23 March 2015

Community Action Days

As part of the VSO ICS program we 
have to plan and orchestrate numerous Community Action Days (CADs), a day where the whole team enters the community to raise awareness and discuss specific issues facing Zambia. At the time of writing we have already participated in three CADs and have many more planned. I am a member of the CAD committee and have found it to be a very stressful but ultimately rewarding role.

International Women's Day
Our first CAD coincided with this year's International Women's Day (8th March) and it was one of the most upsetting but fulfilling experiences of the programme so far. We had four stalls in Makalanguzu Market based around the railway line, that focused on specific women's issues. These included gender based violence & rape, the importance of education for girls, maternal health and condom distribution. While manning the gender based violence & rape stall I was approached by a young frail woman with a two year old girl and a boy of no more than a year. After talking about each of the stalls, the woman proceeded to beg me to help her. She expressed how she was struggling financially and was unable to provide shelter, clean water and food for her children as their father had left them. She made it apparent that she had suffered from some of the issues we were discussing, specifically gender based violence. It was one of the most heartbreaking situations I have been in. There was little I could do but provide her with information about where she could receive the support she required. Thankfully she did take my advice and arrived at my work placement the following day, who were then able to point her in the right direction. 
During the CAD I was also approached by a gentlemen who was very inquisitive on the topic of gender based violence. We had a lengthy discussion on the issue. Before leaving he expressed his gratitude to me, admitting he had been ignorant about  the concept and stated that I had provided sufficient information for him to help deal with any future issues. This was exactly what I needed to lift my spirits, and left me feeling as though I have had a tangible positive impact on someone's life. The rest of the day proceeded smoothly and ended with over 900 people attending the stalls and 2284 male and 535 female condoms distributed to the community.

Youth Day
Later that week we also participated in Zambia's National Youth Day celebrations. The day consisted of a march and a VSO-manned stall concerning sexual reproductive health & condom distribution along with HIV and AIDS testing. Although the event was very much out of our control we were still able to distribute a number of condoms, 864 male and 20 female condoms to be exact, and raise awareness of VSO and ICS's presence in the local community.

Shampande Clinic
After the success of the International Women's Day CAD and being highly motivated following our Mid Phase Review it was decided that we would carry out another CAD. This would focus on similar issues to Women's Day but this time target both genders. It took place outside one of Choma's clinics. I spent a large amount of my time discussing various issues  with some young children, explaining what gender based violence is, emphasising their rights as children and the importance of education.

Despite it being a slow day at the clinic we were still able to target a large number of people. We were able to distribute a staggering 1,180 female condoms and 5,247 male condoms.

Future CADs
We already have a number of other future CADs planned for our remaining time in Choma. Along with many other smaller scale community outreach sexual reproductive health sessions, we are planning to work with a nearby school and man some stalls about children's issues during one of their sports days, carry out HIV awareness and testing outside Choma's prison and educate females on how to create reusable homemade sanitary pads. 

Community Action Days are a valuable time for the entire team to work collaboratively and interact with the local community, allowing our message to spread far and wide. 'Challenge Yourself to Change Your World'

Luke. T

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