Sunday, July 1, 2012

A Day of Awareness

Last week my counterpart and I put on a day to bring awarenes and sensitize the public about Substance and Alcohol Abuse and it's devastating impact on indivuals, families, and community. Our other aim was to mobilize community members and stakeholders to combating substance and alcohol abuse. In a small village like Mmathethe, alcohol abuse in particular is a significant challenge to the school system, both in terms of health and educational outcomes. There are many ways that people come into addiction, it's not always trauma, as where in Africa, especially in small villages with teens having very little to do, as well as being born into poverty and broken homes, this leads to filling needs in an unhealthy manner. But people no matter where they live can't stop addiction and abuse alone---they need help from many sources, peers, family, AA, and community. It's a disease that results from poor lifestyle choices, and this needs to be addressed.

So on this day, 150 selected students gathered from my school and both primary schools, and marched through the village to raise awareness. Through the proposal written, the kids and teachers received
t-shirts, pens, water bottles, key chains, and bracelets for their efforts--and my oh my, you should have seen faces and joy of getting things that seemed novel and precious to them.  The day was filled not only with the march, but with skits from my teen club, songs from a choir, speeches from community dignitaries, and the police showed off it's band. My counterpart thought I was crazy when I wanted to invite the media, both tv and radio, and to invite the President of Botswana. Then with a meeting with Chief of the Village (the Kgosi), he told my counterpart the same exact thing. She looked at us both, said the Kgosi and I were soul mates, and we both laughed, knowing we think alike and that this could be big. He likes big, and I like thinking big. So we won, well, except for the President coming.

Most of all, we had a poster contest for the kids. It was heart warming to see messages on the posters that showed a depth of understanding well beyond their creator's calendar age. Posters from warnings about Substance Abuse to positive messages. Some had differing themes, others were based on rhymes, but they all shared the same message---that Drugs and Alcohol can prevent you from reaching your human potential.

At the end of the day, I was left feeling bouyant about their future. These kids put their heart and soul into making this day pretty special.

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