27 October 2009

The one-billion dollar question

This morning, while cycling up a hill from bringing the children to school, a whole choir of children stood at a distance, screaming How are you? on the top of their voices. While jelling back I am fine! it struck me that they aired the one-billion dollar question.

Yesterday my partner Janneke van Dijk published a study on Barriers to the care of HIV-infected children in rural Zambia. A friend shared a diagnosis cancer after which we talked. And we filed a conference paper on Rural mesh network implementation in the village of Macha showing lots of real world constraints for implementing Information and Communications Technologies in an emerging region.


Well, it seems we have a desire to partner in situations for those saying 'I am not fine!' when they are asked that same one-billion dollar question. And that is worthwhile in itself: serving those who suffer. And sufferers abound, both in the South and in the North. We are all poor - in one way or the other - and fall short of being good.

Today I am planning to speak in Macha to a group of people about looking at realities, away from well worn paths, other paradigms and hypotheses. I will discuss the following:
  • Competition versus Collective and Individual Purposes.
  • 'Tit-for-tat' versus Satisfying Needs.
  • Shortage versus Abundance.
  • Ownership versus Stewardship.
  • Hoarding versus Sharing.
  • Selfishness versus Collectiveness.
  • Losers versus Conquerers.
  • Loss and Waste versus Sustainability.
  • Truth being Adagium versus Truth being Relationship.
  • Authority derived from Power versus Power derived from Authority.
Challenging subjects to talk about in rural Africa. Seemly it is all about the former while striving for the latter.

I am fine!

25 October 2009


The question 'is it sustainable?' is the most asked questions in inter-institutional and inter-personal interactions. It is the main denominator for 'go/no go' decisions. The capacity of being sustained is an important key as we aim for sustainable progress. Wikipedia states, 'Sustainable development is a pattern of resource use that aims to meet human needs while preserving the environment so that these needs can be met not only in the present, but also for future generations'.

I find it rather amazing that the primary measuring stick - seemingly singularly and applied unchallenged - is economics. The information in forms of business cases, financial overviews, and economic assessments should be showing whether or not an intervention is sustainable. Although I do not mean to diminish the enabling capacity of finance, and financial information has its value, it is healthy to critique the rather predominant outlook towards the assessment of sustainability by means of the economics only. What if the economics - like water, power, transport, and communications – are mainly providing measurements of an enabling factor? What would it be enabling? Maybe just interaction within context?

It is mainly about context. In my view the context - the interrelated conditions in which something exists or occurs with its cultural, social, historical data, intertwined with non-tangibles - that should actually lead the assessment of sustainability.

In the progress experienced in Macha, most significant to me are the many changed lives. Local Talent in driving seats are now enabled and recognized drivers of progress. And whether or not the vehicle itself goes forward or disintegrates, these local talent have developed capacity to remain drivers of progress. And thus there is the capacity to sustain, in people. I propose it was inspiration, the fanning of hope, the embrace of lasting relationships, explicitly positioned within existing context, and timely enabled, that were the main motivators for change. With African culture being preserved, maybe even strengthened as it is being watched, discussed, and exercised, I reckon this to be most valuable inputs in assessment for the sustainability of it all.

African context is not readily understood, and certainly its complexity can hardly be grasped in elevator pitches or short assays in language and concepts developed in context of western presuppositions, history, and agendas. Even in economics, disregard for the established, functioning systems of African ways of dealing with funds has led to a system of cross cultural interaction that is out of touch with basic cultural priorities.

Thus we search for contextual indicators which grab aspects important to show that roots have developed and the tree is well positioned. As we are all striving to establish the capacity of being sustained, its proof on forehand seemingly eludes us. Paradoxally, one seems only to be able to proof when it is does not exist, but is not able to prove that it does exists. Of course, afterwards a verdict can be reached. Sustainability needs to be carefully analyzed, taking the whole context into account. Without such careful analyses, and with narrow definitions, personal or institutional whims can surface with arbitrary, erroneous interpretations.

Sustainability assessment is an activity of both science and art, and interdisciplinary from the outset. It necessitate dedication and search for cross cultural expressions and cooperation. And such activity also deals with norms and values, whether implicit or explicit. We need to discover and employ more holistic principles that can bring true assessment, and guarding, of sustainability.

10 September 2009


The last weeks I have been traveling ‘in the West’. Our family spent a one week in Essex, UK with family and Janneke’s sister Ada and family. Although Ada was in severe pain due to cancer, we had a good week in beautiful surroundings. Then one week Netherlands, followed by urgent travel back to UK for untimely death and burial of Ada. Then back in the Netherlands again, spending time with family and friends, to return Africa at the end of last week.

All this now finds me with a true sense of being a ‘nomad’. Nomadic people or nomads is defined as a communities of people who move from one place to another, rather than settling permanently in one location. There are three kinds of traditional nomads defined: hunter-gatherers moving between hunting grounds, pastoral nomads moving between pastures, and "peripatetic nomads" moving between customers. Apparently there are an estimated 30-40 million nomads in the world. It is said that many cultures have traditionally been nomadic, but traditional nomadic behavior is increasingly rare in industrialized countries.

Well, I think the amount of 'nomads' is growing again. We have ‘third culture kids’ and actually whole groups of people live somewhere else then where they were born, or stayed a couple of years ago, or even living in such fast change that they stay but the environment moves. And those are all nomads!

I am a nomad, and my home is where my head rests. Eh... where can it rest?

20 July 2009

I am because You are

Would it be possible that people in rural areas of Africa connect with people in urban areas around the world?

That one can walk into a scene and meet someone who walks into the same scene, even if it is geographically separated? That we explore and connect rural and urban worlds worldwide without anyone being forced into cultural suicide? That we meet around the globe and relate, embrace, love, and build meaningful relationships? That we find ways to be of significance and support to each other and together shuffle poverty and disease into the abyss? That we encourage each other to withstand drunkenness and drugs, bullying, self harm, and greed? That we share spiritual nutrition to deal with wealth, loss, alienation and pain in this generation?

That we unite through social networks overcoming divides and separations? That we share ancient, tested and new resources, opportunities, visions, and dreams that lead to knowledge, understanding and wisdom?

That we collaborate cross-everything to discuss, and make tools to balance the way toward, taking into account integral health of all systems? That we together, South and North, build capacity and accountability, and progress, for justice and fairness?

That I am because You are?

17 July 2009

How DO you?

What do you do? That question is proposed to me mostly by people from western snit. It tends to be part of a line of questioning, going like what do you do?, what do people say about you?, what do you have?. Answers to these questions supposedly lead towards the assessment and subsequently guides the measure of commitment of association. Thus challenged, I diligently write reports - both formal and informal - answering that question for many audiences. And still I will have to write many others, as the hunger for answers to this question is huge. Hence twitter.

Fortunately, I am privileged to sit in a hotel room in Cape Town, taking time off while my wife Janneke attends high level HIV-related conferences in this remarkable city. Intentionally I take time to reflect on what do I do?. I can state that I wander rural African lands, champion the poor, provoke people, and implicitly and explicitly call the international community to account, however, upon reflection all this vanishes in view of the question who are you?

I am grateful for being in Africa, where the question who are you? is the most important question and main course of every interpersonal interaction. The answer thus fuels collaboration and inspiration and guides groups of rag-tag and seasoned visionaries, dreamers, and hands-on load-carriers to implement its consequences into every day living. And as such fuels thedoing.

Well, who am I? The answer needs study, interaction, and, of course, is multi dimensional and to be discovered daily. However, it incorporates aspects of 'a broken person, crushed by, seeing the consequences of death through AIDS and other poverty related deceases, the profound pain and struggles during the uphill battle for sustainable progress by the poor, and, the many other extreme challenges that disempowered communities of this world face'. Also it contains 'a person, inspired by vision for empowerment of those in disease ridden communities, awed by the magnificence and strength of the poor, and, who has chosen to believe to be able to be together and seize opportunities that our amazing world provides to build bridges between cultures and circumstance over which we can interact and support one another'.

So, what do I do? Aiming to build relationships and communities, trying to conquer the challenges of relating. In that programs, platforms, projects and meetings are instrumental only, part of the arsenal of means to. I seek solutions and innovations that are more complex and less rationalistic than mainstream Western worldview seemingly dictates.

All in all, let us BE before we DO.

12 June 2009

Broken Bicycle Seats

Things break. Such is known. But the rate of how things break in rural Africa is hard to comprehend.

This morning I noticed that only one seat of our six biclycles is not broken: the seat on Elmo's biclycle. That one we replaced with a new one last week. My bicycle seat is broken, Janneke's bicycle seat is broken, Merel's bicycle seat is broken, Beauty's bicycle seat is broken, and the guest bicycle seat is broken too.

Then we were taking files off a laptop this morning, as the screen is faulty. We will continue using the laptop with an external display, if we can find a working one. And I struggle to keep a back up from my data, as three hard disks bigger then 500 Gb broke within one year, only one left - with all my data on it.

Rural Africa is harsh on stuff. It breaks at an unimaginable rate. Stuff that we get from the West, that normally lasts there, breaks here fast. Stuff that we buy in the South, often cheaply made, breaks even faster.

All in all, in rural Africa it is not about implementing really. That is just one step, a start. No, it is all about maintenance.

31 May 2009

This year and the past years we gladly welcomed a multitude of visitors to the works at Macha. Some came with an explicit agenda to smell the scent and to learn. Others came to help for periods of one week, several months, or even years. The effectiveness of these helpers is subject of this blog.

Seeing short term helpers come and go, it becomes interesting to attain a view on the effectiveness of this activity. Some have come, worked and their work did evaporate when they went or shortly after. Others came, worked, and their legacy continues to exist and bloom. This stark difference in sustainance, I think, can be linked to the mindset, the outset, the attitude of the helper.

It seems that mainly the works of those coming with a servant attitude have remained. Those whose motive was to edify the local community, to serve wholeheartedly, have been most effective. They focussed on being a blessing and did not focus on good report to bring home or on pleasing others outside of the local community.

Those that came with an attitude of knowing what to do had limited effect.Them that did ask what others could do for them have gone and their works did not linger.

Many made silent sacrifices to be able to come, put the needs of the local community first, and did accept all the arrangements made by the local community. They did not ask anything in return, and their names are still known. They earned the love and respect of the local community, these helpers truelly influenced the lives in rural Macha.

05 May 2009

Intergral International Development

We are blessed with many researchers and bright-minds visiting Macha. As such, one's precepts and ideas are tested and scrutinized, allowing for continuous progress in conceptualizing and lines-of-thought. All in all it become clear that the holistic approach at Macha can provide for input in discussions on how to participate in sustainable progress, especially by people coming from other cultures with a wish to help progress.

Volunteer researcher Jasper Bets came up with some tantalizing observations, and noted the need for 3rd culture perspectives in travelers, which allows someone to be perceptive and effective within the local value system. As such, bridges are build for both developed and under-developed countries to learn from each other.

In Macha an integral perspective is being implemented, with activities set-up horizontally instead of vertically and with investments simultaneously in many different fields. This vitalizes and enforces each other, sustaining the interdependence of structures and systems. Such is done in an environment focussed on trust, respect, emerging from integration with the local community. Leaders are holding the space for change to come, as instilled by a long term view on progress. In such setting, one guides and operates from the background instead of directing by telling colleagues what needs to be done. Also this allows for local talent to stand up and thus local initiative to be fostered.

Furthermore, proper respect for the local environment necessitates aligning one's life with local life conditions, valuing relationships, showing of commitment, living in the here and now, synchronizing resource availability with seasons, recognition of - and submission to - local authorities, and aligning of world views. This supports the sustainability as the local community will embrace, own, and operate.

It is great that these kind of thoughts and ideas can be tested, scrutinized and discussed. It is wonderful to live in today's world, where we now can share, expose, and interact real time through the internet in our search, discussion and communication of an effective way of living and working together in a global community.

03 April 2009

Oral Communications Culture

The last days and today I have worked with many local talent and teams on documentation. One realizes in rural Africa what oral communication culture means. In such culture information is processed differently than in those cultures where many had the opportunity of many years of education and are part of a 'book culture’.

One who reads widely, and has paper and pens in abundance, can easily assume that others receive information in the same way. Wrong! It cannot be assumed that one can work with rural Africa using the methods that are predominantly in writing, through literature, books, and abstract papers.

Elements which are essentially oral communication methods are to be included in all that we do. Thus there are significant gaps to bridge, new avenues to explore. It is exiting to bridge cultures using new styles of web communication, for instance in preserving African culture. Actually, that is a crucial aspect of my daily activities in Macha. In the plethora of activities, dedication to preserve the African heritage is prerequisite, and needs energy and dedication, certainly in our cross cultural and cross-technological environments.

What may work well for a professional in the West may not be very accessible to people in Africa. Lectures, books, and many of traditional western methods do not relate easily to people I live with. Actually, interactive communications via the Web is arguably often much nearer to oral communication than printed literature.

Of course, what you see - what you perceive to see - influences how you act. Living in an environment different than the one a person grew up into is something 'to get used to'. Especially for me, living in an oral communications environment, so radically different than the culture I grew up in, needs lots of time for contemplation and study of the culture. One has to be able to see reality from the perspectives of the local person, the common perspective as defined by the prevailing culture in the area. And that understanding is mostly available in oral communications format, with emphasis on stories.

So I wrote.

31 March 2009

Ideas on involving grassroots levels in Africa

After writing An Inclusive World, on the inclusion and empowerment of African engineers in the world wide developments, which content was subject in IEEE GOLDRush magazine March 2008, a lot of developments have taken place. Unfortunately, also a lot of development did not take place. After writing nice words and witnessing nodding heads in agreement, we run the risk of celebrating words and avoid the sweat that action brings. As the proof is in the eating, we continue getting our hands out of the sleeves, and take action.

Meetings on the needs in Africa are mostly done in convenient settings in the West. It might also be helpful, even more effective to get out here. Possibly meetings on rural development should be done in the rural areas themselves. Participants will be exposed to new experiences and issues, and one is prone to see and understand at a different level. Also, it helps for sustainability, as relationships are build and deposits in the relationship accounts are being made.

Let us think out of the box. My contribution on Innovating and Learning versus Reporting deals also with that, and the issues are real. Sustainable progress activities in dis advanced places can be pin pointed. It is also time for (social) venturing onto new roads. Such can be done with more cooperation, across expertise, geographical and cultural areas. As an example, see our list of partnerships, growing by the day. Partnerships are productive as we accumulating knowledge and understanding in a continuously accelerated manner, and - for the first time ever - we are really able to partner because we are connected! We embrace the challenges, agree that change is a constant, and seek to establish and maintain new equilibrium.

Africa's intelligentsia, like engineers, can be involved (and get back to Africa!). It would be great to assess how many resources for projects in Africa are actually remaining in the West. Donor syndrome can be countered by engendering and soliciting innovative proposals from Africa. We need to think from African user perspectives and might need to find ways as how to empower users. And African providers must gain access to wholesale pricing. Then social venturing is a good vehicle to assure plowing back of margin and results into the communities.

Current trends are think big, however grassroots level now has a voice, is empowered, and testing ideas. Connected communities explore ideas, and report findings. Initiatives are starting at grassroots levels, and ideas on solving issues at hand should be valued and allowed to be explored. Ways of interacting between the grassroots level and big, institutionalized bodies can be found, certainly now with the development of connectivity, and the Internet. Possibly definition of Internet's NET4.0 could come from grassroots level in Africa! The social networks for grassroots level interaction, utilizing the multitude of technologies and possibilities available, are empowering interaction across geographical and cultural divides.

30 March 2009

Africa is really large

Following up on my observations in "Africa is large", I recently noticed this drawing, which explains it well:

13 March 2009

A Triangle of Partnerships

A triangle of networking and relationships for progress and development of the Western World, South Africa and Southern Africa can be recognized to benefit all corners of the triangle. The following benefits result:
  1. Southern Africa can execute indigenous ways of developing, which includes breeding new developments from within existing communities in an culturally adapt manner;
  2. South Africa can support neighboring communities with resources and understanding of the African environment, being able to build and facilitate bridges between first and third world environments, relational and rational environments, and horizontal and vertical development approaches.
  3. The Western World can support in culturally adapt development; visit African settings in an appropriate manners, and report on progress in a western culture adapt fashion.

Recognized issues of availability of empowered local leadership, holistic/horizontal approaches including aspects of health (hiv/aids), education, and communities play pivotal roles. Cross pollination of all parties by building multicultural (electronic) community exchange of mature concepts and ideas between the corners of the triangle grows mutual respect and understanding.

Focus on Getting It Done
Africa and the development world has seen many meetings, conferences, and other well-meant discussions passing without them leading to sustainable actions and progress. Now we can build upon a number of exiting and existing projects that are alive and kicking today, often build up in adverse circumstances, having stand the test of time and often well regarded in their respective communities.

Currently we witness a unique time of opportunities. South Africa can show an impressive list of practical work done in township and rural communities, over a period of many decennia in South Africa. Such has been done using indigenous South African resources, often aided with funding from oversees donors over an extended period of time.

Secondly, a large array of relationships are developed and developing with great potential for further growth. These relationships contain those focussed on using resources to getting the job done, and those with focus on participating and empowering those who get the job done, which often are the people in the areas of development themselves.

Developments in Macha, in the rural area of Southern Province in Zambia, have been interesting to national and foreign visitors. Zambia’s Vice-President opened Vision Community Center that did boast over 10 interdependent units, acting as an innovation hub in the rural area. Infrastructure development like those transport, communications, and energy are tackled in a manner empowering all in the local rural community, and supporting multiplication and growth beyond the rural Macha area, and is recognized by national government and the regulator. One of the projects, LinkNet – empowering rural communities including health and education institutions, by building and maintaining internet service provisioning - has branched out to other rural communities. A change process is defined, and a large and growing multifaceted array of partners in these developments is established.

In the West a conglomerate of institutions, private individuals recognize the unique situation at hand. Social venturing investments are made cautiously, with donor organizations empowering projects to grow beyond their current status, which ironically were most often implemented without institutional donor funding. Professional organizations in the West and South Africa are becoming aware of their own capabilities and resource for supporting developments in Africa, in their strive for global social responsibility and study of emerging markets.

All these developments are more and more supported by visionary, holistic, and inspired leadership on grassroot and national level, which is striving for culturally adapt management of programs, projects and resources. With the further emerging of transport and communication possibilities and resources at all corners of the triangle new ways of interaction and cross pollination of leadership is available.

It needs to be recognized that change in the developed world will emerge mainly from urban areas, while in the (Southern) African setting real change can emanate out of rural areas. Thus activities on several levels must take place.

First of all, on grass root level, projects have to emerge that show the feasibility and sustainability of progress in Africa. Concepts and activities as shown in Macha and (sub urban) South Africa must be guarded, nurtured and multiplied, going from ‘proof of concept’ via ‘proof of reproduction’ to ‘proof of production’.

Funding, Research, and Organization
In all corners of the triangle there is a growing understanding that current mechanisms of funding often do not align with the realities at grassroots level. African knowledge and growing understanding of the value of cultural diversity must lead to consideration of proposals for trust-based funding schemes, including output target funding.

Reviewing actual and sustainable projects established on the ground in Zambia and South Africa will show feasibility of a new approach, closely guided by experts from many nations. Existing and new relationships will act in benchmarking and active monitoring of the program and projects taking into account ethical and managerial frameworks.

Applied and fundamental research is encouraged in further understanding the ethical and African paradigms, cultural ingredients, and actual physics needed in African (rural) environments.

10 March 2009

Greet and Smile

The penguins in Madagascar movie got is almost right "Smile and Wave" is actually in Africa "Greet and Smile". Again this morning, while moving to and fro MICS to bring the children to school I met lots of people walking and on bicycles. With each one greetings were exchanged, and I was greeted with kind words and a Smile. How nice to start the day good words, recognition of each other existence, and broad smiles!

17 February 2009

Heeding Calling

Often I am asked: "why do you live in rural Africa". This in the context of having the option of living somewhere else, for instance in the West. This is the big WHY question. The answer is: I live where I sense my calling, I am within my purpose.

Purpose is the driver. Without purpose, what do we do? I believe we all have a unique purpose, and thus it is important to know that purpose. We are all unique, and thus have a unique purpose. Taking it to the extreme: competition signals that possibly one is doing the wrong thing (activity), is in the wrong area (location), or in the wrong season (time period).

When working in line with the purpose and calling one can be effective, and make sense of it all. It provides a strong inner drive towards action, whatever the circumstances.

Entities exits to be a home for where people are together, and combine their individual purposes to bring about a common purpose. It might need metaphysical or religious experiences to know one's purpose, and recognize where people combine in the common cause, the international community. This valid in the whole world, both in the South and in the West. In the West, where individuality is a driving force the common purpose will unite people. In the South, where people's individuality is an expression of the common purpose, it start the other way around, but all with the same result.

How does one find out the purpose governing one's life? There are many books in the subject and much motivational literature. I found Rick Warren's Purpose Driven Life interesting, and Reuel Khoza's Let Africa Lead. A good talk among friends, time for introspect and needs assessment, contemplating and prayer in the fields of what does one hope for, where one does have faith for might lead somewhere. In any case, it is often a process of seeking and finding.

Calling will give the energy to stick it out, to keep going when the going gets tough, energy for breakthrough when there are obstacles. Calling will help to stand up for what is right, to shed inhibitions and ignites a person to be more then a conqueror. It also helps to live unhidden, wherever and whenever. It guides the environment - including family and friends - with a base for understanding the reason of otherwise sometimes difficult to understand action and perseverance.

Purpose will give reason to connect. It births optimistic action. Optimism gives energy. Negativism drains energy, so lets steer away from that.

Calling will allow dreams to be dreamed. It can provide sense of excitement, testing and weeding of burdens. It provides for hope, and engenders faith. It allows growth, entry into the impossible.

Knowing one's calling is prerequisite for engendering change, both internal and external. I have the privilege to live in a fast changing and challenging environment. Heeding to my calling is one of the reasons why I live in rural Africa and not anywhere else.

10 February 2009

Excruciating costs of Internet in rural Africa

Looking at budgets for operations in rural Africa the costs of Internet bandwidth are major and excruciating. Strangely, it seems one of the least known or understood hurdles for development. It is difficult to stomach that we pay thousands of USD per month for internet connections with 'speeds' that the West considers peanuts. In the West one gets 1 Mb/s connectivity wholesale for less then USD 20 per month. For us in landlocked Africa, such connection costs wholesale between USD 3,000 and USD 4,500. When one has to opt for lesser speeds and shared connections, significantly higher prices are calculated. Basically, we in rural Africa pay thousands of times more for Internet connectivity then one pays in the West.

There are not too many websites that mention this situation. In reviewing pricing of satellite capacity, like-for-like comparisons are almost impossible. When preparing for Macha over six years ago, I spend one year studying pricing and service options before being able to make an informed decision. Cost/benefit ratios are masqueraded in the plethora of price/offerings and quick overviews do not show multiple issues involved. In the mean time the situation on satellite capacity pricing, and availability, has significantly deteriorated. For instance per 1 January 2009 our prices have gone up with at least 10%.

There is some movement in the situation. Major institutions and companies show interest, and sea cables are emerging. There will be a learning curve, and there is lots to learn about the way Africa works, and it remains to be see what will really emerge.

The world must recognize the current role they play in keeping Africa in darkness. Current high prices for access to satellite technology, crucial for Africans to connect to the Internet, are really problematic. Of course, with economic principles, capacity constraints lead to higher prices. But, as also we at Macha Works are showing real and major social benefits, and growing demand for special user groups, breakthrough and more providers provisioning capacity over Africa must emerge, with prices going down instead of current rising of prices.

I will continue to write comments and air views on this issue, as in Free Internet for Africa and various websites.

03 February 2009

Resource alleviation collateral

Peculiar observations can be made in an environment where resources are being added within a situation of poverty. When resources appear - and a situation with nothing changing to something - there is a significant amount of new stress added to the scene. The stress of resource allocation.

Poverty - which is the shortage of common things such as food, clothing, shelter and safe drinking water, all of which determine quality of life - influences everything. Rural Africa has also major shortages in electricity, transport, communications, housing, finances, education, and health care, to mention a few. When such resources become available, often those with access to such (still rather limited) resource pay a high price, both financial and intangible.

One has to get used to the availability of the resource, even if it is just emerging. Complexity is added when the resource is shared, and it all becomes even more complex when it is shared across cultural or age boundaries. Often those with access to the resource harbor implicit or even explicit distrust of the other with whom the resource is shared. Resource limitations feed distrust that the other is misusing the resource.

Resource allocation, which is the assignment of the available resource, is mostly defined - and organized - in a rational way. Challenge is blending 'resource allocation' in the relational, rural African cultural way. In such environment resources are shared and catered for quite differently, with responsibilities valued higher then rights.

Currently we are fortifying the scaffolding for the works at Macha, with Zambian management and international volunteers. When that scaffolding is gone, wholesome grown resources should be environmentally sound and sustainably embedded and available. Scaffolding goes with rules and requirements, which go with expectations. Guilt, and shame, and judgment follow suit, and thus hurt, especially in cross cultural environments with wide varieties of people and expectations. Management in poverty situation often equals management of hurt.

Engendering trust, over borders and cross cultural, turning expectations based upon regulations towards expectation based upon relationships, that is what must guide resource allocation in resource limited environments; All tests of character.

17 January 2009

Living at Altitude

At Macha we live about 1,100 meters above sea level. Much part of Southern Africa is more or less on a plateau, and it often feels that reflects in our life. Life , almost cannot be more full with events and experiences, it is life to the fullest! Some of the ‘news items’ of the four weeks:

I drove about 6,000 kilometers in three weeks, through Zambia, Zimbabwe and South Africa. Most of it we pulled our trailer along, with goods from Zam to Zim and from South Africa. It was great to see many of our friends in these countries, and we stayed in their houses, or camped in their driveways. We found the team in Zim well catered for copying in their specific circumstance. Together with the local community lots of efforts are put in successfully improving the facilities. Of course, going it relative and tough. However, the local team effort is commendable, and requests for support by the local Social Welfare, and the Hospital are being accommodated to the best of capabilities. We are grateful for this collaborative effort.

All this driving around is now possible with our ‘new car’ available and operational. We received the number plates and assembled all paperwork - including registration papers, insurance, Interpol clearance, driver license validation, yellow card, letters of authority, and road taxes - just three days before commencing for the long journey. During this time we also had room for relaxing (our summer holiday) with family visits to Pilanusberg (RSA) and the Vumba (Zim). During all travels we had local talent from Zambia and Zimbabwe along, giving them a needed break and new experiences. All in all we already drove more then 10,000 kilometers since the car arrived in Macha late 2008.

Just before New Year large donor funds hit the accounts of PrivaServe Foundation, allowing us to settle all current activities and debts. It is wonderful to enter the new year with a clean sheet, and to facilitate the flush of activities that we expect to happen. The new year started with every local talent dived in planning and administration.

Professionally we started the new year with operational separation of units with different business models, to facilitate specialization, coordination, and growth. LinkNet's leader is now Gregory Mweemba and the Building activities are led by Cynthia Mumba. Leadership Academy and Transport branches also operate more or less independent, with 'Macha Works' overarching the activities in a coordination role, assessing local plans and reports. It is exiting to see the maturity of the team, and how they relish the opportunities ahead.

Also the past period gave me an opportunity to catch up on some reading. ‘The Shack’ is a best seller in South Africa and served as a cup of fresh water, I enjoyed the read.

The year also started with many hours in the air, facilitated by Flying Mission. Pilot family Rick and Tracy Rempel settled in Macha, with housing gracely provided by Macha Hospital. And, Macha now also has its own resident airplane, a Cessna 210, often flying over 150 knots an hour! Miracles and progress abound. With its connectivity, quality primary education, and abilities in transport, Macha even becomes attractive for international coordination activities. In that manner Mennonite Central Committee Southern Africa coordinators are settling in Macha for their work in coordination of MCC travels in Southern Africa.

More cooperation efforts are being established with joint activities within the setting of the Global Research Alliance. Applied research in rural internet connectivity is the agenda, and grant proposals, white papers, and the like are being penned down. Currently the cooperation includes applied research partners in Finland, Germany, South Africa and Netherlands. Even contacts with Australia are growing.

In the mean time we continue to grow our knowledge base of the rural areas, and as such I continued discussions in Lusaka, touched down in Loloma, and visited Chitokoloki (near Angola) last week.

It is high time that our Tonga Hut in the garden is being repaired. The grass roof caved in one year ago, but we did not work on it as all other projects were of higher priority. Good rains this year stimulated a full roof-collapse, and thus no escape than to really get going with this. Now the grass is getting on a new wooden frame, and we look forward to its completion.

The electricity company ZESCO started to deliver on its contract to connect Ubuntu Campus with an 11 kV line. It was 11 months ago that we paid the contract, but now we can see something happening, with three quarters of the poles standing. Let’s hope that we gain some more speed in this work, which will be a big relieve and support for the activities there.