Sunday, January 24, 2010

Day 12: Chikumbuso

Highligts o Day 12
  1. Meeting the craftswomen of Chikumbuso
  2. Attending an intervention meeting

After spending a lot of time in the office earlier this week, they all acknowledged that this was a slow week for the staff because of the EOY reports. Everyone I asked said they'd be doing paperwork Friday morning. On top of that, they (and everyone in Lusaka) was having internet difficulties. Supposedly "all of Zambia" had lost their internet connection Thursday. Jen's luckily was up and running late that evening but I knew the GRS office wouldn't be working.

I told Lena that Naomi didn't need to pick me up at 8am Friday morning if there was nothing going on. In all honesty, I had my share of meetings and taking notes and I really really needed to finish my study abroad application for this upcoming fall. I just planned on joining the GRS crew for the afternoon graduation at St. Lawrence.

Lo and behold, the internet wasn't working Friday morning at Jen's. On top of that I later found out that Gesh and Bruce went to TWO graduations in the morning while everyone else was at the office. I just asked the wrong people what the plans were for the next day. I was disappointed that I missed the opportunity to go to more graduations and interventions.

Anyway that afternoon, the staff piled in the car to travel to St. Lawrence for a graduation. This one was much more organized than the one at Kampala ground because it was enclosed within the walls of the community school. Barefeet mentors lead the group in energizers, which are response songs and dances that get the enthusiasm level up. It felt like I was a counselor at Camp O again! During one of the dance offs I was pulled into the middle of the circle. Felix, a nine year old boy, was trying to show off so I whipped out my dancing skills. Of course, it set off laughter to watch the mzungus dancing (Brian was in the middle as well). I know I keep saying "I had fun" but I have no other way to say I thoroughly enjoyed being part of children's laughter and games.

For the graduation portion, a group of girls recited poems. One of them gave quite the theatrical performance for the group of kids and the line of teachers that came to process over the ceremony. David then called the names of the children. They made their way down the line of teachers and some GRS staff shaking hands before they were handed the certificate and I got to hand them a pencil, pen, or crayon. I was kind of a big deal, in case you didn't catch that. haha

It's all running together but I think it was that same afternoon that we all traveled to Chikumbuso to see an intervention. Chikumbuso used to be a bar and run down place that Linda bought and turned into a community center and shop for women's crafts. Linda, wife of Bruce the head of WBR, knows Jen therefore the women I talked with in the shop also knew Jen. For such a big town, it has quite the small town feel! The women here use plastic shopping bags to make purses, bags, and clutches of a variety of colors and sizes. They also make aprons, quilts, bracelets, earrings. The aprons and quilts are made from the chtenge cloth-they looked so awesome! Each woman has a craft speciality so buying goods from their store goes directly to them and their families. Naturally, I bought a bunch of stuff.

Grace started working with the girl's soccer team that was started at Chikumbuso. The team has about twenty girls and this was the first intervention for them this year. Again it started out with energizers (I really got into these!) then transitioned into a meeting-type setting. Again, the intervention is conducted in a local languaged so Fridah and David spoke in Nanja the whole time. I could get the jist of the conversation based on the posters on the wall.

They established that the meetings would always be held in an environment of Respect, Participation, Sharing, and Caring. Agreeing to these terms the girls and staff all signed the poster-sized contract. David then moved into the three Ways to Win. Here the analogy of football came into play for the girls to understand the way life choices are important in being HIV free.

At the end of discussing the three topics, David pointed out that all it boiled down to one thing-- being "Resilient", as he wrote in big letters on the poster. I thought it was so poignant that he used that word. I have already mentioned how resilient these Zambians are. Here it was being ingrained in these girls that being resilient is crucial in a such a tough world. After the girls struggled to pronounce the word in English, David used an illustration to help explain its meeting. He had a ball in one hand and a marker in the other. He dropped the two to the ground saying the ball was resilient. Of course, the ball bounced back up and the marker didn't. "Being resilient means to bounce back," he said, "You can make a mistake and still recover.You may have already had unprotected sex but that doesn't mean you can't bounce back to the right decision. Things make go wrong but you can be resilient to go and accomplish your dreams". If I hadn't already fallen in love with Grassroot Soccer, looking around at the girls who were so intently listening to David I would say that was the defining moment where I wholeheartedly supported Grassroot Soccer's efforts. So much reminded me of the impact and education that Girl Scouts tries to impress on girl's and their life decisions. But more than that these are issues so important and valuable for these girls to understand and act on NOW.

Then they handed out the pre-tests. The tests are printed in English so Gesh took a significant amount of time explaining each question properly. This is hard to do without giving them the answer! David and the other staff took the time to help the girls who could not read. David worked with one gorgeous nineteen year old girl who was in the seventh grade. Her name is Agness, as I saw her sign her name very slowly on the contract earlier, but she could barely read or understand English. She had also never heard of a condom or talked about sex before. As a guy, how do you explain a condom to a shy girl? I have no idea how he did, but kudos to him!

We drove around dropping the staff off at bus stops, houses, or key intersections that were close to their house. In the process we cranked up the volume of the South African musicians and danced until the car shook just as every other afternoon this week had ended. I'm really into Zambian, Malawi, and South African music now!

That evening I had dinner at the the GRS intern house as Jen went to see Avatar with her expat friends. I figured I'd be in the States soon enough to see it and it costs just at much here as it does to see the movie back home. Loads o' fun

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