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My Daily Walk through the villages of Lesotho

My Daily Walk through the villages of Lesotho

Juliana Fulton - American Lesotho Peace corpsI have an hour till class. I put down my book, I grab my worn, patched bag, I head out.

Down the slope, passing dry grass and old corn stalks, my shoes turning a brown to match the dirt. I pass a baby goat, chewing sideways, showing its small pink tongue. The wind blows at my skirt and I pass small children calling me. Where am I going, where is the candy, my name over, and over.

At the bottom, I stomp off some dust as I start down the paved road. My shoes crunching the uneven tarred gravel, dodging broken glass and manure scattered on the road.

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Our Ha Mali Community Center

Our Ha Mali Community Center

Juliana Fulton   We are only a month away from opening the Ha Mali Community Center!  The idea for its creation came from hearing all the different problems facing the families in my village when I went door-to-door for my household survey.  My work at the schools didn’t seem to touch many of the problems the people in my village complained of: not having easy access to a clinic, not having jobs or training for them, the number of orphans living with elderly grandparent and sanitation issues.  What seemed to be needed was a center for outreach and skills training within the village.  World Vision recently built a pre-school, the only communally owned building in my village, and one that fit the outreach/ community center scheme perfectly.  Maliba Lodge’s Community Development Trust was equally enthusiastic about the idea and agreed to help with the funding and applied for another Peace Corps volunteer to help make it a reality.

Lesotho Peace corp volunteers at the Ha Mali Community center Lesotho
Lesotho Peace corp volunteers (Posto, Juliana and Maggie)

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Journal Excerpt from Sept. 1

Journal Excerpt from Sept. 1

Juliana Fulton - American Lesotho Peace corps[An excerpt from my journal for these past couple weeks]

Well I’ve been super busy, with 2-4 things to do every day for these past couple weeks. Today I had a meeting about the community centre in the morning (and building a seed bed) and two life skills classes at different schools this afternoon.

The community centre is really coming along. We’ve dug beds for 10 plots, 19 out of the 30 orphans showed up last Saturday and worked so hard, digging the stiff, weedy soil. It just looks like mounds of dirt, but I’m proud of the kids. I wonder what motivates them. It’s nice to think they’re invested in this project, growing food. We’re planning on planting the seeds this Saturday. The cabbage seeds are already in the seed bed. Regular watering is going to be a challenge. And we’ll see it the schedule to fix up the building this week actually holds. Next week we’re getting the gardening tools. It will be nice not having to borrow and carry them around (my shoulders are soar from carrying all those spades yesterday).

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What 24% HIV+ Really Means

What 24% HIV+ Really Means

Juliana Fulton - American Lesotho Peace corps

When I first signed up for my Peace Corps assignment, all that I was told was that I’d be in Lesotho, working with communities on HIV/AIDS. I was very excited about living in Lesotho, but less so about working on the AIDS pandemic. It just seemed like such a monumental and depressing task. We were told that the official prevalence rate was 24% of people in Lesotho were infected with HIV. It sounds like a lot, but it is totally different to be in the middle of it, to see all the sickness and death. It’s everywhere and it effects everyone. It has decimated such a friendly, loving people. After being here for a year and seeing its terrible pervasive effects, I wouldn’t want to focus on anything else. Even though the average family has 3-4 children, there is still negative population growth, it’s that bad.

In my village there aren’t really any good figures on how many people are infected. There is a lot of stigma and prejudice about being HIV positive, so most people won’t talk about it (which is a big part of the problem). But in my village of 204 families, there are 85 children who have lost one parent, and 33 children who have lost both parents and are still in primary/elementary school.Besides teaching about HIV in the schools, I am helping to start a community center in my village with funding from the Maliba Comunity Development Trust.

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Visiting a Sangoma – Beads, Bottles and Bones

Visiting a Sangoma – Beads, Bottles and Bones

Juliana Fulton - American Lesotho Peace corpsLast week I visited a sangoma, a traditional doctor, in the neighbouring village.  Traditional doctors get a lot of respect and have a lot of power in Basotho culture.  Not just political power, but actual magical power.

They can see the future and talk to ancient ancestors, even the recent dead.  They can cure people of bad luck and curses, as well as place curses on people.  It is generally thought that only the “evil” traditional doctors, called witches, will curse people.  Some curses can even kill the victims, lightning strike is a very popular method I’ve been told.  Luckily, there are no evil witches by my village, but there are several sangomas that do a good business in curing curses, illnesses (often caused by curses) and getting rid of bad spirits.

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A Year of Seasons in Lesotho

A Year of Seasons in Lesotho

Juliana Fulton - American Lesotho Peace corpsONE YEAR.  I have now been in Lesotho, the Mountain Kingdom, for an entire year.  It feels brief and incredibly long at the same time.  And it’s only half over!  I now have seen all of Lesotho’s seasons – one of the few countries in Africa that has four distinct seasons.  To get a better taste of what my life has been like throughout these seasons, I’ve written a brief description of each season (which is the opposite of those back in the U.S.)

Spring – It’s finally warming up and I can take off the extra layer of socks and long underwear.  Everything is super dusty and people talk about rain coming to start the seeds growing and settle the dust a bit.  There are baby animals everywhere, little goat kids and piglets at the house down the hill.  The peach trees start to blossom and cover all the hills in pink (though the peaches won’t be ready for four more months)

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My Household Survey

My Household Survey

It’s taken 40-some hours and over eight weeks, but I have now finished surveying all 210 households in my village.  In the survey I go door to door, visiting and talking with every family in the village.  I ask twenty questions – about what animals they have, if they have a bank account, what fuels they use, what their problems are, etc., etc.  I’m doing Peace Corps as part of my master’s research in international development planning, and hopefully writing a draft of my thesis while I’m here.  Then after my two years in Lesotho, going back to Cornell to finish my masters.

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Living on a dollar a day

Living on a dollar a day

Juliana Fulton

For the past month I have been living on a dollar a day, which is below the international poverty line.  A friend and I decided we wanted to see what it was like to live like most of the world who live in poverty, or as close to it as we can get.  I calculated the cost of all the food, candles, propane, everything, even soap.  The first week was by far the hardest—I craved sweet things, and was hungry all the time.  I noticed a trend with my mood according to if I was hungry or full.  When I was hungry it was hard to think about other things.  As part of our experiment, Adam and I agreed that we could not ask for free food.  But I never turned down any food that someone offered me!  It didn’t matter what it was or if I was hungry, if someone offered food, I ate it.  I lived almost entirely on lesheleshele (sorghum porridge) and roasted maize for the first week.  After twelve days Adam dropped out, he said it making him really tired and not able to concentrate at work.  His quitting made me less motivated, but I stuck with it.  Although I no longer counted transport costs if it was for work purposes, I didn’t want it to affect my work.  I also took two days off for Peace Corps get-togethers.

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