At the WhizzKids United Health Academy we aim to prevent HIV and AIDS. Through our medical services and recreational activities we target three aspects of prevention: spiritual prevention, physical prevention, and psychological prevention. Today, I want to focus on the psychological aspect and tell you about the WKU Health Academy Chess Club.
The Chess Club started mid September with eight Health Academy youth interested in learning how to play chess. Unfortunately, we only have one small travel size chessboard right now so only a few adolescents can play at a time. We started the Chess Club as an activity aimed at stimulating the adolescents’ minds and developing problem-solving skills to use in their everyday lives when they encounter challenges.
The Chess Club meets formally twice a week. We start with a brief lesson regarding the rules of the game and then the youth pair-up and compete against each other. The best way to learn how to play and get better is simply to play. There are two exceptional students in Chess Club right now, twin brothers named Bheki and Bhekisisa (Chess intelligence must run in the family!). In only one month they have learnt and excelled at the game of chess and each time they play they learn more about chess strategy.
Even WKU staff members are getting into the fold as Theo Mitchell recently faced the brothers in a computerized version of the game. For an hour all eyes were on the computer screen as they captivated the audience and battled to a standstill. Chess Club has become a popular activity when the youth aren’t playing soccer. Many of the adolescents at the Health Academy want to learn and play since they have never played before. We hope we will acquire a couple larger chessboards in the future so the Chess Club can accommodate all the eager youth.
As the Chess Club advisor, I am hoping to make this club successful. My goal is to have a Chess Team represent WKUHA in competition against local schools’ Chess Clubs.
This past weekend, on the 15th and 16th of October, the Health Academy staff travelled to Durban to run an HIV Counselling and Testing (HCT) Campaign. Nike invited us to join them at their Nike Elite Training Open Trials event and provide our HCT services to the youth. The Nike Elite Training Open Trials is an event organized by Nike to select young football stars, between the ages of 16 to 19 years old, to attend Nike’s Elite Training program in December.
Nike had a team of coaches at the event who were responsible for recruiting the most talented football players while they watched them display their skills playing football. Two former football stars, Eric Tinkler and Shaun Bartlett, joined the Nike team as coaches and it was exciting to work alongside them at this event. It was a busy day for our Health Academy staff, filled with a lot of testing and football watching!
We arrived early Saturday morning and set-up our gazebos and testing stations. Members of the Nike team welcomed all event participants as well as our WhizzKids United team. Then Busisiwe Madondo greeted the event participants, introduced WhizzKids United and spoke about the services we render.
Throughout the day, kids came to our gazebos for HCT. We took their blood pressure, performed HIV testing and counselling, and distributed condoms. Some of the athletes were reluctant to be tested prior to playing football, so we made sure to educate them on the importance of knowing their status and encouraged them to come back to be tested after they finished playing football for the day. We told them in order to be soccer stars, they need to stay healthy and take care of themselves and their bodies.
It was a successful HCT Campaign. Between the two days, we saw many of the event participants. On Saturday, we did HIV testing on 47 athletes and blood pressure testing on 56 athletes. On Sunday, we tested even more. We performed HIV testing on 80 athletes and blood pressure testing on 121 athletes.
Although it was a busy weekend for the staff at WhizzKids United, the campaign was great. We were happy to partner with the Nike team and work with the young football stars.
Photo courtesy of Back Page Pix. Check here for more pictures from the Nike Elite Training Open Trials event.
Our staff at the WhizzKids United Health Academy have become entrepreneurs in our efforts to fund the Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVC) Programme, specifically the OVC Feeding Scheme. The aim of the OVC Feeding Scheme is to provide healthy, fresh meals to the OVCs registered at the Health Academy. Through the OVC Feeding Scheme, the children are able to access our services and participate in the recreational activities fully nourished. It also encourages them to regularly come to the Health Academy, as well as invite friends.
The OVC Feeding Scheme was a huge success last year when we were fully funded. Daily, we cooked healthy meals with fresh ingredients for about 50-70 OVCs. The OVCs attendance number increased and the children learned about proper nutrition. Unfortunately, during the past few months we have been faced with the challenge of a lack of funding and a few months ago we were unable to provide daily meals. Recently our innovative staff created an effective way to sustain the OVC Feeding Scheme until we secure more funding.
The idea began on 21 September 2011, World Peace Day. We determined that the World Peace Day Event at the Health Academy would be a great opportunity to fundraise for the OVCs Programme. As we mentioned in a previous blog, we baked delicious muffins and sold them for 2 Rand. The muffins were a huge success and we decided to continue baking and selling.
Since World Peace Day, we have baked 24-48 muffins most days of the week and sold them to staff, visitors, and friends. Part of the profit is used to buy more muffin baking supplies, while the majority of it is used to purchase food for the OVC Feeding Scheme. Although our profit is only enough to purchase rice and beans, we are still happy to be able to continue feeding our OVCs.
We will continue seeking future funding for better, fresh, more nutritious meals. Until we do, we will continue baking. So if you are in the Edendale area, come by and try one of our delicious muffins- - chocolate or vanilla. Buy a muffin and support the OVC programme!
From Monday to Wednesday last week, I had the opportunity to attend a meeting of the Canada Africa Prevention Trials Network in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. This network, which goes by the motto "African Led, Canadian Enabled," is designed to build a large capacity of African organisations to conduct research with a focus on HIV & AIDS prevention. WhizzKids United has been a member of the network since March 2011 and receives funding to grow the health care services at our Health Academy to the point where it can become a centre of research.
In attendance at this meeting were both social scientists and medical research scientists from Canada and South Africa, as well as health professionals from the WKU Health Academy. It was great to be part of the exchange of ideas and a number of exciting potential research projects were discussed.
As a Canadian who has been living and working in Africa for the past three years, I had insight into both the Canadian and African perspectives on the discussion which made it especially useful. It was also nice just to be around so many Canadians and be reminded of my roots!
We are very pleased to be part of the CAPTN Network and are looking forward to exciting research being carried out at the WKU Health Academy in the coming years which could lead to a breakthrough in HIV & AIDS prevention.
The WKU Health Academy wants to reach out to as many youth in the Greater Edendale area as possible so they can receive our holistic wellness services and join us in our efforts to create future generations free from HIV and AIDS. If you remember, we blogged in August about the start of our Community Outreach Programme and since then we have had success in our efforts to increase awareness and attendance at our Health Academy.
We have continued going door-to-door to speak with people at their homes as well as meet community members in the streets of Edendale, Machibisa, Dambuza, Ashdown, and Imbali. We have also approached many local businesses to develop relationships in order for them to promote our services and offer support. We understand that in order for the WKU Health Academy to be known in the community we have to go out and reach people.
During our outreach, the WKU Health Academy staff explains our services to those we meet and gives them a chance to ask questions. We have met many parents who are keen on our mission at the Health Academy and express that they like the services we offer our clients. Some parents have said that they will encourage their children to go to the Health Academy. We invite the parents we meet to come and visit to see where their children receive services and obtain health information.
The next phase of our outreach is to target more youth at schools in Greater Edendale. There are many schools we want to reach, but they are not within walking distance to the Health Academy and the children lack the means to be transported. WKU is blessed to proudly report that we now own a 7-passenger Condor, thanks to our loyal supports, Canada-Africa Prevention Trials Network (CAPTN). With this vehicle, we will be able to transport children to allow those from farther away to access the Health Academy, receive our services, and participate in recreational activities. WKU is excited about this opportunity and we look forward to welcoming new children to the Health Academy.
All of us at the Health Academy are delighted that since we started the Community Outreach Programme in August, the number of clients have increased and we are prepared to give the new attendees the quality services they expect. The feedback we receive from the children at the Health Academy motivates us even more to continue our outreach efforts. Current Health Academy attendees stated that they find it hard to talk to their parents about risk behaviours, so it helps to speak to one of the nurses or counsellors at the Health Academy about problems they encounter. This is one of the many ways we aim to help the children of Greater Edendale. Through our outreach, we strive to touch more lives like the ones we have and continue to make positive impacts.