As a volunteer. . .

11 11 2011

This week, we thought it would be helpful to see what goes on ‘behind the scenes’ and the jobs that volunteers are tasked to do!  Being part of the ‘Teen Club Team’ does not mean that Teen Club is the only thing we work on.  There are many other aspects of the clinic we get involved with and we hope to give you an insight as to what other the working life of a volunteer is like!

Volunteers outside the Baylor Clinic

After a 45 minute walk to work, the volunteers gather at 8.30am for the daily morning meeting, where tasks are allocated, and plans for the day/week take place.  Following this, there are variety of different jobs that need to be done.

Sunshine Club is a daily programme which involves taking the waiting children (at the Baylor Clinic) outside for a variety of activities; playing on the swings and climbing frame, colouring, singing, and playing games.  This is done to help associate visiting the clinic with a good time, instead of needles, pills, doctors, and seriousness.  Usually full of laughter and energy and an attendance of up to 30 children, Sunshine Club can be very eventful!  Always full of laughter though, at times the artwork of the children can be amazing! Many times there have been pink cows, multi-coloured faces of princesses, and purple elephants!

Sunshine Club Fun!

Work on the Teen Club Master List (a database of ALL of the teens EVER to have attended Teen Club), is also vital after a Saturday Teen Club.  The data collected (number of new teens, amount of reimbursement given, number of teens attended etc) all have to be recorded in order to help with planning, consistency, and budgeting.  This data entry is laborious, but a necessary chore.  Badges for the new teens must also be made and laminated.  This helps to ensure that registrations at future Teen Clubs go smoothly.

Every month there is a new topic for Teen Club, ranging from the most recent Abuse, and Money Management, to older topics such as Stress Management and Adherence.  So the Teen Club volunteers must plan for this; by creating lesson plans, contacting different organisations (recent partnerships include The Police, Swaziland Action Group Against Abuse, First National Bank, and Save the Children) to help with a certain topic, and preparing materials for the weekend.  This is a very important task and one that enables the volunteers to have a direct impact on the children of Teen Club.  The lesson plan is not a one off task though, it is one that is under constant review, and after every Teen Club there is a debrief, in which ways to improve how smoothly every session could run are discussed.

Poster Making: Alicia preparing for Teen Club

Personal Projects are another assignment for Teen Club Volunteers.  Each volunteer is assigned their own project and given creative license on the scheme.  This batch of volunteers has a wide range of projects; from revamping the clinic library, and creating pamphlets to educate school children about HIV stigma, to updating the blog with (hopefully interesting) articles and pictures, and developing a social environment for HIV affected youth from 20-25 years.  These projects give the volunteers a lot of freedom and the chance to pursue a cause with a personal interest.

Geraldine organising donated clothes

Other tasks for the volunteers include helping out in the clinic Data Room, Pharmacy, with Hospital visits, and at a Special Needs school.  There is the Teen Club Christmas Party that takes place on the 10th of December, and whilst many of the volunteers fly back before then, there is still a lot of preparation work that needs to be done.  In addition volunteers must also prepare for Teen Club itself, done so by printing off lesson plans, sign in sheets, ensuring all resources are ready, and even making sandwiches for sites with no food donations!

In brief, that is the role of a Teen Club Volunteer, and the tasks that they undertake, apart from actually attending the weekly Teen Club of course.

Teen Club runs solely from donations, and it is the volunteers that put the money or goods to good use in the ways you have seen above.  Contributions are gratefully received and always welcomed.

As usual, if you have any questions do not hesitate to get in touch.  Thanks for your continued support!

Amar Mistry

Teen Club Volunteer

swazilandteenclub@gmail.com   

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September Teen Club: Stress Management and Relief

12 10 2011

After living in Mbabane for just over a week, we (five new Skillshare volunteers from the UK) had seen and experienced the friendly culture, unpredictable weather, and ‘interesting’ local food.  A brief visit to Kaphunga (a rural village) saw us staying in a traditional ‘Beehive hut’ and attending a Zionist church service. Both experiences never to be forgotten!

The highlight of my time here however, has been attending my very first Swaziland Teen Club! Based in Hlatikulu with the topic of ‘Stress Management’, the club had over 70 attendants with ages ranging from 8-18! The Teen Club kicked into life with customary singing, dancing, and a prayer. I was astounded by the energy, enthusiasm, and heart each child seemed to have; it’s hard to think that each of these children was HIV positive in a society which frowned upon the infection.

Manzini Dancing Teens

Most inspiring were the teen leaders, also HIV positive they are only a few years older than the groups they were leading. They were always extremely confident and capable of managing their groups. The sessions they ran focussed predominantly on stress management and different causes of stress, as well as coping tools that could be used. After joining in with some of the sessions, I learnt that some of the children were teased about their status and others felt stressed by the pressure to take their medicines consistently. The leaders dealt with the issues by introducing a variety of methods such as meditation, a concept which the children found hilarious and led to mass laughter!

Darryn leads a session with the teen leaders

After three separate sessions the group met back at the base and rounded up the club by saying a big goodbye to Kim, Teen Club coordinator. After seeing her interactions with the kids, I saw how well received she was and how much of a bond she had made with the children. It was an emotional handover, but I’m sure the new Teen Club coordinator Darryn will be able to live up to the high expectations Kim has set.

Ending with a customary rendition of ‘The World’s Greatest’ complete with dance actions, the children took their packed lunches and were on their way, hopefully de-stressed and at least a little happier than when they arrived.

It was very interesting to see how the small tasks we’d carried out during the week all came together for the Teen Club. The hours spent entering data and editing photos for ID cards were all worth it to see the Teen Club run smoothly.

Next week the location Siphofaneni will see the last of the Stress Management workshops. Attendants to this Teen Club will be fellow new volunteers Alicia, Geraldine, and Team Leader (and birthday girl) Beckie. We are all excited and working hard for the upcoming October full of Teen Clubs with the topic of ‘Budgeting & Saving’ being planned for. Hopefully we will be able to make it as fun and informative as previous sessions! An additional aim is to galvanise interaction via the Swaziland Teen Club Facebook page, so if you haven’t already, please ‘like’ us and help spread the word!

Thanks for reading!

Amar Mistry,
UK SkillShare Volunteer 2011
Any comments, questions, or concerns would be gratefully received at swazilandteenclub@gmail.com





Baylor Welcomes the “Hlatikhulu Heroes”

29 07 2010

The following post was written by Jaclyn Schaap, a third year Peace Corps volunteer who recently joined the Teen Club staff:

Sanibonani Bamngani Bami (Hello, my friends)! Teen Club Hlatikhulu has officially opened! On June 26, 2010, the Hlatikhulu Baylor Satellite Clinic opened its doors to host the first-ever Teen Club in the Shiselweni region. Although we projected attendance of approximately 50 participants for the opening day, 99 adolescents showed up! This included over 20 teens who had traveled all the way from the Lubumbo region just to attend our opening day and hear about our support group. We were thrilled with the turnout and are very motivated to start opening more support groups around the country.

This was the first support group meeting for most of the attendees in Hlatikhulu. Teen Club members from Manzini and Mbabane created heaps of cards that were displayed around the Hlatikhulu clinic, welcoming the new members with notes such as: “We are happy you are here!” and “Be strong! We are in this together!” Dance music played throughout the sign-in process, and one of the adult leaders from the local area helped the new members get into Teen Club spirit by cheering and chanting throughout the introductions and welcoming ceremony. And, of course, it wouldn’t have been a party without the vuvuzela horn!

The day as a whole was used to introduce the goals of Teen Club, establish and understand rules, and learn basic Teen Club cheers, songs and traditions. Most importantly, though, we wanted to ensure that our new members understood that Teen Club is a safe environment. It is our utmost priority to ensure the safety and security of our members, both physically and emotionally. Together, the participants came up with rules to help keep each other safe,
secure, and happy.

The group also came with a name for the club. By a landslide majority, the Hlatikhulu youth decided to name themselves…(drum roll please)…the “Hlatsi Heroes!” (The announcement of the new name was met with roars of approval from the teens, who were very excited to be a part of the day’s activities.) Some parents and caregivers also came to the meeting and joined in with the singing and dancing. At times, we had to remind them to let the adolescents answer the questions, but we were excited that the adults also learned during the meeting.

As of now, we are still trying to secure funding for the Hlatikhulu satellite group. We have the time, dedication and know-how to manage Teen Club sites across the country, but we need your help to do it. We are open to any help or suggestions you may have to help us continue financing this project. Please consider making a donation through this website by clicking the “Donate now” button on the top right of this page. Our goal is to sustain roughly six support groups throughout Swaziland by the end of next year to ensure that infected youth in Swaziland get the psychosocial support they need each month. If you can help or know of someone interested in this initiative, please contact us at swazilandteenclub@gmail.com. We warmly invite your thoughts and contributions.





The World’s Greatest

20 07 2010

The following entry was written by Claire Berman, a volunteer with Teen Club from August 2009 to June 2010:

Claire Berman leads a Teen Club activity in February 2010.

I am a mountain! I am a tall tree! O-o-oh, I am a vision; I can see clearly!

Tiny arms and hands waved all around me as two hundred voices sang – practically shouted – the lyrics to “The World’s Greatest,” arguably the most coveted and joyous part of every Teen Club meeting. For those three minutes – or rather, 6, or 9 minutes, depending on how many times we hit “repeat” – those children soar. They are a mountain, and a tall tree. For those moments, they can see clearly.

The potential of Teen Club had always been obvious to me, ever since I first started attending as a volunteer in August 2009. I arrived on that first chilly, sunny Saturday morning to find a huge number of children outside Baylor clinic spilling onto the lawn, playing games, shouting, and laughing with each other. There were some clusters of children who seemed to be inseparable, and others who floated without direction around the yard, some observing and some taking part in the games, but not seeming to truly belong to any one group. They seemed to be having fun, but the structure was not quite there yet. It was like having all the ingredients to a wonderful recipe, but leaving them unassembled and unorganized on the kitchen counter as you clean the kitchen.

Since that time, a lot has changed. With each Teen Club meeting, there is more structure; more empowerment of the children who come; more meaningful interaction between volunteers and participants; and a specific learning goal for each meeting. There are more volunteers, and everyone knows what he or she is supposed to be doing. Everyone has a role to fill, and the details of the day are never overlooked. There are orderly lines. Spreadsheets. A picture ID card for each child. Things seem to flow more and more seamlessly each time I attend.

But as much as these improvements have helped maintain the sanity of the volunteers and administrators, the true impact can be seen at a much more important level: that of the children who make up Teen Club.

“Who are your biggest supporters?” I asked a group of eight or so children who were huddled around me for a discussion. The theme of the day was the importance of building meaningful and supportive relationships, and we stood outside in the soft breeze after completing a larger group activity.

“My mother,” offered one soft-spoken young girl, gazing up at me with serious eyes. “Friends,” whispered another girl as she tugged the sleeves of her shirt over her hands, her eyes darting around the circle and then to the ground. “Teachers,” said a little boy after shyly raising his hand to speak.

“It’s you,” said one of the older boys, looking at me and then around the courtyard at the other volunteers. “It’s our aunties. You are our biggest supporters.”

During another session, we had gone around in a circle to discuss different emotions. The children took turns rolling “emotion dice,” and they told the group about a time when they had experienced the emotion that they rolled. Unfailingly, every child who rolled “happy” said that they are happiest when they are at Teen Club, their faces lighting up as they spoke. Some even described their “sad” times as the time they spent not in Teen Club.

These children are not merely experiencing positive emotional gains from attending Teen Club; they are also learning. They are learning about supportive relationships, good nutrition, the importance of drug adherence, disclosing their HIV status, and peer pressure, to name a few. And beyond that, they are discovering how to express themselves creatively.

While walking to town from work one day, I ran into one of the girls who attends Teen Club every month on her way home after school. We caught each other’s eyes as she walked towards me, and I smiled at her and waved. I held out my hand, and she grasped it with hers. “I’ll see you on June 19th?” she said with a hint of question in her voice, peering up at me.

“Absolutely,” I said. “I will see you then.” She gave me a shy smile and then continued on her way down the hill. I watched her retreat. June 19th was still weeks away, but the date was etched into her mind.

That is what Teen Club means to these children.

I’m that star up in the sky; I’m that mountain way up high; hey I made it! I’m the World’s Greatest. I’m that little bit of hope, when my back’s against the ropes. Hey I made it – I’m the World’s Greatest.

Every month, the voices swell around me as they sing, and feel, the lyrics. Every single adult sings – and dances – along with the kids. The song ends, and the split second of silence that followed is immediately drowned out with hundreds of desperate pleas to play the song just one more time.

It is difficult to describe just how that song makes us feel. But the beauty of Teen Club is that there, every single person, whether adult or child, can be the world’s greatest, and can soar out of themselves for those minutes and hours and experience true, unmitigated joy, no matter how brief or fleeting it may be.





June Teen Club: Disclosure

14 07 2010

The following post was written by Siphesihle Nkonyane, a new Teen Club volunteer:

Smiles and cheers were the order of the day at Baylor Teen Club in Mbabane this month. The loud noises that cracked through the ceiling of the main room were signs of great excitement for the participants as they welcomed in the day. The morning was busy: some participants got their medications refilled, while others registered and munched on fruit while they waited in great anticipation for the fun to start.

Before activities began, the teens sang a song, after which one of thekids led everyone in prayer. Then the room exploded in noises of excitement when Phaks, the Teen Club Activities Leader in Mbabane, introduced the visitors and activities for the day. The day’s topic was Disclosure–that is, the process of telling others that you have HIV. Phaks introduced four guests, all of whom are HIV-positive. There were two from SASCO and two from SWANEPA, which are both HIV/AIDS-related non-governmental organizations in Swaziland; they also serve as support groups for adults living with HIV. The visitors formed a question and answer panel, and the teens were able to ask questions relating to their experiences disclosing their HIV statuses. One question that stood out to me was when a teen asked how the members of the panel were able to disclose their statuses to their family and friends. One of the visitors replied that he had to first accept his status himself, before he could tell his family and his friends.

After the Q&A session, the kids broke up into groups according to their ages. They were given text from which they performed a short drama about the disclosure of one’s status to family, friends, or the community in which they live. It was a pleasure to watch the participants showcase their creativity and talent. The audience was energetic throughout the performances–the teens screamed at the top of their voices in praise for their peers. After the performances, the teens were called to go and get their food takeaways, which was done consecutively according to their age groups. It was a great day indeed, as could be seen from the bright, smiley faces of the kids as they left the clinic.





Baylor Trains Peer Leaders

18 06 2010

In May, Baylor initiated its Leadership Training Program, funded by The National Emergency Response Council on HIV/AIDS (NERCHA). Three groups of twenty-five adolescents from across Swaziland participated in overnight training sessions, which Hawane Resort graciously hosted. The sessions were executed with the help of Teen Leaders from Baylor’s clinic in Botswana, which marked the first international meeting of Teen Club members. It was a very special experience for all involved.
 

Peer Leadership Training participants goof around for a photo.

Several follow-up sessions have been held at the Baylor clinic over the past few weeks, including one in which the mental health of a Peer Leader was discussed, led by Nosipho Stora, a social worker at ICAP. The Teen Leaders also successfully met the challenge of running two Sunshine Club meetings. (Sunshine Club is our early childhood learn-through-play group, which gives our young patients fun, educational lessons while they wait to be seen by a doctor.) During the Sunshine Club sessions, the Teen Leaders had the opportunity to be filmed; they were then able watch the videos to evaluate and improve their performances.

The Leadership Training Program also marked the launch of the Hlathikhulu Support Group, the third member of our Teen Club family. We have 25 empowered Teens Club members ready to lead the way when the Hlathi Support Groups meets for the first time on June 26th!

Teen Club is very much looking forward to implementing another Leadership Training for the Lubombo region later this year!

With help from Dr. Douglas, the peer leaders play outside.

And now, a report on Peer Leadership Training from one of our teens:

The members of Faith Youth Club attended a three-day course on Peer Leadership Training at Hawane. These 3 days were very educational and fun. Through games and lectures, we were trained to become youth leaders for our nation. We were empowered to help and educate other teenagers, both HIV positive and negative.

During Peer Leadership Training, we were taught about HIV and AIDS, active listening and interpersonal communication. On the second day, we learned about different leadership styles and positive decision-making. On the last day we learned about effective problem solving, and we also talked about what Teen Club is all about.

At the training, we had guests from Botswana: 2 adult coordinators, 2 teen leaders and the clinic driver. Being together with teen leaders from Botswana has really helped to empower us; because they were empowered, too, they shared a lot in common with us. They knew exactly what we are going through and had experience on how to deal with certain issues.

All-in-all, I feel that the Peer Leadership Training was a success. We made close friends to cherish for a long life, we learned skills that will help us to be better people, and we were definitely empowered to improve the society in which we live.





Swaziland Teen Club Update

30 03 2010

This post was written by Shari Feirman, a volunteer with Swaziland Teen Club:

Teen Club participants write and draw positive messages for clinic patients in Manzini.

March has been a busy month for Swaziland Teen Club!

As always, support group meetings were held in both Manzini and Mbabane.  The meeting in Mbabane drew over 180 participants—a new record!  The theme this month was decision-making, specifically as it relates to health.  During the opening activity, participants had the opportunity to debate the validity of various statements; everything from “Beyonce is the best singer” to “It is difficult for youth to abstain from sex” was discussed.  Then we jumped into a conversation about personal decisions and responsibility.  The discussion turned out to be a great opportunity for participants to ask questions and voice concerns about HIV.  Towards the end of the day, the teens were asked to draw pictures or write positive messages for Baylor clinic patients.  Some very impressive work was created with messages such as “Wash Your Hands Before You Eat” and “Take Your Medications!”

We also started our Leadership Training Program recruitment process for the older teens.  Next month, Baylor will implement a program, funded by NERCHA (National Emergency Response Council on HIV/AIDS), that will equip participants with leadership skills and prepare them to assume responsibilities within Teen Club.  Twenty-five adolescents from each region in Swaziland will attend a three-day overnight training session.  In addition to jump-starting a youth-led model for Teen Club, this program will serve as a launching pad for opening additional Teen Club sites in Swaziland.  And we are very excited to welcome Peer Leaders from Baylor-Botswana to conduct the first three trainings!

The Swaziland Teen Club staff has also been hard at work planning a large testing initiative with Young Heroes.  Starting this month, hundreds of double orphans will be tested for HIV by Baylor doctors.  The testing will occur over the course of several days, with the first four days of testing taking place in the Shiselweni region.  When a Teen Club site in Shiselweni opens, adolescents who are found to have HIV will be invited to join the group.

All of our initiatives would not be possible without the support of community members and organizations.  A special “thank you” goes out this month to Bethel Court and Emcengeni Restaurant, who donated lunches for Mbabane and Manzini Teen Clubs, respectively, and to Zandile Nhleko from the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation for arranging those contributions.  Swaziland Teen Club is lucky to have such amazing support!