During the summer months iChange was able to welcome nine volunteers, including some of the iChange team members, in Zambia. While a number of volunteers participated in existing activities others conducted smaller projects on their own initiative. The following report mostly focuses on ongoing and new activities which were managed by the iChange team directly.
One of the iChange team members, together with another volunteer, managed a comprehensive introductory research project for the iChange microfinance program. Participants in this study were six women from the Mackenzie community. After a general information session at the beginning of the project the participants attended a three-day workshop about microfinance and sustainability entrepreneurship. Afterwards, regularly scheduled team meetings as well as individual project visits with all six participants continued throughout the project period, which spanned multiple months. This allowed not only participants to achieve impressive results in their individual projects, but also enabled iChange to gather valuable and important data and experiences for its existing microfinance program.
In addition, the cooperation with the Mackenzie Women's Club, which was started in 2011, continued. As this represented the first microloan granted to a group of participants instead of a single individual it provided a valuable learning opportunity for all parties involved. The initial success achieved by the group of 20 women encouraged iChange to grant a larger, follow-up credit for their project.
A test program for educational stipends was initiated last summer. Five students who were scheduled to successfully graduate from Mackenzie Community School in 2011 were selected to continue their education at a public school, beginning in 2012. This step only became possible through the financial support provided by the new iChange Educational Stipend Program, as otherwise these families would not have been able to afford the cost of secondary education for their children.
Of the original five participants two moved away from Mackenzie before the start of the 2012 school year. This is not an unusual occurrence as children often have to move to other relatives if their current parent or guardian cannot continue to care for them anymore. iChange was able to immediately replace one the previous participants with another one, leaving four students to start this new program in 2012.
During our visit this summer eight more children were identified and offered the opportunity to participate in the program. They are now scheduled to join their peers at the beginning of 2013. Of this group, five are students who will graduate from Mackenzie Community School in 2012. Three others were originally sponsored by another organization which since has discontinued their stipend program. To nevertheless allow these three students to start their secondary education, iChange decided to accept them in their new Educational Stipend Program.
A couple of years ago a test project was implemented in Kapalu village, outside of Ndola. Originally, it was planned to partner with a project team from Kapalu to start an entrepreneurial chicken rearing project. After a promising start, however, political turmoil cut the village off their usual clean water supply, forcing them to use contaminated local bracken water to feed the chicken. As a result, most of the chicken died, stalling the project.
After a careful analysis of the aforementioned situation and upon receiving further guidance and support from the tribal chief in this area, a decision was made to restart the relationship with the community. Unlike in the beginning, six villages are now participating in this project. As a result it was renamed to 'Twatasha Community Project'.
After initial progress, the clinic project which iChange had started in Mackenzie in 2011 was temporarily delayed due to political circumstances. During this year's visit the iChange project team succeeded in removing the political barriers, thus opening the way for resuming this important project.
After further requirements for a successful start of the clinic were received from a government-sponsored nurse, iChange completed the still missing renovations of the new clinic facilities. Another partner organization committed to furnishing the new clinic. Once this step has been completed the government will take responsibility for and provide regular nurse visits to the new Mackenzie Community Health Care Clinic.
Aside from the projects described above various other smaller projects and activities took place during the summer months of 2012. This included, for example, a three-day HIV/AIDS workshop conducted jointly with local volunteers from the Mackenzie Community for 19 young participants. Funding for this workshop was provided through the generosity of a former volunteer who had already been active in this area of activity during her stay in Mackenzie. After the successful completion of this first workshop iChange will now provide funding for a second such workshop in December.
iChange also assisted the Mackenzie Community School with settling old debts with their electric utility provider, which had accumulated over the past years. After another NGO had initially provided the link-up to the local grid and covered the school's electricity bills, the discontinuation of their financial support had left the school indebted for their electricity usage. iChange now facilitated switching the school's link-up to a prepaid system which should provide a better measure of cost-control. At the same time, iChange completed wiring all classrooms for light bulbs to allow the most effective use of electricity throughout the whole school.