Sunday, April 17, 2011

Hello. Hello.

April is a month of preparation in the GRS office. Which, oddly enough, means that for most of this month I will not be living at the GRS office nor in the field but rather at Barclays Sports Complex. I live here. It is a complex that we often use for trainings because of the field, the inside space, the staff, and the bar. The road to Barclays is a minefield. Crater after crater jostles me awake each morning so by the time I reach here I am ready to face 25+ energetic peer-educators. Each week we have a new group. Names to learn, personalities to collaborate, and time to be kept.
We’ve been saying “Hello” the past 2 weeks to a slew of potential peer educators. Thirty-five names to learn each of the weeks and 35 sets of facilitations skills to sift through. Admissions is a rough process. Each morning we start the day with tons of energy and nervousness. By the end of the day we are a family, teasing eachother and perfecting the balance between work and play.
GRS trains coaches (peer educators) in what we call ToCs (Training of Coaches), six days of intensive information. We teach them the entire 10 session curriculum, explain to them what their role is as a coach, and cover all manner of facilitation skills. Not to mention the fact that we have to train them in how to do home-visits, referrals, and explain how our office supports their activity.Just to briefly list and elaborate on what exactly it is that our coaches do; they implement a 10 hour curriculum (sometimes they do it 2 times a week, other times every day), they conduct home-visits to each one of their 40 participants homes in order to encourage parents to sign a consent form allowing their child to be tested for HIV, they attend and assist graduations making sure that their kids are shuffled through the testing process with a caring adult figure at hand, they also deliver results to parents, conducting a second home-visit that ensures that the testing information gets back into the hands of the guardian. If they are a coach-counselor then they accompany any HIV positive youth to their appointments at a pediatric clinic. In summary, they care more than any individuals that I have ever met!

Coaches (peer educators) are the roots of this organization and finding charismatic, adaptable, and caring coaches is a task that I am learning takes time, experience, and thoughtfulness. So after two weeks of six day trainings I had a few days in the office to re-group, say hello to faces that I haven’t seen in a bit, and prepare for three weeks of three day trainings for our current coaches.

Currently I am in the midst of DC (Development of Coaches) number one. A different vibe of confidence comes from these coaches and I really feel pushed to be on my toes and to challenge the norm of GRS. They push the envelope, which includes pushing me.

With a new crew of stellar individuals we, GRS, say hello to a new year of ambition, trails, and successes.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Thanksgiving and tranquility.

.Alice Bauman

A few weeks ago on a lazy Sunday we decided to take a drive. It is not often that you are able to jet out of the city in a 4x4 and explore the roads. Spiak, Jamie, Max, and myself encountered a village, an endless road, and a priceless sunset. It was one of those haphazardous encounters that epitomized the beauty of the sun and left you feeling grateful for its provision and for friends; romanticized in a way. Photos are a sad attempt at justice because it would take the wind blowing through your hair and chickens running across the street to complete the ambiance surrounding the 3x5.

Driving briefly outside of the city suddenly you are in the bush. There is a field and trees and brush and no sign of the life that you know is sunken behind the fascade. A sense of freedom is paired with the perspective of distance and I have to say it is a comforting feeling. I miss the ability to see for great distances, to get up high and marvel at all that you can’t see on a normal basis. Lusaka, although at a decent altitude, lacks vertical dimension. A few hills and skyscrapers are an attempt at relief. Although I would trek warily up the skyscrapers, they are old and barbaric looking- reminiscent of an uncreative time.

The weather is changing. Fall is here, making the light all the more powerful and my spirits a bit melancholy. I have woken up on multiple mornings thinking that it is time to get up for school, time to walk on a campus, time to study. Maybe this means I am craving a classroom? (food for thought). More than anything I find that the shift to crisp morning air and an encouraging sun has given clarity to so many things in my life.

A clear thankfulness for friends has cleansed my impatience and centered me on small joys. The brief emails received, a hug, a longing memory, they all compile into a sentiment of being the luckiest girl in the world. So to all you reading, thank you for that. Similarly the purity of the season has allowed me to reach a new level of curiosity towards Zambia. As time passes I feel that we become stagnant and complacent and for whatever reason I feel jolted back into wonderment.

I wonder about what I have missed and what I will not have chance to learn about Zambia. When you live somewhere you often forget to sink your teeth into things and ask questions because habits are the way they are. But often that is how you gauge what you know- by asking questions. This year has taught me that. To ask questions of what you already know and pursue deeper understanding. I’ve tried to initiate curiosity in all pieces of my life…what do I want to do next, what do I think about this, that, and the other. Perhaps it is a sign of maturity and growth but really what I appreciate most about this self-realization is the fact that I am on a path and I have no idea what each moment will bring to that path…what the next brick I lay down will be, not even I know.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

In training.

Reverting back to months ago, 8 to be exact, I was in training to become a Grassroot Soccer intern. But how on earth do you train to be an intern? One day your job is entering data onto a computer, the next day it is wandering around schools searching for Head Masters to stamp a letter, and yet another day involves picking up 200 + footballs. All of those odd tasks have lead to a comprehensive and quirky knowledge of what it is exactly that GRS does and what we don't do. Often I find that coming up with the "What we DON'T do" list is more accommodating when trying to describe my position and the organization to people. We don't coach soccer or even play soccer, we don't provide scholarships, we are NOT satanists, etc. We are a team of passionate and hilarious human beings, who are motivated to engage and inspire youth, through knowledge and relationships, to prevent themselves from acquiring HIV. And that long winded sentence is exactly what the culture and mission that we are attempting to inspire in our new trainees.

Currently GRS mobilizes approximately 60 peer educators across the city who implement our curriculum, conduct home-visits, council, deliver HIV testing results, and support their participants in intangible ways. They are the meat, the life-force, the blood of the organization and the reason that I LOVE what I do. This week and last week a new initiative has begun. Training new coaches. A daunting saga that has played out in a rather introspective way-

Each morning at 8:00 a group of 30+ Zambians are running around a field in "kid mode," the mode that I channel daily with bare feet and finger food, that activates your inner youth and allows you to dance like a crazy person and relish in the innocence of play and the freedom of no wrong answers or silly questions. We energize our attitudes in "kid mode" and engage difficult issues in "adult mode" all the while teaching the entire 10 session curriculum and inspiring compassionate facilitation tactics such as safe space, conversation, and praise...

Laughter is heard. Nyanja (local language) is abundant. And by 5:00pm so much stimulation from observing, contributing, answering questions, cleaning, and keeping time has drained all the "kid mode" out of my being, and "adult mode" is advising sleep.

Watching these potentially future coaches experience the curriculum for the first time. To watch connections between the activities and messages being made is like looking in a mirror. I remember 8 months ago playing "HIV attacks," a game that teaches about the biology of HIV. Forming a circle we all name a disease. Mine is Malaria. One person volunteers to enter the middle of the circle, they are our token Human. The human gets attacked by the diseases circling him or her. The diseases toss themselves around in the form of a football (soccer ball). The human is hit 12 times and is now extremely sick. But, the body is smart and has a fighting system, the Immune System. Body soldiers that fight diseases that try to attack the human. Another individual enters the middle of the circle and is marked the Immune System, they then are allowed to move freely and block the soccer ball from hitting the Human. The ball only touches the Human 2 times.

Alas, there is HIV. What does HIV do? Well, it attacks the Immune System. So another person, labeled HIV, now attacks the Immune System, holding their arms behind their back and immobilizing them. The Human is hit 10 times. No hope for the Human, but wait, there are ARVs (anti-retrovirals) which inhibit HIV. The person representing the ARVs, attaches themself to HIV, hindering them. The Human is only hit 5 times.

What is the message? I'll let the lightbulb in your head do the work.

That is my day, day in training, day in a month of training. The lifeline to GRS.