Tamara Taggart '03

Class of 1966 John Sloan Dickey Fellow:

 

Operation Crossroads Africa, Lesotho 2002

Maseru Women Senior Citizens Association

Ha-Ntlama, Lesotho

 

The Operation Crossroads Africa group, Lesotho 2002, was the first in over 20 years to volunteer in Lesotho. Hosted by the Maseru Women Senior Citizens Association and Ms. Anna Hlalele, Crossroaders in the community health program were based in the rural community of Ha-Ntlama. Ha-Ntlama is located in the Berea district approximately 50 kilometers north of Maseru, the capital of Lesotho. Ha-Ntlama and the surrounding villages of Lithoteng, Ha-Malefetsane, Ha-Mapeshoane, Ha-Morake, Ha-Monethi, Ha-Mahleke and Ha-Majoro have an estimated population of 1000. The area of Ha-Ntlama has a Catholic Mission, which operates a primary school, a high school, a health center and ministers to the community and surrounding villages. Ha-Ntlama has a taxi service which offers regular transport to the main town of Teyateyaneng.

The Crossroads group consisted of 10 people: Pamela Sit, Amy Corcoran, Tamara Taggart, Rorey Petteys, Sarah Matathia, Gloria Fung, Mary Ann Dakkak, Kel Vin Woo, Ben Lillianthal (co-leader/facilitator) and Michele Roessler (co-leader/facilitator). The program was eight weeks in total (1 week orientating, 6 weeks workng, and 1week vacation) focusing primarily in community health outreach programs, with an emphasis in HIV/AIDS education and awareness. Crossroads collaborated with the local Youth Action Committee (YAC) to plan and execute their health workshops in Ha-Ntlama. Weekends were spent travelling to various locations of interest in Lesotho and the eighth week in South Africa on safari in Kruger National Park

 

The Orientation

When travelling and working abroad, preparation is crucial and directly effects the kind of experience a group will have. Operation Crossroads Africa did an excellent job during orientation and through their literature in preparing us for the many challenges of volunteer development work in Africa and the Diaspora. During orientation we addressed many aspects of group dynamics, community living and cultural challenges when working and living abroad, personal growth, the importance of patience and cross-cultural exchange and contact. Furthermore, Crossroads staff and literature provided us with information on widely practiced customs in Africa and the Diaspora. Although we were provided with this valuable information, there was no way to fully prepare us, as a group, for the tremendous impact Lesotho would have on our lives. Our orientation to our village and Lesotho began with dinners and welcoming parties from our host. We also took tours of the village and walked around introducing ourselves to the natives.

 

Community Life

During our stay in Lesotho we spent most of our time in the village of Ha-Ntlama (“Ha” meaning “at” and “Ntlama” is the name of the first chief of the village, hence literally meaning “at Ntlama’s” village). The area comprises a tri-village conglomerate including Ha-Malifetsan, Ha-Malifieri and Ha-Ntlama itself. The people of Lesotho are known as Basutho(s), and each family name descends from a tribe. Their indigenous language is Sesotho although English is the main medium of education in schools. The language is relatively easy to adopt given its phonetic words. However, since most of our counterparts at the village were fluent in English, there was not a strong need for us to learn Sesotho. We did learn common terms, greetings, and tried to use them whenever possible.

The village people live in round huts known as “rondevals.” The walls are made with mud and clay and the roof is made from thatched leaves. Each family has at least two of these huts, one for cooking and eating and one for living in. It is also noted that there is a significant number of more modern houses, built with concrete blocks or stones with zinc or tiled roofs.

Ha-Ntlama consists of mainly subsistence farmers. It is located approximately 40 kilometers east of Teyateyaneng, or TY as it is locally termed, the main trading area in the Berea District. Public transport by combi/taxi (small bus) to and from Teyateyaneng is convenient and fairly reliable and always packed, it did became a good way to interact with other people outside of our village. There is a hotel/restaurant in TY, The Blue Mountain Inn, Internet access (though not reliable) and a bank that only changes dollars, traveler's checks and any ATM transaction must be handled in the capital city, Maseru. Ha-Ntlama has a general dealer's store with a scarce supply of fruit and vegetables and miscellaneous household items, therefore most food items must be purchased from Maseru at the larger grocery style stores or in smaller shops in Teyateyaneng. The people of Ha-Ntlana are very open and friendly and we were warmly welcomed with two days of ceremony and dancing.

Life in the village community is very relaxed, there is no pressure except for the goals and objectives the OCA participants hope to achieve. Village community life can be a refreshing change to the daily pressure and routine felt in the United States. A rough guide to our daily schedule was the following: 7am~wake up, have breakfast and wash up, 9am~individual work preparation for the day, 10am~meet with our counterparts/Youth Action Committee, noon~an hour lunch break, 1-4pm~continue work with the YAC or tutoring sessions, 4pm~ return home to prepare dinner and rest.

 

Our Home

The house we lived in belonged to the president of the Maseru Women’s Senior Citizen’s Association, located in the Hlalele compound. It is made of stone and is distinctly one of the better built houses in the village area. Our home had a spectacular view of the Maluti and Drakensberg mountain ranges. The house was very spacious, having three bedrooms with two beds per room. Each room had a wardrobe with lock and key to secure valuable items, although we never had an issue with security. Unfortunately, only one room was equipped with a coal burning fireplace and therefore 7 of the 10 participants slept there due to the low winter temperatures ranging from 25-40 degrees at night. The toilet was a dry latrine located approximately 15 meters from our living quarters. The house was equipped with a bathroom, although there was no running water. Water was pumped from a well located behind our home and stored in a plastic barrel inside the kitchen. Each morning, water was warmed by a coal burning stove for bathing. The kitchen had one coal burning stove and one portable paraffin stove used for cooking. The participants prepared two meals daily, which consisted of food which could be stored long term in the pantry. Due to the absence of running water and electricity, the kitchen was not equipped with a refrigerator or functional sink.

 

Work Experience

The Clinic

With the assistance of the clinic nurse MaMonaheng Monaheng, we were given the opportunity to observe pediatric healthcare delivery and the administration of immunizations in the local clinic in Ha-Ntlama. Because I had my EMT-Basic license, I was permitted to take blood pressures and temperatures of patients.

Tutoring

In addition to our workshops, Crossroads collaborated with the local mission school and Head Master Mr. Radiengoane, tutoring over 100 form B and C students in English, Math and Poetry 2 days/week. The school was located just a 15 minute walk from our living quarters. Not only did we tutor, but we were able to teach a few classes and hold open tutoring during their winter break.

The Community Outreach and Education

We started a little league team and participated in recreational activities in our village. Our work consisted of several educational workshops covering issues requested by our community counterparts and the Youth Action Committee (YAC). The principal focus of our work was HIV/AIDS education and awareness, followed by nutrition and finally, micro-enterprise.

·      HIV/AIDS

The HIV/AIDS workshop was implemented 3 times and reached approximately 400 students and community members. Topics covered included definitions, statistical information (worldwide and Lesotho specific), transmission, myths regarding transmission risks, and prevention. OCA worked in collaboration with the YAC in the preparation and implementation of the project, which was executed in English and Sesotho. The YAC members assisted in the translation and interpretation of both visual aid materials and during presentations.

·      Nutrition

Our second workshop focused on nutrition and diseases associated with poor nutrition. An overview of the basic food groups and the relationship between a balanced diet and good health was given. We discussed three prevalent illnesses related to poor nutrition, existing in Ha-Ntlama: pellagra, kwashiorkor and tuberculosis. For each topic, symptoms, methods of contraction, treatment and prevention were discussed. Once again, the workshop was carried out with the assistance of the YAC. One presentation was given at the local mission school, followed by a presentation for the local Chieftess, Me Madineo, and interested adults in the community.

·      Micro Enterprise

During our final week in Ha-Ntlama, OCA participants organized a small business fair with hopes to improve the community's entrepreneurial skills. By using this "hands on" approach and implementing a community fair, OCA members set up small booths with games enabling community participants to win prizes and essentially set up their own small business.

 

Excursions

Weekend excursions were taken to the following locations:

Buta Bute, Lesotho and Clarens, South Africa

Maseru (U.S. Ambassador's 4th of July Celebration)

The Lesotho Highlands Water Project, Katsi

Malealea Lodge, pony trekking

Kruger National Park, on safari in South Africa, a road trip to Swaziland, and time spent in Johannesburg.

 

Helpful People

At this time I would like to acknowledge some people who had a deep impact on my group's lives, projects and cross-cultural experience:

Ms Anna Hlalele: Our host and founder of the Maseru Women Senior Citizen Association. In brief, Anna and her entire family were there for us in during our stay. She is a wonderful, hardworking, caring and extremely knowledgeable person.

Youth Action Committee:

Isaac Tsediso Marata

Sanaha Mota

Tsebo Rampo

Matsitso (Alina) Keta

Lawrence Sekobuto

Moshoeshoe Phalatsa

John Ntsokoane

Maseru Women Senior Citizen Association

Mr. Simon Radiengoane: Head Master of Ha-Ntlama mission school

Ma Monaheng Monaheng: Ha-Ntlama mission clinic nurse

Mpho Tlali

Positive Actioin Maseru: Ashley

Robert Loftis and family: U.S. Ambassador

Lipolelo (Sentences)

Morena Madineo (chief)

Mokhotu Makhalanyane: Pastor, Maluti Hospital

Dr. Hurlow at Maluti Hospital

Nkeletseng Kanetsi: Director of National Coordination office at SOS children's Village

 

Impressions

People found it hard to believe that I was American because I am Black and from African descent. At times this did work to my advantage because they were more willing to talk to me about their health and concerns. Also, the level of poverty that existed in our village was higher than what I expected. Our counterparts would go all day and not eat. Lesotho is in the early stages of famine and many ambassadors are working to curtail its effects. Furthermore, the ease and simplicity of living and working in a village offered a great opportunity for me to read talk to people, and wake up to the sun rise over the mountains. I also saw the difference we made in the lives of our villagers and how much I can do to aid those in need.

 

 

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 Tamara Taggart 03, is a AAAS major and Socy minor. Spent Summer term 2002 in Lesotho (a country in South Africa). Working and living in a village. She worked on Basic health education, a clinic, tutoring and living in a rural/village community. She is from Cincinnati, Ohio. On campus she works with the SEAD program and Bookbuddy program--both through Tucker.She works in a BioChemistry Lab- Dr. Witters, and hope to enter medical school in the future.