Sunday, February 19, 2012

HIV Testing Event

What a successful week!  I am serving in the Peace Corps as a Health/HIV Educator and up until now I haven’t been doing much of that, but that is changing now.  The Clinton Foundation (Bill Clinton’s organization) has taken an interest in my area of the country.  They trained about 50 Swazis in HIV Education in order to send them back to their communities to get their peers to understand the advantages of testing and then take an HIV test.  The target was to reach 16-19 year olds since data shows that in the last 3 months only 3 males in that age group got tested in my entire inkundla (like a county).  I was shocked by that small number since this is the country with the highest HIV prevalence in the world and an inkundla is not a small area.  I definitely expected more than 3 people!
My friend, Mfanakhona at the event Saturday
One of my friends who was also the driving force behind the Youth Club that we are starting was one of the people chosen to go to the training held by the Clinton Foundation.  They were tasked with mobilizing the youth to get tested and they asked me to help.

On Monday we went to two high schools and a primary school to ask the head teachers for time on Wednesday to have an audience with their students so we could talk about an HIV Testing event that would happen on Saturday.  I was surprised how easily they said yes and how accommodating they were.  Within a 5 minute meeting the Head Teacher gave us a 3 hour block and he offered a PA system and we asked to come in 2 days and that was ok.  I don’t know how principals schedule guest speakers in American schools, but this seemed too easy.  Being a foreigner here seems to give all of the projects legitimacy.  In America, foreigners are not treated the same.

Wednesday morning we arrived at the big high school, around 900 students enrolled there!  We started with introductions, then one of the guys talked about how HIV is transmitted and its myths, and then I spoke for 30 minutes about the advantages of HIV Testing.  After I spoke we had time for questions, and those kids had some very thoughtful questions.  They know about HIV, they know people with it, and people who have died from it, but there is still a huge stigma attached to it.

Then in the afternoon we spoke to the small high school and the Grade 7s of the primary school.  The purpose of going to all the schools was to mobilize the youth to come out for testing on Saturday.

Some of the people who finished their test on Saturday.

We must have done a good job mobilizing because Saturday’s event was awesome!  We held it at the primary school.  There was a DJ playing music, three tents for doing the testing, food, and prizes!  They cooked a traditional meal that they eat during important meetings: cow head, feet, and stomach… I went hungry, but they all seemed to love it!   At the end of the event, 72 people from my community were tested!!  Success!
Vusi preparing the cow's head

Cow head, feet, and stomach with lipalishi
They all seemed to love it... I went hungry...

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Google Earth is so cool!

If you don't have it, you need to download it.  I have been in the Peace Corps office the last couple days for yet another training, so I have had a lot of time to bum around on the internet.  Free Wifi!  Google Earth can give you a better idea of the difference in how people live around the world.  I like to show it to my Swazi friends and Swazi kids because their sense of space and land is so different than in America.  Owning cows is a big deal here.  The more cows, the more wealth.  It is quite common for people to ask me about my cows in America.  They don't understand how people live in houses with a front yard and maybe enough room for a dog to run around the back yard, but that's it.  There are no pastures to keep your cows in the suburbs of Syracuse, NY.  And to be fair, I still don't understand how they can live with so much space.
Obviously the scale of the pictures aren't exactly the same, but the difference is pretty crazy!
North Syracuse with the airport on the bottom right and you can see the NS Junior High with it baseball diamonds in the center.

Sinceni: my home is ton the bottom right and the main road to town is that dirt road along the left side.  The  L-shaped on the bottom left building with the red top has a butchery and a pool table and a shop right above that.  Only 4 people live on my homestead which looks huge compared to the others around me which have more than 10 people living there.
A closer look at my home.  My house is the bottom right and my bathroom is the small one on the bottom left.  All of the trees are fruit trees: mangos, papaya, oranges, guava, bananas.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Knitted Toys

One of the things that has struck me since being in Swaziland is how the children play and the toys they play with.  Generally the kids have no toys and are forced to create their own.  It is common to see soccer balls made out of a bunch of plastic bags and toy cars out of dried mud or scrap fencing wire.  And it is uncommon to see a toy that was bought from an actual store.  So I took it upon myself to create some toys to give as Christmas presents to some of the girls that are frequent visitors to my hut.  Thanks to everyone that sent me yarn in care packages.  All of the yarn was given to me and I still have plenty left to make even more fun things!  Hopefully I will be able to use it in my time here.  I started knitting these in September and had them finished for Christmas. To stuff them, I bought a pillow, ripped it open, stuffed the animals, and sewed them all together. It took me four months to make these four stuffed animals.  Now four girls have a toy of their very own.

The monkey is 2.5ft tall.  He took forever to knit!
I made his teeth out by crocheting plastic bags that I cut into strips to make a sort of plastic yarn.
The girls love this doll!

This was the first one I made :)