Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Life in July, 2009

July 28, 2009- Quite the Blurry July: I’m not sure how I got to this end of July without writing my blog or letters to people back home. I didn’t feel extremely busy but I was on the go frequently, tying up loose ends, confirming appointments, and meeting famous former volunteers. Here’s a recap of my month:
-At the beginning of the month, I helped a woman in Sibovu, which is the community next to mine, write a CV and apply to an employment agency.
-On July 9th, I was chosen along with 4 other volunteers to meet Chris Matthews and his wife Kathy. Mr. Matthews is a former Peace Corps volunteer in Swaziland; he served from 1968 - 1970. Mr. Matthews is also the host of Hard Ball on MSNBC. Having watched the show in college I was familiar with Matthews, and knew he was a former volunteer while researching Swaziland. He’s been back to Swaziland on several occasions, a few times with his children. He told many stories about Peace Corps ‘back in the day’. It’s nothing like my experience now; however, the problems we face as volunteers in rural communities are more daunting. He talked about training in Louisiana, which sounded more like boot camp than preparing people to serve in Peace Corps. He recalled past trainers, former Ministry members, and community leaders; Matthews’ first community was Nhlangano, which is my shopping town and 20 km from my community. He reminisced about former volunteers, and highs and lows of service. My favorite story was about being dropped off at site after being in country for about a week. Matthews’ boss took him and 2 other volunteers to the nurses’ quarters near the health center. After unloading their meager belongings, his boss said, “Your job is to economically develop the Shiselweni region. Good luck.” Whoa! I feel quite a bit better about my open ended job description; at least I have goals Peace Corps require I meet. The evening was quite lovely; we enjoyed traditional food at a restaurant in the Ezulweni Valley and we shared our difficulties in the battles we must fight in Swaziland. Yet we were able to laugh about and appreciate shared experiences. For Peace Corps volunteers, the connections you make, however small or great are the most beneficial. This connection to Swaziland is one I’m honored to share.
-I continue to tutor the Primary teachers. Currently we are interpreting chapter 8. Its slow going since the content is increasingly difficult to comprehend. However, they are trudging along. And I’m learning a considerable amount about my capability as a ‘teacher’.
-I’ve been seeking first aid kits for the 4 NCP’s (Neighborhood Care Points) in my inkhunhla (my inkhunhla is made up of 7 chiefdoms). NCP’s provide preschool and a meal to children who are orphaned or vulnerable. Two NCP’s asked to help them acquire first aid kits and training. Since April, I pestered Red Cross to provide me with two kits per NCP; they are supposed to provide a kit each year, as well as training. Since April, I’ve gotten the same story; we’re still waiting for funding. I was tired of the broken record. Another volunteer told me she requested kits from World Vision for her Home-Based Caregivers; perhaps I should try that route. World Vision was in my community a few weeks ago so I asked for their assistance. The Regional Coordinator for Shiselweni told me they are required to provide kits to NCP’s each year but haven’t gotten around to it yet. Go figure. I offered to distribute the kits if they brought them to me. Done! They dropped them off last week, and I picked them up today! Such a small but satisfying triumph. My next step is contacting Red Cross to set up training dates; I hope they work with me more willingly.
-Last week PC staff asked me to help with training again. My challenge was to help introduce how to teach Life Skills to the trainees. I taught a Life Skills class at a secondary school near the training center. Then after mentoring a small group of trainees on how to teach Life Skills, I monitored their delivery and teaching techniques. Most were unwilling participants. I remember thinking I wasn’t going to teach either. Yet, when you are struggling to find something to do in your community that is worthwhile, and want to reach a large audience, sometimes teaching is the thing to do.
-I started running again last week after a 3 ½ month hiatus. I wanted to test my foot’s strength, after what I now believe was a stress fracture. I decided to run around the soccer pitch; although it’s slightly uneven dirt and grass track, it’s a much better running surface than the rocky terrain of the road. My legs felt heavy and my foot fatigued quickly but I was able to run two straight half miles. My foot hurt afterwards; quite a bit actually. But I stretched and massaged it well, and the next day I only felt an ache in my legs, the kind one feels after an exercise break. Today I ran a mile straight in 10 minutes and then another ½ mile straight. I feel stronger than last week, which is a great feeling. I just need to work on my breath control, which I seemed to forget, and increase each run by ½ mile to get me where I was 3 months ago. My make is very concerned with the health of my foot, and shook her finger at my foot when I announced I was off for a run. But I promised to slowly ease into a running routine. I’m not sure she was convinced.
-Several Group 5 volunteers and other volunteers we know from other organizations have finished their service, and left over the last few weeks. I will greatly miss Deja Love, who helped with the Shiselweni Region Youth Support Group. I wasn’t as close to other Group 5 volunteers but their mass exodus this month was jolting. It temporarily made me reconsider my service, looking back over the year questioning what I’d accomplished, and if I could make a difference in the coming year. After talking to my girls—Jaclyn and Justine, who live in my region—about keeping each other in check, we pinky swore allegiance to each other and to staying. Thank God for those girls. They are my saving grace, my sanity, and my comic relief.

1 comment:

Lu said...

You are changing lives, Jen! Thinking of you and wishing you continued success!

Love from Vermillion,