Friday was the big event. It was the culmination of all the Peer Mentors' effort in the form of our last session on how the HI virus is transmitted, a celebration of sorts, and a testing drive. I was a little skeptical at first, but it turned out to be a giant success.
I invited my APCD, who is more or less my Peace Corps boss, to come to the event. I also invited some other volunteers to the event to come and help. Four PCVs came over the course of the campaign, Mike and A.J. came beforehand to help with the kids' training, and Katherine and Adam came to help with the event.
The event wasn't quite as important as all the sessions the kids had been going into the classrooms and giving. I wanted Lydia to see a session. And she saw one, she did!
We needed to combine two classes, which we've had to do all this week on account of scheduling problems. ("Oh, by the way, Lerato, the learners are going to be writing examinations this week." WHAT?????? AGH!!!!!!) So we had a classroom packed with students, and we had teachers (who were generally very flexible and considerate of our sessions) that would come in and pass out papers or make kids come up and get them during the middle of the kids' presentation. People were coming in and out of the classroom the entire time. It was CHAOS.
AND THERE WAS A DOG OUTSIDE THE CLASSROOM (more on this later).
Regardless, the Peer Mentors handled it with grace and class. Much better than I did. According to Adam's account I was pretty obviously fuming at least one point during the session. All I can say is that it was a good thing that the kids were in charge and not me!
So Lydia got to witness this typical chaos and she seemed to think it went fabulously. Well ... it did, to be honest. Through all the ridiculous amount of distraction and absurdity, it was obvious that the class was getting the information.
I feel confident that the majority of the students at Onkabetse Thuto High School now clearly understand how HIV is transmitted.
And more importanly, they know how to protect themselves.
After we concluded the sessions it was time for the event.
We were originally supposed to start after school until the day before someone said to me, "but if you start after school, everyone will be gone! We've got to start after short break."
Okay, so I got permission to start around 10 to 11, after the kids had finished cleaning their classrooms.
10 rolls around, still cleaning. 11 rolls around ... most kids are standing around and not doing anything. Why can't we start? Oh, there's one classroom that refuses to clean their room.
At this point ... I'm stressing out. We've spent a lot of money and done a lot of work, and I have no idea if we'll even get this thing off the ground.
12 o'clock, the principal gives us permission to start.
The music turns on, and all is right and well in the world.
Erin, who I love so dearly, and who has helped so tremendously, started the day off by announcing that she was going to test for HIV. Soon after, many students followed her, and there was a LONG LINE of kids waiting to get tested for HIV.
We kicked off our event with a candlelighting ceremony for those who have passed on because of HIV/AIDS. The wind was strong, so uh, it wasn't so successful. But we tried. We tried.
Then we went on to do a condom demonstration. We had a couple of representatives from LoveLife, which is a fantastic organization (that I hope to work with in the future), who helped to get the energy going by getting some volunteers to come up and show how to put a condom on.
After a couple of volunteers, one who used his TEETH (eek! don't do this), one of my Peer Mentors came up to do it properly. And I must say, he did a damn good job and was very professional.
After the condom demonstration, we had a two poets read their poems, some jika ma jika (a dance competition) and then we did a little HIV Jeopardy.
Just a quick note- remember earlier when I mentioned the dog? Well, you may have noticed it in most of the pictures I've posted. If you didn't notice, you can do a little Where's Waldo'ing.
Anyway, that dog, Dookie, is Erin's dog who followed her to school. Over a half hour walk. He stuck around the whole time. He slept outside the door of the classroom we were teaching in, and even found his way into the office while we were eating lunch. It was completely absurd. He also terrorized some donkeys, so that was cool.
Enough about the dog.
The main point of the event was the testing. Overall, we had 37 high school students who got tested for HIV, and there was a waiting list for at least 23 more kids to get tested. This way exceeded my expectations, and I am beyond pleased with the way things turned out, even if it did almost give me an ulcer.