We are now two weeks into our Growing Futures project and the 13-16 year old OVC camp at a place called Matimbia finished last Friday, safe to say it was fantastic! Once again the children brought so much energy to the week that it was all I could do just to keep up. There is a school at Matimbia that has been running for some time and now features a number of government teachers. This means that there is a higher quality of education and lower school fees for the students when compared to unsupported community schools. As a result more children are able to attend the school and each lesson, as dictated by the syllabus, regardless of topic must feature at least 5 minutes of HIV/AIDS education. So on this camp, compared to the last at Kafwefwe, there was a greater level of existing knowledge so we were able to give more advanced information of HIV/AIDS; such as what HIV does to your white blood cells and the difference between HIV and AIDS.
We often used the UK volunteers to help deliver the topics of the day. Here Nicola, one of the three other volunteers, explains the 3 main ways of HIV transmission: Mother to baby, infected blood and unprotected sex.
From our volunteers' perspective the better education here meant that, frankly, they were a bit cheeky – which was great fun! In the evening we would find ourselves subject to quizzes on Zambian culture and even politics such as who was the Vice President – apparently it's Guy Scott but we all knew that right?
Despite their apparent good fortunes relative to some Zambian children I have met they were still in desperate need of help. At the start of the camps the children are split into 3 groups which battle it out throughout the week to win points and be crowned the champions of the camp; before we start the lessons for the week these groups split off to separate areas of the camp with the mentors and SAPEP staff to participate in a self-disclosure and personal testimonies activity. Here, alone with their friends and trusted adults they talk about what their lives are like and how their lives make them feel. One girl, when asked how she felt about her life, said that everything was OK and that she was fine; at this point her friends disagreed with her, asking her how she thought her life was OK when her parents barely gave her any clothes and no shoes to wear. Two of the life skills we teach on the camps are self-awareness and confidence and we introduced these two concepts right here, with this girl; the mentors and project officers said that it is important to be able to look at your own life and see what needs changing and have the confidence to stand up for what you believe, asking your parent why they are not giving you shoes. It can be the case that they are able to afford these things but are simply spending the money elsewhere in a less productive way.
Of course we are not trying to teach 30 children how to moan and groan their way through life! What we are trying to do is teach them to question the status quo and find ways to improve their own life and the lives of those around them.
One source of constant excitement on the camp was the introduction of calimocha (in the Tonga language), otherwise known as rugby. We decided to teach them touch rugby as Laura, one of our volunteers, had actually done a teaching course in it at one point in time and we really wanted to get all of the children involved in a game that was fun to both boys and girls. As it happened some of the girls picked it up quicker than quite a few of the boys and really showed them how it was done during the ever-present morning exercise activities.
The game of calimocha is introduced to southern Zambia. This is not to be confused with kalimotxo which I am, ahem, reliably informed is a Spanish beverage whereby wine and cola are mixed and often served in a large jug. Watch out for the Zambian rugby stars in the future and some confused Spanish barmen!
The week concluded with a bit of a party on Thursday night that we couldn't do last time as we were forced to flee to the school because of a colossal downpour that left the camping area soaking wet. Also, Friday would be Oliver's (SAPEP project officer) birthday so all of the other volunteers and I had got together at the weekend and bought him a Zambian football shirt and some marshmallows for us all to have around the fire. We also played musical statues and pass the parcel which went down a storm. It wasn't until we got everyone together in a big circle for pass the parcel that we realised half of the village had turned up to celebrate so it was lucky we were generous with the marshmallow purchases! As is to be expected from Zambians there was singing and dancing late into the night and it is safe to say it was quite a send-off.
The camps finish on Friday morning with a medal ceremony and the handing out of information leaflets on the topics that were taught in the camps. What we are doing in the next couple of weeks is plan with the communities of Kafwefwe and Matimbia the 2 camps for 9-12 year olds as well as looking to next year's activities where we are aiming to boost the incomes of the vulnerable families with livelihoods projects.
If you think you would like to go on a camp as a volunteer, get in touch with us via our website, your help would be much appreciated.