Well I go a new nickname. After several days of attempting to remember and pronounce my name, several of my new colleagues decided to call me Makena, which means happy/joyful/jolly.
I also had my first real tour of the area and saw elephant dung in the forest today. I am so excited at the possibility to see an Elephant. Apparently they will come to the farms just outside the forest in the early morning and eat their corn. I know that’s not good but I can’t help feeling a little enchanted by it as well.
We met with 5 vulnerable families today to assess their need for a pilot feeding program we are going to start. Many of these families are made up of grandparents or great grandparents who have found themselves the caretakers of small children whose parents have either died or gone away. It’s not certain in all the cases if the parents were victims to HIV although I did meet a 15 year old girl who has been HIV positive all her life. She probably contracted the virus from her mother’s breast milk. Nevertheless, she is going to school and her quality of life seems relatively good. In fact in a visit to her school I saw her running and playing with the other children flashing a brilliant smile.
On a lighter note we also met with several people who were loan recipients and it is really encouraging to see people take the initiative and creativity to make their lives better. Apparently one big problem here is the apathy many young people have in improving their situation. There was a woman about 29 years old who bought goods for a small boutique and she seems to be making money already. Another man took his loan money to dig ponds to farm tilapia fish, a fairly new idea in these parts. There are few areas where this kind of endeavor can take place due to the mountainous terrain.