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

Thursday, May 27, 2010

HIV workshop and a day in ha sefako!

I had my “HIV Education through Literacy” workshop a few weeks ago! I’ve been pretty bad about keeping up with my blog, so I’ll try to recap the past few weeks!

The workshop went so well! Peace Corps staff and volunteers partnered up with the ministry to facilitate a workshop to train teachers to use roughly 70 children’s books that have an HIV, sexual health, self-esteem, decision-making, and gender equality focus. All 36 teachers from each of the 12 schools showed up, which is a huge deal for a workshop. The workshop ran from Thursday evening until Sunday morning with very few extra breaks, which is very different from typical workshops. We taught teachers how to read the books aloud to their students, teach reading comprehension, write a letter to a character in the books, role-play and debate using the books, how to connect many of the books to curriculum in each subject, and games and activities that students and teachers can use with the books. Because they were receiving a ton of books, we also taught them how to use and care for the books. And because the whole workshop was dedicated to teaching HIV and all other things surrounding life skills (simply skills needed to get through life – decision making, goal setting, sexual health…), we talked a lot about HIV. We had peer HIV education through a game of Jeopardy where teachers chose a dollar (or rand) amount from a category and answered a question as a group. If they did not know the answer then as a whole group we discussed the answer. It was a great way to teach about HIV without lecturing. We also had youth facilitators and Kick-4-Life, who I have used before at workshops. They teach about HIV through games that teachers can use in their schools.

Each teacher walked away with ideas for their regular classrooms, lesson plans that they created, educational games, and great new resources. I walked away feeling such a sense of accomplishment and relief after planning and thinking about this workshop since December. The workshop went better than I could have possibly imagined thanks to the help of Peace Corps staff, other volunteers, the Ministry of Education, and our many facilitators and other organizations that helped us to plan and carry out the workshop.

Now I am in the process of collecting and combining all of my scattered ideas and notes to create a manual so we can duplicate this workshop again. We made sure that after each session and day we sat down to evaluate the effectiveness of the sessions. There are a ton of changes that we are going to make to according to feedback we received and changes we made as we went.

I talked to a few of my friends this weekend that had friends and family come and visit decided I should tell you about a typical day for me in my village. This was more or less my day yesterday…

I began hitting snooze around 6:00 and eventually rolled out of bed at 6:30 to make sure I was dressed before one of the kids came over a little before 7. I lit some candles because the sun doesn’t peek over the mountains until 7:20. I planned ahead this week so I ate some yogurt and granola for breakfast while I changed and put on shoes. Right on time, Mpho, a 6th grade student came over to walk to school with him. He sat down and continued a puzzle that we have been working on for a few days while I brushed my teeth and got my things together. At 7:00 we left my house and walked for about 1 minute to the dirt road to wait for the taxi. It is winter now so we were bundled up, but it gets warm during the day so we are a little colder than we should be waiting for the bus. The bus finally arrives at 7:35 and we notice that there are 19 people in a 15-passenger bus, but the conductor tells us to get in quickly! I half sit next to a woman going to town and Mpho stands squeezed between the door and people sitting. These busses comfortably fit 3 people in each of the 3 rows and do not allow for standing room…still we fit 4 in each and have people standing.

We arrive at our stop, which is a shop/bar at 7:50 and begin our hour-long walk up and around a mountain. Although the sun rose where I live, there is a bigger mountain blocking it out where we are now walking. School starts at 8:30, so we are walking quickly and I quickly start sweating. It is way to early for this! Because we are walking so fast, we arrive at school only 8 minutes late! We arrive just in time for the morning prayer and then it’s off to class. I begin my day in standard (grade) 1 & 2, which has a total of 100 students in one classroom. The teacher wasn’t there yesterday so I asked another teacher to help me read a book to the class (his students were taking an exam!). I found a version of The Little Red Hen and began reading. I spoke painfully slow and had him translate for me. I asked the students what they thought the book would be about and got nothing back. I spoke slower and used some Sesotho. They all agreed that it was about a bird. I took it! I told them to pay attention to the pictures and to try and pick up some of the words I was saying. We pointed out the animals in the book and said their English and Sesotho names. The book was repetitive so they started saying the words with me. “Not I!” All of the kids in Lesotho are familiar with the process of picking wheat, taking it to the mill, eating it…so these kids knew exactly what was going on even know they only understood a few of the words I was saying. As I read I noticed the students slowly leaving their seats and crowding around me. By the end of the story kids were standing on the table in front of me and all around me to get a better look at the pictures. It was great!

After that I went with a teacher to class 7 to help teach about different types of bleeding in health. We had talked about teaching this lesson last week, but ran out of time. I am going to spend a few weeks working with him to teach CPR and a few other things that are in the health unit. For this class I had to speak slowly, but didn’t need to speak Sesotho. The understood most of what I was talking about! We went through the three types of bleeding and I showed them the veins in my arm to help them understand. When it came time for capillary bleeding, I had each student pair up and look at each other’s eyes. They could see the small veins that run through our bodies. They also looked at the bottom of each other’s tongues. I got a lot of laughs when I showed them the bottom of mine and then they quickly turned to see their friends! Through the whole lesson the teacher helped me clarify things and also wanted to see/show the veins in the eye and tongue.

The last lesson I taught before lunch was about puberty. This was an interesting one. We talked about the changes in boys and girls and why this happens. I explained as best as I could the menstrual cycle. This class was combined 5 & 6, so some students were pretty young and some were much older. This made for a slightly awkward conversation. We (3 other teachers and me) ended the lesson by talking about choices and what if’s. We talked a lot to the girls about saying no and how to say it. A lot of men truly believe in the “use it or lose it” idea and we talked a lot about that as well. The kids were given an opportunity to ask questions and I turned a lot over to the teachers helping with the lesson to make sure I didn’t say too much, which I’m pretty sure I couldn’t. This lesson was really important because just like in the US, it is difficult for kids to ask certain questions and it is uncomfortable for adults to talk to kids about certain topics. Team teaching this lesson really helped the teachers to feel more comfortable.

I tend to take over whole chunks of the day when I really get into teaching. The puberty lesson ran 15 minutes into lunch and right through another teacher’s time. I like that a few teachers might sit in on the lesson to either learn something or to help out.

After lunch the students practiced for an upcoming soccer game so I decided to leave a little early. I walked back to the dirt road, which really took an hour this time and waited for a taxi (mini-bus). I arrived at 1:30 and sat down under a tree and started to read the book I brought with me. Around 2:15 a bus came by and I stood up expecting it to stop. It was full and went right by me. I waited another 15 minutes and decided to walk. The walk takes about 45 minutes and I have to cross a small stream. I almost always get my feet wet doing this, but didn’t slip this time! I stopped and talked to some friend and neighbors on the way home and arrived around 4. Knowing the sun was going to set around 5-5:30 I went to get water. I dumped the remaining water from my 2 buckets into my filter and set off. My old tap, which was a downhill walk back to my house, broke so I had to go to the other one. I would guess that it is about the length of a football field from my house to the tap…maybe a little longer. When I got to the tap I noticed that there was a rock on top of it because it was broken. I moved the rock and water immediately started gushing out. It took about 5 minutes to fill my bucket and another 5 to perfectly balance the rock on top of the tap again. Then I walked back taking only 3 rests, which is pretty good for me.

When I got back 2 boys from the high school were waiting for me. I put down the water, caught my breath and started talking to them. They needed help with their homework. I held my breath hoping that I could help them and they told me it was warm and cold-water currents. I told them that I needed a minute to review and then explained it to them. They stayed for a few minutes and then left.

I like to cook when the sun is still out so I can really see what’s going on. I had some veggies from town that were starting to go bad so I made pasta sauce with carrots, onion, and tomato. It should last about 3 days, which is great! I spent the rest of the night reading and cleaning up from dinner. I try my hardest to say up until 8 and then pass out for the night.

Only 3 more weeks of school until winter break! Hope everyone is doing well!! I’ll be back to town again in a few weeks.

workshop pictures. copy and paste the whole link!



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Marilyn said...

Hi! I'm an intern for the College of Education at Penn State. I'm working on creating feature stories on students, student-athletes and alumni. Jim Nolan gave me your name as a candidate, as I understand you're returning from the Peace Corps soon. I wasn't sure what other way to contact you. So, please shoot me an email at marilyn.c.perez@gmail.com. Thanks!

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