Our 2007 Trip to Lesotho

Volume 5

In 2007, my wife and I spent 2 months on a "service holiday" in The Mountain Kingdom of Lesotho in Southern Africa.  Below are several posts and pics from that trip describing our work and experiences, made possible by generous donations from our friends and family.

May 28, 2007

Since we will be leaving Lesotho in a few days, this will be our final update.  As expected, our time here has passed in a flash.  When we get back to the US, we will post a full accounts review of funds raised and spent on our trip.  

The last two weeks have been no less interesting than the first six.  I finally rode on a proper chicken-bus, with a clucking hen sitting just behind me.  Meg made several small children cry, while she was visiting a pre-school in a remote village.  It wasn’t until her interpreter explained that, though she is white-skinned, she is not be-witched, that the children calmed down.  And we learned about a local board game that involves jagged metal pieces and broken bits of glass.  I think it’s called, “Jagged Metal Pieces and Broken Bits of Glass.”  I’m hoping to bring this back and see if Mattell or Hasbro is interested in producing it locally. 

We have been trying to tutor a local boy in his math homework as well.  I use the word “tutor” generously, as my retained knowledge ends at intermediate algebra.  This happens to be just the subject his class is studying.  Unfortunately, his skills in basic multiplication and division, adding and subtracting negative numbers, and introductory algebra are so lacking that we struggled to get anywhere.  My lack of language skills doesn’t help.  The saddest part is that this boy is near the top of his class in math, which tells you something about the general quality of teaching he is receiving. 

Finally, we provide the below synopsis of the projects we’ve undertaken since we arrived.  Some were little jobs that hopefully made a small difference.  Others are just the start of what will have an ongoing and sustainable impact on the community (with a little luck).  We didn’t expect to accomplish nearly as much as we did in our short time here.  The bottom line is that money allowed us to do so much, and for that, we thank you all.

We are taking the next month to see Botswana, Namibia, Rwanda and southern South Africa.  Then we’ll be criss-crossing the US on our way from San Francisco to Cleveland. We hope to visit with as many of you as possible during that time.

Take care,
Hatta and Meg

The Sechaba Market

We broke ground on the Sechaba Market on 18 May.  The first phase involves 6 open-air stalls built on a concrete foundation.  The stalls are interconnected and supported by a steel frame under a corrugated iron roof.  The structure also includes a water-capture tank and tap.  We expect the concrete foundation to be completed in the next few days and the steel structure will be completed within a month. 

The physical structure is only part of the solution.  We have proposed an ownership scheme to the community that will require a token investment by each merchant.  They will also form a body similar to a home-owners association, through which they can manage funds directed toward the upkeep and further development of the area.  We hope that this structure will incent merchants to create and grow strong businesses that they can pass on to future generations.

This market is part of a project to generally rehabilitate the area immediately outside of The Malealea Lodge.  We are also planting trees and installing two public toilets (of the pit variety) in the area.  As mentioned in prior emails, the Lodge is the hub of local tourism.  However, there is very little direct spending into the community by tourists.  Our belief is that a clean, inviting, and open environment such as the Sechaba Market will spur more tourist spending.  We hope this will provide a much-needed boost to the local economy.  We have purchased ample land to accommodate more stalls if there is sufficient interest.

HIV Support Group

Megan has only recently become involved in helping provide a better structure to an HIV support group that began in January.  Since its formation the group has struggled with irregular attendance, internal conflicts and poor leadership. She has worked with the group to create relevant discussion topics and a session format that encourages questions and sharing of personal experiences.  Having the group address confidentiality, take turns leading the sessions and selecting the topic for discussion prior to the meeting has shown marked improvement in a short time.

Computer Literacy Classes

Prior to our arrival, a donor provided the community with three computers.  We spent some time assembling these into complete systems while developing a (VERY) basic computer literacy curriculum.  Power is generator driven, and we use the community centre to house the equipment and classes.  Our first class attracted 35 students!  Unfortunately, we could only accommodate 10, with the limited equipment we have.  However, the local Peace Corps volunteer will be leading the course and training local teachers for as long as it takes to offer participation to all who seek it. 

For most of our students, this is the first time that they have ever laid a finger on a computer, keyboard, or mouse.  It has been amazing to see their initial shock and fear give way after the first few classes.  We take for granted how difficult it is to explain what an “icon”, “desktop”, or “mouse” is in common, understandable language.  That said, Meg is a natural and gifted educator.

Youth Arts Club and MDT

A small group of area students formed a club some years ago that allowed them to collectively produce and sell painted artwork and other trinkets.  They haven’t changed much over the years and I worked with them on a couple of improvements that I hope will help the group sustain itself as old members move onto new things and younger members take over.

The Malealea Development Trust is the primary body in the area which provides both funding and implementation management for development projects.  They are funded by donations from visiting tourists and contributions from the Lodge.  We are designing a brochure, as well as other materials, to help attract more cash, service, and supply donations.  This project will continue for a while, as we’re trying to source cheap, or free, printing services for the brochure as well as web design assistance. 

Our Generous Supporters

  • Amol & Ursula Sarva
  • Andrew Blachman & Galya Reuter
  • Andy & Mary Nickerson
  • Ben Hatta
  • Beth & George Panstares
  • Beth & Ty Grossman
  • Bobby & Jackie Douglas
  • Brad & Nicole Davies
  • Bryan Vaniman
  • Carl Peterson & Heather Dowling
  • Carrie & Brian Cason
  • Christi & Brian White
  • Cindy Gilmore
  • Claire Kfouri & Forest Flager
  • Claudia Wong & Morgan Parker
  • Dave & Karen Costin
  • Donna & Dave McIlvaine
  • Duncan & Yuki Finch
  • Eric Ballard
  • Fiona Wright
  • Frank O'Linn
  • Georgina Derrick
  • Glenn Epis
  • Graham & Lucy Morrell
  • Harlon & Cynde Lee
  • iTunes Europe
  • Jack & Coletta Mulloy
  • Jack Mulloy Jr.
  • Jackie Combine & DanMarks
  • Jackie Piascik
  • Jeff & Laura Grant
  • Jeff & Anne Walkenhorst
  • Jeff Boortz
  • Jessie Teitz
  • Jimmy & Karyn Aguirre
  • Joe Egender
  • John & Cris Lieb
  • Jon Deweezie Stull
  • Josette & Morty Bryce
  • Katie Beirne
  • Katie Glynn & Rich Boguki
  • Kevin & Catherine Butler
  • Kris & Gary Phillips
  • Lynn & Bill Graham
  • Marilyn & Jim Mulloy
  • Mark & Denise Williams
  • Mark Petahs
  • Mark Skold
  • Mike & Lin Fisher
  • Mike Hsieh
  • Mike Mulloy
  • Mike Shaggy O'Boyle
  • Nima & Christine Farzan
  • PK & Heather Deaner
  • Parand "Z" Zendehrouh
  • Paul Wehrley
  • Paul & Gwen Phillips
  • Phil Edelin
  • Phil & Alison Talarcek
  • Reed Hastings
  • Rosemary & JR Heier
  • Ryan & Sarah Aylward
  • Ryan & Stephanie Dawson
  • Ryan Barnes
  • Ryan & Jodi Craig
  • Sal Bednarz
  • Selina Tobaccowalla
  • Simon Paragreen
  • Tadaaki & Susan Hatta
  • Taylor Meritt
  • Tolithia Kornweibel
  • West London Centre for Sexual Health
  • Wilma Lopez
  • Woojin Park