I want to introduce you to my GLOW girls, to the girls whose lives you helped.
Siphiwe Shongwe is a Form 4 (11th Grade) student, 18 years old. She has 5 sisters, no brothers, and is the second youngest. She really looks up to her sisters as role models. Siphiwe lives with her mother and father. Her mother is a seasonal agriculture worker in the sugarcane fields and the fruit season. Her father abandoned them as a young child, but has since come back and supports his family by wood working, carving wooden spoons and other kitchen utensils. Siphiwe wants to go into nursing or social work for a career. If she pursues these career paths she will be the first to attend university in her family.
Siphiwe is a quiet girl, but very thoughtful. She soaks up all the information we give her and she comes ready and willing to participate in every activity. Her favorite session at camp was the abstinence session. During that session, they role-played ways to say ‘No’ and postpose sex. They also had an open conversation where they asked any question about sex, relationships, and boys; a topic too taboo to talk about in their home life.
|Siphiwe Shongwe after dinner on night 3|
Siphiwe was always willing to participate and usually the first to participate. She knows what she wants and goes for it. During camp, Siphiwe was one of the first campers and most enthusiastic to learn how to make washable sanitary pads, she was one of the first to share her poem during the poetry session where she chose to write about HIV and how it affects her life, and she did a wonderful job in the talent show as she portrayed the grandmother of a girl who was to be married during a short drama/play.
Sizakele Dlamini, my second camper is 17 years old and in Form 2 (9th Grade). She is the 3rd eldest of nine children. Most of her siblings are only half siblings as her mother was traditionally married to another man after her father passes away. Sizakele only knows her father from pictures that people have shown to her. When her mother was married, that woman must move to the parental homestead of the husband. Sizakele now lives with her aunt and uncle while her mom lives far away near the north-east border of the country. Sizakele sees her mother over school breaks.
|Sizakele Dlamini at Mabuda Farms Day Trip|
Sizakele told me about life at her home with her aunt and uncle. She says she wakes up at 6am, then she makes her bed, washes dishes, sweeps the house and yard, and polishes her school shoes. She makes breakfast which usually consists of sour porridge, a dish that I could never get used to. At 7:00 she starts her 30 minute walk to school. School starts at 7:45 and goes until 3:15. At school,
Sizakele is responsible for looking after the toilets. She has to make sure they are clean at the end of the day and supplied with newspaper (toilet paper… ouch!). After school, she goes home. Wednesday is laundry day. She must wash her school uniforms. Dinner is usually porridge mixed with emasi (sour milk.. yuck!), but she ensures me that she actually likes it and the other girls agree that they also like it even though its curdled milk. After dinner is over, Sizakele makes a point to tell me that is when she studies. Her favorite subjects in school are science and English. She wants to be a doctor when she grows up.
Sizakele’s favorite sessions at camp were the abstinence and the STI lessons. She is looking forward to teaching girls in our community about the things she learned while at Camp this year. She even mentioned wanting to be a counselor one day.
Sizakele is always smiling and laughing. She is a very talented dancer. She won ‘Best Solo Dance’ at the talent show with her crazy moves. At school she is the leader of the Girls Dance Group. Sizakele choreographs the dances with one of the other girls in the class and then teaches the dance to the rest of the girls. It is pretty impressive.
My last camper is Bandzile Ngenethwa . She is 14 years old and in Form 1 (8th Grade). She is the 3rd eldest among seven children. She lives with her mom who is a math teacher about 45 minute bus ride from Bandzile’s school. Bandzile must leave home at 6am to get to school on time. Her father passed away in 2009.
Bandzile is such a thoughtful and responsible girl. Her teachers really respect her and recommended her without a doubt. At school, Bandzile is a prefect. She is tasked with writing up any student who speaks siSwati in class and responsible to set a good example for the other students in class. She favorite subjects are math and science and she wants to be a doctor when she grows up.
|Bandzile reading the poem she composed on Art Day|
Banzile really enjoyed Art Day at camp. She particularly liked painting and the poetry and performance session. Bandzile also shined during the talent show during a group dance. The dance was memorably capped off by one of the deaf girls who took center stage for a hip-hop dance solo. The crowd went wild with sign language applause.
There were two girls from the School for the Deaf this year. It was great to watch their interactions with the rest of the girls throughout the week, from how nervous they were at the beginning to how well they integrated into the rest of the group by the end. My girls were part of their group throughout the week, going from session to session and together with them in the dorms. I was proud at how well they included the deaf girls in their activities and even tried to learn some sign language.
Last but not least, my counselor, a young woman we trained during the January Training of Trainers. Her name is FisiweDlamini, 20 years old, she finished high school last year. She came to camp this year as one of the youngest counselors. I was so proud of her in the way she stepped up to be a leader among the counselors and always with the biggest smile on her face. She taught a lesson on STIs, and participated in a variety of other lessons, she oversaw the camper in their chore responsibilities throughout the week, and she could always be counted on to be doing her job.
At home, Fisiwe lives with her mother, father, little sister, and her grandmother. She has other sister who have married and moved out. Her father is a police officer in town. He comes home on weekends. Her mother works as a cleaner at the high school she graduated from, the school where Siphiwe attends. Her mother also sells flavored ice blocks to the students during lunch break.
Fisiwe is very active at her church teaching Sunday School. She wants to continue her education so she can become a nurse.
|Fisiwe in a session during Careers Day|