Health Club + FIELD TRIP!
This is my last post of 2015! I cannot believe that I made it this far!!
In August, I applied for a grant from Peace Corps to start a Health Club at my org.
I’m going to try to explain this in the least complicated way possible: Peace Corps offers grants to volunteers every quarter. In order to get a grant, a volunteer must fill out a strenuous and detailed application (timeline, budget, activities, M&E… everything) and a grant committee at the PC office in Pretoria determines whether the grant is approved or not.
Since I arrived at site, my org has been asking me to take the kids on a field trip (since the previous volunteer took a group of 20 kids to Kruger), but my org can’t afford a trip and I knew PC wouldn’t approve a grant simply for a field trip. Not only was it a money issue, but I want the kids to earn the reward of a field trip through hard work and dedication.
That’s where the idea of the Health Club came.
The Health Club is a series of 9 sessions covering a variety of different health topics. Children who attend 8 of the 9 sessions are eligible to attend the field trip.
Here was the schedule of the health club:
14 October: Nutrition and Exercise
21 October: Personal Hygiene
28 October: Health Testing
4 November: Drugs and Alcohol
11 November: Mental Wellbeing
18 November: Know your body
25 November: Healthy Relationships
2 December: HIV/AIDS
9 December: HIV/AIDS
11 December: FIELD TRIP!
I divided the kids into 4 groups: Kagiso had the young boys, Elias took the older boys, Ruth was in charge of the young girls, and Jane had the older girls. This made it easier to tailor sensitive material to the different age groups and genders. Also, I wanted to make sure that my job was merely planning and organization, while my coworkers had a more active role and facilitated the sessions (remember sustainability?!)
Nutrition and Exercise: We made “nutritional plates” that showed kids how much of each food group should be on their plate at every meal. We then had a group aerobics session led by my counterpart, Kagiso!
Personal Hygiene: We taught the kids how to “vampire cough” as opposed to coughing and sneezing into their hands. We also told the kids that open windows on taxis don’t actually spread TB, but the contrary; enclosed spaces can actually help TB spread. Using grant money (and a previous donation), we bought toothbrushes, toothpaste, and floss to teach the kids the importance of daily toothbrushing. The kids weren’t too crazy about the concept of flossing, “you want me to do what with this string?!”
Health Testing: Each child got a card with his or her name on it and then went to different stations to get weighed, vision testing, blood pressure testing, and height measurement. The goal of this activity was to teach children that going to the doctor is important, and not scary. We also want to keep track of children who are underweight or have bad vision, so we can refer them to the local clinic.
After this session, I posted a pretty lengthy Facebook post about body image. I want to include it here for those of you who aren’t friends with my on FB:
I weigh 133.6 and I don’t think that matters. At all.
I started a Health Club for the children at my org. We meet every Wednesday to discuss different health topics (nutrition, exercise, personal hygiene, drugs/alcohol, mental wellbeing, puberty, relationships, etc.) Last week we tested each child for common health problems: vision testing, blood pressure, height and weight. Today, I finally got around to calculating their BMIs (using the traditional method and the new Trefethen method). There are 79 children in the Health Club. 72 of them are underweight. 7 of them have a healthy weight. By the time I was done calculating all their BMIs, I was on the verge of tears. I can teach these children how to live a healthy life, but I can’t provide each and every one of them with a healthy, filling meal three times a day. There is so much I can’t do as a PCV.
I live in dual societies. I spend my day with children who are hungry and underweight. But I spend time on Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Twitter, where skinny is pretty and walking the line between a healthy weight and underweight seems to be the ultimate goal.
I’ve lost weight. I’m a PCV in South Africa with limited access to food and zero cooking skills. I run everyday to relieve stress, and the combination has resulted in an accidental weight loss. Americans congratulate me everyday, tell me how amazing I look and how lucky I am that the weight just seems to be falling off with zero effort on my part. It makes me sick, because honestly, who f***ing cares?! I didn’t try to lose weight, and part of me is scared that I won’t be able to stop. And yeah, part of me is happy; the part of me that was told by society for years that skinny is pretty. But seeing the kids at my org falling out of their clothes, begging for food and eating scraps out of the trash pits shocks me back into reality.
I am 5’6″ and I weigh 133.6 pounds (60.6kg), and guess what? I don’t f***ing care.
At my heaviest I weighed 168 pounds, and at my skinniest (freshman year of high school) I weighed 125 pounds.
BUT WHO CARES!
Drugs and Alcohol: Remember in school when teachers would show us the pictures of people before and after drug abuse? Yep, I found those pictures online and showed them to the kids. I think the pics did a good job of scaring the kids away from drug use. We also played a simple game to show them how the mind and body work on alcohol. The kids had to spin in a circle 5 times before throwing a ball to a teammate.
Mental Wellbeing: For this session, I wanted to focus on bullying and relieving stress. We taught the kids coping mechanisms to relieve stress, and then we did an activity where the kids wrote compliments to everyone in their group on a paper that was taped to their backs.
Know Your Body: For this session, we focused on puberty and the changes the body undergoes during that time. I used Zazi and Brother’s For Life material for these lessons. Some activities included group discussions and drawing a body to illustrates changes that happen during puberty.
I am a horrible person and didn’t get pictures of the other sessions, but basically we used Zazi and Brother’s For Life material for the Healthy Relationships session and Grassroots Soccer games for the HIV/AIDS sessions.
We originally had over 80 children sign up to participate in the Health Club, but ultimately, only 60 attended 8 of the 9 sessions and could go on the field trip.
So, where was the field trip, you ask?
The WATER PARK! (The Forever Resort and Spa in Bela-Bela, Limpopo, to be precise)
* I didn’t get many pictures of the older kids since they ran off to the water slides the second we arrived.
The water park was so much fun but also so chaotic! The kids had a blast, but next time I might take fewer kids, just to help my own sanity.
Most of these children have never been swimming before, and therefore, don’t own a swimsuit. I want to give a huge shout out to Le Club and Planet Sea in Florida for donating the amazing, beautiful swimsuits to my kids, and to my mother for putting me in contact with these incredible companies.
Thank you also to the PCV chaperones, Jess and Bobbi, for making my life easier and helping me with 60 crazy kids.
What I learned from the Health Club:
Accountability. This is an issue I’ve faced in all my programs. Kids aren’t used to being somewhere right on time or attending a club on a weekly basis. I even had some issues with my counterparts starting on time. Over the course of the Health Club, I did my best to instill those values into the kids. I made sure to start exactly at 3 every day and be on time myself to show the children that I am also held to those standards.
M&E/Program Evaluation: I completed a pre and post-test to see what the children already knew and what the health club taught them. I haven’t tallied the responses yet, but based on a first glance, some things definitely stuck 🙂
I hope you enjoyed my last post of 2015! Let me know if there is anything you want me to write about in 2016. See you next year 😀