Tuesday, August 26, 2008

PNGC Week 9: Understanding HIV/AIDS

What a fun week at club! For the first time this week the girls were able to use the new electric sewing machines that were purchased for PNGC using the VAST grant funding. The four machines were set up in the back of the room in a line with a leader posted at each to assist the girls. For the first sewing project, the entire club is going to be making an AIDS ribbon quilt. Each girl received the pieces to compile their quilt square. They pinned them together in the correct alignment and took turns sewing their pieces together and ironing the finished product. When all the squares are finished, the leaders will work with Jessica to sew them together for the final quilt. At first glance the girls could not really tell what all these little pieces of fabric were going to make, but as the initial set of girls emerged from behind the machines, proudly displaying their new creations, it became clearer how this will eventually come together. I was surprised at how quickly some of the girls picked up the nuances of the machine. After a few different tries at the foot pedal they were finding the right speed, learning to manipulate the fabric with their fingers to keep it on line and so on. There were definitely hitches along the way with bunching, some rather curvy stitch lines, needles losing their thread or jamming, and fabric off center, but these were to be expected. Jessica spent much of her time troubleshooting on the machines while I monitored the ironing board and tried to keep up with my photography responsibilities. There was even one point where I ended up sitting at a machine helping to guide a girl through sewing her piece. It turned out that she did most of the guiding and I learned probably as much as she did! With only four machines, the remaining 50 girls who were not sewing got a packet of beads and some metal wire to continue practicing their beading skills. In no time flat we had a room full of multi-colored bracelets. These girls are truly mastering their crafts.
The starting of the quilt coincides with the heart of the PNGC curriculum, based on HIV/AIDS. This week was an introduction of the topic in club. We learned from the leaders that these girls have already received a great deal of information about HIV/AIDS in the classroom. For this reason, we designed an activity for the week that placed girls in groups of six. They were given a slips of paper in green and white. The green slips had questions relating to HIV/AIDS and the white slips had the answers. Their job was to match the correct answers to each question. In under 15 minutes all the groups were finished and the leaders reviewed with the girls as a large group, asking for individuals from each group to read their answer to a specific question. Almost every group answered the entire stack of questions correctly! This is great news given that all schools in South Africa are required to incorporate this curriculum into as many aspects of lessons as possible, but many do not. To know that our school is doing this well is a compliment to their commitment to the learners and their education. We were very proud of our girls, not only for the display of their knowledge on the topic, but also their willingness to read and discuss such a sensitive topic aloud with each other and the leaders. It was a big step for club in an area of discussion that we are putting a great deal of importance on for this year.

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