Saturday, December 15, 2007

More About Life, Work and Kayamandi

So I am settled until the end of January. I have a bed room, even a window and I am grateful. It is secure and I feel safe there. I stay with two other girls and our place is about 270 sq. ft. We are a 20-30 minute walk from Kayamandi. It is a great place and I am thankful to have so much support here. I am feeling comfortable going into town and finding my way around and have even found a place that offers a bottomless cup of coffee : ).

I am feeling settled, but have plans to move in with a co-worker in Kayamandi soon. I was invited by Sis Pulma the social worker I am working with here. I am really excited about the opportunity and feel privileged that she would want me in her home. It will be a different life though; I will not be able to walk alone after 5:30-6pm and never after dark. I will also not be able to keep things of value there—I will keep my guitar at the office and other items of value—just take my books and clothes. I have had a lot of requests for guitar lessons from the kids and have already given three lessons. We have a couple of guitars at the office in addition to mine but the strings are really bad. I am hoping that living in Kayamandi will help me learn Xhosa more quickly—tough stuff let me tell you.

As far as work goes I have narrowed my scope considerably through March/April. I am working on Kuyasa’s the Policy and Procedure Manual, Job Descriptions, Contracts and some other structural elements. This will take quite some time to get together. Please pray that I will be wise about everything here, I want the system to be more than functional but really make things easier for the people on the ground not more complicated. It will also require some change—so pray that we will all weather this well.

My second work focus is the Group Therapy lessons for 8-12 year olds. I am hoping to be able to use the curriculum with some the kids at Kuyasa in conjunction with Pumla and possibly another lay councillor. I have been given a larger role and am revising, adding, creating and redoing much of the material under the Project Director’s supervision. I am really motivated, the material is creative and powerful; I enjoy working with it. It is basic, "user friendly" and the best part is that it is so universal. It has been drafted to fit any context; though putting it through the trial run in various contexts will be proof in the pudding regarding its versatility. Please pray that God would open doors with this project if it is his will that I continue with it, it is an opportunity for me to do something that I really feel is deep in my heart. Briefly, the Lessons are based on emotions that typically result after trauma (sadness, fear, avoidance, anxiety, guilt) they help children identify what they are feeling, how it effects their thinking, body and life generally, why they feel it (normalizing)—what is the root, understanding the importance of expressing the emotion and then giving safe coping skills to handle and express the emotion in a constructive way. It also teaches life skills, crisis and emergency intervention skills, as well as, enhancing self-esteem and training children to identify “safe” versus "unsafe" people around them. Each session uses puppet shows, metaphoric stories, games, experiential learning activities, Memory Book pages, visual art and Bible stories to walk the children through the concepts. The objective in to crate a safe and supportive environment for them to heal, learn and build resiliency. It will be tested in Liberia come April/May, the idea is to train group facilitators in many different countries and have these lay people be the ones to conduct the sessions under supervision. There is a general core curriculum composed of 20-32 sessions depending on the severity of the children and then additional 10 lessons that focus on coping after specific situations (Loss due to AIDS, sexual abuse or rape, war, Tsunami). So that is the basic concept—really exciting and also somewhat intimidating, but there is a solid team working on the project, so I feel good about the chances for success.

Other areas of focus that will be on-going are language skills and relationship building with our kids and the community. Xhosa is very difficult for me, it requires that my mouth make sounds and shapes that it has never made before—sounds that used to be reserved solely for special effects that accompany highly descriptive stories are now a part of everyday language. We have just returned from Summer Camp were myself and others helped to lead 80 youth through four days of Adventure—Experiential Learning Activities and Value Based Bible lessons. It was a lot of fun. I got to focus on a group of 11 smaller girls who dubbed themselves the Pink Shooting Stars (our group bandannas were pink). We had a lot of fun together complete with shadow puppet stories on the wall before bed. This was a fantastic opportunity to build relationships. The Pink Shooting Stars are meeting weekly for Bible study and shooting star fun. Our cheer “WE ARE! WE ARE! THE PINK SHOO--TING STARS!” We made our group poster last week. The oldest in the group is 12, I thought we would have a nice time colouring together and read a few verses—instead we had a lengthy conversation about Apartheid and what it means to be part of the Born Free Generation (at the request of several group members) as well as voting on how many friends each member should be allowed to bring next time. Pray for my stars. Especially Zintle and Abulele, they have a tough time following directions.

Some big news that is more on the personal side--myself and six other single adults, have made the choice to take in a 16 year old girl. Her name is NaNa. Cindy (my current roommate) and I are the primary care givers—she is living with us. Neil, Cindy’s fiancé’ is helping quite a bit. NaNa has been attending programs at the Center (Kuyasa’s Center) and built a strong connection to several staff. There were no options for her accommodation—this is really the short version, but I want to be careful with her story. I wish you could all meet her. She is a special girl; I am going to post some of her poems on my blog. We committed to take her in for one year and find good accommodation for her if we can’t have her next year. Cindy and Neil are very committed to caring for her and when I move out, Jenna (another Kuyasa staff person) will help Cindy care for NaNa. I will be spending Christmas with NaNa—just her and I. I am really looking forward to it. If you’d like to know a little more about her feel free to email me.

I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas and New Year!!! Mine will be different but good. I love you all, thank you for your continued prayers and support!