Good
By Eve Conant
April 11/18 2005 issue - Jen and Ian Close were ready to try something new. The Canadian couple had traveled to Germany and England to visit family, but not much beyond. So last August they went on safari in Kenya, then capped off their African journey with two weeks of volunteering in Arusha, Tanzania, where they taught local teenagers how to prevent AIDS. "Kenya was great," says Jen. "But we didn't really meet people or get a chance to understand them. We couldn't get out of the trap of being treated like tourists."
In Tanzania, on the other hand, the couple received training in how to promote HIV awareness from the San Francisco-based Global Service Corps, which aims to ease the social stigma of AIDS. They lived with a local family and even attended lively church services with them. But the overriding memories are hardly material for a cheery slide show back in Vancouver. "When you see little children sifting through trash, you take that image home with you," says Jen. Once home, she marveled at her privileged life as hot water cascaded from the faucet.
More and more, people like the Closes are using their holidays to help others. Whether it's rebuilding homes in tsunami-hit Sri Lanka, cutting trails in Belize for environmental scientists or teaching English to schoolchildren in Thailand, socially responsible travel is on the rise. Holidaymakers are recognizing that they can have fun doing good; volunteers don scuba gear to record scientific data on dolphins in the Bahamas or lead relief missions on horseback through the Himalayas. It's tourism with a conscience, undertaken by travelers who don't want to experience another culture through the window of a tour bus and who will gladly trade a five-star luxury hotel room for a sleeping bag on the floor of a remote village home. The benefits: you get involved, you make new friends and you come back with a sense of satisfaction and a purpose that no amount of hiking or sunbathing can inspire.
The numbers of socially responsible tourists—and the opportunities available to them—are rising steeply. Rick Lathrop, founder and executive director of Global Service Corps, which took the Closes to Tanzania, says volunteers for programs like trips to Thailand to teach English to monks or to help out in rural health clinics are up 30 percent over last year. He at—tributes the increase, in part, to the current sense of vulnerability many people feel. "It's possible that 9/11 taught us that we're part of a wider family, for better or for worse," he says. "There are a lot of people out there like me, baby boomers with a sense of world peace, who never had a chance to do the Peace Corps." His co-worker, Amy Warren, sees a generational shift back to some of the values of the '60s. "There's a swing from 'Me, me, me, SUV' to 'Hey, that's not so fulfilling. My life is missing some spiritual substance'." The interest transcends borders: conscientious vacations are highly popular among Western Europeans, Australians, Poles and Japanese, as well as North Americans.
To be sure, many of these holidays are considerably more trying than a week at the spa. Volunteer outfits usually require travel, health and emergency-evacuation insurance. Trekforce Expeditions, a U.K.-based charity that sends 18- to 38-year-olds into the jungles of Belize or Borneo to help with conservation, starts each trip with jungle training. Experts teach volunteers about "all the venomous, nonvenomous snakes, all the bugs and the beasties, the biting bits and bobs," says managing director Rob Murray. Once the volunteers know which insects to avoid, they begin the real work: building visitor centers, clearing trails or planting hardwood trees that help regenerate forests after heavy logging.
Such hardships don't come cheap. A four-week Trekforce trip costs about £1,800 and a five-month tour up to £3,900—not including airfare. But depending on their country of origin, most volunteers can deduct a hefty portion of the trip on their taxes. And since Trekforce is a charity, volunteers can also raise money from friends and colleagues to fund their trips. "It sounds arrogant, but we want people to change for the better, to put aside their materialist ways," says Murray. "You've got someone in a pin-striped suit who goes to Belize, and comes home a far more socially responsible person." There's even a hidden bonus: raising thousands of dollars for charity, trekking through the jungle and improving people's lives while on vacation is great for the resume.
The trips seem to have a domino effect. Volunteers have been known to sponsor trips for their local host families to visit the United States or Europe; others get hooked and visit their volunteer vacation spots repeatedly. A few months ago, Singapore-based Brit John Clarke volunteered to assist with tsunami cleanup through Hands On Thailand; he brought his three children, ages 11, 9 and 8, who donned gloves and helped clear debris. "At the end of the day you know you've made a difference, even if it's small," he says. "We tend to focus on ourselves too much."
The experience made such an impression on him that Clarke recently returned with dozens of his co-workers from American Express. Wiping slime off his hands, he grabbed a telephone to speak to NEWSWEEK from Bang Tao Beach, one of the worst hit parts of the Phuket Island. "You have top businessmen here, but all you know is so-and-so is the sledgehammer person, another is the shovel," he says. "When we're not building walls, we're spending all the money we can so that Thailand can get back into the tourism business." More and more companies are sending employees on such expeditions to help with group building, says Trekforce's Murray—a sort of Outward Bound with tangible results. "You've got to get on with the person who sits across from you at work," he says. "You have to be a team player."
Usually such holidays benefit the volunteers at least as much as the locals. Kimberly Haley-Coleman created the Dallas-based Globe Aware four years ago in large part to help compensate for the U.S. bombing campaigns in Laos and Cambodia in the 1970s; her volunteers now assemble wheelchairs from recycled materials for bombing victims there. "Laos is the most bombed country in world history, and we did it," she says. Globe Aware, which has seen its membership quadruple over the past year, encourages volunteers to get more involved in the local community by giving them fun assignments, like going into a village and asking, "Are Buddhist monks vegetarian?" "They're not; they accept alms, and eat whatever they're given," says Haley-Coleman. "But you'd never know it unless you went up to one and —asked them. They like to talk. We just want people to get beyond what a tourist would see or do."
Trips like these aren't just for the young and vigorous. Gianna Hochstein, a 78-year-old anthropologist from California, went to Tanzania in 2003 to lead HIV/AIDS awareness classes. "Many anthropologists believe you shouldn't get involved," she says. "I'm an adventurer, but I'm a do-gooder, too." Still, Hochstein admits her age was an obstacle; during her home stay, she learned that Tanzanians are obsessive about locking their doors, which proved hard on her arthritis. But the insights she gained far outweighed the difficulties. For one thing, she learned not to judge Tanzanian abodes by their appearance. "Their home was so attractive inside, but from the outside it looked quite miserable," she says. When the 13-year-old girl in her family got in trouble at school for showing her knees beneath her skirt, "it was just because she had grown so quickly," says Hochstein. "I learned that Tanzanians can be very modest." She'd like to go back and do more AIDS-awareness work—not that the trips are strictly "work," says Hochstein. Being helpful while enjoying oneself is a lot more rewarding than simply having a good time. TOP
© 2005 Newsweek, Inc.
By Amy Gunderson
Published: February 20, 2005
Global Service Corps, (415) 788-3666 and www.globalservicecorps.org, a San Francisco-based nonprofit group, runs health and education trips to Tanzania and Thailand. It gives its travelers to Thailand the option of staying in a resort rather than with a local family.
But staying with a local family is often part of the appeal. Molly Last, 47, a teacher from San Francisco, spent three weeks last summer teaching English to Thai high school students and novice monks on a Global Service Corps trip. She lived with a family who worked at two high schools in Kanchanaburi, two hours northwest of Bangkok.
"I had a wonderful experience living with the family," she said. "That was the key piece that bought me from the outside looking in to being a real insider."
In addition to eating breakfast and dinner together, her family took her to the floating markets and to visit Cambodian ruins in the countryside. In fact, Ms. Last hit it off so well with her hosts that she is paying part of their travel expenses to visit the United States this year.
MANY groups, including Global Service Corps, are not offering placements in tsunami areas simply because they don't have programs there….
Some travelers augment trips on their own. Ian and Jen Close booked 10 days on a safari in Kenya and Tanzania and a few days' relaxing on the beaches of Zanzibar, before spending two weeks in Arusha, Tanzania, teaching about AIDS. The teaching portion of the trip was arranged by Global Service Corps.
The couple, from Vancouver, stayed with a family ("My day started at 2 a.m. when the rooster started going," Mr. Close said), and after a week of training, they taught a class of 44, with the help of an interpreter, about preventing H.I.V. transmission.
But even with training there were some unexpected questions thrown at the Closes in that one-room Tanzanian schoolhouse, especially when they talked about monogamy. "The students would ask me: 'You have a wife; how do you know that she has been faithful?' " Mr. Close said.
Beyond their four hours a day of teaching, the Closes explored the local area, played cards with their family (who didn't speak English) and braved the local buses, called dala-dala.
"A ride in a safari truck is exciting," Mr. Close said. "However, a ride in a dala-dala is truly an experience. It's basically a Mazda minivan stuffed with 16 people."
The couple quickly became comfortable roaming around a town where at first they were wary of entering even the heavily protected bank to exchange money. Plus, they said, even in just a week of teaching, they felt as if they reached their students.
"If we only did the safari, we would have only seen half of Africa," Mrs. Close said. "In that short period of time, I didn't feel like we would make those connections, but we did." TOP
Edited by: Liesa Goins
25 Greatest Getaways for Men
Cruises We Love
The Great Escape
21 Pleasures We've Forgotten
Ever wish you could contribute more to society than one hell of a spreadsheet? You don't have to join the Peace Corps. Instead, take a "volunteer vacation" where you can help others and work on a tan. The beauty part: The entire trip is tax deductible. (Not that it matters, of course.) Some choices:
American Hiking Society
Trail maintenance and shelter building on federal land in a choice of 29 states. Example: Restore an eroding trail in the Mount Massive Wilderness Area in Colorado. 1 week; $80. americanhiking.org
Earth Watch Institute
Research and conservation of natural resources and cultural heritage; 149 projects in 48 countries. Examples: Study Tasmanian lizards, or help Russian folk musicians. 1 to 3 weeks; $800 to $2,500.
Public-health and cultural-immersion adventures. Examples: Give basic English instruction in Costa Rica or Thailand, or help a poor community in Rio prepare for Carnival. 1 to 6 weeks; $600 to $1,800. globeaware.com
Global Service Corps
Health and agricultural services. Examples: Teach Tanzanians sustainable agriculture, or teach English and HIV education to students and novice monks in Thailand. 2 weeks to 6 months; $2,700 and up. www.globalservicescorps.org
Passport in Time
Archaeology and historic preservation through the Department of Agriculture Forest Service. Examples: Help archaeologists in rock-art preservation, or search for prehistoric pit-house and pueblo sites in New Mexico. Most, 5 days minimum; no fee. passportintime.com
March 12, 2003 -- AIDS has killed millions of farmers in sub-Saharan Africa, compromising the nutrition and thus accelerating the death of millions more AIDS victims, resulting in further depletion of the agricultural sector. The Global Service Corps is working to break this vicious cycle by introducing better agricultural techniques and educating locals about HIV.
Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) has grabbed recent headlines with its flurry of deaths and politically sensitive quarantines. The highly infectious Ebola virus is a particularly gruesome and frighteningly swift killer. But no newly emergent disease has had a greater impact on global society than Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). Incurable and fatal, with a latency period long enough for the infected to unknowingly spread the disease to perhaps hundreds of people, AIDS has taken a dreadful toll around the world. Alone among the new diseases of the last 50 years, it has taken a place with malaria, influenza, bubonic plague, and the handful of other ailments with death tolls in the millions.
AIDS' devastation is nowhere more obvious than in sub-Saharan Africa, where poverty and lack of access to health care -- among many other factors -- have allowed the disease to spread unchecked through country after country.
But there is a small bit of good news. A number of organizations, including Earth Island Institute's Global Service Corps, are taking innovative steps to mitigate the worst aspects of AIDS. By helping affected communities ensure a supply of locally-grown nutritious food, GSC and its colleagues are hoping they can delay the progression of AIDS in people with little access to sophisticated antiviral therapies. With luck, these groups might help some of the ill buy time until a cure is found.
Staggering loss of life
The UN estimates that 42 million people worldwide were infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) -- the virus that causes AIDS -- at the end of 2002. In that year, 3.1 million people died of AIDS, bringing the disease's total worldwide mortality to 28 million.
In this era in which the death toll from a single storm can reach into the tens of thousands, it might be helpful for the reader whose eyes glaze over at mortality numbers to find a measuring rod to tell us just how big a crowd 28 million people is. It's the total population of Canada, for instance. Or California. If that many people jogged single-file past you at one per second, the last person would go by a bit more than 46 weeks later. If you were to design an AIDS memorial similar to the Vietnam memorial in Washington DC, you would need black marble walls 22 miles long to hold the names of all the dead.
Here's another fact about the number 28 million: that's how many people in sub-Saharan Africa are now infected with HIV, according to best current estimates. Seventy percent of HIV-infected people live in Africa, mostly south of the Sahara. The prevalence of AIDS isn't a tragedy just for people who are infected: the disease erodes the very economic underpinnings of affected African societies.
In the US and other wealthy countries, the ill have better access to tools to cope with the virus: antiretroviral drug therapies and treatments for opportunistic infections; doctors, clinics and hospitals; clean drinking water; and healthful food. By working with a doctor on a drug regimen, eating nutritious food and exercising, while engaging in basic sanitary practices, HIV-infected people in the developed world can live with the virus for years.
But in the developing world, it's much harder to appeal AIDS' death sentence. Pharmaceutical companies are only lately beginning to make antiretroviral drugs available at near-cost prices in poor countries, and even then, the drugs are priced well out of reach of many. In Africa, where women may walk for miles each day to get to the nearest well or stream, clean water for drinking -- let alone washing -- is often a rarity. Thus proper nutrition is sometimes the only defense Africans have against HIV once infection occurs. And in much of Africa, getting a nutritious diet might be easier said than done. "The nutritional aspect of HIV/AIDS has been ignored for a long time," says Kraisid Tontisirin, director of the Food and Agriculture Organization's Food and Nutrition Division. "The attention was always focused on drugs. The message was always 'take two tablets after meals,' but they forgot about the meals."
Feed a virus
While adequate nutrition is important in fighting just about any disease from the common cold to cancer, it's especially important in managing AIDS. People who just don't get enough to eat suffer lowered T-cell counts, impaired antibody function and altered serum immunoglobin levels -- pretty much the same effect HIV has on the human body. Even before HIV infection develops into full-blown AIDS, the virus seems to deplete the body of thiamine, riboflavin, B6, B12, and folate, vitamins whose deficiencies impair disease resistance.
Once symptoms develop, proper nutrition becomes ever more important -- and ever more difficult. Cytomegalovirus, a usually benign pathogen found in billions of people around the world, can run rampant in AIDS sufferers, interfering with absorption of nutrients from the gastrointestinal tract. The HIV-linked cancers lymphoma and Kaposi's sarcoma similarly interfere with the normal digestive process. The more sick an AIDS patient becomes, the more likely he or she is to have severe nausea or diarrhea, obvious impediments to extracting the maximum possible nutrition from food. This becomes especially problematic as AIDS increases susceptibility to food-borne pathogens. Slightly tainted food that most of us could eat with little ill effect could be deadly to someone with a compromised immune system.
The result? AIDS-related wasting, also known as loss of lean body mass -- the non-fatty tissues we rely on for almost every bodily function from walking to the store to pumping blood and breathing. As you lose mass from your muscles and internal organs due to AIDS-related wasting, your body has more and more difficulty staving off the advance of the virus, and you get sicker, which keeps you from eating and reduces the efficiency with which your body can use the food you do eat, so that you lose more mass. When this vicious cycle depletes about half your ideal lean body mass, you die. Infectious disease expert
Richard Beach, MD, puts it bluntly. "Most people who die of AIDS actually die of starvation."
Feeling down on the farm
In sub-Saharan Africa, where most people work in the agricultural sector, the structure of society speeds up the vicious cycle of illness and wasting.
Farm work is hard work, especially without access to large machinery. If a family member is too ill to work productively, there's less food for the entire family -- whether the food is grown on-site or bought with the proceeds of cash crop sales. When labor is scarce, many African farmers will start growing less labor-intensive crops such as cassava. This saves work, but cassava, whose edible part is essentially pure starch, provides far less nutrition than the maize or legumes grown when times are better. Thus, the food supply dwindles, and the hardship crops that farmers manage to grow are far less nutritious. Even healthy community members suffer the effects of malnutrition, making them much more susceptible to HIV infection.
Most food grown in sub-Saharan Africa isn't intended for household consumption, but as cash crop for domestic sales or export. After two generations of Green Revolution export-based agriculture, many farmers no longer know how to grow anything other than the one or two crops they sell. And as the agricultural labor pool dwindles due to AIDS, government revenues from the agricultural sector dwindle, so that local governments may increasingly have trouble helping the ill.
Global Service Corps
When Rick Lathrop was pursuing doctoral studies at the Fielding Graduate Institute in Santa Barbara, he became interested in the need to address growing disparity between global "haves" and "have-nots."
In 1993 he founded Global Service Corps (GSC), a "mini Peace Corps" volunteer service-learning organization focusing on supporting small-scale sustainable development projects in developing countries. In December 1993, in GSC's first project, volunteers traveled to Costa Rica to work on rainforest conservation in that country's spectacular nature reserves. GSC soon expanded, sending volunteers to work on conservation and social justice projects in Kenya and Thailand.
GSC became a project of Earth Island Institute in 1995, a year after it launched a program in Kenya focusing on training in Bio-Intensive Agriculture (BIA), which emphasizes intensive growing of locally available food crops in double-dug growing beds, a practice that allows much higher yield per acre of production than standard industrial planting, often with less effort on the part of the farmer. The small scale of the beds makes large machinery unnecessary, composting and recycling of local agricultural wastes allow farmers to avoid buying expensive chemical fertilizers, and a diverse crop cycle minimizes the insect infestations common to large monocultural plantings, cutting down on the need for pesticides.
Over the next seven years, participants in GSC's program traveled to Kenya, stayed with families in Mumias, Kibwezi, and Machakos, and conducted classes and workshops, inspiring thousands of small farms to adopt BIA practices. Lathrop traveled often to Kenya, soon becoming aware of the growing African AIDS pandemic.
In 1994 GSC launched an HIV/AIDS prevention education project. In 2001, GSC moved on to Tanzania, an ideal place to continue the BIA program. Eighty percent of the country's population is rural: of that 80 percent, nine-tenths are employed in the agricultural sector. Most farms in the country are small, about one and a half acres.
Tanzania also needed help in preventing the spread of AIDS. One in 12 Tanzanian adults is HIV-positive: a total of 1.2 million people are affected, 670,000 of them women. As horrifying as these numbers may seem, the situation in neighboring countries is far worse: Tanzania has one of the lowest HIV incidence rates in sub-Saharan Africa. Still, AIDS-related labor shortages have seriously limited food availability in many parts of the country, in an agricultural economy already reeling from periodic droughts, flooding, and inefficient transportation. As much as 70 percent of produce is grown by women, making the higher infection rates among female Tanzanians women especially troubling.
Tanzania, like most other rural countries, is plugged solidly into the global economy, and many farmers rely on the global markets for their livelihoods. Coffee has been a major historic export. When the global price of coffee plummeted in the 1990s, many Tanzanian farmers couldn't earn enough to cover production costs. Many plantations were abandoned; other farmers sought alternatives that would pay the bills and allow them to feed their families. Vegetables are a popular alternative crop, but as traditional horticultural knowledge has been lost in many villages, farmers are often forced to rely on Green Revolution-style chemical pesticides and fertilizers.
Lathrop, a former organic farmer, says Tanzanians hunger for alternatives and are especially happy to get advice from North Americans. "For better or for worse, we're seen as the experts, even though we might have Tanzanian partners with more agricultural knowledge. The farmers we're talking to are intelligent and practical businesspeople, and Americans are seen, if nothing else, as educated and successful entrepreneurs."
On arrival in Tanzania, GSC participants work with their host communities to conduct trainings, sharing information on BIA methods and learning from community members which crops will work best locally.
Then the hard work begins, as GSC participants work with their hosts to apply their new knowledge, digging and then planting BIA farming plots. The produce is sold for cash income, or consumed by local households, or both, bringing villagers battling HIV -- and their neighbors -- a more reliable source of balanced nutrition.
But better nutrition merely slows the virus's rampage through the body. In the absence of a cure and with access to antiretrovirals limited by economics, prevention is still the best method of controlling HIV-related devastation. And as in many other countries, Tanzanians often hold potentially deadly misconceptions about HIV and its spread. GSC volunteers have been working to improve the state of AIDS education in Tanzania by holding workshops, classes, and public events to give locals accurate information on HIV, and to challenge myths and destructive practices that contribute to its spread.
A report on a series of seminars GSC held at the Tanzanian Ministry of Agriculture's Training Institute (MATI) at Tengeru in 2002 illustrates some of those practices. Ritual circumcision, often carried out in secret with unsterilized implements, is a major concern. So is the practice of "widow cleansing," in which the brother of a dead man marries his widowed sister-in-law -- an obvious problem if his brother died of AIDS. Reluctance to use condoms and the notion that a healthy-looking potential sexual partner won't have HIV are other factors. Before the seminar, participants were quizzed on basic HIV facts, with the quiz repeated after the workshops. The retesting showed that nearly 85 percent of those in attendance had learned how to incorporate safer hygienic practices into their lives, and gained important information about the links between AIDS and nutrition.
Lathrop says GSC's goal is not just to teach Tanzanians a set of facts and figures about HIV, but to help them acquire the tools they need to think critically about the disease. GSC volunteers provide that help. As one volunteer put it, "In the end, we need to help people be able to make informed decisions. We can't be there every time our students hear a new myth or story about the disease. What we can do is help them to think rationally about HIV and AIDS, so that they can determine for themselves if what they are hearing is true." Until a cure is found, that capacity for critical thinking -- and a bigger ration of fresh vegetables -- is, thanks to GSC volunteers, something at least a few Tanzanians can count on to fight AIDS. TOP
A Community Approach to the Fight Against AIDS
By Melanie Williams
After searching the Internet for overseas internships, I chose Global Service Corps’ International Health program in Tanzania, because of my interest in public health and AIDS research. I had volunteered in two AIDS facilities in the U.S. and witnessed the effects of HIV.
Tanzania is one of several countries lacking a unified plan against HIV, and myths and misinformation are widespread. Arusha, the area that GSC serves, has a shocking 14 percent reported rate of infection because of poverty, lack of education, and poor access to healthcare.
As my departure drew closer, I gathered information on Tanzania and stocked up on materials to prepare me for any ailment or situation I might face. I also packed suitcases full of medicine and related items from funds I had received for the internship before leaving the U.S.
During the first half of the program we taught AIDS awareness and prevention at HIV/AIDS summer day camps for teenagers. Seeing how much the youths learned and how excited they were about sharing this new knowledge with their family members and other students was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. To think that the information and skills we armed these students with could potentially save their lives or the lives of others was incredibly powerful.
Prevention is the most effective tool in the fight against HIV, but what about the dying and the suffering of those already infected? More than two million people are expected to die from AIDS this year, and most of them are malnourished, under-medicated, and in unremitting pain.
The second part of my internship was completed at an NGO established to offer services to terminally ill patients. Because of the rise in AIDS cases in Tanzania, hospital beds are filled with two or three people at one time. Hospitals can only deal with this overload by discharging the terminally ill patients to be cared for by their relatives at home. However, because of the stigma of HIV, many families will not accept these patients. Many are left to fend for themselves. This means they are left alone to die.
It was quickly evident that many of the patients were unable to take the medications because they lacked food. In Tanzania, most people who die of AIDS actually die of starvation.
Seeing the effects of inadequate nutrition on patients and how this compromised our ability to treat them, I realized I had to do something. If our mission was to improve quality of life and maintain a stable level of health, then it was necessary to provide a regular supply of food.
I began by trying to fundraise in Tanzania, but this was difficult because most of the educated or skilled residents leave Tanzania as soon as they have enough money to do so. Those left are very poor and have no money to help others. However, I found many people eager to donate whatever they could, such as their time or vehicles.
One company offered to donate over-produced food once a week if we provided transportation. I learned the importance of having good walking shoes, and my backpack became precious to me. Many could not believe their eyes when a mazungu came to their house carrying sacks of food. Once neighbors realized that a mazungu was willing to come all this way to help infected members of their society, they too became involved in our efforts to improve the patients’ quality of life.
I completely underestimated the effect of adequate nutrition. Not only did my patients regain hope; many, with a strengthened immune system, were also able to take back their lives, and get out of bed and do something.
Tips for Volunteers
By Amy Warren and Winsin Hsieh
Peter Knowles, a spirited 77-year-old English-American has tackled retirement with vigor and youthful exuberance. After losing his wife to cancer a few years ago, he found meaning through volunteer activities close to home in Naples, Florida, as well as around the world. An emergency room volunteer in the Naples Community Hospital, Peter coupled his ascent of the 19,000-foot Mt. Kilimanjaro last year with fundraising for the hospital’s stroke program, raising more than $20,000.
Peter first visited the home to Mt. Kilimanjaro while on business in Tanzania as an international banker. He’s been trekking there ever since, though his greatest feats remain close to the ground, where he is promoting sustainable agriculture.
Peter’s experience with sustainable agriculture in Tanzania developed through his participation a year and a half ago in Global Service Corps (GSC), a non-profit volunteer abroad organization. Peter participated as a volunteer in GSC’s sustainable agriculture program for four weeks. Like other GSC volunteers, he lived with a local family and learned skills that helped him to contribute to the local community, such as building organic plots with farmers, leading biointensive agriculture trainings, and teaching English to villagers.
The need for sustainable agriculture was obvious to Peter, who went on to found Hearts Helping Hands Inc., a non-profit corporation that is working with GSC to provide farming supplies and equipment for agricultural programs in Tanzania. Peter was inspired to start this venture when, as a volunteer, he noticed the farmers with whom he was working were in need of more basic tools, forks, hoes, watering cans, seeds, and plants. Peter has also contributed money for the development of a community market for locally grown organic produce.
In addition to working on these projects, Peter also maintains close ties with The Sibusiso Foundation (www.edupro.nl/sibusiso/index.html), which is a non-profit organization dedicated to schooling Tanzania’s vulnerable, mentally disabled children and helping them to develop their potential and integrate into society.
For more info
Global Service Corps’ International Volunteer and Intern Programs (from two weeks to six months), 300 Broadway, Ste. 28, San Francisco, CA 94133-3312; Tel. 415-788-3666 x128; gsc[at]globalservicecorps[dot]org, www.globalservicecorps.org. Academic credit is available and programs are tax deductible.
Amy Warren, the Communications Director for Global Service Corps, and Winsun Hsieh are both MBAs with an unbusinesslike passion for international travel and helping others. They have both volunteered abroad in recent years. TOP
Teaching in Thailand
When Meredith Lentz, of Salisbury, NC left the U.S. for the first time, it was to spend eight weeks in Thailand as a volunteer English teacher with Global Service Corps (GSC). “I wanted to go as far from home as I could,” said the rising senior at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Sponsored by the prestigious Morehead Scholarship— which provides exemplary North Carolina students (and with some restrictions, those outside of the state)—with a full ride to Chapel Hill, including summer enrichment and travel—Meredith lived with a host family in the western Thailand city of Kanchanaburi, where she taught at the local university. Though it was her first solo teaching experience, she relied on her years of high school tutoring, along with her abundant energy and creativity, to capture the attention of her students.
In the classroom, she first had to overcome the cultural differences. Just getting the students to show up for class was a major feat. “The students were notoriously late,” Meredith explained. “Time is not really an issue. Students would come into my 45-minute class 30 minutes late.” So, to encourage punctuality, she gave out candy and American flags to those who arrived within ten minutes of the start time.
Once she had them there, she had to contend with vastly different skill levels and the reluctance of students to speak English in front of their peers. “The Thai people are very shy,” Meredith observed, “and it’s difficult for them to speak in front of the class instead of writing things down.” The university’s two English teachers speak primarily Thai in the classroom and rely on memorization and lectures to convey the material. When Meredith arrived, she found that students who had studied English for five years still could not hold a basic conversation. To get the students talking, she used games and songs like Simon Says and Hokey Pokey. She let the advanced students help the others by splitting her classes of 30 students into small groups. Before long, she found that students were arriving early just to talk to her.
College directors also asked Meredith to hold two to three hours per day of “teacher classes,” focusing on basic conversation skills. These became so popular that Meredith was soon working up to six hours per day with the teachers.
Before long, many teachers had asked Meredith, a biology major and the only native English speaker at the college, to teach their classes for them. Within her first month, she was teaching not only English, but math, biology, botany, genetics and computer skills, using her own lesson plans and American-style methods. During this time, Meredith saw great progress in the English skills of the students. “They were much more receptive to learning English in a subject that they found important,” she explained.
Meanwhile, Meredith was undergoing her own transition. “I didn’t have a problem with homesickness, but I did have a problem adjusting to the Thai lifestyle,” she admitted. “They’re happy, relaxed and stress-free all the time. I’m so high-strung and extremely serious. They were always concerned that I was working too hard. By the end, I learned to relax a whole lot more and chill out and enjoy that way of life.”
When Meredith returned home at the end of the summer, the readjustment was difficult. “There weren’t a lot of people in my hometown who understood Thailand,” she said. “There was a huge disconnection between my knowledge and experience and theirs.”
As a result, Meredith came up with a plan for a cultural exchange and began raising money with the help of hometown friends and an adult mentor who had also been to Thailand. They needed $5,000 to bring a teacher from Kanchanaburi to the U.S., where she would tour schools and civic organizations. The teacher would improve her English skills among native speakers, while teaching Rowan County students about a culture most had never experienced. Through the exchange, Meredith hoped to “encourage these [American] kids to think a little more globally” and to show them that “there are very different cultures out there.”
Miss Tan, age 27, was asked to come to the U.S. because her English skills were the strongest of all the younger teachers. She was teaching English at the time and would be able to transfer her new knowledge most directly to the Thai students. She and Meredith spent August of 2003 in Rowan County visiting 24 schools, Meredith’s home church, six community organizations and a local nursing home. Accompanied by Meredith and her friends, Miss Tan made up to seven presentations in a day. “She was really shy at first,” Meredith says, “but she’s a teacher through and through, and she handled them really well.”
The students made the effort especially worthwhile. Meredith enthusiastically describes the first presentation: “The minute she started talking to the students in this class, their eyes got so huge. She started by showing them on the globe where Thailand was in comparison to North Carolina.” Miss Tan spoke primarily to 3rd and 7th graders, but as the word spread, many students brought their siblings to meet her.
Meredith and her friends sent Miss Tan home with American souvenirs, Weekly Readers and letters—responses to the pen pal letters the Thai kids had sent to the American students. “Some of the Thai students had opted out,” Meredith said, “but when their friends started to get letters back, they got interested.” One school year later, many pen pals are still writing.
Meredith participated in her final Morehead-sponsored experience this summer. Planning on a career in education, she spent the summer conducting a self-designed study of education in Tanzania and Zambia. After she graduates in 2005, she hopes to teach high school biology and start preparing for her next trip to Thailand. “The next time I go,” Meredith said, “I will have at least a few friends and family members in tow.” AV —Mary Catherine Platt
Mary Catherine Platt is the senior editor at Abroad View. TOP
ISSN 0856-9135; No. 00292
ON THE WEB October 18-24, 2003
How Women can Protect themselves from HIV/AIDS
AIDS. AIDS. AIDS. Itís written about in every newspaper, mentioned on every newscast, talked about in most schools, churches, and social gatherings, yet HIV infections continue to soar in Tanzania, and 58% of those infected are women.
Women must protect themselves from HIV/AIDS by doing the following:
Get tested. Itís a scary thought, I know. Itís easy to put it off, make excuses, convince yourself that you are not at risk because you are married or in a long-term union, but in reality, the overwhelming majority of HIV infections occur while in a stable relationship. Women are more susceptible to heterosexual transmission because of biological factors, infidelity, illiteracy and ignorance of prevention.
If you havenít been sexually involved with anyone, you still need to get tested. Many HIV infected women pass the disease on to their children because they didnít get tested or didnít take the proper precautions to prevent infection during delivery and breast feeding. Once you get tested, make your husband, or whomever you are sexually involved with get tested, and continue do to so every six months.
Donít have sex if you are not ready.
Donít let anyone convince you that you should be having sex or that it is a necessary part of a relationship. It is up to you to decide what you do with your body. Often, womenís fear of saying no to sex is fueled by fear of rejection.
Girls are raised to seek out menís love and attention and often rely on men to judge their self worth. Women donít want to disappoint or offend their sexual partner because they are afraid he will reject her and move on to someone else. This lack of self esteem is the driving force of heterosexual HIV infection. As long as women allow men to dictate their sexual practices, HIV will continue its prevalence in Tanzania.
Insist on a condom.
If you do have sex (especially outside of marriage), make him wear a condom. According to a recent study in Tanzania, 70% of females think it is unacceptable to ask a sexual partner to use a condom.
Women allow male partners to make decisions in terms of safe sex practices, often because women who are prepared for sex, i.e.; carrying a condom, are often perceived as ëlooseí or on the lookout for sex. It is women who are responsible for making this stigma change. Once all women demand that men wear condoms, men will absolutely choose wearing a condom over not having sex at all. Trust me, it will happen.
It's time for Tanzania to empower its women.
Women must learn to say no, learn to speak their minds, and learn to take control of their bodies. It is the only way to effectively fight the battle against HIV/AIDS. TOP
October 11-17, 2003 No. 00291
Why Girls' Education Makes a Difference
by Kimberly Walker
There are multiple benefits derived from girlsí education; increased family incomes, reduced risk of HIV infection, reduced infant and maternal mortality rates, healthier children and families, and greater opportunities and life choices for women. Yet, African women are among the least advantaged globally, in terms of access to education.
Although the problem of further education for girls falls largely on the shoulders of the female students in Tanzania, it also requires active participation from families, government, and education system.
The gender bias against the education of females begins in the home. According to the UN, girls make up 46% of primary school enrollment which then takes a huge drop to 16% in secondary school enrollment. Traditional practices including heavy household workloads, domestic priorities, and gender roles greatly hinder girlsí progression in education. Yet studies have shown that educated women are better at producing food and using resources in a sustainable manner, and educated women are more likely to become part of the labor force which reaps bigger economic benefits for them and their families.
Parents must begin encouraging the further education of their daughters by prioritizing attendance in school and integrating time for homework into their daily routine. Most importantly, parents need to recognize that a girlís education is as important and valuable as a boyís.
Government legislation is slowly improving to ensure equal education opportunities for women, yet female students are still second-class in the classroom. Unfortunately, there are teachers who believe that women donít need the same amount of schooling as men.
Research shows that both male and female teachers tend to spend more time nurturing the minds of male pupils, and often discourage girls from studying the subjects of math and science. Basic skills such as reading and writing are also lacking; in 1994, UNICEF conducted a study in Tunduru district and reported that 33-57% of girls completing standard 7 were illiterate.
Teachers are vital in the campaign for equal education. They must encourage girls to go beyond what society expects from them. This can be done by teaching curriculum that includes women role models, encouraging girls to form and join after school activities, supporting local NGOís that promote the education of women (there are many in the Arusha region), and most importantly provide an environment where girls and boys are given the same opportunities to learn.
However, it is ultimately the responsibility of female students to push beyond the boundaries set for them by society. Often girls will timidly speak of their aspirations of becoming professionals, yet they stop schooling after primary 7. Girls then become women who lack the skills and education to push out of the cycle of poverty.
Economically, women are still located in subsistence farming and other domestic activities which bring low economic returns. Girls must take an active role in their future and dare to explore options that may not be easily accessible to them.
Once women are recognized as vital participants in development and are given opportunities for education, the prospects for economic growth and prosperity are limitless. "Girlís education makes all the difference, not only in terms of economic development but human development," says Mary Joy Pigozzi of UNICEF.
Government, educators, families and students must work together to ensure equal education for Tanzanian women. TOP