Ha Sefako, Butha Buthe, Lesotho
I graduated from Penn State and currently live in Lesotho, Southern Africa as I serve in the Peace Corps!

My Lesotho Videos

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

It is fall in Lesotho!

Anywhere in the world we have good days and bad days. Today is another good day following a few weeks of things going really, really well! Right now I am listing to local music I got from a friend while pretending I know the words and trying to organize myself for the next few weeks. Here’s what has been going on the past few weeks!

I have written a little about a project I have been working on, but because it has changed so, so, so much since December, I have kept pretty quiet about it. Now, however, I feel like I am at a place with it that I can write about it! I am working with Peace Corps staff, the Ministry of Education and Training, and about 6 other organizations in Lesotho to plan and facilitate a workshop to train teachers in 12 primary schools how to teach about HIV/AIDS through literacy. People from these other organizations work in Lesotho to teach students skills necessary to succeed in life, as librarians and teachers, as publishers and authors, and as teacher trainers. I, along with a team of these professionals, have selected between 50-70 children’s books that all have messages and stories about HIV, sexual health, self-esteem, living healthy, gender equity, sexual abuse, and everything a child or young adult might need to know about HIV. They are amazing books meant to be either read by children or to children with the help of a teacher. The books were reviewed by a team of people from groups I mentioned to make sure they were appropriate for primary aged students and would be helpful in the schools. They are meant to supplement curriculum that is currently being created by a few educational organizations in Lesotho. The books have been ordered and some of them have finally arrived in Lesotho!!

After we reviewed and ordered the books we met as a group of 13 to create a workshop for the teachers. We spent an entire day planning for the workshop. We made sure to spend a lot of time discussing what the Basotho professionals have found work well and things to avoid based on their experiences working with similar projects in Lesotho. We also looked at what has already been done in Lesotho to borrow ideas and strategies from those projects. Once we were all on the same page with the project and where we wanted it to go, we brainstormed ideas about what we felt teachers needed to know to effectively use the books in their schools. We came up with ideas like how to read to students, how to read for context, how to care for and organize books, games and activities to do with books, how to teach about sensitive subjects, how to tie the books into the curriculum, how to write lesson plans using the books, and what exactly is HIV/AIDS?? From there we took those ideas and about 20 more and combined them into 6 categories to create sessions ranging from 60 minutes to 3 hours to share the information with the teachers. We have a few organizations coming in to teach about HIV and to teach fun games that teach about HIV.
We created a workshop that will begin in the evening May 6 and will finish May 9. I am really looking forward to spending the weekend with these teachers and helping them to make their own connections to these books. I’ll be sure to keep you updated!!

If we find that this workshop and project are successful we will create a manual that will allow Peace Corps volunteers to duplicate this project in their villages across the country. I should also mention that I focus on HIV a lot because 30% of the people in this country are living with HIV/AIDS. I met an HIV counselor in my village and she said that she has been finding that in more remote villages like mine, the percentage is closer to 50%.

I have also been very busy with the 60,000 library books that arrived in Lesotho!!! Of those books, over 5,000 are in my village!! My schools are working hard to unpack and organize their books. The students are so excited. It has taken a while to get all of the books to their respective school, but the Ministry of Education and Training, who is are partner in the project, have been working so hard to help these schools. Tomorrow we are meeting with each of the schools to check in and see what kind of progress they are making. From there we will visit the schools who let us know that they need a little help.

Other fun stories…

My life lately seems to revolve around books. I have read over 50 books since being in Lesotho! I have also started a really small library in my house and have a few kids who have been coming over to borrow books! Sometimes they stick around and we read together and other times they go home and read them there. A few times the kids have borrowed books at night and are at my house the next day to get more! The kids are getting more and more comfortable speaking to me and I can hear that their English is getting better by the day!

One of my closest friends in my village is the grandmother to a few kids who like to borrow books. Her son and I were great friends before he passed away in October. After her passed away, I kept visiting and probably go over 2 or 3 times a week. On my most recent visit she asked me if I knew how to play cards. I smiled and asked her to teach me a game. After she thought about it she slowly told me, because she was thinking, that she wanted to play A-K-4-7. I couldn’t figure out why those letters and numbers were familiar and then I remembered that an AK47 is a gun! I looked at her and asked if the kids in the village taught her the game and she smiled and said yes. It turns out that all you have to do is take turns drawing cards and the first that gets an Ace, King, 4 and 7 wins. I loved it! We had a lot of fun just sitting and playing cards. She loved it because she one nearly every time. She actually started feeling bad because I wasn’t winning!

So I prefer playing sports with kids under the age of 10 because I can try my hardest and am still not as good as them…especially in Africa! The other day a teacher asked me to join the teachers soccer team. I immediately started sweating and tried to think of a way to say no, but accidently said yes! It combined a lot of things that fall under the “not my favorite” category, but I said yes anyway! So we met at 1 that day to walk to the field that was 2-3 hours away. As it goes in Africa, the game that was supposed to start at 2 started closer to 3 and even know I told them that it would be best if I watched for a little, I started. The game was against the soldiers that have a base near our village. I played for the first 45 minutes of the game and didn’t do that bad of a job. More guys arrive later in the game and most of us subbed out after halftime. Even know I was sore for the following week, it was one of the most fun nights I’ve had in my village. My teachers were so excited to have me play with them that they even invited me back to play this Friday! I’m really looking forward to hanging out with them again and even to play. I’ve been trying to move around a little more each day so it doesn’t feel like I got hit by a truck for the next week again!

Well I got a little restless towards the end of writing this. I'll write again soon. Hope all is well!

Maria is going to be a teacher next year!
So is Kristin!
And Caitlin is getting married!!!

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