The opinions expressed in this blog are mine, and mine alone. They do not represent the views of the Peace Corps or the United States Government.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Life Skills

When I first arrived in Botswana, currently-serving volunteers said that things often don't "click" until a year in.  By that point, people know who you are.  They know you are planning to stay for a while, that you care about the community, and that you are genuinely here to help.  And that's when things get busy and projects really start up.

Yet, I felt really busy from months 3-6, oftentimes termed the "honeymoon" phase.  Since then, it has been a rollercoaster of highs, lows, weeks in which I felt like I had no time for me and days in which I sat in my house just reading and journaling.  But lately, I feel like I am always busy.  I define "busy" as having something to do every morning and every meeting, one project, one something.  Two things per day: busy in Botswana.  I love it.

One difficult thing about service is balancing our own initiatives with the idea that we should be building capacity with the locals to do things themselves.  I am happy to say that most of the time I am helping people write proposals to start their own clubs and businesses.  They approached me and I can help.  Although these are not the stories you will read about on the news, they matter.  The individual connections are beautiful.

We have some volunteers placed directly in schools as Life Skills volunteers.  They do things like starting PACT clubs, comprised of groups of students they train to be peer counselors.  Some of the LS volunteers actually teach the students life skills--like decision-making, self-esteem and relationship skills.  They also teach about abuse (physical/sexual/emotional), sexually transmitted infections and HIV, depending on the age group.  Sometimes they can work with the guidance and counseling teachers to train them to teach the LS classes.  However, oftentimes the kids open up to the volunteers precisely because they are outsiders.

From the beginning, I was interested in teaching LS.  And now I am doing it!  There is a school in Shoshong called the Study Group.  It is for students who failed their Form 3 exams.  Form 3 would be like the last grade in junior high, if high school were only 2 years.  So Form 3 kids are usually 16 years old.  They can rewrite the exams and try to enter Form 4, the first grade of Senior Secondary School.  After senior secondary, they can go on to tertiary, university, etc.  There are about 20 students enrolled in the Study Group, from the ages of 16-20.  A few weeks ago, I went in and talked with the teachers.  I agreed to teach for an hour and a half every Monday.  The afternoon is study time which the kids need to understand the material so I didn't want to take too much of it.  One day per week sounds perfect.

I have had two classes and it is going really well.  The kids are quiet and it is hard to get them to open up, but I think it is going to be a great project.  Watching them perform dramas about alcohol abuse and teenage pregnancy makes me smile.  This is one of the best parts of my job.

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