When we left training we were told to immediately into the community. For example, we were to go to the Police station, social services, HIV/AIDS clinics, the local school, and the village Kgosi (Chief) and find out what they do and how we can work with them ASAP. We are to draw a community map, interview people on the streets, in the stores and at our work and then assess the community needs which will define our mission for the next few years. We have two months to complete this task.
This is pretty hard to do in a Village of 70,000. There was talk back in Kanye of our counterparts organizing an orientation day for the four of us moving to Molepolole. Of course that was too good to be true. However, my counterpart had requested “two feedings” (called breakfast and lunch in America) and transport to be paid for by the Ministry of Education for the orientation day. The request was approved – but no trip materialized.
I told Osi (my counterpart) I would try to do the work to get it done. He gave me 16 organizations I was to plan on visiting. He didn’t think we needed to send notice of our arrival, or make a map providing a route or set a time for the visit to occur. I had drafted a letter to each organization stating I would call to work out a time in a few days. He was adamant that I not set times for the visits. Of course he knows we can’t visit 16 places with 5 volunteers in one day and the schedule would be messed up. I knew that we would be lucky to get 6 places to commit and we should lock it in.
We went to visit the Peer Education Officer for AIDS/HIV who had approved the funding for the trip at the main Education Center to brief him on the planned event. He said he thought it would be a good idea to do some follow-up with the sites. You don’t understand how rare this thought process is. I was initially very happy. Over the next week I lost my joy though. Most phone numbers don’t work. I found it was worse when the phone was answered as phone communication in a second language with people who are not that interested in helping you is beyond madding. So every day I would try to stop by a few places on the list and set up meetings. This is fairly difficult without a car and good language skills. No one ever knows who is in charge or can help you. No one will commit to anything and no one will give a name or a phone number. If I persist they often act as though they can’t understand English, which is a requirement for the job they hold. I was also surprised that the confirmations rarely needed a known time for the meeting. I was very dubious about the day working out.
Osi was supposed to pick 4 of us up at 6:45 AM, but he didn’t show up until 7:30 AM. I was glad to see the Peer Education Officer angry at Osi as the whole schedule was messed up now! But miracles never cease here. We had several incredibly informative meetings. Many things didn’t work out – but if you get one thing a day to work out you are doing GREAT here. The Education Officer was so very very helpful! He stated his support for our mission and empathized with how trying many interactions are here – and he said he would do anything to help us. He acknowledged the very low teacher moral and said if we could develop team building workshops he would make sure we got the resources to implement. This is huge!!!! If I could just do this one thing here it would be monumental. Several other PCV’s have already stated their interest in working on this too.
So, I am asking my friends, if anyone knows of good resources, web sites, ideas, names and email addresses of people who have done team building workshops, especially for teachers, and especially for employees who have been though strikes to please send that information as soon as possible.
We met with several NGO’s who clearly articulated ways we could work together. We also met with the biggest HIV/AIDS testing center in the village and got great information, names and phone numbers. We went to the Social Services office and were able to identify a big problem with keeping orphan children in the system when the child changes schools which often results in the termination of education. The Peer Officer told me he would definitely appreciate my help in reviewing the process and coming up with some better procedures. I also think Osi ended up doing a lot to facilitate the day even though we initially disagreed about the best way to do it.
We had several other good visits too! I am telling you – it is unimaginable that you could have so many good meetings providing so much useful information as well as providing direction for our work here. The other volunteers congratulated me several times on getting the day together.
I was sure it was going to be a disaster and I was being highly inefficient taking combis all over town and walking 3 or 4 kilometers a day for days and days trying to arrange this one single day – but it worked! I made something work in Africa! I feel like I actually may be able to tackle world hunger sometime over the next decade!!!!
– I’m looking forward to hearing from anyone who has team building experience/idea or contacts.
Take care of yourselves – and know I am taking good care of us.