August 31

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LivingWell in Zambia, chapter 7: taking Care of visitors

Live Well is a social enterprise business owned by Care. So officially, my PULSE assignment is with Care. In reality, I’ve had little to no contact with Care since I’ve been in Zambia, other than saying hello when I pop into their building. Live Well is ran with dedicated staff who did not originate from Care, so we tend to keep ourselves quite separate. I think this has been a missed opportunity for Live Well to date, as Care has great experience in community mobilisation and working with the government. Hopefully something that can be revisited going forward.

The structure of Care International as an organisation is quite interesting. Care has 14 members, one of which is Care UK. These members fundraise and also support country offices around the world. Care Zambia is a country office, which is supported by Care Canada. So Care Zambia doesn’t do any fundraising; rather it administers programmes and projects. Primarily they focus on nutrition and working with communities and governments in social improvement projects. This week, we had a visit from two vice presidents and two board members from Care Canada to see the activities on the ground. As Live Well’s managing director is on annual leave, it was somehow left to me to give them an introduction to Live Well, and to host a field visit, with two days notice. A good test of nine weeks of Live Well knowledge!

We asked one of our star performing CHEs, Lwisa, if she could come to meet the visitors outside of her scheduled restocking time, and she did one better and invited them to come to see her house in Chipata compound. This worked brilliantly, and I took a couple of pictures to capture the occasion.

Lwisa is 31 years old, works as a tap attendant, has five children, and is married. Her husband is in employment, working as a truck driver. As a CHE, she is buying about K4000 (£330) products a month, and making about 20% profit on those – though it could be a lot more as we can’t dictate the final selling price, but she is using her profits to put her two oldest children through school. She is particularly skilled at carrying products on her head, which is a common way of carrying everything here that I won’t be trying! Lwisa has a brick built house in the compound, consisting of three rooms – a living room/kitchen and two bedrooms. It has electricity, meaning she has a fridge and lighting. It is towards the top end of the housing found in the compounds. The houses are quite close together and most time is spent outside, partly due to the amount of space available inside. It actually reminded me of the colliery row houses in Northumberland from the early 1900s, particularly because proggy mats (rag rugs) are used everywhere here, which definitely reminded me of home.

We then went to Chazanga compound where our visitors could meet additional CHEs and observe a restocking event from the car.

It was a great opportunity for me to show myself just how much I’ve learnt and I found I was really proud to promote the business and discuss our work. Though there are currently a lot of challenges and it’s been a tough few weeks, it was great to take some time out to promote the positive impact we are having. And to feel optimistic about the potential that Live Well has.

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Hilary and Mara from Care Canada, reviewing the Live Well product manual, in Lwisa’s living room/kitchen

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Salome, one of our sales officers (in red), translating for Lwisa (seated)

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Lwisa’s little boy hiding from the visitors!

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Lwisa’s skill at carrying Aquafresh and Yebo medicated soap on her head

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Jane, another of our CHE and a good friend of Lwisa, also pitched up to say hello and grab some more products. She’s holding Juliet, Lwisa’s youngest