Friday, March 23, 2012

Counterpart and Grief and Loss Workshop

Here we are on the last day of a week long workshop covering project management with our counterparts and grief and loss. It has been an exhausting week both physically and emotionally for us. I'll give a day-by-day, play-by-play of how the week went down.

Before we get into the nit-grit there are a few things that have happened before. Addy has been hard at work at putting on workshops at the Refugee Camp making reusable Sanitary Pads for women at the camp. She received a ton of material from our church for making these pads. It went from, "what are we going to do with all of this" to "we need more fabric!". This project is a step towards women empowerment. In rural Swaziland girls can miss weeks of school a year due to being on their periods and not being able to afford pads. This is a reusable and sustainable solution to this problem. The success of this project has inspired Addy to take this to other areas such as Malindza Central Primary and Mpaka High School.

Monday - Met our counterparts in Mpaka and traveled to the capital city of Mbabane. Our "counterparts", for those of you who don't speak Peace Corps jargon, are community members who we work closely with as volunteers. Addy and Bethany brought Amnesty from the Refugee Camp who is working with us as a facilitator for our English and HIV classes as well as helping head up the Camp Cleaning Campaign. He has been on board since day one putting in tons of work gathering signatures, encouraging others to attend meetings and providing leadership to his peers in the camp. I (Ryan) brought Bashin, the KaGogo Center manager who works with the Development Committee overseeing HIV prevention messages and N.C.Ps (Neighborhood Care Points). We have been working together for some time on setting up an HIV Awareness Soccer Tournament in our community. On how you can help please see below.

We arrived at Tkhoza Lodge in Mbabane. Ate a ridiculous amount of food and attended some workshops introducing project management. We then broke for dinner and stayed up playing cards with Amnesty and other volunteers.

Tuesday - The nitty gritty of project management. In 8 + hours we covered planning, budgeting, assessing, following up and closing projects. Having the time to sit down and really go over the finer details of our plans both in the camp and with the soccer tournament were invaluable. It made the entire process seem doable. It was also exhausting.

Wednesday - Saturday - Our counterparts received certificates for their attendance and we bid them farewell and stayed in Tkhoza. We started our Grief and Loss workshop. The workshop focused on the grief cycle, managing stress and trying to understand how we and Swazis deal with death and loss. The workshop afforded ample opportunity to creatively express ourselves and work out some of the baggage that we came to Swaziland with. I made a diorama. Addy made a sculpture of her new nephew Noam she is missing in the states. The time also afforded us some major bonding time with our Group. There is something about people opening up and being vulnerable enough to share some of their losses and personal stuff that brings a group of used-to-be-strangers together. Group 9 is pretty amazing.


This is from an e -mail I sent out a few weeks back.

Things are really happening right now in our dusty little corner of the earth. We (and when I say we I am referring to my local Swazi counterpart Bashin) are planning an event to raise awareness about HIV in the Mpaka/Malindza community. Since we are in the land of the 2010 World Cup we figured nothing brings people together like soccer! Here is the scoop. The soccer tournament will be held on a weekend in the next few months. The tournament will feature the best-of-the-best-of-the-best Under 17 teams in Mpaka/Malindza (there are like a billion of them) and will be played at the Sulitane "Stadium" in our community. We are currently applying for a grant to help us provide T-Shirts to participants and Indestructible Soccer Balls (Google it) to the winners. During half-time Bashin and I will present a soccer related HIV prevention message centered and will unveil Mpaka/Malindza's new HIV awareness slogan for 2012.

Part of the tournament is a skills training that we will put on with the informal youth teams in the area. The skills training will be on the same day as the tournament and will feature a HIV prevention message partnered with soccer skills training by the All-Star U-17 team and Bashin. Here is where you can help. We are looking to provide all the participants of the youth skills training with soccer jerseys. We are looking for hand me downs from soccer clubs/high schools/college/anything that we could hand out to the kids as a reward for participating in the skills training and HIV awareness lesson.

Soccer is a huge part of these kids' lives here. Most play without shoes or a proper field but the camaraderie and life skills that the game teaches are invaluable. This project aims to partner what these kids love to do with a relatable HIV message and by doing so make their lives a little easier by sporting some cool soccer jerseys from the States.

We aren't looking for super nice jerseys. If you played on a youth club team or high school team please consider asking them what they are doing with their old jerseys. Chances are they are piled up in a soccer mom's garage or attic somewhere. They can be put to good use! If you come across any or have any contact info for organizations that may be able to help, please let me know.

I know you have probably gotten e mails from African princes asking for your help in moving millions of gold out of the country in return for a slice of the profit. This is not one of those e mails. Your assistance can do some real, tangible good in the lives of kids in Mpaka, Swaziland. Lightweight boxes are fairly inexpensive to ship.

Please send the jerseys to:

Ryan Hall, PCV
PO BOX 2797
Mbabane H100

Make sure you include that Africa part or your package could be going to Switzerland. Also, it doesn't hurt to include some Christian Religious paraphernalia all over the package as it may deter thieving postal workers.


Ryan and Adelyn

Friday, March 9, 2012

Fall is here!

Today was a beautiful day.  Cool, cloudy, and without much on the agenda, I spent the day in our hammock relaxing. Bethany came over in the afternoon and after watching Boardwalk Empire (FYI season 2 episode 5 is cra-zay) we planned our English lesson and then headed over to the camp.  After our lesson Amnesty came up to us and said he wanted to ask us a question.  He sat us down, gave us a serious look, and asked us what we would report back to our friends and family about Africa once we return to the States.  We both looked at him a little stumped, and began to think about what it is exactly that we have/are learning from this whole experience.  I didn’t really know what to say, but after thinking about it over the night I do have some things I want to report back to my friends and family, and whoever else might be reading this blog, particularly the new group coming in a few short months. 

Anyway, some of these answers are pretty cliché, but – whatev.  It is what it is.

I believed it when I was young and I believe it even more now – you really can do anything you set your mind to, despite all the odds going against you.

Africa is a whole different world and a whole different ball game, with a mind of her own.

Avocadoes are amazing, but papaya taste like farts.

Gender inequality is severely stunting Africa and its people.

Death is just as painful here as it is at home.

HIV and AIDs is real, despite what Deusburg says.

When the time comes, I won’t want to say goodbye.

I hate latrines.  A pee bucket is a real thing that I use daily, and if you ever live here, you will use it too.

Peace Corps is two years long because that’s how long it takes to get anything done.  Africa time is slow as molasses. 

Democracy rules.

Hope and forgiveness are essential to the people of Africa.  America could learn a lot about these principals from Swazis. 

I have many families here – My host family when I was a trainee, my permanent host family, my camp family, my school family, my volunteer family.. I feel very safe and very loved.

It is not easy living in Swaziland, and I have thought about going home more than once; however, when it is good, it is life changing, and when it is bad, it is life changing. 

I hate bugs. 

My mindset is always changing and when I think I understand something I get side-swiped, but all-in-all, it’s a kick-ass experience I am glad to be sharing with Ryan. I don’t really know how big of an impact I am making here, if anything at all, but I do know SD is making an impact on me, and that’s kind of the whole point, right?



500 Days of Summer..Literally

Today marks the 7th month of summer.  To say the least, I am over it.  I have heard different stories about when winter is coming.  Some said March, others say April, and some (cruel) people even tell me June.  I don’t need snow, but I do love sweaters.  I think what I miss most about home is seasons – you might hate winter, but Spring is just 3 months around the corner! Not so here in Swaziland, and especially in the low-veld where I have nick-named our site “The Fires of Mordor”. At least today we are getting a cool breeze thanks to Cyclone Irena, who failed to make a big appearance.

Today also marks the 9th month that Ryan and I have been living in Swaziland. I cannot believe how time has flown.  I remember during training - when time fell still - that two years was unmanageable.  Now I can’t believe we have been here almost a year! Group 10 is being invited and will be here in late June, and Group 8 volunteers are preparing for their return back to the States. Being so far away from home in a place so completely different from what you know can obviously be difficult, but Ryan and I have had experiences here with people that we will hold onto for the rest of our lives. 

Ryan and I have finally gotten ourselves into a pretty good working schedule – only took 9 months! I have been handed a pretty great opportunity from a missionary couple from our church that allows me to teach women how to make re-usable sanitary pads, with all the material and supplies donated to the women for free.  I am holding the first workshop at the Camp this Saturday, and hope to reach the local high school as well as the girls at GLOW camp come April. Ryan, Bethany and I have also been approved funding to buy supplies for our English Class that we teach at the camp, which will be extremely helpful. Thank you for paying taxes! The excitement from the camp about this English class is contagious – these adults are so eager and happy to learn.  Don’t take fore granted your education! Even public schooling isn’t so bad. J

In other news, Sipoko is getting a little too big for her britches! This is what she brought home to kill yesterday. 

After some cursing at her after she tried to lay the lizard on me as some kind of present, I promptly collected myself and saved the lizard by sweeping it outside. Let’s hope she is smart enough to leave the Black Mambas alone!    

I have stumbled on a really great blogpost by a volunteer serving in Ethiopia.  He does a really great job describing Peace Corps service and the realities that befall you as a volunteer.

Here are a few other blogs I really enjoy reading of other volunteers serving in Swaziland. If the new invitees are anything like I was, I am sure they are reading everything they can get a hold of about Swaziland, which isn’t that much! Enjoy!