This is my last week of work before taking an extended leave from corporate life. I have been accepted as a volunteer of VSO International for deployment in the Kalomo district of Zambia Africa. I hope to be able to leave by the first week of October.
This is the first time for most of my friends and family members to hear about this. For their benefit, and peace of mind, I am sharing my answers to some Frequently-Asked-Questions.
Where in the world is Zambia?
Once known as Rhodesia, this landlocked country is positioned in the Southern part of Africa, and bordered by the countries of Congo (boomlay-boomlay-boom), Botswana, Angola, Namibia, Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe.
English is the official language of Zambia but the Tonga dialect is spoken in Kalomo.
Did you have a choice in your country of placement
Early on in the process, I did mention that I was interested in a placement in Africa but did not indicate a preference for a particular country. I was considered for assignments in Kenya, Gambia and Namibia. The Zambia placement eventually turned out to be the best fit for me in terms of skills required, timing, etc.
What in the world is VSO International?
VSO International is a UK-based international NGO that aims to fight global poverty by sending volunteers to share their skills and experience with people in developing countries. More information can be found at their website .
What will you be doing as a volunteer?
The Kalomo district is a rural community with agriculture as its main source of livelihood. My placement is in line with Kalomo’s Integrated Development Plan which aims to promote economic and social progress while utilizing full community participation.
I will be assigned as a “Resource Organizer ”for Kalomo’s Gender Governance and Citizen Participation Program. My job is to help the Kalomo district council in the following areas:
- Developing training and livelihood programs for the residents, especially women and children living with HIV and AIDS.
- Increasing women and youth participation and leadership at strategic decision making levels.
- Enhancing the establishment and strengthening of decentralised district structures.
Isn’t this a bit sudden? Have you thought about this carefully?
Actually, it’s not. And, yes I have. As some of you may know, I had been searching for a similar opportunity for quite some time. Until I found out about VSO, I had difficulty finding the right organization. I got in touch with VSO sometime in 2008. It took several months before I could be matched with a placement and then several months before I could be confirmed.
I had originally signed-up for two years. Due to budget cuts, the program was shortened to six months. I was given the option of backing-out but I decided to proceed.
What do you hope to accomplish?
When I was much younger, I thought that I had it in me to save the world from all its various ills. I have been humbled by enough experiences to know that this is not possible.
But –foolish or stubborn - I have enough idealism left in me to believe in the nobility of trying, regardless of what the end-results might be.
I believe that a sincere and full-hearted attempt to do good can, by itself, be a victory.
I want to try.
I may not be able to save the world but, in trying, I hope to find my own salvation.
And, oh yes, I really do want world peace J
Huh, what are you trying to save yourself from?
In my efforts to manage my life over the past few years, my focus and span of interest have become very narrow. Paradoxically, while my life has become very orderly and well-planned - I find myself feeling disconnected and underutilized.
This is my attempt to un-fix the order and numbing certainty of my hours and days. I hope that from the mess that is created, I could open myself up to new learnings and adventures.
What am I saving myself from? Complacency. Stagnation. My own pettiness and small-mindedness. What-ifs, should-have, could-haves. A life of waiting for things to happen. A life of making commentary but taking no action.
When this is over, hopefully I can bring back more than just the experience but a fresh take on things and a renewed appreciation of who I am and what I can accomplish .
Remind us again, why exactly are you doing this?
At the time that I was praying for discernment on whether to proceed with my VSO application - my friend, Renee, unknowingly shared a prayer with me. I took this as a confirmation of my plans.
Prayer of St. Francis Drake
Disturb us, Lord, when we are too well pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true
Because we have dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely
Because we sailed too close to the shore.
Disturb us, Lord, when with the abundance of things we possess
We have lost our thirst
For the waters of life;
Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,
To venture on wider seas
Where storms will show your mastery;
Where losing sight of land,
We shall find the stars.
We ask You to push back
The horizons of our hopes;
And to push into the future
In strength, courage, hope, and love
Some old entries from blog may also help explain the thought process that has gone into this decision.
While some of you may have read these earlier posts, it may be interesting to revisit them knowing the full context behind these entries.
I wrote this entry when I was first considering applying to VSO
I have also written about other volunteers whose examples have inspired me.
Whatever. So, why do you have to volunteer so far away? Why not find volunteer work in the Philippines?
Part of my motivation is to test for myself how far my good intentions can take me For this experience, I want to go as far away from my comfort zone as possible and see how much I can accomplish without having to rely on all the easy short-cuts and ways-out that are available to me in the Philippines.
But the Philippines will always be home. I can bring back this experience with me and hopefully find local volunteering or NGO opportunities that I can look into when I come back.
What about your job? How will you support yourself during the placement and after coming back?
I will be on sabbatical from my job at Gurango Software. My last day of work is August 28, 2009. I am
expected to resume my post on May 3, 2010.
VSO will pay for air-travel. While in Zambia, basic housing facilities will be provided by the Kalomo district council and I will be receiving a subsistence allowance to cover food expenses.
What about your health? Will you have access to medical facilities?
I am going through a very thorough medical clearance procedure before departure. Thus far, I have had about 6 different vaccinations for everything from flu, rabies, hepatitis and pneumonia. I have my vaccinations for yellow fever, dysentery and malaria coming up.
While in Zambia, there is a private medical clinic within 25 minutes drive from the placement and a government district level hospital is also available within 10 minutes drive from the placement.
Is Zambia safe? What happens in case of emergencies?
Zambia is said to be one of the most peaceful countries in Africa. If , for any reason, a decision is made to evacuate its volunteers, VSO, as a UK-headquartered international organization, calls on the best available emergency services to get them to safer locations as soon as possible
How can we keep in touch with you while you are in Zambia?
Mobile phone coverage throughout Zambia is supposed to be quite good . I will bring my local Globe SIM card. If you are texting from a Philippine-based provider, you will be charged regular rates and I will not be charged for receiving. I will surely be getting a local SIM card from which I will be sending messages. I will let you know the number.
At present, the office where I will be working does not have internet access. However, there are supposed to be several internet cafe in central Kalomo . I will check that out. Please note that Zambia is 6 hours behind the Philippines.
I will try to post general updates on my facebook page or this blog.
Private emails can be addressed to email@example.com. I apologize in advance for any delays in response time.
Where can we find other related info on VSO and Zambia: