Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Palala North Girls Club Week 1 (Introductions)

PNGC kicks off in Seleka!

Palala North Girls Club came to fruition for the first time yesterday afternoon. As many of you know we have been working closely with our good friends and fellow volunteers Brandon and Rachel Johnson to expand their model of after school girls clubs to our village. Boys and girls clubs have been a big success for Brandon and Rachel and our teachers were eager to begin a club of their own. To find out how the clubs began and what is involved in starting and running these clubs, visit the Palala Clubs website that Brandon and Rachel developed at http://palalaclubs.wordpress.com.

Palala North Girls Club is held at the Seleka Higher Primary school hall on Monday afternoons for two hours. Jessica has been working side by side with six educators, three from Seleka Higher Primary and three from Baphoting Lower Primary, to prepare the materials and lessons for the start of club. Yesterday afternoon at 2:30pm, Jessica, her leaders, and 55 7th grade girls gathered at the hall to see what all the hype was about.

The previous Friday morning we asked the 7th grade girls to congregate in the schoolyard after assembly because we had a surprise for them. I stood snapping pictures of eager faces as the club leaders and our principal, Mr. Mfisa, explained that a unique club, solely for them, was going to begin next week. Each leader handed out the brightly colored invitations to each of the awaiting girls. As they turned the invites over in their hands and exchanged excited glances, it was clear that they knew something special was taking place and seemed slightly awed by the fact that it was for them and no one else.

As the girls dropped their bags by the door and formed a line to enter club they cheerfully waved their invitations high in the air, giggling and talking as they glimpsed the leaders through the windows setting up for the day. After switching on the CD player and turning up a mix of songs I had compiled the night before, I went outside to begin my duty as the only male involved in club; photographer/writer. One of the girls, hearing the music, quietly asked if what was playing was for them. I stood back so all the girls could hear me and began to explain that each week they would have music to listen to while preparing the room and working on their crafts. They immediately burst into chatter and smiles, asking if they could request songs, if I would make them copies of the CD, posing for photos with their friends and just being flat out silly. It was clear that it was a special day for these girls and we had not even officially started yet!

While we finished setting up, Mma Makhura came to the front of the line holding a freshly painted lavender bell. It rang clear and crisp to announce the beginning of club and the girls filed in one by one to take their seats, showing their invitations to the leaders as they went in. Whispers and curious glances filled the room as the girls beheld their tables laid out cleanly with purple and lavender fleece squares, earring making supplies, club information and a newly baked chocolate cupcake with purple frosting and pink sprinkles for each girl. (You may have guessed that purple/lavender is the official club color).

After a short prayer the leaders introduced themselves and began to explain what Palala North Girls Club is all about. They talked about the lessons that would be taught, the crafts the girls would learn and expectations of the girls in club and also at school. Very unlike some of the classes I had been teaching all day, the girls listened attentively to each word, smiling as Jess spoke in English/Setswana and then nodding in agreement as the leaders emphasized the finer points and added in their parts. To get the girls going they played a game involving chappies (gumballs) and the winner of the game got to take home all the chappies at their table. When the winners realized they would be taking between 25-30 chappies home with them at the end of the game, their eyes grew very wide and we heard whispers of 'nnete?' (seriously?). Yep, seriously girls, they're all yours.

Once all the intros were completed, information distributed, and mouths full of chappies and cupcakes, it was time for earring making. Initially it was to be a short demonstration followed by the girls beginning, but that quickly turned into a sort of learn as you go. The girls were so eager to get started they began to follow the leader's every move with their own supplies that were displayed in front of them at the table. Luckily the other leaders recognized this and began to circulate around the room advising and helping the girls where they needed as the demonstration wrapped up. From there on out it was up to the girls to finish. Many of them caught on right away and finished in a snap. They would then turn to their friend and help her finish her set as well. It was as if all we had to do was put all the pieces together in the same room and everything just started happening.

The preparations that Jessica and Rachel made, along with the two trainings that were held as an orientation for all six women leading the club were clearly a huge reason why the day went so smoothly and was such an amazing afternoon. I strolled through the tables taking pictures and heeding requests for a repeat of a song or two that the girls liked. They posed wearing their earrings and proud smiles.

The last item of the day was to get each girl's photograph. As they finished their craft I took them outside to line up for individual shots. They all wore their earrings and grinned as we snapped pictures, wanting immediately afterward to see themselves in the camera. Nearing the end of my line I noticed girls volunteering to help clean up, carry bags, sort papers and reorganize the hall so it could be used the next day for class. The sun sat low in the sky as we locked up the gate to the school and were accompanied home by half a dozen glowing young faces. They chatted us up about our families and friends back home, talked about where they lived, asked to come over this week to see Safiri, get help with homework, or just sit on the step and talk. We have already had girls stop by today just to see Jessica and say hello.

It is clear that an impression has been made that we think these girls and their leaders are special people and that we want to spend time with them. Our goal is for them to learn for themselves how special they are and what they are capable of achieving. As we collapsed into bed last night we were so tired that we could not even speak, only smile about the first day of what promises to be an incredible string of Monday afternoons in the months to come.

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you 'not' to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."
-Nelson Mandela

This quote was read as part of the introduction to Palala North Girls Club and a copy was given to each girl to take home.

1 comment:

Brandon & Rachel said...

Congratulations! B and I just loved reading this post on your first week of PNGC! This project will no doubt set the tone for the rest of your PC service and give you many of your most valuable memories to look back on someday!


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