Friday, June 1, 2012

Another Training...

May 1-4th, 2012

…in hopes that our projects don’t become train wrecks!

Whether its paranoia that we don’t have the proper knowledge, self-doubt that we can make a difference, or we all just want a week of showers, the “Mighty Fine G9” has asked for yet another training.

I Don’t know how the office did it but they organized a four-day, three topic training for volunteers and their various counterparts.  Each session lasted about a day and a half.  We were allowed to come to any of the three and bring the same or different counterparts.  Thankfully I had the same four counterparts with for all the three sessions but some volunteers had different counterparts coming every day.  Imagine trying to arrange accommodation and meals for this when so many people are coming and going.  The training was held up in Ngonini, in the Northern HhoHho region.  To make logistics even worse, the transport situation is still a nightmare.  Eastbound transport was not operating the day we were all traveled to Ngonini so PC has to come and fetch all of our counterparts and us.  By the end of the training all transport was not operating due to a protest so PC also had to bring all of us back home.  It didn’t mind the free ride right to my doorstep!

Anyways, I attended all three sessions with four members of the refugee camp.  The three topics we learned about were TEFL (teaching English as a foreign language), Early childhood development, and Permaculture (aka gardening).  I actually learned a ton and have a lot of new tools to bring back to my community.

The TEFL training was great, especially since we had with us the members of the camp that serve as our translators during our classes.  We have just completed our first 12-week English class at the camp and needed some guidance and to where to go with our next term of lessons.  We had a chance to learn how to better assess our students and to strategize how to plan our lessons.  This next term we will be working with our translator students as co-teachers.  Ryan, one of the PCVs I am working with lead these four and some other camp residents through a teacher training class over the last three months.  They now know how to write a lesson plan and teach a class.  We will be planning our lessons with them and dividing the teaching responsibilities.  Hopefully this way, not only will the knowledge we are giving be sustainable, but also the lessons themselves will be able to continue after we are back in America.

The second topic was Early Childhood Development.  This is such a critical part of development and has been severely lacking here in Swaziland.  It is getting better, but it’s simply a lack of knowledge so the more we can teach and set an example the better this society will become.  I am not working with a pre-school (or kresh as they are called here) or a primary school, but I hope to use a lot of the stuff I learned during the session with my bobhuti on my homestead.  We learned all about games that stimulate development and I plan to start an activity box and organize a time every week when the boys can come and play with anything in the box.  Simple strategy games and puzzles are so important here.  We take them for granted at home, but this week at the training I saw first hand middle-aged women who teach pre-schools who had no idea how to do a 25-piece puzzle for age 3+.  As is evident not being taught this critical thinking and decision-making has major repercussions once kids reach adulthood.  I also hope to help with emotional development.  If it can’t be seen in how children are treated here it is sure evident in how animals are treated.  Pets don’t exist here.  This society doesn’t see reason to treat an animal nice.  By setting an example and treating animals with the care and respect any living being deserves, we as PCVs have the power to change how everyone is treated.  It has been found that this society doesn’t want to beat when someone is bad, or say mean things to get people to behave a certain way, they simple don’t know what else to do.  So I hope that I can set an example by showing my family and neighbors that there are other solutions to problems that don’t involve physically or emotionally hurting a person. 

The last session was on permaculture.  Having just ventured into the world of sustainable gardening I really enjoyed this session.  We were taught and did a practical with an organization called Vusenotfo developed by an RPCV (returned PCV).  This organization works to train communities on how to build sustainable gardens on a budget (or no budget as most people are working with).  By using live fencing, using manure from animals, making compost from food scrapes, and planning and preparing your soil and garden bed, one can produce more food by doing less work.  Food security is a major problem in Swaziland.  A combination of things has left the current generations feeling they can’t grow their own food.  Food security at the refugee camp is also an issue.  Our four counterparts got really into the practical we did building a garden.  They learned a lot of new techniques, asked great questions and want to start their own personal gardens at the camp.  I am excited to help them with this.  Just by setting an example I think a lot of the refugees will follow suit.

Overall the training was really helpful and I learned a lot.  I really enjoy these workshops that include our counterparts.  We may all be from different countries, have different levels of education, different reasons for being in Swaziland, but we were all at this training for the reasons: to make life better.  It is easy to forget all the differences when people from five different countries can all sit together and joke with each other over a card game.

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