9 March 2015

Placement: An Exhausting Two Weeks

Another busy two weeks of my placement at BICC/CCDP are over. The weeks have been going by so fast but have been full of exciting community visits. It started last Tuesday morning (24th Feb) with a visit to Choma Aiport school.

Airport School (24th Feb)
Located on the outskirts of Choma, we were greeted by a chorus of Airport Pre-School children welcoming us through song. After introductions and entertaining the children with my camera, we then walked to the primary school to gather more children.
We then proceeded to hand out aid, in the form of canned beef and pork chunks. BICC/CCDP acknowledges that such aid giving is not sustainable, however it was viewed as an opportunity to bring the community together to discuss the importance of education and encourage parents to send their children to school. 
Seeing the children's faces light up when the aid was handed out was very heartwarming, but then witnessing the condition of their clothes, lack of shoes and general malnourishment brought back the realities of the project.

Lugwasho School (24th Feb)
Later that day we visited one of the schools BICC/CCDP works in when discussing the various topics related to child projection. The school houses only 4 classrooms and is situated a 10 minute drive outside of Choma. However, we met one of the students who lives at least an hour's walk away from the site. The classroom we were in had its classroom rules displayed on the wall
With rule number 7 specifying to keep the classroom clean. This was stuck to wall in front of a pile of broken desks...
The session was relatively productive, with many of the children presenting numerous barriers to gaining an education and discussing how to prevent and overcome such obstacles. The only issue that prevented more of our involvement was the lack of spoken English (part of the national curriculum), on the other hand, it was incredible to gain and insight on how the students the issues effecting them, such as teen pregancies, early marriages, child labour & abuse, all of which are big problems in Zambia.

Pangwe Prevention Project (26th Feb)
Then on Thursday we visited one of the meeting locations as part of BICC/CCDP's Pangwe Prevention Project. Once again the session focused on various aspects of general health and then a focus on HIV & AIDS. I was asked to facilitate a short part of the session and I spent my time talking about the importance of being HIV tested and knowing your status.
Although I was very nervous and unprepared I found the extremely experience rewarding. This has led to me deciding to focus my time at placement to work alongside the Pangwe Prevention Project supervisor at BICC/CCDP.

Pangwe Basic School (3rd March)
After a chilling weekend and a Monday spent at the immigration office, I joined the Pangwe Prevention Project once again with the plan of delivering a session to community members. However, due to miscommunication the meeting was canceled but luckily we were able to negotiate with the headmaster at Pangwe Basic School to allow us to deliver a session on Sexual Reproductive Health, along with HIV testing. Once the hilarity of my accent was exhausted, I once again spoke to the attentive students on the importance of being tested and knowing your status.
HIV testing was then carried out and my fondest memory of the journey so far was generated. Out of all the 82 students that were tested all of them were negative. Upon telling the students cheers, claps and whistling broke out. Every student had a massive smile on their faces and each one them expressed their gratitude and sheer joy by proceeding to approach the front of the class and shake our hands. It is certainly an experience that will be hard to forget.

Adastra Basic School (4th March)
The week continued with another delivery of SRH teaching to some 100 students from Adastra Basic School. The session was facilitated by seven VSO ICS volunteers who were there to help out the original two volunteers who were provided little support. Despite it's rather hectic and unplanned delivery it was nice to be able to have complete control of a session and to be able work alongside the other volunteers. This is in direct comparison to the next day's activities.

Popota Clinic (5th March)
After discussing with our placement supervisor on which project we would like to focus on, myself and Naomi, brought along another VSO volunteer, Leah, to Popota Clinic, located just 15 nineties out of Choma to deliver a session on HIV and AIDS prevention.
As the session was delivered in Tonga (the local language) there was little for us to do, however I was able to help out with the HIV testing. Unlike Pangwe  Basic School however, not all were negative. Two patients, a couple, were both tested positive after the original and follow up test were conducted. Their reaction was very different to what I expected. No tears were shed, no denial was expressed, no blame was given, rather a solemn acceptance ensued. With sessions such as these and the availability of information constantly presented to the community I believe that most patients come to expect the positive line to show as they're well aware of their own actions. More emotion is shown through signs of relief when tests come back negative, as many believe they have been able to escape the dreaded the disease once again. Nevertheless, the couple were counselled and informed of the next steps they should take to receive medication and with everything packed in the car the session was over. 

That's another 2 weeks of placement over and with only 5 more to go the whole journey is whizzing by! Next weeks blog may come a bit late as next weekend is Team Choma's Mid Phase Review and we are off to Livingstone to experience the Victoria Falls, amongst other secret plans and hopefully a working shower!!!!

Twalumba for reading, see you next week.

Luke T.

(P.S. Despite the stigma attached, everyone secretly loves the Selfie Stick!)

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