Tuesday, December 4, 2012

What's next?

I have been, for many months now, considering the possibility of a third year of volunteering in Swaziland.  To help clarify where I am now in my service, and understand my goals for my time in Swaziland, I have decided to try to quantify everything that I have been doing here.  Noticing that it has been, oh forever since my last blog post, I have decided to illuminate what I have been doing for you all, as well as for myself.

While I’m here, I can’t imagine leaving. The question is the balance between my own progress in this life versus the progress I can inspire in this country and it’s people.

Here are a few things that will help you to follow the detailed outline I have created of my service in Swaziland so far:

Mia is the Community Health Volunteer in Emkhuzweni.  She and I have struck a balance with our work in Emkhuzweni.  There are several projects in which we have found it advantageous, as volunteers and to the project, to work together. 

One school term is approximately 13 to 15 weeks.

  1. Co-ed Soccer Club
I.      Soccer Club is held every Sunday while school is in session. Beginning in October of Term 2 in 2011. Practice is held at the Emkhuzweni Primary School Soccer Pitch.  The members and attendance of soccer clubs varies each school term, but ranges from 10 to 20 members each week.
i.      Mia and I have started a coed soccer practice open to any and all kids in the Emkhuzweni area, though most advertisement of this soccer club has been at Emkhizweni Primary School.  Previously, it was a commonly held idea that only boys could play soccer, within the school and in the community. 
            Initially we began this club for girls only, but it didn’t take long to find that we couldn’t keep the boys away.  However, having practices as co-ed, instead of only having girls play, the boys were being asked to work with the girls in the club as equals and learning that girls can be just as good as boys at soccer.  At the practices girls and boys learn to work together, learn from each other and teach each other, and are encouraged to view each other as equals.  We have seen a number of girls really assert themselves, when in other circumstances they have been more shy and reserved.  We have also seen significant behavior change in a number of our male club members towards the female members.
            Another aspect in which this club has affected children in the Emkhuzweni area, is working together among age groups. The older children have better English skills and frequently help the younger kids understand the activities at practice.  The older club members are regularly asked to think about their actions as a role model to the younger members. We have appointed both a boy and girl peer leader for the soccer club.  Our weekly soccer club is also a safe out of school social activity, instead of drugs, sex, and alcohol. 
            We start each practice with running to warm up, stretching, drills, concluded with a scrimmage.  Each week we work with the kids to help them understand that exercise is important to a healthy lifestyle.  At the end of practice each week we select one club member who has shown exemplary behavior as Player of the Week.  At the end of the school term we have a party where we give awards to members/players who have earned recognition in our weekly meetings/practices. 
            We hope that this practice will grow and encourage boys and girls to work together in every aspect of their lives. This has also been a great opportunity for Mia and me to get to know the kids at Emkhuzweni Primary School to develop the relationships needed to start a GLOW group, Study, Life Skills, and English Clubs.

  1. Teaching Swim Lessons
I.      Each week during school terms 1 and 3 Mia and I have been teaching swimming at the Pigg’s Peak Club (previously held at the Pigg’s Peak Hotel) to the students of Hlanganani Primary School.  English is the only language used to teach, offering good practice for the students English skills.  Lessons are coed, and we work to encourage gender equality among the students.  Children are encouraged to make their own decisions, and taught pool safety.  The lack of knowledge of water safety in greater Swaziland can be a very serious issue.  Children and adults alike are often required to go to a near by lake or river to do regular household chores and frequently risk drowning due to the lack of water safety skills and knowledge.

  1. English Club at the Primary School level
I.      Emkhuzweni Primary School English Club meets each Monday that school is in session and focuses on developing English and Life Skills.  The club ranges from 7 to 15 members.  This club was developed after a school wide vote for after school clubs.  Thus far we have completed activities about creative writing, improving reading skills, expressing your beliefs and opinions, reading comprehension, writing complete summaries to prove comprehension (which is the method the school uses to test comprehension), communication and problem solving skills.  After our school library is set up we have plans to concentrate on reading skills, of which the students have expressed the most interest in getting help.
i.      Term 1 2012 was an assessment of English skills and a dialogue with students about what they want to get out of their English Club. Activities included: help with school debates, creative writing exercises, reading comprehension, discussions about respect, vocabulary, communication exercises, and problem solving skills.
ii.     Term 2 2012 we focused on parts of speech and conducting interviews to share the culture, traditions and daily lives of Swazis with Americans. Throughout the interview process we discussed representing yourself and your country.
iii.   Term 3 2012 the English Club completed Fairy Tale curriculum that I developed specifically for the English Club. This curriculum includes reading, reading comprehension, vocabulary, listening comprehension, and concluding with writing our own fairy tales.  This term included a special assignment to specifically address the International Day of the Girl Child, which was very well received by all members of the English Club and spread the knowledge and appreciation through out Emkhuzweni Primary School.

  1. English Club at the High School level
I.      English Club at Gija High School started in term 3 of 2012.  The club includes 15 members.  We worked through the first part of a ‘This I Believe’ curriculum that I developed for the Gija High School English club.  This curriculum was designed to address all aspects of English learning as well as instigating discussion about many pertinent Life Skills issues.  The aspects of English focused on during each class include reading, reading aloud, reading comprehension, active listening, vocabulary, and speaking in public.  At the end of the curriculum, which we will reach in term 1 of 2013, the students will write their own ‘This I Believe’ essays, to work on writing skills.  The Life Skills issues addressed include, identifying your own beliefs, equality of all humans, specifically across race and gender lines, decision making, and setting attainable goals.
            The club will resume next school year, in January of 2013.  The majority of club members are in Form 2 or below, which means that they will continue with English Club next year.  Gija High School is a newer school that currently only goes through Form 3.

  1. Computer Club at the primary school level
I.      Computer club was started at the beginning of term 1 in 2012.  We met each week on Wednesdays through terms 1 and 2 of 2012. After term 2 of 2012 the Computer Teacher was dismissed and Computer Club was postponed until a new computer teacher has been appointed. This club was developed the same way as the English Club, after weeks of promoting and discussing after school clubs followed by a vote of which clubs the learners at Emkhuzweni Primary school want available to them after school.
II.    I worked with Mrs. Sibeni, the computer teacher, to hold and run the club. We focused on typing skills, decision-making skills, problem solving on the computers, and improving English skills.

  1. Assisting Computer Teacher
I.      I worked with Mrs. Sibeni each week usually on Wednesdays, her classroom-planning day. We would discuss the progress of her classes, different teaching and discipline techniques, and ways to reach different students.  We made behavior charts for the younger grades. Mrs. Sibeni and I started a journal to write lesson plans before classes and then reflect on the successes or improvements to be made to each lesson based on how the lessons were received by the students.
II.    M. Sibeni was dismissed from Emkhuzweni Primary School after Term 2 of 2012.  Despite the fact that she is no longer employed at Emkhuzweni Primary, I have hopes that she will used the skills she developed as we worked together in any future teaching endeavors.  Leading by example for teachers in other schools.

  1. Primary School Library
I.      We received 1,000 books from Books For Africa thanks to the donations from many of you.  To qualify to receive these books we had to complete an application, which included a library development plan.  Since receiving these books we have also received a second shipment of books from Fundza for our library.
II.    There are two rooms that are currently the school office. The library will have a bigger room (reception area currently) for study tables and leisure reading after school, with a smaller room at the interior (currently the office), which will house the books. A new office is under construction and the library will take the place of the old office area, which is located within a classroom block.  We are now waiting for the furniture to arrive for the new office space as well as shelves to be completed for the library.  We have a librarian set up and trained for when the library opens.
III.  Hosting a library at Emkhuzweni Primary School will encourage the students to read and improve their reading, writing and English skills through exposure. Once the Emkhuzweni Primary School Library has been established we will ask each teacher to take 15-30 minutes of the English period each week to take their class to the library to learn how to use the resources available and to check out books. If students show interest we are interested in starting an after school reading club, with the possibility of opening the library for restricted hours on the weekends.
IV. As soon as the library is functional  I will post another update as to how well the plans are working and being followed through.

  1. Volunteer Data Entry
I.      I have been working with my host brother to over see and teach him data entry and other computer skills that he has volunteered to put to use for Kathy Gau at Vusumnotfo, a local community based NGO.  Data is entered into Excel, and recently we have opened up learning to the entire Microsoft Suite.  He is learning the skills mentioned above as well as data collection and data analysis skills as a part of grant writing and fundraising, which makes him more eligible for a number of jobs while also building his resume. 
II.    He has recently also taken on the transcription and translating of most significant change stories for grant reporting.  As well as going out into the field with Babe Tsabedze to collect garden data that he will enter into the Excel database with which he has been working.  Kathy has also asked Derrick to sign a one-year contract working with Vusumnotfo as a volunteer/intern.

  1. Healthy Eating Lessons
I.      My host Make has a hard time remembering to eat, and then when she does eat, eating well.  So, on a regular basis we have discussions about what she is eating and what food groups perform which functions for her body; what is healthy for her to eat and what is junk food.  To help monitor these things and to get a more tangible, comprehensive look at what she is eating, we set up an eating chart where she writes what she eats for 3 meals a day and 2 snacks.  At the end of each day we go over what she has eaten that day, which food groups are lacking and what her goals should be for the next day.  This practice has progressed from the food chart to a conversation at the end of each day about what she has eaten and what she needs to work on for the next day.  She also regularly shares the lessons learned through our conversations with her friends and other women in her prayer groups.  These discussions and the coming realization that she can take care of herself, for herself has done a lot to empower her and build her confidence in herself.

  1. GLOW: Girls Leading Our World
I.      I am on the organizing committee for Project/Camp GLOW in Swaziland.  So far I have made fundraising efforts, planned a lesson on exercise, nutrition, and decision making for our camps, which include the Training of Trainers, which will be for the GLOW club counselors, and the more extensive camp GLOW, which will be a chance for Swazi counselors to teach and work with girls from all of the GLOW clubs nationwide. 
II.    I am working with a teacher at Emkhuzweni Primary School to start our own GLOW club. Unfortunately with the end of the school year progress on our local club will wait until the beginning of next term in late January.

  1. Decision Making and Problem Solving
I.      One day in the beginning of the 2012 school year I took some of the student’s down time to teach grades 5 and 6 a game called Dots and Boxes. This is an interactive game that requires the students to practice decision-making and problem solving steps and encourages them to anticipate the outcome of their choices before they are made, as well as to adapt to the choices of others- to make their own decisions and to foresee consequences.  Games and skills like these, for the most part, are not taught in Swaziland.  There is sometimes an overwhelming feeling of ‘this happened to me’ as opposed to realizing that ‘ I made this decision which can lead to this’.  So, even though this was a fun, one time activity, teaching these kids this game and pointing out the decision-making and problem solving steps that are needed to succeed in this game really gives them decision-making skills and an outlet to practice these skills with each other, in hopes that they will be able to recognize and utilize these skills in harder, more important decisions in their lives.  I have also seen, since teaching this game, the kids teaching other students and brothers and sisters how to play, passing on these decision-making skills.

  1. Grade 5 English Lesson
I.      Early on in the 2012 school year, while I was still trying to get my bearings at the Primary school, I was asked to look in on the double stream Grade 5 classrooms, whose teacher’s were out for the day.  As part of Pre-Service- Training we were asked to develop, in pairs, an English lesson plan. While I was ‘keeping an eye’ on these 2 classes of roughly 50 kids each I took some time to use the lesson plan that we created in training.  The lesson helps the kids understand adjectives and how to use them when describing themselves and each other.  Then the kids practice by writing a few phrases about themselves and then reading their phrases allowed to the classroom.  Then the teacher collects the cards and reads them back to the class randomly as the students guess one by one who the card describes.  In this lesson the students have a chance to practice writing, speaking English in front of an audience of their peers and getting to know their peers.  This lesson was very well received, even though some of the kids chose to write incorrect information about themselves, they used adjectives correctly, and usually the other students were able to identify who would write incorrect information about themselves based on their pre-existing knowledge about each other.  It was a fun learning activity.

  1. Tutoring
I.      On a rainy day just before grade 5 students were going to write their end of term tests four students came to me for help studying Science and Math.  Although I helped the students in math and science we spoke only in English, also improving their English skills.  This was a one time activity.
II.    Celomusa Dlamini, a neighborhood Herefords High school student came to on a few different occasions, asking me to help him with different school subjects and activities in which he has an interest.
i.      First he approached me to help him with creative writing, which then led to an informal discussion about gender roles.  In an effort to help him with the creative writing process we worked on how to outline a story, the flow of a story line, and the importance of details and reading to continue to develop creative writing skills.
ii.     Several weeks before practice exams, at the end of term 2 in 2012 Celomusa came to me to work on preparing for English, Economics, Biology, and Social Studies exams.  All tutoring was done in English, furthering Celomusa’s practice in English.  We also discussed the HIV/AIDS topics introduced by the school curriculum in depth.  Unfortunately, after term 2 Celomusa could not return to school because of his family’s inability to pay school fees, and cover daily transportation costs to and from the school.
  1. Coming soon:
I.      Community World Aids Day Event
i.      Headed by Mia, I have been assisting in meetings with the community inner council and will be in attendance at the event as well as helping wherever assistance is needed.
ii.     The event will have PSI led condom demonstrations, condom distribution, skits and a booth by the Red Cross, all of the Emkhuzweni Inner council will be in attendance with speeches and comments from various pastors and health center leaders. There will be a community discussion
II.    Working with community members to painting local bus stops with HIV/AIDS Prevention Slogans

Well, there it is.  Whether this list seems long or short to you, it has been my life for the past 16 months.  There are still innumerable conversations and personal interactions that take place on a regular basis here that hopefully effect, and encourage positive change in Swazis, but also have extensively changed me. 

Now to address the following questions: What adventures do the next chapter in my life contain?  Is this chapter coming to an end?  What do I want the next chapter to contain?  Am I ready to move on to the next chapter, no matter what it may contain?  

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