After a week of much travelling from England to Lilongwe then on to Mzuzu, our project work with our partner organisation, Tovwirane, is starting to take shape. The team is growing in confidence and getting to know each other. We are taking each day one step at a time and hoping to play a major part in making a difference by educating target groups and changing perceptions about HIV & AIDS in Mzuzu.
The peer education and HIV and AIDS presentations by George (the Projects Officer for Tovwirane) at the start of the week were very enlightening. They helped the UK volunteers quickly get to grips with what we will be doing and how we will be conducting peer education sessions. Over the course of the week, we have looked more in depth into the subject and have amassed a better understanding, which will equip us for when we’re regularly running sessions.
Everyone’s settling in extremely well with their respected host families. It’s so nice not only to feel like part of a family, but also to feel part of a community. All of the houses are close together and all of the host families know one another so we really feel like we have been accepted within the community. The food has taken a little bit of getting used to; most nights we have nsima, the staple food of Malawi. You eat it with your hands and dip it into your food, which is a hard skill to master but we are all getting there.
Abby and Richard have excelled in delivering to us language and public speaking lessons. Everyone’s Chitumbuka is slowly improving, especially Nowras’ and Abby’s. We observed our first session about HIV testing and counselling at a primary school on Tuesday, the welcome we got from the school children was astonishing. There was a lot of dancing and music between the education sessions to keep the children interested. We looked at many positives as well as negatives regarding how the session was run and used the feedback to improve our future sessions. The first session we conducted was on Wednesday, which targeted the bicycle taxi operators in Mzuzu who are perceived to be a high risk group for HIV. As we are such a large group, we have separated into three different teams and will take it in turns to conduct sessions from next week. Sally, Abby, Sandra and Mercy conducted the very first session, which went well. The only downside was most of the bicycle taxi operators were not fluent English speakers, so the national volunteers had to translate most of it. We have taken this feedback and decided that UK volunteers need to do more language practice over the coming weeks. Overall it was a success because the bicycle taxi operators were all interested in participating; furthermore we were able to refer three people to the hospital.
The peer education and HTC session we observed during our first week of placement - in this picture Tovwirane dancers are entertaining youths at a local primary school whilst conducting a session.
We are expected to have many sessions booked in schools for next week, as this is the last week before they close for the summer holidays. At the moment we have one session booked for next Friday, and our community liaison officers are out working now to book more. We have had a productive week and are looking forward to another eventful week next week.
The second week of our field work at Tovwirane was very productive. This is because we managed to conduct a number of sessions at Katoto Primary School, with learners from class 5 to 7. The high participation and cooperation during the sessions made it productive as it showed that the learners understood the topics under discussion. Small rewards, such as school exercise books, stickers and balloons, were given to the students who took part in answering the questions as a way of motivating them.
This morning we are having a progress meeting with Godwin and Thomas from Progressio and planning next week’s sessions, which we are looking forward to.
Written by ICS volunteers Mohammad Haque and Chikondi Chikabadwa (Tovwirane Mzuzu Team)