Maletsunyane Falls

Maletsunyane Falls
Maletsunyane Falls - Semonkong, Mountain Kingdom

Friday, July 8, 2011

Kick4Life OVC ReCYCLE Program - "Turning Bottles into Books"

Recently, I have had the opportunity to help launch this new recycling initiative at Kick4Life. The Kick4Life OVC ReCYCLE Program provides a weekly recycling service to businesses & residents in Maseru. The service is run driven by Orphan & Vulnerable Children(OVC’s) on bicycles & trailers who collect recyclables from subscribing homes & businesses in Maseru. All of the proceeds from this program go towards getting these disadvantage youth off the street, & back in school. The initiative trains OVC’s living on the streets of Maseru in Road Safety & Bicycle & Trailer Maintenance. After training them, they will become ReCYCLE Collectors. Upon collection, they transport the materials to a Recycling Centre, where our program earns a small amount of money for all the materials we deposit. This new, innovative social enterprise offers the first & only recycling collection service in all of Lesotho & helps empower disadvantaged youth in Maseru with the tools to create a better future for themselves!

Recycling isn’t something that is really done here, at least on a large scale, as there is no organized collection service currently happening in the city whatsoever. Bottles are sometimes reclaimed by manufactures but aside from that everything just gets thrown away for the most part, while in many areas where there is no trash collection people just burn their trash. However, this program sets out to change that, as we are trying to introduce this recycling campaign.

The Program’s Slogan: “Turning bottles into Books!” (Thanks to Curtis Gardner)

The ReCYCLE Service was launched on April 6th in several neighborhoods around Maseru. In just over three months, we have over 35 customers, 6 of which are businesses. Meanwhile, we hope to keep the momentum rolling & bring in more customers, as we have growing interest in our program. The program has customers make a monthly donation to have their recycling picked up once a week. Households pay R100 & Businesses pay R200.

In terms of some of the youth we work with, Kick4Life already has a program in which we provide care & support to OVC’s living on the streets of Maseru. Our OVC Care & Support Initiative seeks to provide HIV & Life-skills education to these youth, while evaluating their well-being through Child Status Index(CSI). As a result of the OVC Care & Support Program, we have been able to bring some of these youth into this ReCYCLE Initiative, where they earn meals, education costs, clothes & other care & support through a unique point system that rewards them for the time they put in. Several of our guys are in the process of raising funds to pay for their secondary school tuition, which is expensive as the government does not pay for it here in  Lesotho. Currently we are working with 12 guys between the ages of 15 – 21, eight of whom are currently living on the streets. Hopefully with time, we can change that.

Presently Lesotho is home to the world’s third highest HIV adult prevalence rate, at 23.6%. As a result, the country is home to an estimated 120,000 orphans. In a country of under 2 million people, 120,000 orphans is very scary, as it paints perspective on to the effect that HIV/AIDS has on this tiny kingdom tucked away in the mountains of South Africa.

Thanks to donations of second hand bicycles as well as new, along with scrap metal that was welded into trailers, this program is off & running. If you have any ideas or want to make any type of contribution to this program, please contact me at doug@kick4life.org.

Khotso!



Our ReCYCLE Collectors getting ready to their rounds.
Saby doin' work!

Refiloe & the rest of the crew looking on.

Me & some of the guys after a road safety training!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

“Though no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending.” - Carl Bard

A couple of weeks ago, Kick4Life held its first ever “Holiday Camp”. It was during the first week of October, a week that the majority of schools in Lesotho are closed due to King’s Day. We took this opportunity to work with the Juvenile Training Centre(JTC), which is the Maseru based Juvenile Correctional Facility. The Holiday Camp took place over the span of six days. It consisted of our entire K4L curriculum, a week-long soccer tournament, short films on HIV, and voluntary HIV testing and counseling. During the week, we had 72 participants, all of whom are imprisoned at the center. There were 56 boys and 16 girls, all between the ages of 12-21. Most of the inmates are doing time for simple theft and assault; at least that’s what I was told initially. The JTC provides room, board, and education. These three things are something that many youths in Lesotho don’t have or can’t afford. This leaves you asking “does it pay to commit crime in Lesotho?” Do these privileges incentivize committing crime? Should privileges like education be provided to inmates in a country where the majority of youth can’t afford secondary schooling? Lesotho’s government doesn’t provide free secondary schooling; in fact it is quite expensive. After primary school, 79% of youths drop out of schooling, meaning that only 1 in 5 Basotho will receive a high school education. Crazy!  The situation creates an interesting dilemma to ponder.

As for the incarcerated youths, initially I was told that they were all doing bids for petty crimes, some robbery and assault. On the last day of the camp, I was informed by one of the guards, that 10 of the juveniles were in for murder, and several others were in for rape. This blew my mind, as I had worked with these kids all week, and found it hard to believe that they were capable of committing such offenses. After all they were still just “kids.” The final day was our graduation event that wrapped everything up. It was very rewarding and proved a great way to culminate the week. A film was shown by Sesotho Media, a local group that shows documentaries about living with HIV, after the film they facilitate Q&A sessions. They do some really great work, as they work with two of the juveniles at the camp. These two particular youths have been trained in facilitating, and in turn they host these Q&A sessions after film screenings to promote discussion about HIV amongst their fellow peers. After the screening, we had the Semi-final and Final matches of the soccer tournament, which provided some quality balling, as some of these cats proved they had Skillz! During the graduation ceremony that followed, we heard some memorable speeches from some of the juveniles, JTC management, and a “coach’s story” from one of our volunteers. It was quite apparent that the youths enjoyed the program and took away many positives from it. Several of our “coaches” (trained volunteers) strongly voiced their desire to continue working with the youths incarcerated at the camp, as they built some strong “personal connections” with these kids, a focus of our program. On top of the film, soccer matches, and ceremony, we were able to provide HIV testing & counseling to the participants who chose to test. Despite having only two counselors, we were able to test 21 youths in about 2 hours. We have vowed to continue to working with the youths at the JTC.

All in all, the week was awesome! It provided a great and interesting experience for everyone involved, from myself, to the youths, to our volunteers, to even the staff and guards over at the JTC. I think the really important thing I took from it was that often you will meet someone whose reputation or past precedes them. We are often quick to jump to conclusions about these individuals without giving them a fair chance to show you who they really are. Often we let people’s faults, mistakes, and wrong doings mold our own image of who that person really is. I may have been guilty of doing this had I known going into the week that several of these youths had been convicted of murder and rape. But going into the week with an open mind and no knowledge of their records, I found on the most part that these are just kids who grew up in tough situations, with nothing at all, in most cases because HIV claimed the lives of one or both of their parents, and they are all just looking for an opportunity. Some might say they had their opportunity and they blew it, but some of these kids never really had any opportunity, just like many youths in Lesotho, whether incarcerated or not. In a country as poor as this one, very little money goes into corrections departments for youth. Although, I stated earlier they get housing, education, and food, these are all at the lowest of standards. But if they have access to education about an epidemic crippling their country, then at least they have an opportunity to protect themselves when they are released.  

Let me leave you with one last saying that I have heard several times while here in Lesotho, and one I will probably hear several more times. 

“If you are not infected, you are affected.”

In a country where 1 in 4 adults has HIV, this couldn’t be any truer.

Keep Living!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Little Flower F.C., Springbok Rugby, Kick4Life Projects, & “Papa”

Lumela(Hello)! Can't seem to find enough time in the day, but that will never change, I apologize for not posting sooner. It's been over a month since I have arrived in the "Mountain Kingdom". Where does the time go? First off, I have begun playing on the local soccer team, Little Flower, F.C. Our home field is the pitch pictured above. It consists of hard, dry dirt, as well as sand on top of layers of rock. As those who know me well, know I have played goalkeeper my entire life, this has not changed. And playing keeper on this pitch means that your body gets extremely beat up but I am beginning to adjust, as I am no longer bruising my hips or scraping my arms and legs as easily. Considering I have not played competitive soccer in almost seven years, its taken some time for me to get back into decent form, and will most likely continue well into the season. Little Flower is currently in Lesotho's First Division, the league just below the Premier Division here, so although it doesn't compare to English Premier League, these cats can play! The style is so much different what I was used to playing back in the states throughout my high school days. The combination of dry dirt and thick patches of sand make the field a slower surface to play on, as opposed to playing on grass or turf. So you don't see much long ball action, and or one on one attacking. The emphasis is very much on short, quick passes and cuts. Last week was our first scrimage, we lost to premier league side, Lesotho Correctional Service, 3-1. They were a strong side to contend with, but all-in-all our team did not come prepared to play. The season begins this Saturday. 1st or 2nd place at season's end gets us promoted into the Lesotho Premier League. I will keep you posted!

Last Saturday, I attended my first Professional Rugby Match, an awesome experience! The Sprinboks of South Africa took on the Wannabes of Australia in Bloemfontein, SA. Sorry, I meant to say Wallabees. Anyway, I thought I knew most of the rules to rugby, but then I realized I didn't. It is quite an interesting game, very similar to American football, but not really. I met up with a fellow GRS intern, Kristen, outside the game just after kick-off(I think that's how they start a rugby match). With everybody inside the stadium, we started looking for tickets to scalp, as the ticket office was trying to rob people(charging R300). As we started scalping, we met a pack of intoxicated, middle aged Afrikaners, who had an extra ticket. Not only did they insist we have the ticket for free, but they invited us to sit with them. This definitely made the experience, as Kristen and myself sat in the middle of about 20 rugby hooligans, who wanted nothing more than to show two foreigners what springbok rugby is all about, drinking Castle lager, cursing in Afrikaans and eating bilatong(South African jerky). A rowdy bunch they were, but very friendly, funny, and eager to share their sport with the some outsiders.

As for the action on the field, the game was held at the Free State Stadium, a site which hosted several World Cup matches this summer. The first half saw Australia beating up on the Springboks in their own back yard. South Africa trailed by 26 points at one point during the first half, but the half ended on a high note as the springboks score a try on the last play, to help bring them into the locker room with a little momentum. This would carry over, as the Republic of SA stormed back in the second half to take the lead. Then the last 10 minutes proved to be action packed as the lead kept changing hands. With a one point lead and under a minute to play, SA gave up the ball on a penalty and sealed their own fate. The Aussies went on to convert a last second kick( basically a 50 yard field goal) to win the game and claim second place in the Tri-Nations Tournament. The stadium was dead silent and filled with devastation & disappointment, as the Springbok fans watched their team battle back from a huge deficit to take the lead, and then blow it in the last minute of the match. Hopefully my next rugby match can live up to that one. Although, I had a blast at the game, and look forward to getting to some more, watching Rugby doesn't quite match up with watching the G-MEN!

Now as far as work goes, I am really enjoying some of the projects I have been working on. As a programs intern, my responsibilities include helping run the Kick4Life Curriculum. These means helping set up interventions at primary schools and high schools, organizing development meetings with our "coaches"(curriculum facilitators) to help them build on their facilitation skills, and doing site visits to the schools where the program is being taught. Another program I have started working on is the Red Card Campaign, this is a UN funded project that we are currently promoting in an effort to help change risky sexual behavior that puts youth at risk of contracting HIV. As a part of this campaign, our organization is handing out Red Cards to our graduates and encouraging them to present them to people who are acting in risky manners.

All in all, things are progressing in a very positive and exciting manner. Maseru is a very interesting place that I hope to explore a bit more. With one main business strip, the downtown area is very small at least for a capital city, I can count the restaurants here on two hands. The street fare is decent, although I haven't experience too much of it. The maize meal known as "papa" is not bad depending on where you go, but man its filling! I have had my hands full recently, but I PROMISE, I will begin updating more frequently.

Stay tuned cause it's about to get good. KHOTSO & SALA HANTLE(Peace & Goodbye)

Monday, August 23, 2010

First Post: Missed flight, Driving w/ Strangers, TOCs, Intruders and Cutting Padlocks

Hey everybody. I have been in Lesotho for just over a week. I arrived here last Tuesday after missing my flight from Joburg to Maseru. I managed to miss my gate closing by one minute after sprinting through the Joburg airport. After having already flown on two airplanes and one bus over the span of 36 hours, I now faced a bit of a dilemma. I would have had to buy a whole new plane ticket to Maseru. Luckily, we met a guy in the customs line before missing our flight, who also missed our/his flight. He told us that he was going to drive to Maseru, and could give me and Emma a ride to Maseru. So instead of turning down strangers who offer you rides, we happily accepted his offer. It was just over a four hour ride to Maseru, he took us an alternate route which brought us into a northern border crossing. The landscapes we passed were amazing, boulders, mountains and plateaus in all directions. So missing the flight happened to be a blessing in disguise as we were able to get more thorough viewing of part of the country and make a new friend. Our friend/driver was a Masuto who worked for a company that makes and maintains CD4 testing instruments. CD4 testing measures the amount of CD4 cells in your blood, and determines if one qualifies to receive Antiretroviral drugs to help your immune system to deal with HIV.

After arriving in Maseru, we were taken to our office and were given a tour of the office we will be working in. Although I was granted an internship with Grassroot Soccer, I am working with Kick4Life, one of their implementing partners. Kick4Life was started by two brothers from the UK. Before starting Kick4Life, they dribbled a soccer ball the entire length of Malawi(250 miles in ten days!), in order to raise AIDS awareness in Malawi. Kick4Life use the Grassroot Soccer curriculum known as Skillz. This curriculum is ten practices long, and it is an activity based curriculum which educates youth ages 12-19 about HIV. The curriculum is focused on training local soccer players, community role models and  leaders to serve as facilitators. By building personal connections, engaging in vital conversations, and creating safe space, not only are the youth educated about HIV, but they are able to talk about HIV and the stigma surrounding it. A key mission of the curriculum is to build self-efficacy in order to show kids that they have the power to protect themselves from HIV.

All of last week we held a TOC(Training of Coaches), we trained 20 new "coaches". The term "coach" refers to local volunteers who teach the curriculum. It was a great week, very busy though, as there was a lot of material to cover. All of the coaches who took part in the training have been or are affected by HIV. We were lucky to hear a couple of "coaches' stories", these are essentially stories of how each coach has been individually affected by HIV. After getting to know all 20 coaches and hear a couple of their stories, it makes you realize how amazing these people are. This virus affects everybody in Lesotho, and is everywhere. Although you can't see it, it is truly omnipresent. All in all, the coaches training was a big success and a lot of fun, thanks in large part to Taylor Downs who facilitated it.

Some other happenings, we had an attempted burglar try and get into our neighbors house in our compound. After she arrived at home and opened her front door, a man ran towards her claiming he was with some security company and tried to enter the house, luckily she was able to slam the door in the nick of time and lock it. After banging on the door, he then went around the house to a glass window and tried to break in through the glass. Luckily, myself and some of the other compound residents arrived minutes after he tried to get into the door, so we rather scared him off or he took off just before. Thankfully, our neighbor was unharmed, although she was a bit shaken.

This morning, after trying to unlock the padlock on house gate, I realized the lock was broken. Of course I was stuck inside, but luckily our compound mates were nearby and were able to find a hand saw. So we sawed our padlock open in order to get out of our house. Furthermore, our water line burst this morning, so there were workmen on the street trying to fix it. Luckily they had the hand saw on them. All in all, I love Lesotho! The people are so friendly and welcoming, and so easy to approach. The landscapes here are awesome, and the sunsets are spectacular. Sorry for the lateness of my first post, I will be trying to post every other week, so stay tuned in.

P.S. Thank you to all of my funders and supporters. I can't tell you how much I appreciate your backing. Take care and stay positive.