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.
HOW YOU CAN HELP:
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
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