I’m hanging in the air – literally, somewhere over the far northeast of Canada. Figuratively I hang between my three worlds – Zambia, Switzerland, and Alberta. When we first got back to Switzerland people often asked me: ‘Bisch scho aacho?” (dialect for – have you arrived?) What they’re really asking is: “has your spirit arrived, have you come to terms with your different worlds?
My corporate brother-in-law says he thinks the most clearly in the air between worlds. I’ve learned to take these hours as an opportunity to ‘leave and arrive’ – to assess the time behind, and think about the time before. Mostly I ‘leave’.
We are often asked “Do you feel you were able to achieve something in Zambia?” It’s a question that plagues any development worker, I think. Did we do enough, did we do it right, did we do more harm than good? How can we ever know?
Pastor Jessy emailed us that the women in Mpongwe have not all received their loans for a small business yet, because some of them don’t know what business to do. I wish we had more time with them to discuss their plans. Shouldn’t we have given more training first? Sometimes we think they are ready when they’re not. Sometimes they’re more ready than we think.
Mr. Mate, chairman of Bukuumo cooperative emailed us that they couldn’t get a quorum for their last meeting. Did interest die again when we left? Have the women given up hope without me there to cheer them on? I never did get the invoices to be able to do a proper audit. Why wouldn’t Tito give them to me??? I guess I was too naïve – I fully expected him to get me the invoices and waited too long to take action.
The loose ends that needed to be tied up to completely finish the building project at Heart of Africa Mission are still loose. Robert fully expected them to finish in two weeks. They did finish the money – they used most of it for wages. They couldn’t put that many hours of work into those two weeks if they tried! But then, who am I to say something? We used several times that amount in four days enjoying ourselves in London. They needed the wages to feed their families.
So we wonder. We know it is unrealistic to expect everything to work great, the way we would like it to. But experience tells us most of the 10 women receiving loans will succeed. The building project at HAM will finish at least to the point where the toilet/shower block is usable. And hopefully Bukuumo will get a new treasurer.
We know that mindsets have been affected, are changing; people are thinking new thoughts. Ultimately that’s what we want. One Canadian also working with farm cooperatives in Africa said that our biggest contribution is probably the encouragement we bring to the Zambian farmers. When I look at it that way, I can honestly say, “Yes, we have achieved something.”
That’s pretty good for a three month stint. And anyway, would I have achieved more if I’d stayed home in Canada for that time?