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Nicholas Welch: Working in Zambia

Nicholas Welch was born in Ecuador, South America. He was adopted there by two Peace Corps volunteers, and raised in the United States. He now works as a US Peace Corps Volunteer in Zambia with vulnerable groups, including AIDS orphaned children.

I began my service as a Volunteer in August 2005 after completing a Master in Public Health. I decided to join the Peace Corps to learn about real health issues in developing countries and to pay back an organization that has probably increased my opportunities in life.

I first started working as an HIV/AIDS program volunteer in Zambia. The work involves coordinating and supporting efforts in rural communities in the areas of prevention of HIV transmission and caring for those affected by the virus. One day, when I was visiting the main Peace Corps office in Lusaka (Zambia’s capital), I was asked to join a meeting with FAO representatives regarding FAO/PC collaboration and I was introduced to FAO’s Junior Farmer Field and Life Schools project in Zambia. I expressed interest in supporting the project and happily found myself a few months later working with the same project involving vulnerable groups, including AIDS orphans.

Zambia has about 1.2 million (Central Statistics Office estimates) AIDS orphaned children, most of them in rural areas. Many of those children lost access to their parents’ knowledge and lack the skills to farm the land and take care of themselves. Junior Farm Field and Life Schools teach these children how to cope with their new life situation

The FAO project is close to Pemba, a small town near the main road connecting the nation’s capital to the tourist center of Livingstone, home of Victoria Falls. About 30 children, boys and girls aged between 12 and 20 years, participate in the project. They live in the villages surrounding the project site and meet about three times a week.

I and other local facilitators teach the children gardening and nutrition, some basic business skills as well as general life skills. I communicate with the children mostly in Tonga (local language) and rely on local facilitators for teaching concepts that require a high level of fluency. I also help the project staff with planning and overall coordination and improving communications between the district coordinators and the local project site.

I live in Pemba town near the villages where I work in a small house with fairly consistent electricity but no indoor running water. There is a community tap outside my house where water is available a few hours in the morning most days. I ride a bicycle or walk within the local area or to the project site and take frequent buses passing on the way to the capital or Livingstone to visit the district office (65 km south) or access the Internet (35 km north).

Living in the community in which I work allows me to experience firsthand many of the issues the people are dealing with such as poverty, hunger, lack of education and opportunities. I personally believe understanding the local context of the project is invaluable in determining how to effectively support it.

My work focuses mainly on the project, but I assist the greater community with HIV prevention or caring support activities when I can. I am also involved in supporting future plans for more JFFLS projects in the local and provincial area.


Nicholas Welch has been working as a US peacecorps Volunteer since 2005

Junior Farmer Field and Life Schools (JFLS)

The Junior Farmer Field and Life Schools ( JFLS) programme is a especially adapted combination of two popular FAO teaching projects aimed at adults- the Farmer Field School, which teaches farmers about agricultural strategies for improving their food and livelihood security, and the Farmer Life School , which helps farmers learn to analyse how their behaviour exposes them to HIV/AIDS and other risks. The JFFLS have been developed to respond to the basic needs of orphans and other vulnerable children in rural areas. The schools are led by facilitators ( extension workers, school teachers and social animators) and volunteers, who help children learn by observation, following a crop season cycle as a "living classroom". In the end, children are able to perform their own field research and draw their own conclusions about the performance of various farming methods. The JFFLS programme enhances children's self-esteem and teaches them life skills by having them participate in theatre and dance performances on themes such as children's rights, equality between men and women and HIV/AIDS prevention.

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