Thursday, March 29, 2012

Project Updates

As we approach the one year mark (2 days away!), I thought I would share a short update on a few of the main things that I am working on:

Computer Basics Classes: I continue to teach computer classes to people from my community. So far, classes consist mostly of staff from my NGO and the Clinic. Classes are held once per week and I am offering review sessions two afternoons per week. In an attempt to help make the classes more applicable to their jobs (and so they can better understand the importance of learning how to use the computer), I use these review sessions (and independently scheduled time as requested) as a time to give the computer lessons a practical application. What this means is that I invite the class participants to bring their handwritten reports and/or paperwork in and we convert them into digital files together. Often this means I show them how and then they repeat the effort or, in some instances, I create a framework and they fill in the details. We are lucky enough to have enough computers so that each participant has "their own" computer in the computer lab that they can save their files to so they can continue to modify/work on them as they get more comfortable and gain more skills. For one student who has been exceptionally dedicated to learning, this means she is starting to be taught the very basics in Excel. Among the biggest accomplishments of this class, in my opinion, is that every single person who signed up for the class continues to come each week. They are getting comfortable with typing and with doing basic things in Word. They are motivated and so happy to learn. Success!

Segoditshane Scouts Troop: The Scout troop that I lead, along with another Peace Corps Volunteer and two teachers from Segoditshane Primary School, is going very well. We have approximately fifty scouts aged 9 to 14 that meet once per week to learn a variety of skills, including: practical outdoor activities (camping, hiking, backpacking, sports), environmental conservation, morals/ethics, community service, etc.

Renetswee Happy Home Care Center: I have been rewriting a Constitution for an NGO in a nearby village and helping the Coordinator come up with strategies for programming and recolonization of the new facility once all of the pertinent documents are filed and approved.

Gabane Community Home-Based Care: This is my primary project, so the majority of the work I am doing right now is here. Briefly, I am working in a variety of functions.
  • Pre-School Program Curriculum Development: I have been observing classroom activities and teaching styles to help the teachers develop new ways of imparting knowledge onto the children and revise current curricula and/or activities to do with the children (ages 3 to 6). This includes examining end-of-term and year-end exams for the primary schools (where the children will graduate to) and designing projects that help achieve the necessary results for the children's success in accordance with those requirements. The hope is that by providing better curriculums the children will flourish and have a better chance of being successful. Research shows that a child's success in school directly correlates with the dropout rate and therefore their HIV status later in life. If we can get these children, the most vulnerable in our community, to enjoy school and become dedicated to their success while they are young, then we have a better chance of keeping them that way into junior school and beyond.
  • Organizational Development: For the first few months at this new site, I have been conducting an analysis of staffing and organizational needs. In doing this, I have put together documents such as job descriptions, forecasting of staffing needs, designing current and forecasted organizational charts, an organizational profile, program leaflets, and a marketing kit.
  • Financial Systems/Planning and Budgeting: I have been discussing and training staff on the importance of budgets, record keeping/monitoring expenses and income (payments), and balancing the books. This has included creating a very simple payment database for immediate use by staff while creating and implementing a thorough financial system. I have trained the Administrative Officer on how to use this program and she is getting comfortable using it. In the meantime, I have worked to design and digitize financial systems by creating frameworks and a database to track profit and loss and by putting together program and organizational budgets. (No expenses have ever been tracked at the NGO before so this means researching numbers, gathering receipts, and finding out real costs.) 
Sadly, I also have to report a death of someone I have blogged about. Remember a few weeks ago when I told of my home visits? I discussed a mother who was devastatingly sick with AIDS and in the final stages of her life. I also told that her daughter had recently tested positive for HIV. Well, the daughter has passed away. Immediately after her test, my NGO helped get her admitted to the hospital in Gaborone for treatment. Within a week, she developed TB. On Tuesday the hospital released her to go home because there was nothing else to be done. My NGO planned to visit her yesterday but she died during the night, only hours after returning home. In discussing the loss with the Clinic and NGO staff, it seems the young girl waited too long to test and the virus was too far along. This is a very sad loss of someone far too young. I will continue going on home visits and encouraging people in my community to test early and often.

These are the projects that are currently filling my days and that will carry me into this second year in Botswana.

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