Changing the world one spreadsheet at a time

The old saying is, “time flies when your having fun”, right? 🙂  As I look at the calendar it’s hard to believe I have already been in Zambia for over 2 months!  I don’t know where this year is going.

Now that I have settled into Zambian life and my new role, I thought it time to give a bit of an insight into my daily role and life in Zambia.

The community here in Zambia, is much smaller than the community we have in South Africa, meaning I find myself day by day getting involved in more and more things I never thought I should/could/would ever do! No 2 weeks are ever the same, and I have to say I do love the variety!  Life here is certainly never dull!

I have 2 main focuses to my primary work role here…largely involving (you guessed it) spreadsheets!  On the one hand here we are working hard this year to implement a new structure of teams for how we operate as Hands at Work here in Zambia.  This has involved breaking off everyone here into functional-type teams and then scheduling weekly/fortnightly/monthly meetings for all of these teams. At the present time I am facilitating all of these teams (which involves a lot of minute taking and lots of herding of people 🙂 !) while these teams form and we all become comfortable with the new structure.  So my Tuesdays/Wednesdays/Fridays are mostly taken up by meetings all day.  And when I am not in meetings, I am typing up minutes to circulate, and working on action items from said meetings.

The other major focus for my role is what we call Project Support for the Zambia region.  The Zambia Region covers Zambia, Malawi and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). We have 5 Service Centre’s across these 3 countries, with a local Projects field coordinator in each of these Service Centres.  My role is to support and build capacity in these local Project field coordinators to execute the work on the ground.  To give you the big picture across these three countries, we have 30 communities, and 66 projects!  So there is never lack of work to do (in fact I am still working on getting my head around all 66 projects for now).  I am very thankful Julia Checchia for the project management training you invested in me right before I came to Africa! 🙂  For each project we have (you guessed it…) spreadsheets! for proposals, budgets, workplans and reporting to make sure these projects are all planned well, executed effectively and report on back to our partners and donors in a timely manner.

And then there is taking into account the fact that we are living and working in rural Zambia which means power and internet are not always a guarantee!  This past week we have been having our internet networks reconfigured and we have been having our power transformer for the property upgraded (well that has been a 10 month process actually…but is almost finished now…maybe…!!).  This means the simple act of trying to communicate and send an email is not always entirely possibly and I find myself at times watching my outbox in Outlook for up to 10 minutes to make sure a 200kb email will send (it reminds me of the days of the 14.4kb modems!).  And while I would like to be able to admit that I have all the patience in the world and keep my cool at all times, it would be a lie, and there are moments when I am not so patient and frustration does get the better of me!

On any one day I will find myself having conversations with Michael our community gardens expert around the planting of 30,000 onions in one of our community gardens, to discussing with Wilbroad our community schools expert the planning of our next teachers training day, to needing to put on my “hat” of Taxi Driver (as we have a limited number of people with drivers licenses here) to take the hospitality team shopping, pick up or drop someone off at the airport, or to collect/drop the Service Centre team members to the roadside or town so they can get out to our communities for the day, to running vehicles in and out of the mechanics and learning much more about vehicle maintenance than I ever really cared to! 😉

Not to mention we have teams coming through fairly consistently now for the next few months.  This just means there are lots of new faces around and people from all round the world to get to know – which looks like evening meals/movie nights and general chilling with lots of fun interesting people!

In fact this coming Friday I am so excited to be travelling back to Malawi for 2 weeks with the Serve and Learn team that is here with us for 2 months in Africa.  This team consist of people wanting to have a deeper experience of our work here in Africa, so they spend 2 months with us on the ground across South Africa, Zambia and Malawi.  As most of you know, I spent one month living in Malawi last year working with our amazing team there when I first arrived in Africa last year.  Malawi is my “first love” in Africa and I can’t wait to head back! (Although honestly I cannot say I am looking forward to the 2 day bus ride to get there!)  What I am looking forward to is connecting with the Care Workers and children that stole my heart over a year ago and seeing how they are getting on 12 months later.  I look forward to sharing updates with you.

So in a nutshell that gives you insight into my daily life.  Its Saturday afternoon now…and I am ready for a nap…! 🙂