Now that I’ve reached the 6 month mark in my Peace Corps service, I get to stay in a swanky hotel for 10 days with the other 27 people in my cohort for some additional skill-specific training. SA 29 got placed in a dope hotel up in the mountains in the beautiful Tzaneen area. The views are breathtaking; stunning mountains and valleys with small streams running through, the fresh smell of pine floating in the air, and Samango monkeys running around stealing sugar packets off the coffee table.
There’s a decent sized swimming pool although it is winter and too cold to swim, it’s relaxing laying in a lawn chair for some sun bathing. There are plenty of mapped out trails for running and hiking in the area, and a waterfall not too far away. In addition to having a buffet for every meal, we also have a couple pizza and waffle bars within walking distance in case we want to step out of the hotel for something different.
The most important part about being here is the training we have been going through, starting around 8am and not ending until close to 6pm- it’s a lot to take in. We’ve gone through sessions talking about everything from youth development and HIV discrimination to mermaids and burning witches. We learn a program which utilizes soccer to teach youth about HIV prevention and how to tailor the program to target age or gender specific issues. We brush up on our language skills and discuss significant cultural hurdles we are trying to leap over.
There are 2 days I would say have been my favorite favorite IST days here so far. The first is the day we discussed project design and management. I was able to invite my supervisor from my organization to come attend with me, and together we sat down for an entire day just discussing and mapping out potential projects we can start up. We detail the resources we have, the partnerships we will need to form, and finish up the day with action steps listed out for what’s next. I felt really good after that day. I felt like I had some real direction.
The second day that really made me happy was our resource partner day. More specifically, I sat in a session talking about partnering with I-ACT and figuring out how to get some facilitators trained so we can run support groups for people living with HIV. This helped me put the finishing touches on my support group project idea from the project design day. I also was inspired by a session with a third-year Peace Corps volunteer talking about running boys and girls youth camps, particularly using the program models from Brothers For Life and Zazi to combat issues with HIV and youth. I can see these programs being an amazing way to reach the adolescent population in my community and am really looking forward to starting up some girls’ groups and camps along with some other PCV friends.
As I begin packing my bags to head back to my village I am getting really excited about everything I have learned while being here. Peace Corps has such a great training system set up. They give us all the tools we need to start all sorts of projects in our villages, I can’t wait to get back home and dive into work. I have been given a TON of resources and materials throughout this training; soccer balls, manuals and books, and seeds to start a vegetable garden! I’m going to have a heck of a time traveling 4 hours back to my village using public transportation and carrying all of my stuff. But hey, I didn’t join Peace Corps because I thought it would be easy!