Sunday, October 19, 2008

A Week of AIDS activities

18 October 2008

I’m in Dapaong again, and it’s all for work.

On Thursday, my program director, Tchao, visited me in village. After quizzing me about my activities, eating watermelon (they’re back!) and visiting Saibou at the clinic, we went to Dapaong in a Peace Corps car. Life in Togo must be so different if you have a private, air-conditioned car.

Today we had our first “AIDS club” meeting, and I think it went really well. A little refresher: the club consists of eight volunteers who will meet once a month with between 50 and 100 kids from a Dapaong AIDS association, Vivre dans l’esperance. The kids are all “infected or affected by AIDS” and some are as young as seven, others as old as 20. The plan is to play games and have fun but also teach them useful information like income-generating activities, reproductive health practices, budgeting and so on. The seven-year-olds may just get games and songs.

Our first meeting consisted of ice breakers and group work. In the small groups, the kids were meant to brainstorm activities they’d like to do in the club. We got everything from playing soccer, dancing and singing to learning computer skills and teaching children to read. Then we had them think of potential names for the club and held an election. “Children’s Club” won, but since there are some very old children, we might combine it with “Leaders of Tomorrow”. Children and Leaders’ Club.

I think one thing I could have improved was the introduction of the club. The kids were a little unclear about why they were there, and I just launched into volunteer introductions without explaining Peace Corps or our vision for the club. Hopefully they’ll forgive me and come back next month.

AIDS Ride starts on Monday from Dapaong. This is the bike tour that volunteers do throughout Togo’s regions. We bike through villages and stop to do AIDS presentations, spending the nights in schools. Last year I got dehydrated and spent a whole day in the chase car and sleeping on a school bench. This year, I plan to avoid that by drinking ORS (oral rehydration salts, pretty disgusting) every day.

This will be my only bike tour this year. I decided to pass on Tour de Togo – biking the whole country once is enough, I think. However, it will take place again this November, and if anyone would like to donate a second time for girls’ education, we’re collecting. Let me know.

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