Last week, a project that I’ve been working on for around 6 months finally came to fruition – along with another PCV, I organized and led a 3 day HIV training for over 30 participants!
This all started when I attended HIV Bootcamp in Zambia. There, along with staff and volunteers from 12 Sub-Saharan African countries, I learned all about the virus, effective work being done, and the resources that are available to us. It was such an energizing week, and the team from Lesotho was excited to bring what we had learned back home.
Peace Corps recognizes that its volunteers have valuable skills to teach each other, so it budgets some funding each year for volunteer-led ISTs (In-Service Trainings). Myself and the two other PCVs who attended Bootcamp secured this funding and started planning our own IST!
At the training, we covered topics from gender to adolescents living with HIV to engaging adults to correctly gathering data. The participants were both Education and Healthy Youth volunteers at different points in their 27 month service. We invited some visitors, both American and Basotho, to share their experiences. We got to share the resources we took home from Bootcamp, as well as some Lesotho-specific resources that we made. We even played a high-stakes game of HIV Jeopardy (the winners got Cadbury chocolate)!
I am still exhausted from the IST, and I still can’t believe it really happened. Before I came to Peace Corps, I had never really taught or facilitated in front of a large group of people before. When I first got here, I would feel nervous before, during, and after every class I taught. Now, although I still don’t feel like a natural public speaker, I have the confidence to stand in front of 30 of my peers (as well as staff!) and lead session after session for an entire weekend! At this point in my service, I’m feeling so grateful for the personal growth that has somehow happened in between all the spider killing and goofing off with kids and traveling.
It was also so invigorating to see the energy and commitment that PCVs have in terms of community HIV work. In a country where stigma is through the roof and 1 in 4 people are HIV positive, it’s easy to get discouraged. This weekend, I heard so many people sharing best practices, resources, and positivity. Even the commiserating about common challenges was helpful in its own way. I’m just so happy to be part of this community, where people are doing everything they can to learn and build their own capacity as well as their communities’ capacity to do good work.