working women

Laughter and stories. Clanging metal tools. As I approached the outdoor shelter that is the small biosand filter factory, I wanted to join the work so that I could be a part of this team of women. Their job is to make biosand filters several days a week – the small “factory” needed to increase their output, and these particular women had proven their skill and work ethic in recent trainings. Extra income for the women, extra output for the factory, and more people with safe drinking water in their homes. A good day.

Each one of these women has a story that deserves to be told. But today I only have time to tell you about one, Dainess. She is 25 years old, is married, and has three young children. She has an engaging smile, can read lips in Bemba, the local language, and writes basic English. Our conversation began with me writing, “My name is Pamela. What is your name?” Then the other women joined our conversation and simple sign language combined with lip reading took over. I am hesitant to say it, because I do not want Dainess to be categorized and put in a box, but she is deaf-mute. I dislike labels and boxes because they evoke specific emotions that might or might not be appropriate. Here, Dainess’s deafness is part of who she is, but does not define her. Instead it is her family, her smile, her work ethic and her interaction with her peers that tell us about her character. Given the opportunity, I would choose to work beside her and hope that she would want to be my friend.

This entry was written for Blood:Water Mission. Check them out at

drillers’ camp

Here drillers camp by the rig for several days while drilling a water well. No time is lost in going to and from the drill site. But, more importantly, time is spent with the community each evening. Besides, how fun is it to see these tents, the type I grew up camping with, next to a drill rig?

seeing stones

“Once you have seen a stone, it cannot harm you.” ~paraphrase of Rwandese proverb

Today was spent with a Rwandese colleague and friend discussing monitoring and evaluation. Not exactly most people’s idea of a grand day. Given the choice, my workday would have been filled with visiting projects because being in the field fills me up and reminds me why I love my job. Instead, today was a reminder of why hours spent in meetings, days spent in the office, and seemingly weeks creating plans are worth it.

In the midst of a seven hour conversation, my friend told me of a Rwandese proverb. Farmers spend hours working their fields with hoes. To turn the soil, they grasp their hoe with both arms and use the strength of their body to lift their hoe high and push it deep into the soil. When the hoe comes down on an unseen rock, the shock of the hoe hitting the rock reverberates through their entire body, hurting to the core. But, if the rock is seen, the farmer can avoid the rock and the ensuing pain.

Most of the time I tell stories about partners doing amazing work and communities being transformed. Stories and images that inspire. But we spend a lot of time looking for stones that could cause roadblocks and pain along the way – stories that are untold. Weeks, months, and years invested in the details and in communities. Stones mean that a water project takes longer to implement, a latrine is not constructed quite right, communities are not transformed, expansion happens faster than is sustainable, or that needed funds are not raised. Monitoring and evaluation plans are about looking for stones. It is not glamorous but is critical to success. And so tomorrow will be spent just like today: seven hours of conversation looking for stones.

This entry was written for Blood:Water Mission. Check them out at

new website

I am blessed to have family and friends that dream bigger for me than I am sometimes able. Last summer I thought I would start a photoblog and connect that to my current blog. I thought maybe I would I could sell some cards or small prints. But I was not sure how to connect them. I also used to have a small professional site with my resume, but that went away several years ago. It seemed like maybe these things could all be housed together under ‘Pam The Nomad’. Maybe.

Lauren and Chris took my musings and created a larger vision. Lauren designed the new site – from the layout to the colors to the new logo. Chris did the coding to make the design become real. And it is exactly – actually more than – what I wanted. They took my maybes and made them realities. They get five stars for this absolutely perfect gift. If you need any freelance work done, you should check them out at Asian Cajuns.

Through the summer there will be a few more pages added to this website and I will try to resolve any glitches that show up. But, for now, I hope you enjoy the new look of the website. And, if you have a minute, check out the photograph section where you can buy prints and cards, or send an e-card for free.

my to-do list

I contemplated various levels of laziness tonight. I finished the last couple chapters in one of the books I am reading. I kind of wanted to pop in a movie and ignore my to-do list. But that to-do list is looming large in my mind because I am responsible. I just returned from an overnight staff retreat where we did ‘StrengthsFinder’. Amongst my top 5 strengths is “Responsibility.” Yep, that’s right. Responsibility. We should talk about this sometime, but it’s true. Even when you thought being responsible was not ‘cool’ in high school or college, I was responsible because I did not know how to not be.

Most of the time my to-do list is something that just gets done when the time is right. But, somehow, before a big trip, the to-do list looms LARGE. It looms large because I like wanting to come home. And when the house is a mess, finances are a shamble and loose ends are hanging everywhere, seven weeks away does not necessarily find me excited about coming home – much less does it have me ready to hit the road.

So tonight I tackle some of that list.

And you are on my to-do list. I know I have not been writing here nearly as much as I should, and so hello. I am getting ready for another season of travel, and so the travel writings and photos are about to begin again. Between now and the end of May, I will be in Kenya, Zambia, Uganda, Rwanda, and Sudan. June should find me in D.C., Seattle, and possibly a camping trip elsewhere… I am looking forward to taking you along the journey with me.

Just before that journey begins, I will release the new design for this website. If all goes well, this weekend “Pam The Nomad” will get a fabulous facelift thanks to the design skills of Lauren Lee and programming skills of Chris Crane. Blogs will still be here, but I am pretty darn excited about the facelift. In case you were curious, no, I don’t plan on ever getting a facelift on my actual face.

For now, I return to the rest of my to-do list. Be excited… website facelift and travel coming soon…