I have handed over to Rey our volunteer from the USA to start the first newsletter of 2022 by introducing himself and a new exciting way to help our community at Tiko.
January 2022 Tiko Newsletter
Welcome to our late posting January newsletter! I am Rey Abolofia from Portland, Oregon, USA. I will be here at Tiko volunteering from January 21 to about March 28, 2022. I am honored to be Tiko’s first visiting volunteer since March 2020.
Why I came to Tiko
On Tuesday November 23, 2021, I bought a plane ticket from Portland, Oregon, USA to Lusaka, Zambia for a roughly two and a half months stay. On Friday November 26, 2021, the World Health Organization declared Omicron a variant of concern and I soon watched as country after country began restricting travel in and out of Southern Africa. As my trip drew closer, I had to ask if I really wanted to go despite the risk. Was it worth the chance of getting sick from covid? With all the flight restrictions, will I even be able to get back home? I drew up a list of pros and cons and ultimately made the decision to continue with the trip. I would like to share this decision making with you in hopes that more volunteers follow.
The first thing I had to consider was getting ill from covid. Compared to other points in the pandemic, I realized my risk was greatly reduced. I’ve had the privilege of receiving three doses of the Pfizer covid vaccine which data has shown provides excellent protection from infection and hospitalization. I also for the first time found a high quality N95 mask that fits me well and comfortably for long periods of time. I knew this would be key to preventing infection during my long flights and layovers (about 40hrs total). These two things I knew meant I was going to be well protected from contracting the virus.
I figured once arriving to Tiko I would be well taken care of. Right next door is the St. Francis Mission Hospital, the best hospital in the province where Elke the Tiko director once worked training nurses. Additionally, all but two of the 75 Tiko crew are fully vaccinated. Lastly, I knew that being summer in Zambia, I would be spending most of my volunteer hours outside around this vaccinated crew.
There are other risks I had to consider in addition to catching covid. For instance, I could test positive for the virus before getting on my flight home and thus need to delay my return while I quarantine for a week or more. To mitigate this risk, I bought top grade travel insurance which would cover any medical expenses while abroad, pay for any time I might spend in quarantine, and help me purchase a new ticket should the airline cancel my flight. I also worked with my doctors to bring two extra weeks’ worth of my medications in case of a longer stay.
Meeting the requirements for a tourist visa to Zambia was straightforward but did require extra coordination. I needed a negative PCR test within 72 hours before my flight. During the height of America’s omicron surge, it was difficult to find a free rapid test and frustrating to have to reschedule it last minute when my flight was inevitably delayed. Arriving in Lusaka, they looked at the printed copy of my PCR test (they also accepted electronic verification methods), then I proceeded to customs. I was never asked for my vaccination card, nor did they heavily scrutinize the validity of my PCR test. The only question the customs officer asked me was why I was only staying for two months when I could stay for three.
In retrospect, I am so glad I decided to make the long journey to Tikondane. I have so far enjoyed every minute of my stay and am already seeing a real impact of my volunteer efforts. I encourage other volunteers to come to Tiko now despite the virus’s uncertainty. There is a true need for your help, and it is well worth the extra logistical hassles.
Last year Tiko was invited by a website called DonorSee.com to join their platform and solicit donations from their pool of donors. The website is unique in that donations are small and focused on individual recipients rather than larger NGOs. Once funded and the project completed, the recipient creates a follow up video expressing gratitude and demonstrating their progress. This personalized connection is very meaningful to the donors as the following example shows. A friend of mine recently funded Susan’s project to plaster her home. In response my friend said, “I really like that app. I want to fund more.”
The first project we completed was in support of Susan so she could plaster her home so it would be weather-proof. The challenge was describing the problem and Susan’s need with just a 60 second video. I got to spend time with Susan at her home, meeting her family, and understanding her situation. I took a lot of raw videos which was then edited down. Each video can be supplemented with a longer text description. Check out the completed post: Weather proof Susan’s home to prevent it from crumbling
In order to get started at Tiko, we needed to create an account. Importantly, this meant answering a series of FAQs from the director’s point of view. Hildah and I worked together and were able to share Tiko’s background, motivation, and a recent success story. Additionally, I had to connect Tiko’s bank account information which required a bit of coordination with some Tiko friends from overseas. We must wait for verification of our banking accounts before we can get any funds released to us.
Everyone at Tiko is very excited because one of my close friends was so moved by Susan’s story that she funded the entire project! This gives all of the Tiko crew hope for the future that they too may get their projects funded. In the meantime, I am working to finish as many videos as I can before I leave in late March.
You can view all of Tiko’s DonorSee projects, share them with friends, and get involved yourself at https://donorsee.com/tikondane. I expect this will be a great project for future volunteers to pick up quickly and make a big impact.
this is Elke, just to say that we are very happy to have the first volunteer and, indeed such a volunteer! Rey has not only sent a very big amount to our CROWDFUNDING, but also gets us more money in individual donations which we hope to continue managing for a very long time to come – God is great.
As far as we are concerned, there is a new future, and in the April newsletter we hope to report on our OPEN DAY in March. Please keep your fingers crossed, that by then the world is not in a worse state than it is right now and that we can proceed in getting closer to sustainability. Thank you so much for your interest!
Yours ever Elke and the Tiko Crew
– For donation information please have a look on ‘Support Tiko’ and our new Tiko fundraising page at DonorSee –