8 Jun 2009

The Price That One Pays

This time last year I was in southern Africa. I was not too worried about the violence in some of the places I was going to. Or the amount of travelling to far and strange places. But the one thing I was quite worries about was Malaria. Each year, there are approximately 350–500 million cases of malaria, killing between 1 and 3 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa, the majority of whom are young children and the poor.

I was lucky, I had the correct prophylactic drug and I could afford them. I was shocked at the expense of good Antimalarials. There are cheep ones, but reading about the conta indications of these cheep drugs, I would rather risk Malaria than lose my mind or hair by taking these cheep Anti-Malarial drugs. I am not surprised that so many people lose there life in Africa due to Malaria. People just cant afford the good medication and don’t want to run the risk of side affects. I cant say I blame them.

But the risk is very real! The other day I was informed that Ian, who took over from me with North Star South Africa, has some how caught Malaria. It was likely he caught it in Kenya but he could have got it in Malwai/ Zimbabwe or even Zambia. He like many others that live in Africa did not take prophylactic drugs to keep him safe from Malaria. I guess this is the price one pays for being a humanitarian in Africa and you do not take the correct precautions. Ian is lucky – he has been to the doctors and confirmed he does have Malaria. He can afford good treatment so he should be fine.

Malaria is a bit like an airborne AIDS. You can do as much as you can to protect your self but if the little blighters (Mosquito’s ) bite you and they have Malaria and you not on prophylactic’s its just as bad as having unprotected sex with someone with HIV. Granted if you can get the treatment you will live a long and normal life. But like HIV, Malaria is for life too. It will always be in your system.

So my warning to you is if your going to be in a Malaria area take the drugs! Yes they may taste bad but hell its miles better than being stuck in bed with a fever! A small price to pay I would say.

28 May 2009

25 Years on – The People it Affects.

As mentioned in an earlier blog, it has been 25 years since the first reported case of HIV and still no cure.

But how has HIV affected people with HIV?

Well I was quite privileged to meet one of the longest known survivors of HIV while I was in South Africa. What an inspirational person he is. I have been wanting to blog about David Patient for a long time now but I have not had the time or the right material to put into the blog to do him and his story any justice.

When I met David I knew very little about him. I still know very little about him. Only from what I have read on the net and from what I have been told about him. The day I met David, in Johannesburg, it was his 25th anniversary of being diagnosed as being HIV+. At the time all I know of him was he was a director for a company what we were looking at using as a supplier of low income medical services to the South African Express Parcel Association (SAEPA) and that he had HIV and was wildly regarded as one of the longest survivors of HIV. Other than that I knew little else of this man that would inspire me to write this blog.

As David walked into the boardroom he looked just like any other person I had met. A tall slim man, a man that walked with a sense of presence. During the talks we had with him regarding the SAEPA project the only signal to emit from David was that of positivity. He just about oozed it. He wanted to see the project we were working on succeed. No issue was a big issue to him. He was not interested in problems only solutions. In true South African sprit he would make a plan if it got the job done.

This was not a person who was in a, “Woe is me! I am the poor sick person destined to die” mindset that seems to be the attitude of a lot of people who are diagnosed as having HIV. But no David Patient was going to rise above that and use this disease to motivate him and others. It was in effect his life force.

David’s story is that of a quite tragic one. I urge you to read the following article (Positive Heroes - David Patient) about David’s life with HIV. It is truly inspirational to see what David had to deal with all them years ago. These things have made him stronger as a result of it. He has risen above it all and wants to use his life experiences to help benefit those who are less fortunate than he is.

David has been a real inspiration to me. He has made me realise that most of my problems in my life are small in comparison to what others have to deal with. He has made me realise that one should grow stronger from there life experiences. Never give up no matter what is thrown at you. It really is a case of “ If it don’t kill you it will cure you!”

I thank David Patient for his support while I was in South Africa. I think him for standing in my corner and his advice when I asked for it. A true hero, one that a lot of people could learn from.

In the true spirit of David Patient and his say it as it is way – If your going to be part of the problem and not part of the solution then “ go hug a penguin!” (read my this blog entry for an explanation of the “go hug a penguin!” remark )

Please do read the “Positive Heroes – David Patient” article mentioned above (click on the highlighted link for the full article)

For more articles on David Patient click on this link here for a list of Google search results.

25 Years on – Still no cure

It was around 25 years ago that the first reported cased of HIV were being reported in the US and soon after in other parts of the world. 25 years and still no closer to a cure. But that’s not that surprising at all. Decades have passed and they have not yet found a cure for the common cold. A virus is just that, a virus, the perfect killing machine. It mutates and it attacks with stealth and force.

But 25 years ago people who were infected by HIV were convinced that there lives were over. In most cases it was. Doctors turning patents away if, they had HIV, and the stigma attached to it did not help them in the early days. To be honest things have not changed much since in that regard. While I was in South Africa last year I heard a story of a mother who had killed not only her self but her kids as the local communities believed she had HIV. Then the other day I saw on the BBC website that HIV patients are being refused medication for common illness.

So what has changed in regards to HIV 25 years on? Well awareness for one has changed. No longer is HIV an African or Gay disease. Everyone is at risk across the globe. But it does seem that the numbers of Gays and people in African countries contracting HIV are on the decline. On the other hand infection rates of young white heterosexual people in Europe and in the US are on the up. Why is this so is any one’s guess. I can only but speculate that the young white’s that are now being infected feel they are immune to this disease. One thing is for sure awareness in the UK is nothing like I saw in the 6 months I was in southern Africa. At times I thought I was in the wrong country and that I should be back in the UK spreading awareness of HIV.

But things are getting better for people with HIV. Treatments are much more effective than they have ever been. And now with early detection the medication does not have the same devastating effect that it use to in the past. Advancements in the medication and treatment now mean's that people with HIV can lead a more normal life than before. But could it also be that because of these advancements in treatment that youngsters are willing to take the risk and get HIV as they know they can just pop a pill and things will be alright? I don’t think we will ever get to the bottom of that one. At the end of the day prevention is better than cure and to be “forewarned is to be forearmed”. So education and awareness is the way forward.

Be sure to click on the links in the blog for more details.

1 May 2009

In the news

TNT Express publishes a quarterly in-house magazine, TNT Life, so that staff around the UK can be kept up to date with the going ons of other staff and company related news.

Well in this edition of TNT Life I have had a mention. Click on the images bellow to get the full story.

In addition to my story there was a bit on TNT's partnership, Moving the World, with the World Food Program and its work in Africa. Click on image for full story.

8 Apr 2009


I have never been a massive fan of the whole social networking thing but the past year or so I have found it to be a very useful tool. From Facebook to MySpace and now Twitter all these sites can be really powerful tools if used correctly.

Twitter is one of the new kids on the block ( well to me at least ) I am not on Twitter and I am not sure if I will ever be on Twitter. I know that Twitter is full of celebrities who love to share with there fans what they are up. That's great for the fans. But would any one be interested in following me on Twitter ? I think not my life is not that interesting.

So what is Twitter ? Well basically its micro blogging. You can post up to 160 odd characters in lengh at any one time. It appears that most people seem to do this while on the move via there phone but they can also do it online via the web. People can then "follow" there "Twits ?" and get updates from them. Now I can see the points of groups, celebrities and even companies wanting to reach out to the masses via this means of communications. Just don't see the point from an individuals point of view.

One thing I really liked about North Star Foundation was how it was very keen on embracing technology and wanting to share with others data about projects and data from projects.

Back in November 2008 North Star Foundation got Twittering and I have put down the right hand side of my blog feeds from two of the Twitter feeds. If you visit the North Star Foundation website or click on the links provided here you can view all the North Star Foundation Twitter pages and if you like even follow them to keep up to date with what is happening in Africa with North Star Foundation.

Pages to visit: ( Click on the highlighted links to go to the pages )

North Star Foundation - Official Website

North Star Foundation - Twitter
North Star Foundation South Africa - Twitter
North Star Foundation East Africa - Twitter

13 Mar 2009

One Year On

Its quite a shock to think that 1 year ago I landed in South Africa to start my assignment with North Star Foundation ( Landed in SA on the 9th of March 08) It was the start of something really big and special in my life and not something I am likely to forget in a hurry.
A lot has happened in the 6 months since I left South Africa but a lot more has happened in the year since I arrived in SA.

So here is a bit of a recap of what was going on while I was in South Africa with North Star Foundation and what has happened with the projects.

South African Express Parcel Association (SAEPA)
– During my time in South Africa I was responsible for being the impartial point of contact to get SAEPA’s Low Income Heath Care program off the ground. We investigated service providers and get the right people around the table to progress this project with SAEPA and service provider (iKhambi Care) During my last few days with North Star Foundation the Service Level Agreement was signed. This was a great milestone for this project. Ian Lubbe (North Star Foundation South Africa) was then handed the rains to take the project on to the next stage. Ian informs me that there are now two established clinic, Jet Park – near ORT Airport and Centurion – near Pretoria. This is a great start to this project but its still has a long way to go to meet the goals that were set back in 2008. I am sure its just a matter of time till these goals are met. Till then I wish this project all the best for the future.

Walvis Bay Wellness Centre
– This project is one of the dearest to my heart. A lot of blood, sweat and tears was put into this project. Not just by myself but by the whole team. While I was on assignment with North Star I was able to take this project from its inception to getting the doors open, in order to treat and educate its first clients. Clementine took over from me after I left SA. She was able to take the centre to the next level and set up the official opening of the centre on Worlds Aids Day (1st December 08) From the photos it looked like a really super day and was well supported. Unfortunately I can’t have a happy story for all my projects. Last week the doors on this centre had to close due to lack of funds. I know North Star is busy trying to get this centre re-opened and I hope he is able to do so sooner rather than later.

Zambia – Chirundu
Wellness Centre – Now here is a real success story. Getting the Chirundu Wellness Centre to Zambia was a mission in its own right. Just the logistics of the whole thing was immense. Nothing went as smooth as we had hopped on this project. Getting the unit to Zambia was one thing but getting it to its resting site was another thing all together. Having to pay a contractor to level the ground and get a transported to off load and site the container was two quite arduous tasks that needed to be done to get the centre on its way to being open. If that was not enough there was the small task of getting funds put in place. We had the money it was just getting it to Zambia that was the problem. Just to get the cash to Zambia took over a month. But all this hard work has paid off with Ian reporting that the site is seeing around 700 people a month! This is great news. This more than makes up for all the frustration of getting this centre open. Well done to every one who made this project as successful as it is today and long may it continue.
Zimbabwe – Beitbridge/ Chirundu (Zim side) – Well I did not have a lot to do with these projects but I thought it would be good to report on it. When I left South Africa I had sent the centre to Beitbridge, and it was being housed at Swift Transport till we could finalize the arrangements to get it placed at the old custom house. Since leaving SA North Star Foundation has got every thing in place for the move to open at the old custom house at Beitbridge and will be shipping the container for Chirundu (Zim side). Chirundu should be in place sometime in April if all goes to plan.

This is all great news and it still makes me feel very proud to have been part of North Star Foundation. North Star still plays a big part in my life. I keep in regular contact with the team in SA and its never very far from my mind.

As to what else is happening with North Star Foundation – Ian reports the following:

Malawi is still going strong and that plans are afoot to launch Wellness Centres in Kenya sometime in March. North Star Foundation are also looking at expanding into the DRC, Botswana, Tanzania and Mozambique. So loads on then. I wish the team all the best of luck

8 Mar 2009

Walvis Bay – Open – Worlds AIDS Day – 1st December 08

Well the Walvis Bay Wellness Centre had its official opening on the 1st of December 08. I was not able to attend this function due to commitments in the UK. But I did feel like I was part of the event. Both Paul and Ian who did attend kept me up to speed with proceedings and Ian even sent me a message to my phone when the ribbon was cut at the centre.

The event was well attended from what I can tell representatives from Nam Port (Namibian Port Authority), The Walvis Bay Corridor Group and members of the Walvis Bay local government were in attendance.

Its great to know that there was many people there to see the opening and to hear how important projects like this are to the industry and the community they operate in.

But it seems that this is not enough.

Last week (End of Feb 09) I had an email from Ian (North Star Foundation, South Africa) to inform me that the Walvis Bay Wellness Centre has had to close its doors. This is due to the lack of funding. It seems that even projects like this are not even safe from the global credit crunch. I do hope that this will only be a temporary thing. I am sure it is.

Although I was a bit gutted to hear this bad news but one must remember the good that the centre has done in the short time it was open. During the time it was open it did get to make a fair bit of difference in the community. No matter how small the difference is it’s still a difference that has made some good in the community. People will remember this in time and when they do I am very hopeful that the doors on this centre will be open again soon.

The team did a great job in a very short time and I am still very proud to have been a part of this project.

17 Nov 2008

YouTube updates

Well I have been busy putting together the massive of video's I took while I was in Africa for North Star Foundation.

Click on the YouTube logo's to see the video's.

Walvis Bay Wellness Centre

Well it's been a long time in coming but the Walvis Bay Wellness Centre will have its official opening on the 1st of December 2008.

This is a really proud moment for me as I put quite a bit in too getting the centre on the ground in Walvis Bay. But is has been a team effort. Even after I left Namibia for the last time there was still a fair bit of work to do and the team have done loads to ensure that the centre opens on a high note.

North Star Foundation Africa has now got a new team member to carry on from where I left off. Clementine comes from Spring Global Mail. Spring is part of the TNT family so it's great to see that the baton has been past on so that others can experience what I had for the past 6 months. Clementine will be based out of Namibia. Now to say I am not jealous would be an understatement! But I am glad to see that Clementine has already fallen in love with Namibia in such a short space of time.

I have been hearing great things about the Walvis Bay project. Good support from local businesses and the communities. Every one has really pulled together and I am sure they will continue to pull together. It's the Namibian way.

I unfortunately will not be able to attend the official opening of the centre on Monday the 1st of December. I am just a bit too busy to be honest. I never thought I would be too busy to go to Namibia but I am. I am currently in Scotland till the end of the week catching up with family then next week is an action packed week for me at work. The week after that, the same week of the opening, I am of to Germany for a few days with my best mate Brett to go and see a bit of Germany and to see a mutual mate of ours who now lives in Germany so its a bit hard to just juggle it all.

I will be there in spirit and my support will always be with this project that is so near and dear to my heart.

To the team........

All the best guys you deserve it. Job well done !

Walvis Bay Wellness Centre

17 Oct 2008

Sure we can………

“Sure we can” is the new TNT strap line that was lunched mid September. When I first saw it on the side of one of our delivery vehicles I could only but think about what negative banter that both customers and even staff would come out with for this strap line. “Sure we can lose your parcel” “Sure we can deliver it late” things like that. I thought it was a silly strap line to be honest. But after a bit, I changed my view on this strap line and, it all made really good sense to me. “Sure we can” sums up TNT very nicely.

It also sums up the partnership between WFP and North Star Foundation quite nicely too. “Sure we can” work together to help combat hunger in children around the world. “Sure we can” help prevent the spread of sexuality transmitted infections. The key word in the strap line is “WE” not “I” (Sure I can) but “we can” as a team not as one person but as a group all focused on the task at hand. Be it delivering someone’s documents across country or city or delivering food aid to children in need. Or delivering a quality of health service to drivers. We as a team can all do this. “Sure we can!”

Not long after I arrived back in the UK I was speaking to Luke Disney, Director for North Star Foundation, about change and he came up with a really good analogy but he was not quite there with it. We were talking about change and he came up with this:

An oil tanker in the sea takes kilometres to change course – but it only takes one person to initiate that change of course.

He is right with the above analogy but the captain is only but one person. He has a team of dedicated and qualified seamen behind him to help with the running of the ship and together they all help with the change of course be it directly or indirectly. It is still a case of “Sure we can” but its easer if we do it as a team and be the “we”

So from what I originally thought was a stilly statement it has become one that is really powerful. One that should inspire both staff and customers of TNT. As we can do any thing we as a team put our minds to. Its just a simple case of “Sure we can!”

Being back.

6 months does not sound like a long time when you say it like that. 214 days sounds a bit longer but its still quite a small number. But five thousand one hundred and thirty six hours that’s a fair old long time but its still only 6 months. 6 months was how long I was away from the UK and my mates. To be honest the whole thing felt like it was only 6 weeks and not 6 months. I have to pinch my self to remind myself of how long it really was. During the time in Africa I did cover a fair few miles both on the road and in the air.

Drove around 15000km (9200 miles)
Flew loads! I will sit down and try and work out how many air miles I actually flew but here is an idea of how many flights I took.
UK to Rome – Rome to Frankfurt – Frankfurt to South Africa.
Jo’burg to Cape Town then onto Walvis Bay and back the same way. I did that. Jo’burg to Walvis Bay and back twice.
Jo’burg to Zambia and back.
Durban to Jo’burg twice.
Jo’burg to Frankfurt – Frankfurt to Birmingham

Total of 19 planes in 6 months (average of 3.16 flights per month!)

I dare not think how many times I visited Nando’s or Steers ( a fast food place that make the best ham burgers in my book) but I am sure I am owed shares in these places.

But some more noticeable figures are.

• 3 converted containers being shipped out side of South Africa to be used as Wellness Centres.
• 1 fully open Wellness Centre in Walvis Bay, Namibia.
• Zambia Chirundu should now be well on its way to be fully open as we now have got the funds to Zambia. (Probably the biggest challenge we had to face was sending money to Zambia from South Africa – it took months to sort out!)
• Being part of South Africa’s first LIM Project ( Low Income Medical ) that has the potential to benefit around 15 000 staff members who work in the courier industry and there dependants ( around 30 000 – 35 000 people in total) to receive cost effect heath care.

So on the whole I did a fair bit in time I was in Africa so I guess though it did not feel that long I must have been there that long to do all the above.

Over the past week and a bit I have been asked numerous times “Are you happy to be back?” I am happy to be back with my mates. All the travelling in Africa was a bit lonely. Yes I was meeting people but they can not replace ones mates so I am very happy to see them again. As for being back in the UK? MMMM it’s a bit early to draw any conclusion on that one. Only time will tell.

It’s not over ……

Well I am now in my second week back in the UK and many of you may think that the blog page has come to an end……………………………

Well you’re wrong, it’s not over.

There is still many things I wish to blog about my trip to South Africa with North Star Foundation. More about my experiences and about the people that I interacted with and the places I went to. Blogging is a bit of a labour of love to be honest. So much too put down, and not enough time to do it. And when you do have time to sit down and type the words just never come out the way you want them to.

So bare with me and in the coming months I hope to share with you stories of a remarkable man I met who is an inspiration to many I am sure and stories of sand dunes crossing roads to get to the other side.

6 Oct 2008


This was emailed to me by a mate of mine in SA

Just wanted to share this with you as its so cool.

A regular occurrence at the Mfuwe Lodge in the South Luangwa National Park in Zambia where the lodge was unwittingly built on the Elephant's traditional path through to some wild mango trees on the property. The herd of a dozen or so elephants walk through the lodge's reception area at least twice a day for about 4 weeks and then sporadically for about another 3 weeks to feed on the trees

No incidents reported to date!

27 Sep 2008

Spirit of the Greatheart

Feeling a little "Home Sick" for Africa - this is one of the greatest songs from the "White Zulu" himself Johnny Clegg and Savuka - the clip that I have used is a remake of the classic with 17 top SA artists - it was done in support of the Starfish Greathearts Foundation, an international development charity that supports over 34,000 orphaned and vulnerable children across South Africa.

To me this just sums up Africa in all its glory.

20 Aug 2008

The cost of living….. the simple things in life.

Its been nearly six months since I left the UK to be a project manager for North Star Foundation. Loads of people warned me that I should not expect to make a difference to the fight against HIV in Africa. I knew I would never make much of a difference in the fight against HIV but I knew that this experience would make quite a difference in me. One of the biggest things that I think I have come to realise is that it is the simple things in life that matter.

The other week I was in Zimbabwe. Ian, who is taking over from me when I leave, and myself walked over from South Africa into Zimbabwe. It was quite a surreal experience. Getting into Zimbabwe was easy. I think from entering the South African border to exiting the gates into Zimbabwe the whole thing took like 30 mins. As Ian and I walked over the Limpopo River into Zimbabwe there was quite a sense of excitement and a fair bit of nerves in the two of us. We were no sure what was going to happen on the Zim side. Ian and I were to meet with one of the managers from the transport agents that had taken our container/ Wellness Centre to Beitbridge but we could not get hold of him as the cell (mobile) network was down in Zimbabwe. So we thought we would chance it and go over to see what happens. Maybe we would get lucky and Albert (the manager ) would be waiting for us on the other side.

What was on the other side was quite unexpected. Ian and I were very worried about the real threat of being mugged for money. Zimbabwe is in a state of “desperate times call for desperate measures” But this was not the case. A few black market traders tried to sell us some money and a few people asked us for money. But they did not hassle us. As soon as we said “Sorry can’t help you” they backed off and left us to it. We hung around a bit just out side the gates to the boarder and thought it might be best to walk into the town of Beitbridge. We did and saw loads of people around just being busy doing there thing. Informal traders aplenty. We stopped at one of the clearing agents to see if they could help us with directions to the depot that we were going to or if they could get hold of Albert for us. They were only too happy to arraign for someone to come and fetch us to take us to Albert.

While we waited out side for our lift Ian and I finished off our bottles of ice tea we had brought with us across the boarder. So we were standing there waiting and looking for a place to discard our empty bottles and a young boy came upto us to ask for our bottles. Happily we gave them to him but I think he was happier to have them than we were to be rid of them. Small things that we take for granted can make such a difference to others.

If you have been following the news in recent months you will know that things in Zimbabwe are not great. Inflation in Zimbabwe sits at just over 11,250,000% and 10 zeros were knocked off the currency just so as to make it manageable.(Click on image for full size)

But despite all this I saw happy people in Zimbabwe, happy people every where. Smiling and laughing. Yes things are very bleak in Zimbabwe but the people in Zimbabwe have not lost there soles or the will to live. They make the most of what they have and get on with life. People I have found in Africa will not be victims to any thing. The atrocities that happen against them seem to make them stronger. I am not just talking about Zimbabweans but all the people I have come across. Weather it be in South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe or Namibia. These people live in harsh environments, where it would be down to politics or just the environment they live in, it makes these people stronger and I have a lot of respect for them.

I guess the moral of the story that these people send out is don’t be the victim but stand strong and fight for your rights in the hope that things will get better. But at the same time I guess they have nothing else so they may as well try and stand strong and hope that the moral of this story comes true.

Getting back into South Africa was another story! Zimbabwe side of things were quick. I guess with no computers they just take your forms and stamp and send you on your way. I wished I had my camera with me but we did not take any thing like that in fear of it being confiscated but did see some truly amazing sights on the bridge as we crossed the Limpopo River. The river is dammed for some reason but you cant really see the dam as its just a little wall so as you look at down steam you have this very odd optical illusion type effect as the water just stops. But what this does do is give the 100’s of crocodiles we say plenty of water to get the 1000’s of fish we could see from the bridge. It was quite a sight.

My short trip into Zimbabwe has taught me that no matter where you are in the world you should be happy with what you have got and that it’s the simple things in life that are important. Be part of the solution not the problem oh and go hug a penguin!

(note – the go hug a penguin comment above kept Ian and I very amused on our 5hr drive to Zimbabwe – it was said in jest in a meeting we had just left earlier in the day and was used in the context that if you did not like something then go take a long walk of a short pier or “go hug a penguin!” – thanks to David P for making our drive so much more interesting for this simple but highly amusing phrase – the simple things in life hey !)

29 Jul 2008

Passion, Support and Commitment.

7th July 08 – 10th July 08

I have been to many places during my time with North Star Foundation but by far my favourite place has to be Walvis Bay, Namibia. I have also been to and lived in a few very small “Sleepy Hollow” type places but Walvis is not one of them places. It’s really hard to put into words what type of impact the people of Walvis Bay and Namibia have had on me but I hope that if I share with you the events of the past week it can give you an idea to why this place appeals to me so much.

A few months back I was here to do a KABP (Knowledge, Attitude, Belief and Practice) survey to identify exactly where the hot spot of commercial sex workers and truckers operate in. (See this blog entry about that trip) I got to interact with a lot of people during that trip and there support and commitment for what we were doing was just out of this world back then. So I am now back in Namibia to place the first Wellness Centre in Namibia, in Walvis Bay. The hard work of the people that helped me out on the survey has paid off. During this visit to tie up all the lose ends to get the centre operational I have been visiting various stakeholders who have played vital rolls in there own little way to help get centre to where we are now.

It’s these stakeholders that have truly amazed me. Yes these stakeholders work for large companies in the Walvis Bay area but the individuals own excitement and enthusiasm for this project is unreal. Every one and I mean every one is just so eager to see this project work.

On Thursday we had to move the container from its first placement to its correct placement to comply with the municipality building regulations. No problem……… just get a 50 ton crane, a modified front end loader with forks on it to pick up 6 concrete sleepers for the container to sit on and job done. Sounds easier said than done don’t it? Well I thought it was way too easy. Just speak to two key people and a few phone calls later every one knows what it needed to be done and it was done just as easy as the written text in this blog. I kid you not!

I arrived with Paul Matthew (North Star Foundation – Operations Director SA) at the site at 7am to find a mass of people had arrived to ensure the success of this mini operation. The operations manager and HR manager from Westbank Transport were there. They had arraigned for the 50 ton crane to come from another project to help move the container. The General Manager from Rennies Consolidated (one of the largest warehousing and container logistic companies in Walvis) was there to over see the moving of the sleepers by the Stevedores that he had arraigned to move with the big modified front end loader. And a few other managers for good measure where there too. All of them were really excited about the prospects of this centre being open in the area. The whole operation was done with military procession and with out any fuss. Just so slick, I could not have done it any better. (You can find photos from the operation here.)

Then there was the sorting out of the site plans for the site. OK this was not as easy as the moving of the container but it was done with out any hassle what so ever. There was a lot of confusion to the site that the container was sitting on. Some time back there use to be 5 sub plots to this peace of land but now they are all gone and just one open peace of land remains. The confusion was with the earth number of this plot. But the health department with the municipality and the arrcutec that did the plans just got it sorted. No real headaches at all. It was all in hand. Submitting the plans and getting the company registered in Walvis Bay took less time than it did for me to type this blog entry. Again this was done by people who are so committed to the success of this project in Walvis Bay.

Getting the water sorted was fun though. Getting all the paperwork in order for this took a little longer than planed. I got to the municipality with minuets to spare, actually less than that! No problem our man from the municipality health department was on hand to smooth things over. When we got to the cashiers to pay the deposit to get the connections made they had actually closed! NO! Still no problems, smile nicely at the lady behind the counter and explain the problem and all was sorted. Paid my deposit and was on my merry way again. You just can’t do this in a big city they would have chased you away or just ignored you. Everyone was just so helpful and friendly. To quote a line from the movie “Madagascar” and a personal favourite of my mom and mine “Smile and wave (boys) smile and wave” seems to do the trick no matter where you are.

It’s just goes to show that when people believe in what your doing they too will do any thing to help make the project a success. The people of Walvis Bay know how important it is to protect their work force from the spread of HIV and STI’s. Sick staff members are non-productive staff members and that will impact on business and the economy. Every one is aware of this fact and are willing to pull out the stops to try and make a difference. Even a small difference makes a big difference in the big picture of things.

I have a lot of respect for the people in Walvis Bay for there help and support to us with our Wellness Centre. I am looking forward to going back to Namibia in the coming weeks to put the finishing touches on this project and opening the doors to the truck drivers, sex works and the people of Walvis Bay. So that we can all work together to fight the spread of HIV and STI’s.

15 Jul 2008

Speaking your mind…….

I have never been a big fan of politics. I just feel that life is way too short for all the bureaucracy that goes hand in hand with politics. But since I have been in South Africa I have been some what entertained by South African politics. Well the politicians have been keeping me entertained.

Some time back I blogged on Deputy Security Minister Susan Shabangu, who said police "must kill the bastards [criminals] if they threaten you" (click here to see the full blog) She was speaking her mind and I commend her and respect her doing so. Yes she got a lot of flack for saying what is on the minds of many South African’s.

Then recently the ANC Youth League (ANCYL) President Julius Malema has vowed that the youth of South Africa would die in supporting ANC President Jacob Zuma. Julius Malema actually said he would “Kill for Zuma” again taken very much out of context. In this day and age in South Africa you can’t go around saying you will kill for any one or any thing. It’s just not done. People get nervous. Julius Malema was just trying to emphasize his commitment to the cause, the cause being to get Jacob Zuma into power to be SA’s next President. He was miss quoted, a young politician who was just a bit over zealous. Maybe or maybe not I am not one to judge on this one. You can read more about this here

(Click on image for full size)

But South African political figures are not the only ones to fall pray to being miss-quoted. Hillary Clinton said she arrived in Bosnia in 1996 under sniper fire, directly contradicting Her own book's account of the incident. ( there is loads of sites about this issue – click here to see a google search result) Hillary apologized and said she had “Miss-spoken” about the events.

It happens and we have all done it at sometime in our life. It just takes a bigger person to put there hand up and admit that they are in the wrong. I have a lot of respect for people in the public eye who can do something wrong and stand up and say “Yip I did say that and I am sorry” Or not say sorry and stand by there word. That’s the African way. “Yes I said it and I am proud to have said it!” Both ANC Youth League (ANCYL) President Julius Malema and Deputy Security Minister Susan Shabangu have spoken out about what they have said but they did not apologise for what they said. It was more a case of they meant what they said but just not in the way it was meant to be interpreted. I guess I could have called this blog entry “Lost in Translation”

10 Jul 2008

The Paid Tourist

I have been called many things in the past but “The Paid Tourist” is a new label to me. Granted I am being paid to go to some really beautiful places in Southern Africa. Swaziland, Zambia, Namibia and even Zimbabwe (for a few hours but I was there) I have even been put up in some fantastic accommodation too. Kiambi Safari Lodge in Zambia where I saw loads of Elephants and Hippo’s and the Beach Lodge Hotel in Swakopmund, Namibia where the beach was only a few meters away from my room. All great stuff I assure you and with the South African Rand and UK Pound exchange rate all very cheep places to stay. But these places to come at a price to my self. Long hours of travel and the solitude.

Don’t get me wrong on the solitude bit. I do have friends here but it’s not a case of them just being around the corner. South Africa is a vast place. No longer am I just a 2 hr drive from one coast line to the other coast line. It’s more like 5 hrs just to hit the coast of Durban and 13 hrs to get to Cape Town. Hell you can drive the whole length of the UK in just over 13hrs. So it’s a little harder to just jump in the car and go round to your mates for a meal or a chat.

So what have I been doing while I have been enjoying the wildlife in Zambia and the rolling dunes of Namibia? I know a lot of you have seen loads of fabulous photos of wild life and sunsets and it does look like I am on a holiday but that’s far from the truth. I don’t really have a regular 9 – 5 type job at the moment. I like to say I have a job that needs to be done. What is this job that needs to be done I hear you cry? Well its jobs actually. My first task when I got here was to look at and over hall the current IT infrastructure that is in place. Currently we have clinics that sync to a centralized database here in Jo’burg. This is done via 3G wireless technology, but not every Southern African country has 3G so we have got the software developers to develop an application that will do the syncing to a USB memory key so that we can manually do the data transfers. So this is one of my responsibilities, to ensure there is a robust IT infrastructure and solution in place to record every thing that happens in our wellness centres regardless of there location.

My next responsibility is the rolling out of these wellness centres. Once a location has been identified we can start the project rolling. This starts with meeting with stakeholders (key people in key positions to help aid in the roll out of the Wellness Centres (Minister of Health, Transport Ministers and other aid groups) ) to gain there support for the project and to basically drum up awareness of what we are trying to achieve. We then have to ensure that every key member is kept up to date with progress and if they have agreed to add any thing to the project that they deliver. We then need to ensure that the container has been converted to specification and that we have all the equipment ready to go into the container. By this time the logistics of getting the containers (Wellness Centre) to its destination has been completed and all that will required to do is load the container and get it picked up and shipped. All the stakeholders will be notified of the container’s movements so that the site is ready for the centres arrival.

Once the container has been placed in its new home ready to become a Wellness Centre there is still a lot of work to be done. Staff need to be recruited (Peer Educator and Nurse) Water and electricity to be connected. The stakeholders are also sensitises to what is going on with the centre and to ensure they start to let others know that the opening of the centre is imminent and to offer as much support as they can to the centre. After a lot of negotiations and hard work from every one the centre is ready to open.

Once open the Wellness Centre will be offering education on HIV/AIDS its risks and preventative measures that can be taken to help reduce the risk of infection. Also as part of this education is the STI (Sexually Transmitted Infections (STD’s – Sexually Transmitted Diseases)) If you can curb the spread of STI’s then you will also aid in the spread of HIV. In addition to the education part of the centre there is the clinic side. The nurse will help truck drivers, drivers assistance, commercial sex workers and the local community with there primary health care, occupational health and STI treatment.

So a fair bit of work goes into one of these Wellness Centres right from the start and ongoing. But this work is not just done by me. There is a team of motivated people working next to me to ensure the sustainability of these projects. I admire the dedication and the motivation that each and every one of these people put into these projects. So I guess at the end of the day all the long days of travelling and the bit of solitude is all worth it in the end. I have got to go to some really awesome places, met some really amazing people and do a very worth while job all at the same time. Not many people get to do that!

I am currently in Namibia but I was here a few weeks back and took these photos. Click here to view some stunning shots of a sunset near Walvis Bay

22 Jun 2008


Why do people blog ?

I mean why do people have the urge to disclose every little aspect about what they are doing to complete strangers? Ok not all blogs are like this. Most have a topic and stay to that topic. Like photography, current events etc. People like to share information and a blog can be a powerful tool to get that information out to people on mass in an easy format.

I was never really a big fan of blogging my self. I often use blogs to find info on a variety of subjects but that was about it. Blogs about a little girl’s cat really annoyed me. Does the world really want to know how often your little cat has been sick? NO! I DON’T THINK SO! But the world does want to know about the latest innovations in the world of cellular communications or medical advancements. I also think people can learn from others experiences. Or share in someone’s adventures. This is the reason I am blogging. I wanted to share my experience with family and friends. And so far so good on that front. But am also finding that blogging is a great way to un-wind and it can be quite rewarding too.

People don’t just blog in the conventional way, in the written form like this blog, but via video and photography. I have been blogging in all three formats. Video on YouTube and photography on Flickr. I have been getting a real buzz out of blogging in the two visual formats. People I don’t know have been posting comments on the images they are seeing. This just encourages me to do more and to make the items more interesting. The reward is having someone comment on an item in your blog, YouTube or Flickr image. And there is a real special feeling of achievement when someone flags an item up as being one of there favourites.

But for me I thing the best thing about blogging is sharing my thoughts and experiences with my friends back in the UK and else where in the world. Normally I would share these things with them in person but with flights being the price they are now a days its not very practical. We do now truly live in a global village with social networking sites like Facebook and instant messaging programs like Skype and MSN your never really far from your mates.

You can visit my Flickr photographic page by clicking on the Flickr logo bellow.

You can visit my YouTube video page by clicking on the YouTube logo bellow.

9 Jun 2008


I wrote the following while I was in Zambia a few weeks back.

I was feeling a bit low as just wished I could have shared the experience with my friends.


What is man without beasts?

If all beasts were gone,

Man would die from the great loneliness of spirit for

Whatever happens to the beast,

Also happens to the man.

All beings are connected.

(Chief Seathl 1855)

The above quote was found on the cover of the Kiambi Safari lodge guest info booklet.

It made me think, “What is a person with out the support of there friends?” It’s kind of the same thing. Friends are all connected and they play a vital part in our lives. Good friends are there for the up’s and the low’s in ones life. I know from my own experience that when one of my friends is low, I am low. If they are happy then I am happy. We are connected.

No I have not lost the plot, yet, or gone all philosophical nor am I depressed. I do how ever miss my friends back in the UK and do wish I had someone with me at the moment to share in the wonders of Zambia and the “Mighty Zambezi” river. Going “AWE!” “OOOOH!” “AWESOME!” or “WOW!” does not quite have the same impact when your on your own than when you are with someone.


On the flip side of thing I am getting to meet some fantastic people along the way.

Kiambi Safari Lodge is around 24 km away from the Chirundu boarder post between Zambia and Zimbabwe. I am currently here overseeing the setting up of a Wellness Centre just out side the border post.

Some of the people that have touched my life are the staff from “Coridors of Hope II” who are going to be running the Wellness Centre at Chirundu. When we opened the doors to show them the insides of the converted container it was like Christmas day to them. Loads of “OOOH’s!” and “AAAH’s!” from them. It was a great feeling to share with them. They are so driven now to getting every thing sorted for this centre.

As mentioned I am at a safari lodge at the moment. The staff here have made me feel very welcome and are all quite interested in the work I am doing here. Some of the guests too have shown an interest too in what I am doing. One such family is that of Mark, his wife, two young kids and his mom and dad. Mark also runs a safari lodge in Zambia on a working fish farm. His lodge is called Nsobe Game Camp. Nsobe is some 3 hrs away from Lusaka towards Angola. It has been great to meet such warm and welcoming people on my travels. It helps with the isolation that I could have felt if I had not been in contact with people like these. It makes such a difference.

I guess I will have to settle with the second best way I can think of sharing my experience with you. Blogging. I do appreciate the comments I received from all of you who have viewed my blog. Keep them coming.

Will update this in a few days with links to photos I have taken while I have been on “Holiday” (I mean working!)

Photos of Kiambi along with the boat trip on the Zambezi river. It was spectacular and I thank Mark and his family who I went with for making it quite a special occasion as it would have been really lame to have gone on my own.

Photos of Chirundu Wellness Centre being off loaded and site preparations.

5 Jun 2008

Walk the World – Johannesburg Zoo – South Africa

On Sunday the 1st of June 2008 I braved a very chilly early morning start to head down to the Jo’burg Zoo to take part with around 200 or so TNT staff, family and friends to “Walk the World

Walk the World is an annual event that TNT hosts to raise funds and awareness for the World Food Program (the UN’s WFP) thousands of people all around the world take part in this event that is held around the globe on the same day.

I think this sums up what Walk the World is all about – source: Moving the World website.

Walk the World 2008: A great success!

Thousands of children who know what it feels like to be hungry took to the streets yesterday, together with TNT- and Unilever-employees, their families and friends. From Indonesia to Guatemala, more than 250,000 people in 70 countries participated in End Hunger: Walk the World. Across 24 time zones and in more than 250 locations, initial reports say the global walk raised more than $500,000; enough to feed 2 million children for one day through WFP's school feeding programme. We expect this number to increase significantly in the weeks to come. "Walk the World is the event to raise awareness for all the children who suffer from hunger every day," said Peter Bakker, CEO of TNT. "At TNT we believe that hunger is not acceptable in today's world. I am proud that so many employees, their families and friends on all continents of the world have actively taken part in this Walk to show their solidarity and to raise funds to give these children the daily meal they deserve."

Funds raised by TNT South Africa will be channelled though to the South African Food Bank this year as WFP do not host any feeding programs here in South Africa as this is handled by the SA Food Bank. WFP do however support the SA Food Bank.

So I arrived at Jo’burg Zoo a place I had been to many, many times when I was a lot younger. I have a vivid memory of the polar bears that were kept at the zoo when I was younger. I was very pleasantly surprised to see they still had the polar bears in a much nicer enclosure. Jo’burg Zoo is the only Zoo in Africa to have polar bears. I also saw the original enclosure and I was very sad to see how small it was. Things have defiantly progressed for the Jo’burg Zoo.

I am not sure if one can realistically base how well a city is doing on how well maintained it zoo is. I was surprised to learn that the zoo still existed let alone see how well maintained it was and the range of animals in it. It could be rated as world classed. But to me it does give me some hope that Johannesburg as a city is heading in the right direction. It has fantastic restaurants, top music acts like James Blunt and Counting Crows are performing in Johannesburg (or have quite recently) so it must be doing something right.

Back to the walk!

So some 200 people arrived to take part in Walk the World Jo’burg. There was also an event in Swaziland and one down in Richards Bay ( home of the SA Food Bank) The weather was fantastic, a bit cold to start with, clear skies and well just a really nice day to go for a walk around the zoo. To give you an idea of the size of the zoo the walk was around 5km in length and it was all within the grounds of the Zoo. This made it a really ideal location to host this walk. Not only did it offer a save place to walk but it was an interesting place to walk too.

I am not sure how much money TNT SA raided for the SA Food bank but as soon as I have an update I will let you all know.

I took loads of photos during the walk (121 exactly) The pix can be found here.

Here are some links to the YouTube clips I have posted from the Walk the World event.

Part 1 can be found here

Part 2 can be found here

As some of you will know I am a bit of a gadget nut head. I love my toys and I am proud to call my self an anorak. I have always enjoyed photography and recently splashed out on a digital SLR. I got my self a Canon EOS 400D awesome bit of kit. While I was reading up on tutorials I came across an interesting article called GEO-Tagging. Basically it’s the syncing up of the date and time stamp of your photos to a GPS track log. This info gets attached to a meta tag embedded in the photo. So this means you can now see the lat and long of a photo you have GEO-Tagged. Flickr reads this info and plots it on a map. Cool stuff hey.

Click here to see the map of where my photos were taken on Flickr.

You can also see the data log file in google earth here. I am yet to work out how to get the photos to appear in this file online. It works fine on my laptop as the file knows where the photos are (they are on my laptop!) so that’s a bit of a project for me to work out.

The GPS Data Logger can be used for other things besides the photo tags – you can upload the file into google earth and see where you have been. The data logger I am using is a Sony GPS-CS1 with Jet Photo Studio. (click the links to find out more about these items)

Attached here is my route to the Zoo – you can see I got a bit lost! The squiggles on the left of the log is the zoo. (You do need Google Earth to view the track logs click here to down load it)

So I got to have a good walk with some fantastic people take some fab photos with my new camera and play with some new toys too. Great day out 

To find out more about Walk the World please click here.
To find out more about the partnership between TNT and WFP please click here.

You gotta love Africa!!!!

I had these emailed to me this morning,

Very real and very funny but this is a place where everyone makes a plan!

31 May 2008

TNT Moving the World - Five years partnership with WFP

I found the following Moving the World Clip on YouTube

Click the logo to view the clip

Makes me feel very proud to work for a company that can be involved in projects like this - In December last year TNT renewed it partnership with WFP indefinitely so long as the partnership was mutually beneficial to both parties. How many companies can you say you have worked for that can form a partnership like this?

26 May 2008

Xenophobic attacks

As many of you may have seen on the news recently there has been a large number of Xenophobic attacks on foreigners in South Africa. Not only are people from Zimbabwe, Mozambique and other Southern African countries getting caught up in this but so are many locals.

The Red Cross of South Africa have set up a fund-raising drive. Any one can donate to this via credit card so its not only for South Africans so please visit the following page to donate.

http://donations.redcross.org.za/ please also ensure you quote the correct refrance number so that the money goes to the right cause.

Its quite sad to see South Africa in this state.

I had to look up Xenophobia as I did not clearly understand what it meant.

Found the following meanings of the word

Xenophobia -
–noun an unreasonable fear or hatred of foreigners or strangers or of that which is foreign or strange.

Xenophobia is a fear or contempt of that which is foreign or unknown, especially of strangers or foreign people.[1] It comes from the Greek words ξένος (xenos), meaning "foreigner," "stranger," and φόβος (phobos), meaning "fear." The term is typically used to describe a fear or dislike of foreigners or of people significantly different from oneself.

And here I was thinking that SA had become such a divers place to live and that it had come a long way since I lived in SA 6 years ago.

I hope this madness comes to an end sooner rather than later.

18 May 2008

Namibia VBlog Live

I have now uploaded my Namibian YouTube Blog

Click here to view it.

YouTube Update

Hi All,

Been a bit slack on the old YouTube on the old YouTube vids so I have uploaded a few very short Vids that you can view by clicking on the links below.

You may have seen these on the blog before but I did have them posted here but so as to clean up the page abit I will leave them on the YouTube site and just give you the link to go to them.

Some people at work cant see YouTube due to restrictions of there web access.


Day 1 - a few hrs to go.

Filmed just before I headed off to the airport to go to Rome, to join up with the other TNT Staff from around the world. The other TNT staff would be on there way to School Feeding Projects around the globe. I would be on my way to a different project. To set up Wellness Centres for trucking communities in Southern Africa.

This short VBlog just outlines how I was feeling at the time. The few weeks upto this point had been very stressful as I only had a weeks notice to sort my life out both personally and at work. It took a lot out of me.


Flight to Rome - 2nd March 2008

Some footage at Birmingham International Airport (BXH) on route to Rome. 2nd March 2008


North Star Foundation

This is the project I am working with in South Africa. I am doing a very similar thing here in Zambia (Chirundu) and very soon in Zimbabwe and Namibia.

This clip was found on YouTube - it was posted up on YouTube by TNT Communications

More TNT Communications clips can be found here.

Art imitating life ........

The other day I was driving to the office listening to the radio and it was time for the traffic joke on Radio Highveld. The joke went as follows ( not exactly as it was played on the radio - you can down load the original from here )

Jo was sitting at home watching the football when his daughter, Eve, came home.
"Dad" said Eve "I have some news that you will not like"
Now Eve had just recently turned 18 so Jo was concerned to what Eve had to say.
"Dad, I am with child!" Said Eve
Needless to say Jo was shocked.
"What did I tell you to say when a boy tries to touch your breast?" Asked Jo to his daughter Eve
Eve responded "Don't!"
"That's right! And what did I tell you if a boy tries to tough your private area? " Asked Jo.
"Stop!" responded Eve
"That's right! So how did you get into this predicament? " asked Jo of his daughter.
"But Dad! The boy tried to touch both so I said " Don't, Stop!" "

This got me thinking is this art imitating life ? How many girls out there fall pray to this very story. I know when I left South Africa there were stories of HIV/AIDS awareness teams going into the rural area's to educate the population on HIV/AIDS and prevention. These educators were going out into the field with out the proper equipment to show people how to put condoms on. So what they were doing instead of having an anatomically correct penis to demonstrate how to put a condom on they had a bit of a broom handle. They would show the group how to put a condom on the broom handle and say " This is how you don't get HIV by protecting your self like this" This led to reports of people finding boom sticks behind doors with condoms on them. People were saying this is what they had been told to do.

To make matters worse you then have the minister of health here having sex with a sex worker who has HIV and he said it was "OK" because he had a shower afterwards!

The cure for HIV is out there!
It does not come in a bottle and its not a pill or an injection its called "Education" and "Responsibility"

People in this day and age take things way too literally. Its up to every one of us to ensure that the message we send out is clear and understandable or so much hard work will be undone.

On a lighter side of thing here is a few more graphical examples of "Art imitating life" from my favorite South African satire cartoon strip "Madam and Eve"

Please be sure to visit the "Madam and Eve" blog site here.

How computer games can influence the world around us.

Ok South Africa does have a bit of a rap about bribery and corruption but I had to post this as its just very amusing. Its not quite this bad but it is just as blatant.

(Click on the images to get the full size)

6 May 2008

General Update

Hi All,

Sorry its not a blog update as such. Kinda having writers block at the moment on that one. I do have a few idea's but its just time to sit down and put them into words.

I have however been quite busy.

Last week South Africa had a 2 day working week - yip only in Africa can you have a holiday on Monday then two more on Thursday and Friday in one week ! As a result of this I headed down to the coast to spend the time with Mom and Dad. It was great to see them again.

So what have I been upto?

Well I have submitted a review from the survey done in Walvis Bay. We have funding to set up a Wellness Centre in Namibia but I am not sure if Walvis is the ideal location to sit this centre. We have been told of another location called Grootfountain (click on the word to get a map of the area ) So I will be off to Namibia again on the 26th of May to see what's what in this area.

You will see from the photos I have got a Wellness Centre on its way to Zambia - (click here for photos of the container/ Wellness Centre being loaded for transport ) This container should be in Chirundu by Friday. I will be going up to Zambia on the 19th of May for a few days to set the centre up. Looking forward to this. So a lot of planing is on the go for this too.

I have also been looking at the Wellness Centre software to add more KPI elements to it so we can report on what is happening at the centres more effectively.

Other updates of interest.

Took some photos on Sunday on my way back to Jo'burg - you can view them here. It took 10 hrs to drive the 540km (874 miles) normally it takes like 5 - 6 hrs to do this trip but there was a massive smash on the motor way ( 3 dead ) and a hail storm that stopped me in my tracks for 15 - 20 mins as I could not see any thing for all the hail!

Also went on a game drive with Mom and Dad to Hluhluwie Game Reserve - photos can be seen here - saw loads of animals. Was a fab day out.

I also got my self a new toy - a Canon EOS 400D - fab bit of kit but need to learn how to use it but so far so good it seems to take good pix even if the owner has no eye for detail ! Some photos I took with it with in hours of the battery being charged can be found here.

Well that's it for now from me.

Hope to have something up on the blog soon for you all to read.


Bedfordview - Gauteng 

19 Apr 2008

Namibia – Walvis Bay

Well I have spent the last few days in Walvis Bay, Namibia. I arrived on Sunday the 13th April 2007 and I am now leaving on the 17th. (Currently at the Walvis Bay International Airport)

It has been a truly remarkable past few days. Right from the moment I arrived in this rather quaint little place. As we landed at the airport I could not stop thinking how much the scenery around the area reminded me of a movie I had watched not that long again called “Flight of the Phoenix” In the movie you see a story of a plane of oil drillers whose plan crash in the desert. Unknown to me at the time the actual desert they filmed in was the “Namib Desert” I only found this out when I passed a comment to the car rental lady that the airport reminded me of something out of that movie. Her dad had worked on the movie when it was made here. In the movie we are led to believe that it is the Mongolian desert but as we now know it was in Namibia.

It is quite literally wall to wall sand here.

So what have I been doing in this picturesque country? Well I have been here for the past 4 days aiding in running a KABP (Knowledge, Attitude, Belief and Practice) survey to identify exactly where the hot spot of commercial sex workers and truckers operate in. A few “Hot Spots” had been identified to us but we needed to narrow this down to one ideal location. Not quite as easy as it sounds. One would think look and see where the sex workers hang out and see where the truckers hang out. Wish it was that easy.

The survey is a questionnaire that we gave out to a team of 10 volunteers to go and interview our target group ( Commercial Sex Workers and Truck Drivers and Assistance) Our questionnaire had 7 section in it.

Section 1 – Socio-demographic information and employment (Gender, age and type of work etc)

Section 2 – Drivers and assistance – nature of work (How long they work how often they frequent the area and stay etc. General info on heath care and services are also collected at this point. )

Section 3- Sex workers – nature of work (How many working in the area how often they are working etc)

Section 4 – Risk and risk reduction (How aware they are of STI and HIV/AIDS and its associated risk and risk of infection to them self and others. Also we can ascertain how promiscuous people are in the area)

Section 5 – HIV/AIDS knowledge and attitudes (Questions on what they know about HIV/AIDS and how to seek information and there attitudes towards HIV/AIDS (have they been tested etc))

Section 6 – Condoms (do they know where to get them and how to use them?)

Section 7 – STIs (do they know how to identify an STI and where do they go to get treatment)

We did find out where the sex workers hang out and we were able to talk to them about what they were doing and get a good idea of there HIV awareness. We also found out that predominantly there cliental were more often than not seafarers than truckers. One of the reasons for this is they pay better. Truckers in the area don’t really park up for any great length of time. The reasons for this were not very clear. In most cases it was they have a quick turn around of off loading and loading. So it is going to be hard for us to justify a wellness centre to facilitate the truckers and the commercial sex workers in the area.

On the flip side I have been able to meet some really remarkable people during my stay here. The staff and volunteers at the “New Start” “Walvis Bay Multi Purpose Centre” have been incredibly hospitable to me. The volunteers who have helped collect the data from the survey have been incredible. All really eager to help out and get as much info that they could. They arraigned appointments with the girls so that they could sit down in a place they felt comfortable with to conduct the interviews. They asked additional questions of the drivers and the girls in order to try and shed some more light on where activities were happening. They were just so helpful. A great pleasure to work with. Every one we spoke to understood the importance of a wellness centre in the area and were willing to work with us to provide the data we required. Right down to the pub owner where the girls worked out of.

Some of the things that really struck me about Walvis Bay is the personal pride and sense of community in the area. I guess living in a harsh environment like a dessert you have to stick together at all times in order to survive. I think people here also realise that they live in such a harsh environment and they have risen about this to have a strong community and this is something to be proud of.

I have been really lucky to be given this opportunity to see Namibia from this perspective.

I have taken loads of photos of this remarkable place. And before any one comments I was here on work – honest! click here to see the photos from Namibia.

Some things I can recommend to anyone wanted to visit.

DO! Don’t just think about it just do it! You will not be disappointed.

I stayed in a fab place in Swakopmund, The Beach Lodge Hotel, some 35 – 40km away from the airport. The drive out there is well worth the distance. Walvis is very commercial so Swakop is where the holiday people tend to go. Loads of fab hotels and places to go. About half way between Swakop and Walvis there is a Dune Quad centre, Dare Devil Adventures. I had to pay a visit there as it was highly recommended. There are quite a few places that offer Dune Quad biking so just take your pick. The one just as you come into Swakop has had cliental of such likes of Brad Pit and Angelina Jolene.

I was lucky to get to go out as it was just myself and the guide. I think this made it extra special as the guide really went out of his way for me to show me some of the awesome wild life that resides in this barren hostile environment. Jackals, Chameleon and sand diving lizards to name a few of the inhabitants of the Namib Desert.

You will see from the photos I had an awesome time out there and yes I did do work out there too and important work at that. (Click on link to see photos from Namibia)