Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Preventing HIV 27,000 Condoms at a Time

April 16th, 2012

I have been in Swaziland exactly 10 months and 7 days.  Today I feel I had my first “completed” success.  I am involved in many successful projects in my community, but most of them are in progress and will be for while.  Today Addie and I held our last HIV Prevention class at the Refugee Camp… officially completing our first project…  it feels good to be able to say I did this and it was a success!

Every Monday evening since the end of January we have taught this HIV Prevention class which also covers decision making and goal setting, all while learning English in the process.  We have had an average 35-40 students present at each class.  We teach outside, the students sit on a crumbling cement wall and we sticky tack flip chart paper onto the side of a building as our “chalkboard.”  Ironically the building whose wall we use is a large classroom that I have never seen open.  Only “proper facilitators” are aloud to use it; we have been assured we are not proper facilitators.  The levels of English speaking is everywhere from no English to conversationally fluent.  We teach in English and then have every step translated into Somalian, then into Swahili, then sometimes into French.  Thankfully we have willing students who translate for us, but it makes for some interesting lessons.

The student’s last piece of homework for the class was to create posters with messages of HIV prevention to display around the Refugee Camp.  We had never given group homework before so I was not sure it would be a success.  However, today they all surprised me.  We had five very well done posters.  Detailed drawings, great messages, and ALL of the information was correct.  I guess despite the language barriers the students proved that they had gained some knowledge.

To celebrate their hard work we made them each a certificate for completing the course and thanks to PSI (local NGO that promotes male circumcision and condom dispersion) we gave each student a box of 100 condoms.  The condom conversation was always a hot topic in class, but by the end of course each poster stated that using a condom was one of the best ways to prevent against HIV, STIs, and pregnancy.  Addy had contacted PSI and asked for a box of condoms and they delivered nine boxes totally 27,000 condoms.  We are passing them out like emaswedi (candy).  To really drill condom usage I even did a condom demonstration before giving them out to our students.  This got a lot of embarrassed giggles, as I am a young, single, female, showing a group of mostly men, mostly Islamic students how to use a condom.  However, I also saw a lot of nodding heads taking in my directions.  We had a little ceremony where they got their certificate, their box of condoms, and got to shake our hands and get their photo taken, and of course a round of applause.  I was so proud to see how happy they were to have participated and be acknowledged for their work.

After class we were treated like celebrities.  Everyone wanted a picture with us and they were so thankful.  It’s a bittersweet ending.  I am happy to see the successful end to a project but I am sad to say goodbye to Monday nights at the camp.  However, we are continuing our English lessons on Tuesday nights so I still get to hang out with all my new friends!

Presenting the Certificates

The whole group in front of the building we can't use!

One of the posters the students made

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