Friday, 14 March 2008



Apologies for blog delay- i'm currently sitting under an iron roof ( a veritable tin can during the day/night/24/7) there are walls, but the ceiling is missing. There is of course electricity which I appreciate is a bonus, but South Africa as a whole is suffering from serious power shortages across the board..a lesson best learnt when you buy a banana milkshake from Spar... and take a big 'refreshing' gulp.

Before leaving Apel the community held a festival and it was a grand success for many reasons: it was community ran and led, it involved over 800 people; dancing, singing, drama, netball, cricket, volleyball, chess. The Department of Health supplied the catering for 500, and bought a mobile HIV testing van. A simple pin prick on the finger and your status is revealed in a few minutes. An innovative and important move in South Africa where the statistics on HIV are as follows:
South Africa has one of the highest HIV prevalence in the world (10% population)
21% of HIV-infected women and men receive aniretrovial therapy (Only 21%- not good)
50% new infections 15-24 year olds
1 million children have lost one or more parents to HIV (Largest number of orphans from HIV/AIDS worldwide.)
90% of people living with HIV are cared for at home by care providers/care givers.
South Africa has 18.8% prevalence rate
One teacher dies every day from HIV/AIDS. It takes 3 years to train a teacher.
In South Africa the poorest 50% receive 11%income
Richest 7% receive 40% total income (2nd biggest inequality globally-after Brazil.)

Under this context you find yourself in rural SA talking to a 24 year old guy. He is standing by the HIV van, after the normal greetings he asks me if I "know my status." Unprepared for the line but knowing enough I reply 'sure negative' - you? Whisky- (he was named after his fathers favourite drink..) doesn't know, and he doesn't want to. He has a 1 year old daughter who lives with his partner in Joburg, he also has three girlfriends and a 'funtime' friend. The shock isn't the amount of women, normal all over the world; the shock is he doesn't know his status, he doesn't want to know and he only sometimes uses condoms. Just in his circle that is 6 people who the virus could be spreading through (mother-child is a possibility). According to the dept of health when two positive strands of the virus join together they become much stronger and much more dangerous. Until this point; this tournament, this conversation I wondered why I saw a lot of red ribbons but didn't hear anyone talking about HIV.. it's because people don't want to. It is still incredibably stigmatized and people don't like to admit to HIV. There were 7 funerals on the day of the tournament; 4 youngsters (under 30) ultimately their lives may have been taken by opportunistic infections attacking their weakened immune systems but none of the deaths were openly attributed to HIV. Not that this is wrong but it highlights some of the many challenges. Whisky went for a test in the end; I don't know the result.

I decided from that point I had a role to play in being as open as possible about HIV and sex when talking to peers and younger girls and boys. I went for an HIV test myself during the tournament so some of my netball team (subsequent winners of the tournament may i add!!!!!) would follow suite. Now I talk about it to most people I meet, just to gauge opininon and open dialogue. It's a small thing but it's important. The tournament was magical (even with a 3 hour delay at the start- that no one cared about!) and a success for the community. It was an exhausting 10 hour day and only when I arrived home I realised I hadn't been for a pee ALL DAY.I think they call that dehydration and the sunburn through factor 30 demonstrates the unforgiving nature of the 36 degree heat. That was the night before we left the community and it was terribly sad to spend the last night with my family. It was achingly sad to say bye to little Marseille who only understood when I took my bags from the room; she didn't cry but said (it was translated) 'sister B don't leave, everyone always leaves' BLURGH really brings a tear to the eye. 2 weeks on I really miss that kid. My host mum kept a dignified distance the following morning busying herself around the garden; goodbyes are never nice.

I took at 5 hour coach to Joburg; tired, dirty and grumpy I left the Score team and met with my fellow in country VSO volunteers for inservice training. The proper shower, the air con, the food was all too much for my stomach which had become rather accustomed to monotity. The first beer was a welcome pleasure... and I'm pretty sure the 5th was too but at that stage- it didn't matter so much :) We were an extremely multicultural bunch: Kenyans, Canadians, Indians, Dutch, Philipinos and all working on a variety of exciting projects across South Africa. We had a lot of lectures and discussions on South Africa and it's 'make-up.' We networked, showered, ate and drank and when it came to depature- I was hesistant about my next posting! We had a lecture by a a women who was positive. She was talking about positive living; a holistic approach to dealing with HIV (diet, exercise, a healthy mind) and this was interesting because it shows the part sport can have to play.) Her brief story: one boyfriend from 18, moved to Uni with him, he was a lecturer. After birth of her first child she finds out she is positive- she has only had him as a partner. She wants to tell people, he beats her so she stays with him for 2 years as she feels no one will want an HIV positive girlfriend. She self educates and realises there is plenty she can do; she leaves him, he doesn't want people to know about the status so he stabbed her, repeatedly. Her neck and face were scarred, she lives, just. He is found guilty and his punishment? 6 months in prison or pay 5000R (less than 400 quid) for attempted murder charge. How wrong is that>??! Men and women are still treated very differently by the penal system this truely is a patriarchal society; across the board. Her story was one of truimph but hard to hear regardless.

After 8 hours of travel I arrived to Ga Radingwana, about 150ks from the nearest town and not visable from above unless you know what you're looking for! It has suffered from a lack of rain so the crops it relies on have been limited. I am staying with a cattle farmer, his wife and two children (Precious, 17 and Gift 12.) There is no bathroom, food REALLY is as follows: Chips (potato fried in pan in fat), egg, brown bread, maybe chicken and pap (maize.) I am struggling- fruit and veg are hard to come by; although am making a rations trip out tomorrow so will be stocking fruit/veg/ and multi vitamins if possible! Tk the Spedi speaking co ordinator of the team left us on Friday night. His sister-in-law, brother and nephew were in a car accident, the wife was killed and the nephew isn't in a good state in hospital. He may return next Monday and in the interim a new guy is arriving with a vechicle; we are too isolated not to have access to transport in case of emergency. Marte and I are ruling the roost well! The community is surrounded by high mountains and we went for a trek; after 2hours of climbing we reached the peak- the view was magnificent. As far as the eye could see peaks and troughs and you could see clearly the lush and barren areas. One of the team has his grandparents buried in a monolithic tomb in the front garden; which he finds rather disarming on his way to the toilet at night! T

Sport is popular; in the rural areas there are problems with homebrew and dagga (pot) which costs 40pence for a matchbox full and is smoked in newspaper. My host sister was telling about her class mate who is back at school after having an abortion at the weekend. Teenage pregnancy is high, what makes this particularly distasteful is that her Grandma carried out a home abortion; she was 4 months pregnant. Another girl in her class had an abortion (at home) at eight months. This is happening here, all around and is accepted as common place if the family do not want the daughter to have a child. I spent the rest of the evening reassuring my sister that she must finish her education and get to University as she wants; before she starts worrying about boys. She is very determined so I have faith. So, it's not just HIV/AIDS risk but pregnancy and home abortions..

Nonetheless, this community is impressive for it's sport knowledge and it looks after the facility previously donated by SCORE. Here the role is more to compliment what is already happening and use the impetus of the volunteers to revive an interest in sport.

Myself, I am learning a lot from my role in terms of man management of the Norweges and am appreciating more than ever the importance of interpersonal skills with community members. Spending time getting to know the people, understanding the specific nuances of the community and working with, not against. Sure it can be frustrating things move slower but the end result is often the same. Regardless you realise your yardsticks of what makes something work or not is not the same here. Teaching management skills, leading by example and using knowledge and skill to share and capacitate is a good feeling. I met a man who is very engaged in South Africa rugby a good contact for development. I see lots of scope for Lions organisations/charities out here.

I am missing everyone, reading lots about Sport for Development and enjoying the peace. We are leaving the very religious community for the Easter weekend and I am heading to the capital, Pretoria. I have a few contacts there and of course will be enjoying some rugby action :)

Oh I saw my first snake- it was only 30 centimetres long but enough to inspire me to sprint home .. There are pythons in the hills apparently...

So excited the girls have booked for Nov- that is unbelievably good news.. I can access the internet properly in 2 weeks and can undertake some planning :)
Shap (means 'ok')

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