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22 Feb. Thursday. 8:30pm Listening to: The Cure PLEASE READERS:… - Angie's Peace Corps (Namibia) Adventure

Mar. 3rd, 2007

03:35 pm

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22 Feb. Thursday.
Listening to: The Cure



Oh my God, who knew stickers could cause so much frenzy! I’ve struck gold- now I found the key to motivating & reinforcing these kids. They go nuts for stickers.

Me & a fellow PCV who lives in Oshikuku (about 30k away) have teamed up to paint & create educational games for kids made out of rubbish. Amber was doing this alone, but when I moved here she told me she was doing this project & so we’re doing it together now. Well it consists of collecting egg cartons that would otherwise be tossed out as well as collecting bottle caps. It’s mostly games for really young kids & it consists of them having to match up the different color caps w/ the correct hole, which we have painted in different colors. There are different ways to adapt the game for different ages. For example, the bigger kids can get into teams & have races & competitions.

Last week we finally got together to start painting these egg cartons. Amber has a ton of egg cartons & I have a small stash as well. The only place I’m currently getting egg cartons from is the Mission kitchen staff, so it’s a growing collection but it grows slowly. I brought back a bunch of painted egg cartons after our painting session but I had no caps. So I put an announcement up at the library. I explained to the kids what we were doing & why we needed the caps. They listened intently because there was some mention of “stickers” being given away. I made a points system for the different color caps, and anytime they reach 10 points they earn a sticker.

Well little did I know what I was getting into. I’ve had tons of kids bringing me caps everyday. The library opens while I’m at lunch. So this week everytime I’m walking back to the office/library after lunch, I get mobbed by little kids w/ caps for me. It cracks me up. It made me a little anxious at first, but now I’m loving it. It’s so cute seeing these kids be so motivated & so damn happy with their stickers. I have a collection and I let them pick whichever sticker they prefer. Most of them take 4 or 5 stickers at one time- meaning they are bringing tons of caps.

Seeing what this has caused has also given me a bit of a realization, a sense of perspective maybe. It’s been nice to see these kids be just kids- happy & carefree for just a little while. It’s that innocence shining through perhaps. Even in the bigger kids. Getting so happy for a sticker. A f’ing sticker, you know? I feel like these kids aren’t really motivated, rewarded, or reinforced. It might be partly cultural, but it’s definitely not just that. It’s also very much so a product of poverty. How can you reward your kid w toys & stickers & fun stuff if you can barely even provide food & clothing?

These kids, they’re like little adults. They’re forced to grow up very fast. They learn to take care of themselves much earlier on than we in America do. Many do end up taking care of themselves at very young ages when their parents die & caregivers push them away. I have said this before in the midst of a deep conversation to a couple PCVs: I look at them and I admire them. These kids have a hard life. In the midst of all this poverty- and perhaps they don’t see it this way because they don’t know any better. But they’re surrounded by HIV/AIDS & other disease, constant death, abandonment, lack of attention, lack of a good education, lack of guidance, lack of opportunity.

Today I was going to a meeting w/ my supervisor & he was telling me how he has been having a hard time lately cause all these people have been going to the office to try to receive some support from Catholic AIDS Action. Everybody gives a very sad story. “There are 13 people living in our homestead. 7 of them are children. We have no money to buy them uniforms.” “I’m sick & I’ve taken in 6 grandchildren. I can’t afford to provide for them”. CAA gives some material support to its clients, so others in the community hear/see about it & of course everyone ends up coming to us because they are also in difficult circumstances & want to benefit too. Unfortunately we can’t help everyone. But how do you say no to these people who are in these circumstances?

Anyways, we got onto talking about the vouchers we have been giving out for OVCs registered w/ CAA (allows them to get free school uniforms) & got to talking about school. He mentioned something that made me almost feel guilty. He said “is it so that in America you don’t pay to attend primary school? These other German volunteers were telling us that’s how it is in Germany”. It hit me then & there about just how messed up the system, or the situation, is. I said, “it’s true. We don’t pay “school fees” every year. We do pay taxes and some of those funds go to the education system, but no we don’t have it set up like here. We’re all entitled to a free public education.” And he shook his head & half smiled and said “ogh man! You see, that is what the problem is here. They must pay a school fee every year to be able to get an education. Most families don’t even have enough to pay for food & clothes.”

By law, the schools are supposed to register kids even if they don’t pay school fees, but most schools don’t follow that law. And it continues to be that way year after year. Most schools if you don’t pay, then you don’t go to school that year. We were both shaking our heads in agreement that the system is completely set up for these kids to fail. It’s almost like it’s encouraged. I’m not even writing the half of it. Schools are understaffed. Teachers are under qualified If my local school reaches its maximum number of learners, I can’t register there & am therefore forced to either attend no school or attend one that may be over 10 k away & walk to & fro there everyday. I’m trying to be chary (sorry, gotta put my GRE words to practice) with regards to what I say. I often feel like I have to hold back some in my journals. Big brother might be watching.

I think I’m done for tonight. As I said about 20 paragraphs ago, PLEASE SEND STICKERS. I don’t care if you send nothing for me; just send this for the kids. I can promise you that you’ll make some kid’s day.

Tomorrow (Friday) I’m off to Windhoek (which is a journey & a half- about 7 hours away-…ugh) just for the weekend. Have a CAMP GLOW meeting w/ the others on the committee. I’ll try to do some internet & post this up while I’m there.

I’ll leave you with this, which is something from a book I’ve been reading (& which I’m hooked on) called “Mountains Beyond Mountains” by Tracy Kidder. It’s a biography of a young doctor from America who went to Harvard & who dedicates his life to fighting infectious disease on the front-lines in some of the world’s poorest countries, particularly in Haiti. You should read it, too…

“The only real nation is humanity”.

If that doesn’t help to explain why I’m here, then nothing will ever suffice.

Peace & love.