Thursday, April 17, 2008

Ke a lotsha magwera wa ka! (I greet you, my friends!)

Hello everyone! I have finally accessed my blog to give you a quick update. I'm living with my host mother, Mariam Lamola, who is a 3rd grade teacher at one of the many schools in my community. Her children are grown and gone from home but she has a foster daughter, Lina, living with her who is 18 and a junior in high school. She was pretty shy when I first came but is warming up to me as time goes on. She helps me a lot with my Sepedi and I help her with her English. I'm working at an organization called Aletuke Health and Drop-in Center. It's a home-based care program that services people who are sick, old, disabled or taking medications that need regular checking up on. It's also a drop-in center for OVCs (orphans and vulnerable children). In South African a child is considered an orphan if they have not mother. Most of these children still live with various family members but what they have in common is that their lives have been and are heavily compromised and affected by HIV/AIDS. Some of them are HIV positive themselves. The drop-in center provides meals M-F after school and the children participate in bible study and educational sessions on drugs/alcohol, disease prevention, hygiene, self-esteem, relationships, and other life skills. I love, love, love where I work. My supervisor, David, is an associate priest at the Anglican church right next door to the center. When they built a new church they turned the old church into the center. He is the founder and a dedicated, funny, loving, passionate, and all around good guy. We have so much fun together and we laugh all the time. My first three months here is supposed to be observing and learning everything about the center including, finances, staffing, policies, funding, administration, worker training and qualifications and anything else you can think of. It is during this time that I get to know the community and their needs as well. I've visited two schools and after we finish our door to door TB campaign next week I will make arrangements to visit all the schools in the community. So far I know of five more. I want to introduce myself, in Sepedi of coarse, to every classroom in every school so that they know who I am. When you are the only white person for miles and hundreds of thousands of people its good to have them know who you are and that you live here. When I go running in the mornings I get stared at the whole time. When I go places with my supervisor or my Mom people wonder what we are doing together. I am usually greeted in Afrikaans because the only white people they ever see are Afrikaaners. When I say "Ga ke bolela Afrikaans, ke ithuta go bolela Sepedi." (I don't speek Afrikaan, I am learning to speak Sepedi.) their jaws drop to the ground. A white person learning their mother tongue is unheard of. The old people love it and smile so big when I greet them in their own language. That's a great feeling. So much for simply observing. I hit the ground running as I've already started training sessions with the workers at Aletuke on health issues like menopause, PAP smears, infectious diseases and anything else I discover they know little about. The bottom line is that these women, as dedicated to their jobs as they are, have no training and only a high school education at best. And from my time spent in the schools so far, most of them are working with very little health knowledge. But that's going to change because they want to learn. They are hungry for knowledge but have no, zip, zero, zilch access to informative resources. So I am using my internet access to research information for them. I simplify the wording (and I mean really simplify), I sit down with one worker and make sure she understands everything and then I help her make a presentation and she presents to the rest of the staff in their native tongue. It's a lot of work but so rewarding. When I got here I had no job description. I thought to myself, how do you go to work with an organization without a focus? Now I know and fully understand how. Peace Corps said it was up to us to find a way to transfer our skills and knowledge to the people we work with. Well, when you are placed exactly where you belong it's easy. Enough for today. I'm trying to put a picture on but can't seem to figure out how. That a project for another day. Keep the letters rolling in. Peace to you all.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Send Me Mail!

I'm now living in the village of Moshate. Although I do have access to email, snail mail is far more fun to get. So there is no confusion at the post office that my mail belongs there please address it to my South African name:

Mokgaetji Lamola
Box 3350
South Africa