The past two months have been quite hectic with several work events. Apologies in advance for a long post!
In late November, I continued with LCCS’s organizational capacity building with two participatory workshops to rewrite our mission and vision statements. I am so grateful to my coworkers for being such avid participants in both workshops; we did some tough but necessary work!
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Two weeks later, I went to the SA36s in-service training (IST) to announce the newest members of the Resource Committee. I also facilitated the committee’s first training on utilizing resources on the flash drives that we distribute. There’s a lot to work on, but the training went well overall. I enjoyed meeting the 36s, who are a very cool and talented bunch. I’m especially excited to work with our newest committee members!
December was the month of HIV/AIDS awareness activities. December 1 is World AIDS Day (fondly known as WAD, at least among the PCV community), although there are many activities leading up to and following WAD yearly. WAD is dedicated to raising awareness about the fight against HIV, supporting people living with HIV, and commemorating those who have lost their lives to AIDS-related illnesses (worldaidsday.org/about). It’s also an important time to extend support and acknowledge the many people who have been affected by HIV and AIDS in our communities. As of 2016, over 7 million people were living with HIV in South Africa, with the largest affected group being adolescent girls and young women. 19% of people living with HIV worldwide live in South Africa. In addition, the epidemic has led to over 2 million orphans and vulnerable children. However, South Africa has worked hard to counter this and has achieved a 49% decrease in new infections and a 29% reduction in AIDS-related deaths since 2010 (UNAIDS South Africa Fact Sheet, 2016).
In late November, I went to a nearby village to help a fellow PCV and her org host a WAD, which was incredible. We played HIV trivia, raised awareness about the sugar content in different cool drinks (soda), and passed out WAD bucket hats to people who tested for HIV. I spoke to countless people about the benefits of using lube with condoms, which isn’t widely utilized in rural areas. I was able to get some ideas, pamphlets, and lube from Kasey that helped me with my org’s WAD. On December 5, LCCS hosted their very own WAD. We had several speakers, some local entertainment, poems read by learners who attend LCCS, and really delicious cakes that celebrated children’s rights. Despite terrible thunderstorms, we had a decent turnout, and we plan to throw an even better WAD in 2018.
For the rest of the week, I went to our local secondary school to help YASPO with their Grassroot Soccer camp. On Thursday, we held a mock debate to prep the learners for YASPO’s WAD (called Conquers Cup) on Saturday. At first, we gave them some easy questions about HIV and teenage pregnancy prevention, and they gave good answers but weren’t very engaged. However, when one of the YASPO coaches asked the kids about their opinion on whether the child support grant from the government should be reduced, the learners really became active. Although I only understood bits and pieces of the debate, I was so impressed by the engagement and intelligence demonstrated by the learners.
On Saturday, YASPO held their annual Conquers Cup. Big thanks to fellow PCV Jonas, who came by to help with setup! Prior to the competition, there were several speakers, one of whom talked about an exciting new technology in development to help reduce the spread of HIV among young women—a ring inserted vaginally which would release PrEP (an antiretroviral drug that can prevent HIV) for 28 days called DREAM. I’m excited to keep tabs on DREAM’s development (learn more at ipmglobal.org)! This was followed by the debate, at which our learners performed smashingly. I was so proud of them, and I hope we have the opportunity to do more debates in the future. Three local teams competed in the event, and I was one of the three judges. Teams performed a parade/team spirit that included HIV awareness, did a presentation on a partner country (Saudi Arabia or Senegal this year), and also did a traditional dance. The teams were incredibly talented. (Photo cred YASPO)
I slept for most of Sunday to recuperate, and thankfully we had a slow week at work. I taught my colleagues how to make paper snowflakes while we watched a few Christmas classics. On Friday, I got two care packages from Aunt Patti and Aunt Karen & Uncle Tom, which were bursting with Christmas joy. It was a delight to share candy canes with my coworkers and host family and to decorate my room. I’ve been battling a lot of homesickness; this will be my first Christmas away from my family. But I’m also grateful to have such an incredibly loving host family to share the holidays with this year!
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On a side note, I did a deep clean of my room today in the hopes of finally eradicating the fleas/bed bugs/whatever awful critters have been biting me for the past month. I would appreciate any prayers and good thoughts that I have FINALLY eradicated them and will be itch-free!