Forgotten Voices' Mission:

"Demonstrating the love of Jesus Christ by equipping local churches in southern Africa to meet the physical & spiritual needs of children orphaned by AIDS in their communities."

Friday, February 29, 2008

What is Inflation? Explanation by Our Director for Sustainable Development

I asked Jesse Schwamb, our Director for Sustainable Development, to explain inflation and how it happens. The IMF estimates Zimbabwe's inflation to be over 150,000% and still others say it is even higher. This week, the ZD is trading at $20Million Zimbabwe Dollars to $1USD, a jump from $12M ZD:$1USD on Monday. Craziness!

It's a good read and very informative, without swallowing you into numbers. It helps people like me understand why what is happening is happening and how it impacts our projects. Enjoy!

-Ryan Keith

Memorandum

To: Ryan Keith; President, Forgotten Voices International

CC: All constituents of and volunteers with Forgotten Voices International

From: Jesse Schwamb, Director for Sustainable Development

Date: 2/29/2008

Re: For Immediate Release & Communication: Understanding How Inflation Happens

What is “inflation”?

Inflation may be simply defined as a persistent rise in the costs of goods and services. When things we buy regularly – such as food, fuel, or housing – increase in price, inflation is occurring. A rise in the price of various goods generally means that they are less affordable causing us to react by choosing to buy less, use products more sparingly, or go without. This increase in the overall cost of goods and services over time, and the spending decisions that accompany this change, is what economists call inflation. Inflation, as measure of rising prices, is commonly expressed as a percentage. For instance, you may read in the Wall Street Journal that general inflation in the United State is 3 percent per year. This indicates that prices of basic goods and services (food, fuel, and housing) have increased by 3 percent over the course of 12 months. If a gallon of milk cost $2.50 at the beginning of the year, for example, the same gallon of milk would cost $2.58 at the end of the year with 3 percent inflation. Obviously, those buying milk now have to spend more money to purchase the very same gallon of milk. By way of comparison, the rate of inflation in Zimbabwe has now exceeded 100,000 percent according to estimates made by the World Bank.

How does inflation happen?

There are many complicated economic variables which collectively influence a country’s rate of inflation. However, the following simple example demonstrates the root cause of inflation.

1. In the small fictitious country of Inflationland, there are ten people who want to buy a loaf of bread and only seven loafs of bread available for sale. The bread sellers can increase the price of bread because some people are willing and able pay more to get the bread the want.

2. People – including those making the bread in the bakeries – demand higher wages so they can afford to buy bread. The cost of making bread increases because the bread bakers are requiring more money. So the selling price of bread also increases.

3. When a loaf of bread begins to cost more than people can afford, they stop buying. Fewer loafs of bread are needed, and the bakery lays off workers.

4. Unemployed people buy less of everything so the economy slows down. This is known as a recession. Bread sellers – desperate to sell their small, but stagnant inventory of bread – offer their bread at sale prices.

5. So if ten people want bread and only seven loafs are available, the cycle begins again.

This cycle of inflation is currently occurring within Zimbabwe across a wide array of industries. As demonstrated by the above example, economists generally conclude that inflation is increased (and many times caused) by a scarcity of goods and services. This is particularly true in Zimbabwe where the government has attempted to increase the amount of money available to purchase goods and services without ensuring that there are actually things to buy. When the number of dollars in the hands of consumers exceeds the amount of goods and services available for sale, inflation results and the value of the currency decreases. A combination of high unemployment (over 80 percent in Zimbabwe) and high inflation (100,000 percent) is known as stagflation. Thus, the country of Zimbabwe is currently facing an extremely difficult economic crisis which can be appropriately defined as stagflation.

HIV Drug Access in Zim

Young girls are particularly vulnerable to assault, especially those that lost their mothers. It's a complicated, controversial process to medicate a young girl in a village that has suffered from these kinds of assaults. A "taboo topic" is the phrase our partners would use. Difficult issues take wisdom. Pray with me for wisdom for us, our partners, medical workers, and most importantly families suffering from HIV related issues across Zimbabwe.

-Ryan

From KaiserNetwork Article in Today's Kaiser Daily

"Drug Access | Group Calls on Zimbabwe Health Ministry To Increase Access to PEP Among Assault Survivors, Health Workers
[Feb 29, 2008]

The Zimbabwe Women's Resource Centre Network last week called on the country's Ministry of Health and Child Welfare to increase access to post-exposure prophylaxis in an effort to curb the spread of HIV nationwide, the Herald/AllAfrica.com reports. The group called on the health ministry to adopt a multisectoral approach to make PEP more widely available to groups such as sexual assault survivors. ZWRCN program officer Sylvia Shekede said that lack of coordination in the distribution of antiretroviral drugs is hindering access to PEP. "We are calling upon the relevant ministry to formulate policies that cater for every one regardless of age," Shekede said, adding, "Some organizations which support rape victims cater for children under the age of 16 years only."

According to Shekede, health workers also have limited access to PEP. A study conducted by ZWRCN between 2005 and January 2008 found that 27 health care workers nationwide had accessed PEP. "Some people are getting infection after failing to access PEP, and yet the drug is lying idle in different health institutions," Shekede said, adding that PEP should be made available in various venues, such as supermarkets, especially for assault survivors (Herald/AllAfrica.com, 2/27)."

Monday, February 25, 2008

College Students Reflect on Microfinance

Tonight, I had the good fortune to meet with some students interested in microfinance. Forgotten Voices is beginning a partnership with a hospital in Zambia to provide additional micro-loans to women that are waiting for their child before, during, and after surgery. They typically are waiting at the hospital for 10 days, providing a short, yet excellent, opportunity to provide some skills training and develop a business opportunity...providing empowerment and extra income to care for their vulnerable child. Our funding target for the women is connected to a feeding program aimed at providing additional food for kids with HIV that come to the hospital to help reduce their risk of sickness because their immune systems are extra weak.

The business loans are based on helping women make & sell tie dye shirts, which are all the rave in Lusaka right now and we are looking to help this hospital fulfill this idea that they've already begun implementing for a small number of women. As they hope to grow this to train more women, Forgotten Voices will be playing a small role in connecting our donors to this project.

Look for more info on this project in the coming weeks as we show how it'll work and demonstrate its practical connection to our mission of equipping local people to care for AIDS orphans in the community.

But back to the students... it's always inspiring to talk with students and dream with them about what could be. Too often, students read things in their textbooks that highlight problems that seem to have no solution or are focused on what isn't there. Tonight, we had a good talk about how Jesus focused on what is there...and how to build off it.

For example, Jesse Schwamb, our volunteer Director of Sustainable Development, began our time with Matthew 16:9 -- "Do you still not understand? Don't you remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered?"

I have friend named Peter Greer, who leads HOPE International. He tells me often that we have to DREAM SMALL. Take what has been given to us and then move outward from there, rather than want everything now and get frustrated continually when things break down, or we don't achieve what we want as quick as what we want. We must not just teach people how to fish, but give them the tools to do it themselves for when (not if) we leave.

Two groups doing innovative work in Microfinance are HOPE International and KIVA.org. I hope you take the opportunity to learn what we are learning about these days. I'm CONFIDENT you'll walk away from your encounters with these groups in the same way I walked away from my brief time with these students...inspired and challenged to do more than I'm doing now.

Thanks for reading, as always. Now, go dream small and help change the life of someone today. You are helping us do that, one village (or tie dye shirt) at a time.

Best,
Ryan

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Grantham BIC Church - Learning from a Lifetime

Tonight, I have the good fortune of speaking at the Grantham Church in Grantham, PA at 6pm if you are in the area. This church is considered the homeland of the BIC movement in the United States. The Brethren in Christ reached out to Zimbabwe in the late 1800s and have maintained a strong working relationship with the people through today.

It is an honor to speak to a church full of missionaries that had served in Zimbabwe for longer than I've been alive and a body committed to caring for the vulnerable...no matter where they live and the sacrifice it may cost. They are knowledgeable about the issues and passionate about living out the commands Christ has for us.

Every time I go to southern Africa, regardless of whether it is in Zambia or Zimbabwe or somewhere else, I meet someone that has been touched by the Grantham Church in some way. I'm always humbled by the sacrifice of so many for so long to improve the lives of people ... whether they are BIC in Zimbabwe or BIC in the USA. The Brethren in Christ are Christians that have taught me much about love and service. They embody what Christ has called on us to live.

Tonight, I am speaking to a church that is heroic. They probably wouldn't say so, but I do. After just 4 years of serving Zimbabwe, I realize I have a lifetime of lessons to learn from this Church. I am excited to see what comes out of tonight, as we join hands and serve together.

Our God is an AWESOME God and He was incredibly wise to create us to be far more effective when we worked to build His kingdom...rather than work to build our own. What a mighty God we serve!

-Ryan

Monday, February 18, 2008

Presidential Candidates on HIV/AIDS Issues

I am VERY careful not to get involved in mixing politics and Forgotten Voices. That's not our business. We are an organization commited to orphan care in Africa, in partnership with local churches working hard every day to serve in a way Christ called us all to serve.

However, I am often asked my thoughts on the Presidential candidates' positions on HIV/AIDS and development aid to Africa. My opinions aren't that significant, but the positions of the candidates themselves are good to know...commentary free. While I continue to emphasize to people that ask that HIV/AIDS is a GLOBAL issue, not just something in Africa... I wanted to send along a link to a thorough account of the official positions of all 4 of the remaining major candidates for President of the USA: Clinton, Huckabee, McCain and Obama (alpha order).

Important to remember: no endorsement or recommendation from me on who you all should vote for. That's not what this is about. In fact, few of my close friends know who I'm leaning toward and that is deliberate. As a passionate guy, it's hard sometimes. But my job is to be an advocate for our mission and not get distracted by all the stuff that goes into an election here in the USA.

If HIV/AIDS is important to you, please take some time to review the candidates' positions on this complex matter. Please make sure to check out their words and their thoughts. It's hard to dig through all the commentators weighing in on the races, but resources like this help make it possible.

I hope you enjoy learning more about this.

http://www.health08.org/issue_globalhealth_hivaids.cfm

Friday, February 15, 2008

CNN Covers Food in Zimbabwe

Note: I have corrected these links. Check out these 2 videos, featuring the terrible food crises in Zimbabwe, featuring retirees and another featuring Richard Lee of the World Food Program.

Retirees scavenge garbage (2:04 - CNN.com)

Zimbabweans Scramble for Food (2:59 - CNN.com)

At Forgotten Voices, we are in the business of helping realize the dreams of churches striving to care for orphans in their communities. We are coming alongside local churches who have designed local orphan care programs. Often, these plans involve food support. We are currently working to integrate a program called Farming God's Way into every project in Zimbabwe to help address these needs. Since starting this partnership with FGW, we have helped assist over 700 farms, which will impact approximately 7,000 people. An example of growth can be seen here in this earlier post on Fibion and Farming God's Way. From knee-high crops over the last few years to record heights with FGW, this is just one way that we are helping this situation without spending lots of money unnecessarily. Tons of money, as you'll see from the video, isn't the only solution.

While this is a small sliver of help compared to the need, we are pacing growth to keep up with the capacity of our local partnerships AND find partnerships with other groups. Some of our partnerships are also assisted by World Vision, Salvation Army and the World Food Program.

Please join me in praying for the rising food crises in Zimbabwe. Pray for our partnerships in Zimbabwe as they are personally pressured to do more for their neighbors, but cannot make ends meet for themselves. There is a church that we work with that is going without a meal a day to give to the poor. Not for a day or a 30 hour window, but until this crises is over. Not for PR, but because they feel called to do so. Pray for their safety and security, particularly, as they face severe hunger and still choose to go without so that others may eat.

Pray also for donors in the USA. That people would respond out of love for this situation and choose to make a gift to Forgotten Voices. Our partnerships now reach over 130 churches and impact 9,000 people. We hope to leverage these connections and impact even more places in Zimbabwe, one of the most forgotten places on earth.

Thanks for reading. Thanks for praying. Thanks for investing in the dreams of local people, working hard right now to change the lives of children...in part, because of you.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Thoughts on New ARV Report

Forgotten Voices has an AIDS orphan care partnership with with a rural AIDS clinic that is serving about 60 people currently on ARVs in Zimbabwe. We hope this number rises in 2008. If given proper access and care with ARVs, parents with AIDS are often able to live longer. By living longer, parents are able to continue parenting their children AND help local community leaders determine what should happen with their kids when they pass away. Children are most vulnerable when a parent suddenly dies, leaving them with few rights, no care plan, and typically few resources to survive.

With ARVs, the parents of children are given a chance for devising these plans and passing along wisdom and family history. Despite these assets, ARVs are limited in countries like Zimbabwe. In addition to the high costs to patients, political and economic volatility adds to their limitations to the people that need them most. In addition, ARVs from Western countries are often political tools and given to governments that have a track record of disseminating health care fairly. Zimbabwe fails in the eyes of many countries. Yet, not entirely.

In the summer of 2007, the USA announced a $15+ million ARV program for Zimbabwe. This has already had a tremendous impact on the state of ARV availability.

Please read the information below. Education is KEY to understanding how to best care for our partners and vital to our appropriate response.

I hope this new information is true and that it helps give rise to access. Currently, according to most reliable published reports, access to ARVs is limited to just 6% of the population.

All the best,
Ryan

--------------------
From Kaiser Daily: February 13, 2008

HIV-Positive People Seeking No-Cost Antiretrovirals in Zimbabwe To Increase Following Procurement of T Cell Tests, AIDS Council Says


The number of people living with HIV/AIDS seeking access to no-cost antiretroviral drugs in Zimbabwe likely will increase following the procurement of tests that count CD4+ T cells, Zimbabwe's National AIDS Council said recently, the Herald/AllAfrica.com reports.

The tests were purchased with support from the Global Fund To Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and distributed last week by NAC to 13 districts in the country, including Binga and Bulilima in the Matabeleland province. The test counts an HIV-positive person's number of T cells, determining the progression of the virus. In Zimbabwe, an HIV-positive person can obtain access to no-cost antiretrovirals only if his or her T cell count is below 200 cells per cubic milliliter of blood. According to the Herald/AllAfrica.com, procurement of the machines will increase the number of people tested and subsequently increase the number of people who qualify for no-cost treatment.

NAC board member Delma Lupepe said that in the past, there were only five districts in the country that provided no-cost antiretrovirals. He added that the "recent procurement of 13 [T cell] count machines will see all the 22 identified Global Fund sites rolling out" antiretrovirals. Zimbabwe's Health and Child Welfare Minister David Parirenyatwa said that people living with HIV/AIDS "no longer need to travel long distance to undergo [T cell] count testing. We have brought [HIV-positive people] the drugs, equipment, as well as manpower." He added that the Global Fund is assisting most physicians in district hospitals with salary increases and retention fees. Parirenyatwa said he hopes the program aimed at assisting health professionals financially will expand to all districts in the country to increase retention rates (Herald/AllAfrica.com, 2/11).

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

I'm Sick - Reflections on Homebased Care

The flu is sweeping the country. It seems that so many people are sick. Everyone I've talked to this past week was either just sick or is coming into sickness. For the past 5 days I've been pretty sick, with a high fever and throwing up. This experience continues on.

Yesterday, I didn't get up from bed all day. As I laid down in bed, I kept thinking about the AIDS patients lying on their mats for 9 months or more at a time. Our friends in Africa caring for these patients are relentless. Mrs. Maposa, for example, sees an average of 5 people each week knowing that many of her patients are going to die. I'm thankful for her efforts and the 850+ others that are serving in southern Africa through our partnerships.

In April, a group of Messiah College students from the Social Work Club, among others, will be throwing a dodgeball tournament/fundraiser to raise money for Forgotten Voices' various homebased care partnerships and the kits our homebased programs provide people in their final days.

So - as I sit on the couch and begin recovering, I give thanks for the people in Africa working hard to ease the pain of people that are dying from AIDS. I give thanks for the patients, who are pressing on and helping the homebased care workers decide what should happen to their kids after they pass away. I'm thankful for people like the Messiah College students who will make the 2008 efforts of homebased care possible.

Sure...I'm sick, but I'm already getting better after just 5 days. You may be miserable, but remember the hope we have and the hope we have the privelege to share with others on the other side of the world.

Thanks for reading & for helping us care for some of the world's most vulnerable people.
video

Monday, February 11, 2008

Farming God's Way & Fibion

Friends - A friend just returned from a trip to Zimbabwe. He took this picture of one of Forgotten Voices' pastors...Fibion. You can read more about Fibion by clicking on his Meet the Voices profile.

This picture is of Fibion standing next to his crops that he grew using the Farming God's Way method. FGW is a partner of Forgotten Voices in Zimbabwe and one of the leaders, Pierre, was also featured in a Meet the Voices profile. Fibion's use of the method is due in part to Forgotten Voices' partnerships that bring our church leadership into direct relationship with tools like the FGW method of farming.

By constantly working to connect people to other effective programs, dollars are stretched and lasting relationships are formed. Fibion learned of FGW at a leadership retreat I hosted in Zimbabwe, where leaders from across our partnerships came together to share ideas and learn from each other. The group plans to get together on a regular basis, even though I'm not there. Partnerships work!

Join me in praising God for partnerships AND for the incredible amount of rain that has helped generate this record height of crops for this area. God is amazing!

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Article on "Product RED" Campaign

Friends - Many of you have asked me over the past year to keep you updated on the "Product RED" campaign. As I have said all along, I am thankful for this group's efforts to raise awareness among consumers, but I hope additional transparency on marketing money becomes a more important piece to the effort. One of my greatest fears as we forge new momentum in the global fight against AIDS is that people's passion for the cause wanes as the "fad" of helping declines. AIDS is among our world's greatest challenges. Check this article out from Kaiser, one of the leading resources on these types of health issues. Also, the link to the NY Times article is also quite informative.

Together, we can make a difference! But we must be informed. As I often say to college students, our passion is a prized possession, but our age must not be an excuse for incompetence. Thanks for reading!

-Ryan
======================================
From Today's KaiserNetwork.org Daily Report
New York Times Examines Issues Surrounding Product RED Campaign

The New York Times on Wednesday examined issues surrounding the Product RED campaign, which benefits the Global Fund To Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Product RED -- which was created by musician and HIV/AIDS advocate Bono and Bobby Shriver -- and its partners to date have given more than $59 million to the Global Fund. The campaign also has helped to provide more than 30,000 people with antiretroviral drugs and more than 300,000 HIV-positive pregnant women with counseling and treatment, according to data from the Global Fund and Product RED. In addition, Product RED and its partners have contributed almost all the corporate money that has gone to the Global Fund, which had $2.4 billion in 2007.

According to the Times, the campaign has generated $22 million to combat HIV/AIDS in Rwanda. Rwandan officials say Product RED funds have helped to build 33 HIV testing and treatment centers; provided medicine for more than 6,000 women to prevent mother-to-child HIV transmission; and funded counseling and testing services for thousands of people. "The money we get from RED through the Global Fund is helping to save lives," Anita Asiimwe of the Treatment and Research AIDS Center in Kigali said, adding, "That's the important thing."

However, some people have criticized a "lack of transparency at the company and its partners over how much they make from RED products, and whether they spend more money on Africa or advertising," the Times reports. According to a March 2007 article published in Advertising Age magazine, Product RED companies at the time collectively had spent up to $100 million on advertising and raised $18 million for the Global Fund. Product RED officials disputed the numbers, saying companies had spent $50 million on advertising and raised $25 million for the Global Fund, the Times reports.

Inger Stole, communications professor at the University of Illinois, said that Product RED ads "seem to be more about promoting the [partner] companies and how good they are than the issue" of HIV/AIDS. However, Susan Smith Ellis, chief executive of Product RED, said the campaign itself does not advertise. According to Ellis, companies pay Product RED to label one or more of their products and pay a portion of the sales to the Global Fund. Product RED contributions, which make up about 2% of the Global Fund's total budget, have allowed the organization to divert funds to programs in 136 countries and raise its visibility, Christoph Benn, an official at the Global Fund, said.

Some critics of Product RED say the "primary beneficiaries of cause-marketing campaigns are businesses," the Times reports. Mark Rosenman, a professor of public service at Union Institute and University-Cincinnati, said that there is a "broadening concern that business marketing is taking on the patina of philanthropy and crowding out philanthropic activity and even substituting for it." Tamsin Smith, president of Product RED, said such criticism fails to understand the campaign's motives. "We're not encouraging people to buy more, but if they're going to buy a pair of Armani sunglasses, we're trying to get a cut of that for a good cause," she said, adding that Product RED "is not a charity; it's a business." Shriver said, "I hate begging for money. In most cases when you go and ask for a corporate donation, they'll cut you a check and that's it. We wanted something that was more sustainable" (Nixon, New York Times, 2/6).

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Cold Weather Moodiness

I think we all settle into our own little worlds when it gets cold. I was talking last week with a friend from Malawi and he was talking about record rains. He was blown away when I told him about our 0 degree C temperatures. How could it be so cold?, he asked. Good question.

Then, that got me thinking about the funk that sets in over all of us. My wife calls it by a fancy name with seasonal effect in it...or something like that. For me, I get caught up in the cold and hate going outside. Grouchy could be a good word to describe me. Don't get me wrong. I love sitting on the couch and drinking hot chocolate from the inside, watching the snow fall on the outside. I'm from New England and I love and hate the snow. But I never get comfortable with the cold. That funk always gets me in February.

As I talked to our friends in Africa working hard among the heat and the heavy rains, I thought it important to write about my bad mood. My mood isn't helping our friends in Africa. It's cold outside, but they need our A game. If you've been thinking about telling our story or throwing a fundraiser...do it! Tell people its for those on the warm side of the world and we owe them our best.

Today, look for warmth around you and try to spread it around. Make someone's day today. I'm getting ready to venture out for the first time at 11:30am. I've been dreading it, but I'm pumped now after writing to you all. I'm excited to see what kinda warmth I can find and spread around.

-Ryan