In January 2017 I started my pre-service training to become a Community HIV Outreach Peace Corps volunteer in South Africa. This training included daily intensive Zulu language and cultural lessons as well as technical training about HIV in South Africa and interventions done by Peace Corps volunteers. In April 2017 I was officially initiated as a Peace Corps volunteer. Due to security concerns at my first placement, I had the opportunity to integrate into two different rural communities in KwaZulu Natal. Below is a summary my projects at my second and longest site placement in Limehill.
Scelukukhanya Home Based Care
Scelukukhanya Home Based Care is an organisation of community health workers that cater to the needs of those in the greater Limehill community. As Scelukukhanya was my host organisation in Limehill, I completed several capacity building projects with administrative staff and care givers.
The organisation expressed a need for assistance with project management and grant writing, so I designed and facilitated a three day project design and management workshop which included a session on grant writing.
Further, I assisted the office administrator with organising client files in order to better keep track of outcomes to report to funders.
Finally, I facilitated a month-long female empowerment workshop (Zazi) with the caregivers, both for their benefit and for them to then go on and impart the information they learned to their clients in the community.
Ikwezi Elihle is an after school program in Limehill for orphaned and vulnerable children. This organisation is run by a group of young social workers and community organisers in Limehill.
When I arrived in Limehill in 2017, this organisation was just starting up. I had the opportunity to work with this amazing group of young people as they created Ikwezi. My role was mainly a cheerleader for them, as they were already well equipped to start this organisation. Day-to-day I helped them by proof reading grant applications and letters appealing for funding.
In July 2018, we organised a camp for learners in the community during their winter holiday. At this 10-day camp we facilitated lessons in healthy eating and exercise, human rights, and emotional health. Around 100 local children attended the camp. This large attendance was made possible by funding from the South African Department of Social Development.
I was happy to hear that the year after I left Limehill, Ikwezi still held their winter camp, sustaining this project into the future.
Limehill High School
The South African national curriculum includes a class called Life Orientation where students learn about healthy living. This includes everything from healthy relationships, to HIV, to values.
I teamed up with one of the Life Orientation teachers at the local secondary school to implement some of the Peace Corps program resources in her classroom.
Class sizes at this school were objectively large with 40-60 students in a classroom. I adapted lessons from evidence-based programs such as Zazi and Brothers for Life to communicate ideas about gender equality, healthy relationships and reproductive health in engaging, yet organised, ways. Students were engaged by the lessons and were able to relate the principles more easily to their own lives.
I went to the school twice a week for four months to help teach alongside the Life Skills teacher, with her ultimately taking over the lessons by the end of my service, implementing the engagement activities.
Zazi is an evidence-based girls empowerment curriculum designed by and for South Africans. In 10 sessions, girls learn about gender roles, their developing bodies, reproductive health, and general health.
I worked with the Life Skills teacher at Limehill High School to recruit a group of ten motivated grade ten learners to take part in an after school girls club. Working with two caregivers from Scelukukhanya and a community health worker from Mphilonhle (a community-based organisation in the near-by town of Ladysmith), we implemented this program session-by-session with the girls club.
I trained the community health workers in how to implement each lesson and we planned the club together. Girls who attended every session were awarded with a certificate and a celebration.
The Limehill community
An essential aspect of the Peace Corps experience is living in a community. I lived with a host family in Limehill that included me in their family events, brought me with them to other community events, and acted as my real family, watching TV together every night and drinking tea and gossiping together on the weekends.
I was very lucky in that Limehill welcomed me with open arms. I participated in countless community events including those organised by the municipality and traditional Zulu ceremonies.
I cannot do any of these special moments justice with simple words, so please scroll through the pictures here to get an idea of the wonderful community I was able to call myself a part of.