KZN is starting to warm up, the humidity is rising, the rains have begun ... and yet WKU continues at a pace that doesn't and WILL NOT slow! As long as the children of South Africa remain under the threat of HIV/AIDS, WKU will continue to work at providing children with life skills to gain their goals in life and remain HIV negative AND to support their rights to a life in safety and without violence.
Last Friday (October 5th) we celebrated another WKU World Cup Tournament. 192 children who had completed their week long WKU football and life skills course came to the Grand Finale celebration.
The day began with the threat of rain but soon the clouds dissapated and the sun was shining. The WKU team were joined by a number of volunteers from Durban: a group from HPP (HIV Pathogenesis Program), a football player from a local club, a business woman plus our ever reliable group of referees. Without these wonderful people, WKU could never run the day as smoothly and efficiently - AND the kids love the attention and the novelty of having someone from outside of their community to support and cheer for them.
This group of children were particularly enthusiastic - the excitement was palpable! They played with such energy, working as a team to try and score or defend their goals. As soon as school was finished we were joined quite a number of their fellow school mates who cheered loudly for the teams.
The competition was fierce - a number of games were drawn and it fell to penalties. But in the end there can only be one winner. Switzerland (under the management of German coach extraordinaire, Stefan) and Portugal (managed by local football player, Paul) battled for the WKU World Cup in the final with Switzerland recording a resounding victory.
Congratulations must go to ALL the teams and their managers for making the day so much fun! The children went home beaming in their new Africaid Football kits, medals hung proudly round their necks, their school friends congratulating them on their achievment.
The volunteers went home, tired but happy that they played a part in providing a fun and exciting day, that reinforced the motivation to attain life goals and prevent HIV, that we KNOW will not be forgotten!
While Stefan and Hannah were preparing for the Tournament, Marcus and myself were supporting our UK experts who were providing training for the upcoming Teen Clinic. Tomas and Cathy ran a 6 day workshop on counselling techniques which was attended by our WKU trainers and 6 local counsellors.
It was great to have so many along and we all gained from the expertise and local knowledge.
It was particularly wonderful to have such experienced professionals from the UK as WKU is currently working with at least 10 cases of child abuse. Tomas and Cathy provided some onsite counselling for these children and our work with the local Edendale counsellors has given us further referral systems to work with.
It can be so frustrating in these cases - whilst we have reported them to the local Child Protection Authority, the cases take time. There is very little support within the social system and it is mostly handled by NGO's within the community. A Child Rights Bill is going through parliament but with all the social problems within South Africa it is difficult for the government to place a priority on so many things.
You can rest assured that we are continuing to support the children that have been brought to our attention and we are constantly hearing of and working with others. Every child has a right to feel safe, to be protected! Their voice is small but it IS heard and we will make it louder - please help us to make these children heard and to continue to give them hope for a better future
Well FINALLY we're back in business!!! It's been a busy few months since I last wrote and I apologise profusely for the lack of updates.
But we're here now so let's get started.
What's happening at 313 WKU House?
Well we've had a number of volunteers come ... and go! A HUGE THANKYOU to .... George (our longest standing volunteer who is sorely missed!), Kylie (whose happy chatter kept us amused for hours!) and Clara (who became great friends with Nobuthle, our trainer and is always asked after). If I get a chance I will write more about these fab volunteers who have kept WKU running so well. We've also had Rachel and Sherie from the UK who did an amazing job of our first Teen Clinic Training week.
At present we have an almost entire German household - Christian from Cologne, Stefan from Dresden and Hannah from Wurtzburg. Of course Marcus and myself (Jay) are still about but it's been fab getting some new recruits and the in house joke is that German will soon be the official language of WKU! We also welcome the gorgeous Khona (a Durbanite-Umlazi lass)who is helping us in numerous projects.
We are extremely busy with a number of projects on the go.
WKU Lifeskills Courses: are still being run in Edendale at Ashdown Primary by Nobuthle and Bonginkosi. Our next Tournament is on Friday October 5th when the 192 graduates of the last 8 weeks of WKU Courses will compete for the WKU Football Trophy in teams of 6.
Stefan is calmly organising all the logistics for the day so we are assured that the day will go off with wonderful German efficiency
Peer Education: We are currently working with the schools and Life Orientation teachers to meet with our Peer Educators every few weeks - this way we have an idea of any issues they may face and provide further information and resources. We will also be commencing a new Peer Educators course in another township in October.
Case Referals: As we often state, Kids don't just do our course they become part of the WKU team. This means that WKU is a source of referal when children are in need. Our trainers are constantly at the schools we have worked in or are seen in the community. So it is often that our trainers are approached by kids with problems. WKU becomes the mediator in issues at school and a resource referal for kids with personal issues. We are also approached by teachers who are concerned about individuals and we will go and check on these children.
We have a unique relationship with our WKU attendees - we are their trainers and their friends. We are not seen as authority figures like school teachers and so the kids feel more comfortable talking with us.
We are constantly providing assistance to our trainers, helping them with skills to deal with issues, researching the legal requirements, the resources that are available in the area and linking them into these resources. Marcus and myself do get involved personally with these cases as well and deal with the paperwork that is required.
Last week we had a case of a student threatening a teacher with a knife, a student with a possible STI, a very young teenage preganancy and a case of unknown school truancy which we had to investigate and deal with.
This sort of work can be distressing but the worst thing is that we know that we are only hearing of a tiny percentage of these children. We hope with our continual presence we will be become trusted confidents and help many more children who are in need.
Teen Clinic: Together with the Infectious Diseases Unit at Edendale Hospital we are in the process of providing a Teenage Clinic. We hope that this will be a place that our WKU kids can attend to get counselling for issues, be tested for HIV and get treatment for medical problems. We want this clinic to be a friendly holistic environment - a place where kids can feel safe to discuss ANY issue. Part of our credo is to stop HIV in this young population but also to support kids with HIV and help other kids to understand. This clinic will assist us with better knowledge of issues in the community that pertain to teenagers and hopefully giveus clearer statistics of HIV in the community.
So far we have had 2 specialists from the UK to do some training. Sherie, an Infectious Diseases Doctor and Rachel, a School based Psychologist came and taught the staff about physical and psychological growth of teenagers and the counselling process. We all learnt a learnt a lot and we hope to put this information out as a resource for health professionals within Africa through Africaid and NAM. We're looking forward to having Cathy, a Clinical Nurse Specialist and Tomas, a Child Psychologist join us next week for further training.
On the boards we have a Youth Centre/Pre School at Lamontville and spreading the WKU Life Skills Course to more schools at Edendale. We are also planning a HUGE Tournament for World AIDS Day.
But I'll fill you in on those next week!
So this week has been "office" bound due to the Public Service strikes which are continuing without abate. The public schools are not running (no teachers), hospitals are working with skeleton staff, police are on "go slow".
So the crew have been working on various projects - Dom has been translating various articles into German for the website, George is trying to finalise the office before departing next week and I've (Jay) been working on some Bench-marks for the Peer Education Programme.
Yesterday we got the WhizzKids United brochures back from the printer and they look very impressive. They are colourful (Africaid colours-red, green, yellow), lots of photos of the kids and a interesting write up on the programme.
And our website is up and running which is very exciting. Make sure you go and have a look www.whizzkidsunited.org
Dom has the impressive task of trying to teach me how to work with SPSS (a statistics program) which should be amusing considering how much I prefer to forget my statistics learning. We're madly searching for funding so we can commence our research when I get back from Oz in August.
And lucky George has the joy of explaining the accounts to me - of which I have similar difficulties as I do with statistics. They involve numbers and not people. They are ordered and have purpose! I tend to be random, excitable to labile and curious and thus numbers and I don't speak the same language.
So if there are any accountant types out there looking for a gap month in sunny Africa you are most welcome.
It's birthday month presently - George last Friday and Dom this Saturday. On Friday, the house went out for dinner at a really fab restaurant called The STORE with the most AMAZING food. Seriously brilliant and SO delish. Would recommend it to everyone.
And this coming Friday we'll be heading for some Indian food for Dom's big day.
So it's not all work, no play.
Well we're about to say farewell to one of our beloved team members. Fi (also fondly known as Winnie), from the "sunny isles" of the UK is about to depart Africa's shores. She, along with Cory (our zany United Team member from Boston, US who left us 2 weeks back) set up our amazing Peer Education program.
So far, 40 children have volunteered their time to begin to be HIV educators to their fellow students.
Both Cory and Fi have done an inspiring job and have exceeded our expectations.
Cory came to us with a background of assisting the set up of peer programmes whilst Fi came on a "gap" break between uni and the start of her working life. They were faced with challenges that working in another culture brings - different understandings, different ways of communicating, different expectations.
In only 3 months they produced remarkable results!
Not only did they write the Peer Educators course and workbooks, they commenced it in 2 schools and we now have children providing a fun and interactive HIV prevention education to their peers during Life Orientation courses in both these schools.
The program continues under the direction of our local Zulu coordinator, Thami with continual support from the rest of the WhizzKids United team.
This peer programme builds on the WhizzKids United programme - it provides another referal support for the kids we are working with. We recognise that sometimes talking to an adult, whether they be from your community or from overseas, can be very frightening. Talking to someone your own age who lives like you do, and understands things like you do, can be easier. If we provide a place of referal for even one child to find someone to talk to, to assist in the escape from abuse, to support a child to protect themselves - then we have succeeded in our aim
Fi and Cory have made HUGE inroads towards this cause and we thank them for the hours of time they gave to the kids: through preparation, travel to Edendale, running the courses and supervising the children when they presented to their classes.
The kids themselves have loved every minute of their time. There have been tears at the graduation of each peer education class particularly when the children realise that both these wonderful girls live so far away from them.
You really HAVE MADE A DIFFERENCE, Fiona and Cory!
THANKYOU and the best of luck for the future - Cory in her studies as a Nurse Practitioner and Fi in her new work and hopefully further studies in law. We think you will be amazing successes and we miss your mad and fun ways at the Africaid house!!!
Sawubona! Howzit! Hiya! G'day! and Guten Tag! from the WhizzKids United Team and welcome to our Press Conference. We're so pleased that you could join us.
We're looking forward to regaling exciting tales of changing the lives of adolescents in Kwa-Zulu Natal, of providing hope and motivation to prevent HIV in their lives.
The team changes from month to month and so will styles of writing as each of us take a turn to bring to you the news from the football fields. We want to give you an insight into the everyday running of the WhizzKids United HIV Prevention programme as well as a ongoing update on the kids we're working with.
We hope that you will continue to join us for our upcoming Press Conferences.