Monday, September 14, 2009

Monday, September 7, 2009

Too long

So, I looked at my blog today. I haven't written since may. In that time a lot has happened. It is always difficult to summarize 3 months of work. I'll give a bulleted outline of events.

* Artfest: Every June we have an arts festival that has world wide recognition as being the biggest performing arts festival in Africa. It is in Grahamstown. The unfortunate reality is that most of the kiddos that live in Grahamstown don't get the opportunity to see many shows. Untill this year..... After a brief letter to the Arts Festival director, I recieved tickets to over 20 shows to take kids from the After School Programme. After the first two days of shows, I realized that some of the shows may not have been appropriate, and I didn't have time to ferry kids to all 20 shows, but the following are a couple highlights. -Ten tickets to see the ballet with Nomamyasi, and Tombekaya and 8 9 year old girls and boys. (Several left during the intermission not knowing there was another hour of fun!!) -Took 5 of my boys to their first rock concert. (their ears were ringing and they didn't get home 'till 1 a.m.) - MaRavan was a traditional dance show that was incredibly unique. -Shosholoza a play about the life of mine workers around Johannesburg.

*One Laptop Per Child: Being in the right place at the right time, I had an opportunity to help with a grant to get 100 children's laptops to 100 kids on Grahamstown. Sounds like a possible nightmare of logistics, but with adequate help from several volunteers and well run programmes in Grahamstown (Monastery after school programme and St. Mary's daycare center) it has been a roaring success. Kids get computer lessons. These child friendly laptops, have wireless internet, video cameras, and play mp3s. On top of that they are waterproof! General Mills (make cereal and fruit roll-ups) are big sponsors and did a photo shoot which was awesome. Look for kiddos from Grahamstown on fruit roll-up boxes in the states in the coming months! To see details on one laptop per child: Check out the website: one laptop per child.

* Reading Camp: I was involved in preparation and planning of Reading Camp, a week of learning and fun for 18 grade 4 learners from the Township of Grahamstown. We selected students from 10 schools to send their top readers. These kids were then pampered over the week with four meals a day, learning centers in the mornings and adventures in the afternoons including game drives (looking at elephants and rhinos and hippos) night hikes, exploring the beaches and obstacle courses. To be brief, it was a successful endeavor.

* 6 weeks in the classroom: After being out of University for 5 years, I was aching for an opportunity to learn from more than just my mistakes and experiences. I wanted someone to teach me. I enrolled into a course put on by MSF (doctors without borders) and Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine. The course was a diploma in humanitarian assistance and took place 10 kilometers from Kruger National Park. It was amazing what I learned about the world. Most people there (me being the only americans) hated the USA. But I was given immunity having been in South Africa for 2 years. I learned about the politics of humanitarian aide and hitories of struggling countries in africa. I also learned the practical things about setting up refugee camps (digging toilets, supplying food and water etc.) I left with a distinction and energy to save the world.

*Hit the ground running: I'm now back in Grahamstown and am back in the routine of peparing for the end of the year and transitioning out of my position with GADRA at the end of the year. After hiking the remainder of the wild coast in late November, I am a free agent, looking for opps. to work in the area of education in emergencies (setting up schools and safe places in refugee camps post war and natural disasters.)

*10 months and going: Zinzi and I are doing well. She will be working in Johannesburg as a programme manager with the Art Therapy Center starting in December.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Off He Goes

My ten year reunion is this year. As it approaches, I have been thinking a lot about my last ten years, especially my last 5 years and all the transitions I have gone through. While sitting in the company car darting around to all my schools, and contemplating my next year that may include training in Humanitarian Aide work, the lyrics of a Pearl Jam song playing set me back a moment. I'd never listened to the lyrics and then thought of how stop and go my life has been.....for a long time. Below are the lyrics.

Off He Goes lyrics

1, 2, 1, 2...
I know a man, his face seems pulled and tense
like he's riding on a motorbike in the strongest winds
so i approach with tact
suggest that he should relax
but he's always moving much too fast
said he'll see me on the flipside
on this trip he's taken for a ride
he's been taking too much on
there he goes with his perfectly unkept clothes
there he goes...
he's yet to come back
but i've seen his picture
it doesn't look the same up on the rack
we go way back
i wonder about his insides
its like his thoughts are too big for his size
he's been taken... where, i don't know?
off he goes with his perfectly unkept hope
and there he goes...
and now i rub my eyes, for he has returned
seems my preconceptions are what should have been burned
for he still smiles...
and he's still strong
nothing's changed, but the surrounding bullshit that has grown
and now he's home
and we're laughing like we always did
my same old, same old friend
until a quarter-to-ten
i saw the strain creep in
he seems distracted and i know just what is gonna happen next
before his first step
he's off again

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Reading Camp Photos

Reading Camp

Two weekends ago, myself and Kary Maconachie organized an overnight camp for 18 grade 4 learners from the township. We had all the materials that we use for the week long reading camps that we will have once a year, so, materials and structure were easily adaptable from the week long reading camp.

The intention of the reading camp was not to teach children to read over night. Rather, we wanted to give the students an opportunity to see how fun learning and reading can be. The first evening, we played games went for a night hike and ate good food including the roasting of marshmallows over a fire and a bedtime story. The following day we broke students up into 6 groups and did reading centers. Students were in groups of 2 and three and received 1 to 1 support. All was done in the playing of games. The students were well behaved. One student who was sick started crying because he did not want to go home. We let him sleep in the corner of the room.

The greatest joy we had was seeing kids laugh and play and enjoy learning. The students were overwhelmed with the amount of love and care they received. The reward was in the smiles on the kids faces, and the amazement at their excitement in choosing books to sit down and read to themselves or helpers. The camp was run by volunteers. No one was paid, and everyone left contented with a job well done.

Easily amused

One of the great pleasures of working with kids is watching them play. When i pick up the boys for worship, Masixole (seen in picture) is still young and finds the simplest things to play with. Sometimes it is his bowl and fork, and others the spray of the windshield wiper on the car windshiel that amuse him. His life on the farm is safe. It is evident in his joyful play. The food may be simple and he may not have electricity, but he has a great joy in being a kid. That excites me.

Friday, February 27, 2009

In Brief

The last two months has flown by as we began the work that I had been preparing for over the previous six months. From the 2nd through the 6th of February we had a training for 25 teacher, 17 of which will be using the curriculum materials and receiving support through GADRA Education. My role in the process was to book the venue, catering, and accommodation for the trainer and staff, and ensure all the teachers arrived safely to the venue. The primary training was done by Hazel who did the training in isiXhosa for the teachers. The training was a success, there were kinks being my first event plan, but they provided further opportunities to engage the teachers I am working with. Having the training by Hazel a seasoned veteran of Molteno materials was a true blessing. Hazel did the initial 5 day training and my job is to do the follow up in the classrooms, ensuring the materials are being taken care of, the teachers are confident with their abilities, and ensuring everyone is doing their job. This has been no simple task with 10 schools with 17 teachers, but the teachers have been willing. So that has been work in a nutshell. More later on some of the indications of a successful intervention.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Book Report

One of the great joys of my missionary experiences has been meeting like minded people with a similar taste in books. Jesse, a friend who works at a clinic in Mtata, and I swap books and share opinions on occasion. It is fun to visit him and his growing library of stimulating books. The Ugly American is one such book. I had seen it on shelves and been told to read it. I can tell you now the book would not have meant a thing to me prior to my adventures here in South Africa. The Ugly American was written as a criticism to American Foreign policies during the cold war in East Asia. The author William Lederer writes short fictional bios of Americans living and working overseas. It is so refreshing to read ideas from the 1950s that are so relevant to me my experiences in 2009.

The following are some quotes that stuck out to me:

"When we've licked the basic problems, we can move on to grander projects. But we have to start with the things which are Sarkhanese [insert the name of your community here for relevance]." For three more hours they talked of little things.


"Why, Homer," Emma said, "with all that money you've got in the bank back at Pittsburgh, why don't you give some of it to these nice Sarkhanese?" Atkins looked up sharply, but saw at once that she was teasing him. He grunted. "You know why. Whenever you give a man something for nothing the first person he comes to dislike is you. If the pump is going to work at all, it hast to be their pump, not mine."


"You have to let them use the machine themselves and in their own way. If you try to jam it down their throats, they'll never use it."


"The headman and the elders reminded him very much of the diplomats to whom he talked for so many months in Phnom Penh. He was quite sure that Jeepo had an answer for these comments, and he was also sure that it was not a political or personal answer, but technical."


"Emma knew when to drop a conversation. She had long ago discovered that people don't stop doing traditional things merely because they're irrational. She also knew that when people are critcised for an action, they stubbornly persist in continuing it."

The Ugly American is a great book, but you don't have to take my word for it. Check it out for yourself, but until then..... See you next time. Butterfly in the sky....(Reading Rainbow childrens' television show reference)