Today was the first time I've seen the sun since Monday! We have had full days of clouds and rain since I’ve been here… it was the first time that the temperature didn’t reach 25 degrees! Needless to say, the weather has been really amazing since I’ve been here and I’m having a hard time appreciating the rain and cold.
Last Saturday, I worked with the Teen Club Mochudi. This is a club run out of Stepping Stones International where youth who are HIV-positive can come to the centre and learn about their disease, how to take the medication properly, play sports, cook, goof around and be a kid! It was really inspiring to hang out with this group… we took them up to the museum in Mochudi, which gives a beautiful view of the village. Most kids had never been up there before and were very impressed with it. All the kids were so full of life and energy, you would never know they are dealing with such life-altering issues. It was a little overwhelming, however, as there were a few kids from Stepping Stones who are enrolled in Teen Club that I previously did not know were HIV-positive. One in particular has been a little hard for me to deal with; someone that I have become close with and very proud of their attitude at the centre. It really pulls at my emotions everyday when I see them at the centre now. BUT, through our seminars on HIV/AIDS, it is reassuring to know that so long as these kids stay on track with their meds, there is a good chance that most will never develop AIDS in the “full blown” way we often imagine in Canada. i.e. there is still much potential for these kids to grow big and old and live healthy and happy lives.
Also on the weekend, I was left feeling overwhelmed and helpless walking home from the bus rank. I walked past a house where a mother was beating her children with a tree branch… the children couldn’t have been older than 10 or 12 and it was sickening to watch the young girl in a dress and no shoes jump in the air in hopes to avoid the stick from hitting her bare legs and feet. I had to do everything I could to stop myself from shouting at the woman and making a scene, but I don’t think that would have done anything anyways. In some homes, that’s just what happens here, and some young white boy yelling from the road isn’t going to change anything. It just leaves me feeling a little helpless.
I don't know the whole story yet, but Maryam was mugged earlier this week. She managed to scream so they only ran away with her cell phone. I'm heading into Gabs tomorrow so hopefully I can cheer her up a bit!
Those are the things that you never get used to; poverty, crime, illness, death, the extreme mistreatment of animals (I can’t wait to see dogs being cared for again!).
On to more happy news now, my projects at Stepping Stones International are really getting underway! I used the first couple of weeks to just observe how the organization runs and see where my skills might be of use. Since then, I have developed a Study Skills program and pitched it to the rest of the staff. Everyone seems very excited about the project and sees it as a real necessity. So far I have re-arranged the hall into a more study-friendly environment with a private tutoring area and a computer lab corner. I just need to get the 4 computers we have up and running so that students can begin to practice their typing skills on them.
I’ve also worked with the kids to develop new study rules that they put together that will help keep the study time productive. Starting this week I will begin giving some of the study skill lessons I have developed and have the students start applying them to their own studies. I think I will begin with the flash card lesson, where I am going to have the students make flash cards of Setswana words that they would like to teach me. Then I’m going to study really well and have them quiz me to show them how well flash cards work! They love trying to teach me Setswana, so I think they will like this activity. Then, in the weeks to come, the students will be expected to make flash cards for themselves using their own studies. I’m still looking for study ideas and help with the planners though!
Also at SSI, as a side project, I am working to begin a composting program and a recycling program to compliment the other environmental projects we have at the centre. In addition, I am working with my friend Ruby, who is volunteering with an environmental organization in Gabs, to have them donate recycling bins to SSI, come out and give a workshop to the youth on protecting our environment and teach the kids about how to recycle. Lastly, I am planning a community clean-up in Mochudi to launch these two new projects!
The last bit of exciting news is that Maryam, Ruby and I are planning to participate in a 150km walk through the Makgadikgadi Pans in July. It is a 3-day walk through an organization called Y CARE. It is an extremely difficult walk, however all proceeds go to charities in Botswana. Last year, Y CARE donated over $4000 cnd to Stepping Stones International! I would urge you all to check out their website at: www.ycare.org.bw and see exactly what I will be doing! With this walk, each participant is required to raise 6000 Pula (roughly $1000 cnd) to be a part of it. I don’t want to do personal fundraising from friends and family again – you all were far too generous in helping me get to Botswana to begin with! However, many companies and corporations have a mandate for sponsorships and donations. If anyone knows of any organizations that would be interested in sponsoring 1-4 people from Stepping Stones International (myself, another staff member and 2 students are interested in taking part in the walk this year) to participate in the walk, PLEASE PLEASE pass along the contact information and I can draft a formal letter asking for their donation. It would really mean a lot to myself and stepping stones. I am also going to try to find donors in Botswana, or else pay the sponsorship fee myself.
Well thanks for reading! Oh- and happy anniversary Craig and Lindsay… I know that is coming up on the 14th!
Take care everyone,
Kagiso (my Setswana name which means PEACE)