from a snowy walk in the Rattlesnake, Missoula, Montana

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Snaps of Lehututu Life

 Valentines Day Dinner

School kids 

School kids  

School kids (they really like my sun glasses) 

GBV talk with the girls  

Check out that pinkie nail! In America it would be for coke...but in Botswana its either a mosquito scratcher or a status symbol... 

Well, Texans you should be ashamed that the good people of Botswana are using your name for meat (it looks like spam)

Painting a mural of the world at school!  

Reading is FUN!

Recently at school I started our own version of “accelerated reader” at my Junior School. For y’all who don’t know, accelerated reader is a reading comprehension program throughout school districts in America. You read books and answer questions--easy peasy right? Not always....the questions are deigned for the reader build their English comprehension.

The schools in Botswana are taught in English, as English is one of the official language of Botswana. I have very mixed feelings about this...mainly they surround the fact that the students at my school have a very poor comprehension of English. English is taught in school from Primary 2 (aka 2nd grade) by the time students are in Junior School (8th, 9th and 10th grade) the students are to be fluent...Well, thats the goal anyways. In all honesty, most of the kiddos at my school are not fluent in English--the grades are horrible as a result. Where has it gone wrong? I blame it on the teachers and the teaching style, of course not all of  it is their fault....but....

As a result, I started a reading program at my school. I was inspired by other PCVs who have similar programs in their schools. I was also inspired by my own students, I teach English remedial in the library and the kids who attend just LOVE to read the books.

The students read a book and complete a simple book report form describing the book to me. After they read 1, 3, 6 and 10 books they receive a prize! Let me tell you, last week at school the kids almost fought over the books!

On a personal note, I have read about 150 books since I have been in Botswana which averages 7.5 books a month! Now, I must admit, some of the books are mindless romance novels (Nora Roberts and Danielle Steel....) but others were more thought provoking. I have to admit, Nora Roberts, while she is my go to mindless read--she is a little predictive. Somewhere along 5% boy meets girl, then about 50% girl will go out with boy (or vise versa) then they will have MIND BLOWING sex then about 85% they will get into a fight then at about 95% the boy will realize how amazing the girl is then propose a very sudden marriage. Then at 99% they are married and its about 5 months into the marriage and they are expecting a child. Don’t judge me--sometimes you need a little romance in your life....

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Let’s Talk About It!

For those of y’all who don’t know, I wrote a PCPP Grant to fund a women’s empowerment workshop called Let’s Talk About It: Leadership and Empowerment for the Next Generation. 
Here is the news paper article Sarah and I wrote about our project. Disclaimer: for those of you lucky ducks who donated (and clicked the notify PCV box) y’all are getting thank you cards! This information is in the thank you card. But, who doesn’t like getting mail, especially from Botswana! 

One year
50 village women
4 counterparts
5 PCVs
2 venues
a healthy dose of stress
a splash of last minute meltdown

Stir to mix well. Bake for four days in sweltering 100 degree Kalahari sun and what you have is 50 vocal and empowered women! GLOW camps are trés popular in the Peace Corps world; they are wonderful events to put on and be a part of. Hundreds of girls throughout Botswana have been energized and empowered but what about their mothers and grannies? In a grown up style GLOW camp, five PCV’s empowered adult women from Kgalagdi North District in two villages over four days. Let’s Talk About It: Leadership and Empowerment for the Next Generation as it was called was a mammoth achievement by Ashley Rice, Sarah Stewart, Tate VanWinkle, Lee Smith and Adriana DeMarco. 

It all started one year ago when Ashley and Sarah were sitting at the Kgalagadi North Month of Youth Against AIDS event at the Tshane Kgotla....
We had the ladies do affirmation statements!  

Modeling “good” communication and listening skills 

Lets practice our communication skills!  

Condom time!  

Our empowered ladies doing condom demos!  

My lovely Lehututu ladies!  

Gosh darnit! The women were so happy they burst into song and dance!  

Whew! Tate, Sarah, myself and Lee 

 The Kang group! 

A community discussion and panel were being held when a mosadi mogolo stood up and said, “We don’t know how to talk to our kids about HIV/AIDS.” The old woman talked a little bit more about the cultural practices when she was growing up and how they don’t address current problems. Simultaneously, Sarah and Ashley looked at each other with excitement in their eyes. This could be a project! The brain storming began that evening over pizza and wine. After developing a rough idea for a workshop, volunteers from the surrounding villages were invited to take part. Tate and Pam, Bots-12, jumped on board. During one of the planning sessions, Sarah suggested using Power Parents written by Botswana RPCVs, the Dorans. 

Because Kgalagadi North is a large sparsely populated district, we decided to two separate workshops, one in Kang to cater to Kang and the surrounding area and one in Hukuntsi for women from Lehututu, Tshane, Lokgwabe and Hukuntsi. Each workshop would be two days long- a full day on Friday then a half day on Saturday so the women could spend time with their families. 

What about funding? Initially we wanted fund our workshop 100% locally. After several unsuccessful meetings with the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture we decided that a PCPP would be our best choice. For the 25% community contribution required by the PCPP we used donations in the form of labor and materials. It took months to get the PCPP on the PC website but within two months we had P19,000 pula in our bank account! We were ready to go!

The basis of the workshop was to give women knowledge (and power) to share the information they learned with their families and communities. For sustainability, we chose to make a notebook full of information for each woman to take home and share. Several boxes of wine, a pan of enchiladas, 10 glues sticks, and countless paper cuts later we had 55 notebooks full of handouts and space for note taking! Making the notebooks was a labor of love, and it was cheaper than buying binders. 

To advertise for the workshop, we put up fliers throughout Kang, Hukuntsi, Tshane, Lokwabe and Lehututu. Potential participants filled out applications to weed out those who just wanted to come for a free lunch and a t-shirt. The application included questions about challenges women face as parents in Botswana and how the participant would use the information learned in the workshop. The fliers generated so much enthusiasm that we rearranged our budget to accommodate 50 women instead of the original 40 that we had planned. 

The workshop was organized so each session built on the information discussed in the previous one. We opened the workshop with a session about communication, where we covered basic communication styles, listening skills and conflict management. We then gave the women homework: to have a conversation with their child or spouse that evening at home. After communication, we focused on the meat and potatoes of the workshop, how to talk to children about sex. A large portion of our PCPP was money to buy every woman a copy of Power Parents.

During lunch we screened the STEPS film One Love One Life and had an awesome discussion. We wrapped up the first day with a session about financial management and gave the women their own budget books, donated by an NGO in Gaborone. 

On day 2, we opened with a communication follow up, discussing the women’s experiences talking to their kids the night before. One woman explained that when she tried to tell her young grandchildren about childbirth, they insisted that babies are born when a woman vomits her child out of her belly. After hearing that, we were reinforced in our conviction to teach women how to talk to kids about sex. 

We spent the next few hours talking about Gender Based Violence. We discussed GBV, symptoms of child abuse, what to do if a child/friend reports abuse, and Botswana sexual abuse laws. In a performance worthy of the silver screen, Sarah and Ashley demonstrated GBV warning signs, including jealousy and explosive temper. Lee and Adriana got everyone feeling with In Her Shoes, followed by an emotional discussion. To lighten things up after the heavy GBV session, Sarah led a short guided meditation. Tate wowed us with her stress management skills and goal setting techniques, which the ladies loved. 

Day 2 ended on a high note, STIs and condom demonstrations. Who doesn’t like talking about sex and playing with condoms? Running low on condoms in the Kang workshop, the ladies fought over them! There was a short ceremony, where each woman was given a certificate, a hug by each PVC, and an envelope full of affirmations. The months of stress, the many meltdowns, and the hours on the phone were all worth it when the women, one by one, sang and danced their way up. 

Reading our own affirmations and the feedback that we received from the women who attended the workshop, we are confident that the workshops made a lasting impression here. Many days PCVs feel like we haven’t made an impact, but when you stand in a room with 25 women singing to God in appreciation of your hard work, you can go back to America knowing that you did something amazing and lasting. We also have two posters reading “jaaka mosadi, ke nale bokgoni jwa go...” (as a woman, I have the power to...), covered in the womens’ handprints, with statements completing the sentence. These posters are testaments of our unique ability as PCVs to empower women and will be circulated around the area’s kgotlas. 

We would like to give a shout out to Jim Robertson (Bots-14) for all of the gluing, taping and toting he did for our workshop! We couldn’t have done it without you!

Some of our favorite “handprints”:

As a woman, I have the power to be treated with respect and to be loved!
As a woman, I have to the power to be single and happy!