Farewell, Bongiwe! Hello, Wandile!

16 02 2016

Today, we say goodbye to our dear friend and Teen Club coordinator, Bongiwe. Bongiwe has been a staple of the Teen Clubs from early on. She started volunteering with Baylor in 2009, and received formal employment in 2013. She is well known for the calm guidance she provides the Teen Club leaders and her consistent grace when facilitating sensitive Teen Club topics. When I asked Bongiwe what she enjoyed most about working with the Teen Club, she told me that “working with teens changed my life, and I will never forget the endless laughter we had at camp.”

Bongiwe has left us with quite the legacy, and we are currently working to find someone who can fill her shoes. Until then, PACT project officer Wandile Mabaso has graciously agreed to coordinate the future Teen Club meetings. Wandile has been volunteering at the Teen Clubs since he started working with Baylor last year, and has an infectious energy that brightens every Teen Club meeting. We look forward to seeing the great things that will come out of his guidance this year.


Teen Club 2016: New Year! New Blog Posts!

28 01 2016

Hello, and a big welcome from the Swaziland Teen Club! My name is Rod, I’m a Fulbright student from America working with the Baylor Center of Excellence for the 2015-2016 school year, and I’m going to be posting Teen Club updates each month.

The holiday season is a jam-packed time of the year for our Teens, and this year was no exception. Baylor Swaziland held their World AIDS day commemoration event in the morning on Friday, November 27th, underneath a large tent at the Mbabane campus. It was a cold and dreary day, but that didn’t stop people from all around Swaziland from piling in for the events.

After a prayer from the master of ceremonies, Executive Director Ms. Hlatshwayo gave the opening remarks. She celebrated Baylor’s role in reducing the mother to child transmission rate to 2 percent, while emphasizing the importance of talking about HIV with peers to reduce stigma.

Then, the teens from the Teen Clubs gathered in the front to perform an instructional skit about HIV, told from the perspective of the HIV virus itself. “My name is HIV. The only thing I’m afraid of is people who take care of themselves,” said the plucky Swazi youngster who played the role of the virus. Following the skit, a group of Swazi women wearing traditional Swazi dress danced and chanted in siSwati.


The next couple of hours continued in the same way, with speeches about HIV in Swaziland interposed by various performances from Teen Club youth. The keynote address was given by Mage Gcebile Ndlovu. While her speech was optimistic, she also emphasized the enormous scale of the problem. And with good reason: The HIV/AIDS crisis is one of the most significant facts of life in Swaziland today. According to Ndlovu, “Because of AIDS we have a new relationship with God. We are discovering that we are kind, confident, empowered, and spiritual.” I’ve noticed that this powerful idea seems to motivate the work of Teen Club as a whole- through group support and education, the Teens gain a new understanding of themselves, their society, and God. Perhaps this is the kind of empowerment that Teen Club works so hard to achieve.

The next big event for Teen Club was the annual Christmas party, held at the Prince of Wales grounds in Mbabane. At the Christmas party, youth from each of the sites meet to celebrate their accomplishments throughout the year, and bid farewell to the graduating Teens. As you can imagine, bringing 300 active youths together for a party is a high-energy occasion, and this years party was no exception! It was great to see so many teens playing football and laughing with the friends they made throughout their time at Teen Club.

At the January Teen Club meetings, we bade farewell to 2015 and ushered in a new year. The theme was New Years Resolutions: Dreams and Aspirations. New Years resolutions are an important way to get us thinking about the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead in our lives, and our brainstorming activities did this very effectively. Through interactive group sessions, we explored the dreams and aspirations of our Teen Club participants and of Baylor Swaziland as an organization. The Teen leaders posed for questions to the group, starting with “What do you want to learn at teen club this year?” By asking this question, we learned that many of the Teens had doubts about the medication they were taking, and wanted to learn more about how they worked. In response, two visiting doctors from Baylor Houston who happened to be volunteering that day gave a spontaneous presentation about how specific ARVs medication works! One resolution out of the way already, perhaps?

The teens were then asked about their personal dreams. Everyone in the room answered this question. Many of the teens’ resolutions pointed out the challenges of living with HIV as an adolescent, such as dreams of finishing school, being popular, and simply staying alive and healthy. One uplifting responses was from a Teen Leader whose dream was to become a nurse working with HIV positive youth. With all the talk about education, my stated dream (to get into grad school? Hopefully?) did not seem out of place.

At the end of the morning, all the teens gathered in the lobby and shared their presentation with the other age groups. The many snaps and murmurs of approval were a testament to how similar our triumphs and struggles are, despite the range of backgrounds represented. As usual, the day ended with a rousing rendition of “The Worlds Greatest.” In that moment, I felt, more than ever, that I was truly in the company of some of the worlds greatest teens.

Your body. Your choices. Your future. A lesson on sexual responsibility…

1 06 2012

Those of you that may have come to join us as teens, volunteers or staff throughout May will know what a fantastic time we have had at Teen Club, as we have been learning about Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) and responsibility. The amazing uncles and aunties from Family Life Association of Swaziland (FLAS) had a very innovative and relevant approach to SRH for us.

Where do babies come from..?

The FLAS team divided the teens into 3 age groups (10-11yrs, 12-14 & 15-19yrs), in order to be able to teach and discuss suitable topics.

At Hlathikhulu Teen Club, I sat-in with the 10-11s, whom were presented with a short and simple lesson about abstinence[1] and the fertilization process. I think it is fair to conclude that; once we got past the giggles, everyone understood that babies do not come from shops, or storks and that mothers do not buy them in hospitals either! They also learned that it is important to wait until you are old enough to know how to handle the responsibilities that come with sexual relationships before engaging in one.

I also had the privilege of sitting in the 15-19yrs age group at the Manzini Teen Club and can say that everyone learnt something important in this lesson.

Some of the activities…

The adolescents were divided into 2 groups of boys and girls. Each group was asked to write down as many things as they could think of, that they believe or have observed the opposite sex go through between the ages 15 to 19. The girls had to write about the boys and vice versa. There were some very intelligent responses from both teams – and some funny (but true) ones too! The boys wrote that girls’ hips and breasts becoming bigger, that they love to wear make up; never leave the mirror alone and give boys a ‘stubborn attitude’ – I couldn’t help giggling on that last one…

The ladies then talked about how teenage boys get deeper voices, pubic hair and wet dreams. It was also said that they like to dress more fashionably, and some even start drinking and smoking to look cool. Really good – and in many cases true – points!

Aunty Rach and the girls (sunshine group) jotting down ther ideas

Uncle Vika then asked both teams to comment, confirm, add and/or disagree with the points given. Both teams, I would say, seemed satisfied with the points they had each come up with and some even took the time to explain to everyone exactly what menstruation and wet dreams are – Yay for our educated teens!

This was a very useful activity in that, not only did this give the teens a chance to tell FLAS what they know, but it also created an open platform that gave a detailed understanding of the changes that adolescents go through and to teach that they are normal (e.g. pimples/spots and deeper voices).

One of the boys (15-19s) presenting their discussion

Going through changes? That’s okay…

After this activity, Uncle Vika and the 15-19s had a discussion about growing up and experiencing physical, emotional and social changes… For the physical aspect, references were made to some of things mentioned in the group presentations above. One of the main points emphasized was that physical change is a necessary part of growing up and is nothing to be ashamed or afraid of. When talking about emotional and social changes, it was concluded that it is more important to understand change so that we can learn how to manage and control ourselves, especially when faced with peer pressure. This was said to include being pressured into experimenting sexually or socially (e.g. drinking, smoking etc.).

Aunty Sunshine also addressed hormonal changes. One of the important things that she emphasized was that, they are not a license to lose self control, but that they are a sign of growing up. It is therefore important, to make responsible decisions and avoid unwanted consequences.

Choices and consequences…

Before the end of our session with our guests from FLAS, they had an open talk with our 15-19yr olds about the consequences of teenage and/or unplanned pregnancy. This discussion began with asking the teens what they know about this issue.  There were good responses given, such as insufficient financial support, family conflicts, and having to drop out of school.

Our teachers added to this list by talking about the undue responsibilities that come with unplanned pregnancy, such as the parenting responsibility that a young person might not be prepared for. Other serious issues, that Aunty Sunshine spoke to us about included; unsafe abortions – that some young people turn due to fear of family reactions and Caesarian section deliveries[2] – that may be deemed necessary procedures for those girls whose bodies may not be ready to give birth in the natural way. She also addressed that some young ladies even become suicidal from the stress of maternity and a lack of support.

Aunty sunshine and Uncle Vika leading a discussion on the consequences of teenage pregnancy

Throughout the lessons, everyone listened very attentively and felt at ease about asking questions whenever they were unsure about something, or wanted to know more.

I think I speak for everyone when I say one blog is really not enough to talk about the amazing FLAS team and their well delivered programme! Teen Club is forever grateful…

One of the FLAS sessions with our attentive teens.

  • I am a STAR, What about you…?

By the way, at the end of the FLAS session, Uncle Vika invited everyone to engage in a really cool confidence-building exercise. But that’s another blog, so watch this space for more!

Love kilo…

[1] Abstinence – voluntary forbearance especially from sexual intercourse

[2] cesarean section – *the delivery of a fetus by surgical incision through the abdominal wall and uterus*

Definitions taken from http://www.merriam-webster.com

To drink or not to drink? Let’s find out…

25 05 2012

water (picture by seprotech.com)

So… we are quite a few weeks into our placement now. We have been to Mbabane, Hlathikhulu and Siphofaneni Teen Clubs! It’s really been an exciting time at Baylor so far. That being said, it’s not been without a fair share of hard work. In all Teen Clubs, our aim is to help facilitate lessons and activities by supporting the Teen Leaders in the best way we can while they teach the lesson to their peers. Zanak Andrew, Darryn and Aunty Zodwa have been great team players so far, whether it’s taking part in the lesson or assisting with signing in and Early Bird activities.

But enough about us…

The lesson plan for April was on ‘Exercise and Nutrition’, and we and the teens learned some valuable lessons!

The lesson time was divided into 4 stations. Two of these had our Teen Leaders teaching on exercise and the other two were dedicated to nutrition.

At Hlathikhulu, I watched and took part in one of the ‘exercise’ lessons. The teens were asked some questions as a way of finding out how much they knew about exercise. One of these was;What exercises can you do during a warm up or cool down?”   There were some really good responses given, including ‘stretches; slow jogging; walking etc. A question that did not, however, have as many correct responses asked; “How many hours should you sleep each night?” Some of the teens were convinced that 6 hours of sleep is enough, whereas others thought that they required as many as 12 hours.

To cut a long story short, however, everyone all learned that 9hours or more are sufficient for young people.

me leading one of the exercises at Hlathikhulu. Thanks to uncle Camps for the pic!

Onto the nutrition side of the lesson…

One of the tasks involved in the lesson was,  telling the difference between safe and unsafe drinking water. This consisted of a Teen Leader holding up 3 different water containers – one with brown (dirt) water; another with clear (but salty) water and one with safe (clean) to drink water. Everyone was asked to decide – as a group – which bottle of water looked like it was unsuitable for drinking. Most of them got it right by choosing the dirt-water. Then they were asked to take it in turns to taste the water from the remaining two bottles (i.e. salty and safe), and choose which was clean or dirty water. The majority of our teens – aside from one (or two) teen(s) that drank ALL the salty water! – managed to identify the unsafe water. Yay for our young water experts!

It was also clear from the short feedback session at the end of each Teen Club that everyone understood that even though water can look clear, it can have germs in it that we cannot see and that it is therefore important to follow the appropriate steps of ensuring that water is clean and safe to drink. They learned that this can be carried out by drinking water from safe sources only and to boil it or purify it with small amounts of bleach where necessary.

these were the water bottles used for the the ‘Safe Water’ exercise.

Another activity that the teens took part in was asking everyone to draw their perfect healthy meal. The results were eye opening because we realised that the majority managed to draw the major food groups but they weren’t aware of what type of portion was needed. Once the
Teen Leader (teacher) showed them what a healthy meal should consist of, they seemed to understand the healthy plate better. There was a better understanding, by the end of each Teen Club session, of how to measure the food amounts as well.

a healthy plate template. One of the the resources use for the Nutrition Lesson.

Also, in addition to this important lesson, Siphofaneni (one of the Teen Club sites) had March’s Gender Lesson plan incorporated into their lesson this month – as they missed theirs due to the Easter holidays. One of the activities they took part in as part of the lesson was a Gallery Walk activity, where the teens were shown pictures of men and women doing different types of job roles. These included pictures of female soldiers and tennis players; house husbands; kings and queens. Upon seeing these, our young Club members were intrigued, amazed, impressed and in some cases, even shocked! When the girls saw a picture of a man changing the diaper for example, they were wondering where the mother had gone because they felt that it was not the man’s duty to do that for the baby. The aim of this activity was to show them that they are the next generation, and have the power to choose what is normal and what is right. It was also to highlight the difference between the physical(natural) differences between men and women, and the cultural expectations that are taught by society (e.g. husbands not being expected to change or feed the babies). I believe that from their reactions and feedback, these aims were achieved.

Aunty Zodwa and an amazing assistant at Siphofaneni, helping the teens with a gender exercise before the Gallery Walk. Thanks again uncle Camps for the pic.

So, in a nutshell… important lessons were learnt at Teen Club last month by everyone. Yay for our Teen Leaders who taught the lessons well! Swazi kilo!



Siyajabula kunati!… New volunteers lovin’ the Swatini Teen Club!!

18 05 2012


Hi everyone! My name is Velile and I am one of the recently landed Skillshare volunteers that looks forward to keeping you posted on Teen Club action for the next couple of months!

Myself and the wonderful team I will be working with – Andrew (the Sunshine Club wiz) and Zanak (the sign-in sheet guru) have our work cut out. We are confident, however, that, with the guidance left behind for us from the recent Skillshare (SKI) team, we will look after Teen Club in the best way we can. May I also take this opportunity to say a big WELL DONE to the previous SKI group for the work that they accomplished in the little time that they had – you really are missed here Poppy, Becky and Amir.

We also have the much appreciated support of (drum-roll…) Team manager and Nurse Darryn as well as the experienced (in working with HIV/AIDS issues) Aunty Zodwa! With this help behind us, we aim to maintain the hard work that has been put into this amazing project so far!

Moving swiftly on to the purpose of our presence…

A few weeks ago, we had our first day of work at Mbabane Teen Club! We didn’t know what to expect, but I think I speak for all the SKI team when I say we were impressed by what we found. The Teen Leaders (Teen Club members whom have been nominated and trained to lead classes in Teen Club) turned up on time and were ready to lead the lessons as the pros that they have become since their training. By the end of the day we knew that we were not only here to plan and facilitate Teen Club, but also that we too, are here to learn.

Uncle Andile (Andrew, far left) learning the moves to ‘World’s greatest… – Photograph by Malume Camp’s

So, myself (Velile), Zanak (now known as Uncle Majaha, which means ‘handsome young man‘) and Andrew (Uncle Andile, meaning increase of blessings/boys) quickly got to learning and helping out in different roles for Teen Club. Uncle Andile was asked to join in the early bird activities with those awesome teens that came on time for Teen Club! He also took part in the lessons afterwards.  Uncle Majaha made for sure that, the teens received a snack (apples) upon arrival at the clinic before they went out to join uncle Andile, whilst I made for that they signed in and received their picture badge. I was also responsible for sorting the envelopes that would hold the teens’ travel money for their journey home at the end of Teen Club.

Although we had a busy day and had a lot to learn – and quickly – we also had the much appreciated (and always welcome!) help of the wonderful volunteers from Swaziland College of Technology (SCOT)!  They joined us from the ‘Early Bird’ activities right to the end of Teen Club. Nokwazi, Mzwandile and their caring friends got to grips with the lesson plan and helped the teens along – really amazing stuff!

Uncle Majaha (right) helping out in Limbo at one early bird activity – thanks to uncle Camps for the pic!

Before we knew it, we had been through the introductions and individual tasks given and were dancing and singing along to the famous Teen Club song – ‘World’s Greatest’ by R. Kelly  – which ended a hectic but exciting morning on an even more positive note!

After this first AWESOME day at work, we spent the following week days learning the ropes on how to prepare for a successful Teen Club, and have been to several other Teen Clubs since. We are still learning more about preparing the sign-in sheet (learning to love Excel…); Volunteer- and Teen Consent Forms; packing lesson materials and prepare the lunches for Teen Club (e.g. sandwiches). Sometimes we don’t have to do the latter though – thanks to our kind donors whom occasionally send food packages for our teens!

Teens singing along and dancing to “World’s Greatest at Hlathikhulu Teen Club & Uncle Majaha (Zanak) learning the moves! – Photograph by Malume Camps

So… we have had a truly action-packed first Teen Club and month at Baylor, and are looking forward to telling you all about the April and May’s topics and how we get on; so watch this space!

Last but not least; A big love-kilo to Darryn and Aunty Zodwa, whom have made this experience worthwhile so far… and a huge Swazi Kilo to the teens, by whom we have been well received. Shap!

yup, that’s me (Velile), at one of out Teen club sites, getting ready for Early Bird activities – Thanks Uncle Majaha for the photo.

Hello, Goodbye..

22 03 2012

As we saw last month’s RESPECT theme draw to an end, I thought you would like to know what actually went down…

Teen taking a break from Bench-Ball for a photo shoot. Photo By Cameron Price

So here’s a quick reminder of the activities that got our teens’ adrenaline filled and in the know about RESPECT. Back to back in their groups, the teens (older and younger) locked arms. Whilst staying in this circular formation, they had to respect everyone’s ability and positioning, and move around as one to find and collect all 8 puzzle pieces! Bending down or reaching up to collect these pieces became difficult if the whole group wasn’t working as one.

A1 (flip chart) paper was then given to each group once the searching was finished, and with everyone’s help, the puzzle pieces were put together to make one of the 7 letters:     R E S P E C T.
FYI- I helped make these puzzles so, from experience, I can truthfully say that WOW, some of them were tricky. I do believe the T, which seems pretty simple to create out of different shapes, was not!
Mini activities were then completed by following prompts on the back of the puzzle pieces. The final prompt was to create a drama of one of the 5 Teen Club rules and perform it for the rest of Teen Club!

Puzzle pieces, with a few examples of the mini activities. Photo By Poppy Gaisford

'R' ESPECT. Teens working on mini activities, after completing their puzzle. Photo By Beckie Kealy

Whilst these activities were happening, we whisked the older youth off and did a set of activities based around ‘Relationships’. These included discussions about expectations of boyfriends and girlfriends. We then had a CONDOM RACE to ensure that each teen knew each step to putting on a condom correctly; from checking the expiration date to putting it on and taking it off the right way. Female condoms were also shown, explained and discussed. The whole session gave our older teens the chance to ask questions, knowing they were getting a true professional answer from our Teen Club Coordinator / Nurse, Darryn.

Condom race. Photo By Beckie Kealy

Siphofaneni is our last Teen Club of the month, and it is always the craziest!  From forgetting to pack some equipment, to the weather being so hot you can’t breathe, let’s just say it keep’s us on our toes. The number of children, and their age range, is dramatically lower than any of our other Teen Clubs. Taking this information on board, the treasure hunt activity had to be changed:

Groups of three or four made the same formation as previously stated but instead of hunting for their pieces, they raced for them. Each of our wonderful volunteers stood at a different point holding a selection of different coloured puzzle pieces. Every arm-locked group then had to find one of their coloured pieces and relay them back to another line of volunteers who were standing waiting.  Back and forth and back and forth our teens went until all the pieces had been collected and delivered.

Siphofaneni: Teens in smaller groups, racing to collect and deliver puzzle pieces. Photo by Cameron Price

All in all, every aspect of this month’s lesson-plan was a huge success!
See below for a juicy taster of what to look forward to…

Thank you again to everyone involved and for all the help from our supporters. As always if you have any questions, comments, concerns please let us know at: swazilandteenclub@gmail.com


  • Team 4 of Skillshare volunteers to hit Swaziland!!
  • Early Bird’s flying sky high
  • Find an update on how we are getting on with fundraising to send out Teen Club representatives to the International AIDS conference in the USA!

R E S P E C T let’s find out what it means? We’ll see..

20 03 2012

-Sing the title with Aretha Franklin in mind, It makes more sense.

Firstly, a warm ‘’Hello!’’ to you Teen Club supporters. I must begin with a shout out to our predecessors, Group 2 skillshare volunteers, who have been gone now for a whole three months. Though I didn’t know any of you personally, I can tell you’re truly missed by Baylor, the kids, and the Teen Club team. We thank you for creating such strong bonds of respect within Baylor. This means that on arrival our welcome, although a bit scary, was friendly and full of smiles. Will, Chris and I (Poppy) have settled into our role as ‘The Baylor volunteers’. We don’t have long left, and we appreciate every moment here.

So enough about us. Thanks again and, onto TEEN CLUB!

Photo by Cameron Price

Darryn, putting up January's I PROMISE banner. Reminding our Teens of their No.1 New Year resolution. Photo By Cameron Price

Darryn, the Teen Club coordinator, put us in charge of thinking up an all new lesson plan. We really had to think hard, and come up with something involving and new. It needed to be as good, if not better, than the previous months.

Needless to say, last month’s lesson plan went down like a ‘’house on fire’’. That’s British slang for ‘’awesome’’ by the way.


After we learned from our brilliant teens that the word ‘Respect’ translates literally in the siSwati word meaning ‘Obey’, we thought that ‘’Respect’’ would be a fun and important topic to cover. Respect means so much more than obey. We know that it relates to words like: ‘’Tolerate’’, ‘’Support’’, ‘’Honesty’’ and ‘’consideration’’. We didn’t want the meaning of the word Respect to get lost in translation. Especially since each Teen Club begins with our rules for RESPECT:

‘’I promise:

To respect MYSELF

To respect EACH OTHER

To respect TEEN CLUB

To respect the ENVIRONMENT

And Do not bring valuables!’’

Taking all of this into consideration, we planned this month’s lesson plan. The final draft consisted of a treasure hunt made of puzzle piece, which fit together to make one of the seven letters ‘’Respect. The back of each puzzle piece held a mini activity for the teens to complete in their groups. In order to finish, each group would have to make and perform a skit made demonstrating one rule of Teen Club respect.

After a week of planning, laminating and practising the puzzles, we were ready to go.

Manzini and Mbabane were our first two Teen Clubs, and at both the teens loved the challenging activities and discussions.

Photo By Cameron Price

Teens finding their puzzle peices in groups. Photo By Cameron Price

Teens working on the letter 'E' after completing their treasure hunt for the pieces. Photo by Cameron Price

This month marked the start of a new part of Teen Club: Early Bird Games. Early Bird is a planned, monitored hour of Teen Club, starting at 8:30am, for all the kids that arrive early. It was full of new, fun games, that aren’t usually played at Teen Club. This month’s Early Birds got to Skip Rope, become Tennis superstars, play a few rounds of Dodgeball, and enjoy several Football games. Early Bird is intended to make our teens WANT to arrive within the first hour, as well as to keep things interesting for the kids, Starting early gives more time for everyone to get to know the lesson plan, and begin the month’s awesome activities. So far so good, roll on next weekend!

Teens showing us up!

Swazi skipping.. Exceptionally harder than it looks! Photo By Cameron Price

Tennis skills, showing the elders up! Photo By Cameron Price

We thank you for all the continuing help and support, and we will be sure to keep you updated throughout… well… forever!
As always if you have any questions, comments, or concerns please let us know at: swazilandteenclub@gmail.com