Tuesday, November 8, 2005

Nov. 8, 2005

The afternoon is closing in as I can see the watercolor
sunset overhead, the temperatures cool down and I see all
the people around me practicing soccer, cricket and track &
field. I have just finished soccer practice and am in the
process of taking off my gear when I hear the familiar
“miss…miss Kristen”. I look and see one of my young
students who is simply running and playing with other
children at the sports club grounds. I see, just as many
children do, she was trying to catch my every attention,
looking over consistently to see if I am watching her play
while a wave accompanies every eye contact. The only thing
is this young child is very small for her age and is always
lagging behind, sometimes falling down and a little ‘rough
around the edges’ as you may say. Unfortunately, this very
special student of mine was born HIV+ and is currently an
orphaned child who, without antiretrovirals, is nearing the
end of her life. But all I can do is smile, watch her play
and give her the attention she is looking for. I go to
leave and as I do I hear her voice behind me and see her
beaconing me over with her hand. As I lean into hear what
she is to say, this precious child wraps her arms around my
neck, gives me a big kiss on the lips and then runs off as
she just wants to tell me she loved me and to have a good day!
I was left without words to express how much love I felt at that
moment from this child whom I have taken special attention
to who really truly nearing the end of a challenging life.
As I previously mentioned, I had the opportunity to write a
grant for funds available through the President’s Emergency
Plan for AIDS/HIV Relif (PEPFAR). I, along with a couple of
my Peace Corps cohort, put together a grant to use puppets
and a puppet theatre for the primary and secondary schools
in our region (28 shows total) for an antidiscrimination
and informational skit pertaining to HIV and AIDS. We felt
that with all they hear about this topic, it becomes
monotonous to hear it in the same way and we felt this was
a way to get the message across in a unique fashion. So,
after getting the grant approved, we got to work. Using
locals we made and designed a huge theatre, ordered puppets
from a company in the US (Puppets on the Peir, San
Fransisco), wrote scripts, trained secondary school health
club students, and made our performance dates. After many
months of preparation we were finally ready. We rode from
school to school with this huge theatre in the back of
truck for the months of September and October and were
known as the puppet crew all around the region. What a
success this was as the kids sat attentively for the 25
minute performance and were able to answer some very direct
questions at the end of the show. The t-shirts we had
designed and made for the grant had the slogan: “My friend
with AIDS is still my friend”, and it came off wonderfully.
I was asked to give a couple of talks and presentations
about the grant already and we have been asked to do some
around the country. Due to our already busy schedules, I am
not sure if it will happen, but maybe into the future.
The beginning of the school year is also known as sports
time where all the schools train and compete in a series of
track and field competitions. I am not sure if it would be
the same as you would recognize as we have to be quite
creative about our facilities and equipment. The track is
just the grass field they paint, hardly anyone wears shoes
and the pit for jumping and such are just a pile of sand.
However, through it all it is unbelievable the talent and
the excitement it brings. One of the funniest parts for me
over the month during training was that the “lanes” had cow
manure in them and we were always jumping over it as we
came to varying parts of the track. Along that same lines,
the kids enjoyed running the cows, sheep, chickens and dogs
off the “track” before we practiced. Simply priceless!
Somehow, it seems quite normal to me…
All my best, kristen