Greetings from the Warm Heart of Africa 3 from Becky Raymond

Another letter from Becky Raymond who is serving a PC Response assignment in Blantyre, Malawi:

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Schoolgirls on an HIV awareness march

Let me start off by answering the question that many of you may be thinking – is there Ebola in Malawi? At this point no. There have been no cases of Ebola here.

Malawi is in southeastern Africa, south of Tanzania and west of Mozambique. Malawi is a long way from the West African countries experiencing the epidemic. The U.S. is closer geographically, than Malawi. That is not to say that it could not come here. As we know, travel across borders can be very easy. Malawi is not at all prepared or equipped to deal with Ebola. There is a branch of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) here, and they are actively monitoring the situation. At a time like this it is natural to think of one’s own risk. However, my fellow health volunteers and I are thinking a great deal about the situation in West Africa and how to help. So, if you are inclined to make a donation to the many organizations and agencies that are involved in helping fight the epidemic, please go tohttp://www.cidi.org/ebola-ngos/#.VA-ukbxdVig

Meanwhile the HIV epidemic is still impacting millions in southern Africa. That has been the focus of my work here. As I

An IT Centre

An IT Centre

mentioned in my previous letters (yes, several months ago), I am working on a project to map and survey all the HIV/AIDS non-governmental and community-based organizations in the Blantyre District where I work.  My Malawian colleagues and I applied for and were awarded a small grant from the U.S. PEPFAR (the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) to cover the project costs. We have finished the surveying and GPS coordinate gathering portion of the project. Last week, a fellow Peace Corps Response volunteer and I held a training for staff in QGIS, a free mapping software program, that will enable us to make and print maps of the locations of these organizations in the District. The purpose of the project is to improve collaboration, response and coordination among the organizations and with the District. It is also to strengthen strategic planning based on the District’s development goals.

Conducting one of the surveys of HIV-related NGOs

Conducting one of the surveys of HIV-related NGOs

I am now in my 8th month, two-thirds of the way through the year. I have been here long enough that it feels familiar, and somewhat comfortable, sometimes not. I am still adjusting to the reverse of seasons. We had winter in July and August, with cold, misty rain and wind. It got down into the 40s at night and really did feel like winter, since there is no heat in the buildings. It is very hard on the majority of Malawians who only have small fires as a heat source.

It is now the hot season and temperatures are in the 90s. The rains won’t come again until late November or early December. Even though I live in Blantyre, the second largest city, there are few places with air conditioning. My office is not one of them. I am learning to work in 95 degree heat, and have brought a fan to my office, but sometimes all it does is blow hot air around.

Malawi held a presidential election in May. It was rough going, with some violence on election day, and several incidents of ballot boxes missing or damaged. The election was contested but official results were finally released three weeks after election day. The new President, Arthur Peter Mutharika, a professor and lawyer, lived for many years in the United States. It is too early to tell what his presidency will bring to the country. Foreign government donors have largely withheld the 40% of the budget that they contribute annually, due to “Cashgate”. Cashgate occurred two years ago, when high level government officials stole millions of dollars from the national budget (mostly foreign donated funds). Malawi is now struggling to operate under a severe austerity budget.

At the end of May, I moved into a small guesthouse in the central part of the city. It is walking distance to my office (about

Becky's house

Becky’s house

a mile and a half), is furnished and very comfortable. I even have a washing machine and microwave! Quite spoiled by PC standards. My landlord is Irish and his wife is English, so we have fun communicating in our respective accents and comparing and contrasting our cultures and countries. They have lived in Malawi for 18 years and raised their four sons here.

My thoughts turn more and more now to returning home in February. It is right around the corner. It will be wonderful to see you all again.

Love,

Becky

Happy Hour at City Beer Hall

A great time was had by all at our Happy Hour event at the City Beer Hall last Friday. Check out some pictures below. Thanks again to Heather Senecal for coordinating the event. Stay tuned for future Happy Hours and other events from the Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of Northeastern NY!

 

Sarah Janeski and Eliot Cresswell

 

Ruth Senchyna and Heather Senecal

 

Eric Snell and Eliot Cresswell

 

Judith Wines and little Suraya Matejka

 

James Higby, Maseeh Mukhtar, and Bill Batt.

 

photo 1

 

photo 5

 

Jose Sanchez and Taya Louise

 

Kelly Thompson, Saru Zvoma, Bob Crowley, Jeanette Gottlieb, and Rich White-Smith.

Kelly Thompson, Saru Zvoma, Bob Crowley, Jeanette Gottlieb, and Rich White-Smith.

 

 

Hope to see you all at the next one! Stay tuned for further details.

 

Annual Summer Picnic

Our annual summer picnic was held on July 12th at Bob Crowley’s house in Poestenkill. 25-30 people were in attendance, including RPCVs, one current PCV, husbands and wives, and plenty of friends and family. A good time was had by all as we ate, drank, swam, and talked the day away. Until next year, everybody!

 

Good discussion

Good discussion

Good food

Good food

And a great host! Thanks, Bob!

And a great host! Thanks, Bob!

Peace Corps Happy Hour at Umana Restaurant and Wine Bar

A great time was had by all who attended the Peace Corps Happy Hour last night! Thanks again to Umana Restaurant and Wine Bar for hosting us and to RPCV Heather Senecal for organizing the event.

 

The restaurant created a special menu just for our event.

The restaurant created a special menu just for our event.

236 Washington Ave., Albany, New York 12210

236 Washington Ave., Albany, New York 12210

Bob Crowley and Joe and Pat Doherty

Maseeh Mukhtar and Steve Gottlieb

A tableful of RPCVs!

Tessa Eckholm, Sarah Janeski, and Eliot Cresswell

Cheers!

Where are you calling from?

Below is a graphical look at where our recent web traffic has come from. Not surprisingly, the vast majority of visitors are from with in the US. But there are some surprising countries on this list, some that have never had Peace Corps too!

These statistics are from the launch of our new site in April 2012 to present.

Click to enlarge the image.