Tuesday, May 27, 2008

PNGC Week 2 (Peer Pressure)

Week two of Palala North Girls Club has already come and gone! Our days are packed with planning, prepping and organizing everything for club and then in two quick hours on Monday afternoon club has successfully happened again. It was obvious last week's first PNGC meeting was a positive experience for the girls. Immediately after the bell rang to signal the end of the day we had girls ditching their bags by the doors to the school hall and diving in to help the leaders set up. I sneaked in quickly to put a few songs on for the girls and then unpacked the camera to play the intrepid PNGC reporter. Luckily for me there is always something going on at club, making my job rather easy.

Unfortunately two of our leaders were at home sick from school and were unable to make this week's meeting. There was some initial stress on our part early in the day because one was supposed to be teaching this week's lesson, Peer Pressure. Our anxiety was quickly replaced by reassurances when the leader who could not make it phoned us ahead of time to let us know and another leader jumped in to take over the lesson. We had given a copy of the lesson to all of the leaders the previous week and they all had read and prepared themselves. Seems as though we have found role models in each and every woman who is helping to lead the club.

The lavender bell rang once again and the girls filed in to their seats. To begin club, we were able to hand out bright new purple folders to the girls to hold all their PNGC materials. With this folder, we also distributed brand new, laminated membership cards to all of the girls with their names and pictures on them. Last week I photographed each of the girls from club, but they were not aware of why the photo was taken. When they held their membership cards in their hands, hung them around their necks and showed them off to their friends, it was clear that the little things in PNGC are just as important to the girls as the bigger things. They beamed with pride to see their name and photo listed as an official member of such a fun club. One more special item was part of the day; two prizes made by Palala Girls Club for PNGC. Two lucky PNGC girls were the winners of a new pair of sparkling earrings and a bracelet. As you can see below, the girls were thrilled with their gifts. It really hit me that this concept of an after school program designed just for girls is such a foreign concept in the rural schools of South Africa. There is palpable sense of amazement and joy surrounding a club meeting. It is truly a unique experience for everyone involved.

This Monday was the beginning of the weekly lesson series at PNGC. Peer pressure was the topic and proved to be a perfect opening lesson. Not too difficult or personal, but gets the girls thinking relationships with their friends. Mma Motebele read the lesson in both English and Setswana to make sure the girls understood. As the story unfolded for the girls they laughed at the jokes and thought seriously about the actions taking place. Jessica then followed the story with a series of discussion questions. I anticipated the girls being perhaps timid and shy for their first discussion, but as the questions came, hands shot up around the room. A true discussion ensued. Having the leaders convey the messages to them in a way that they could understand and appreciate seemed to make the difference. The interaction between the girls and leaders was wonderful to see. I might even go so far as to say the girls even enjoyed it! The lessons throughout the year will follow the lives of two girls about the same age as the PNGC members and cover a variety of topics. If you are interested in reading more about the development of the curriculum that PNGC has adapted, please check out the Palala Clubs Curriculum page.

I had thought there was a good amount of energy in the group during the lesson and discussion, but that energy grew exponentially when it came time for crafts. Sealed in small single plastic Ziplocs for each girl this week was a group of multicolored threads to make a friendship bracelet. The girls were organized in groups of about 10 and leaders dispersed among them to begin giving initial step by step instructions and following up. The girls needed only to hear the word 'go' and they were off. At first it took a few times for girls to pick out the pattern to their work, but before long most of the girls could see their design developing as they wove the threads. Munching on peanut butter cookies and steadily working their way to a finished product, we wound down the remainder of our day.

Sunsets are earlier in the winter and it is probably my favorite time of day. Now on Mondays I get to watch after club as a group of outstanding young women trot off home with long shadows behind them, clutching a school bag over their shoulder, a friendship bracelet on their wrist and a friend on their arm. Just what middle school should be about.

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