Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Retreat Building and Internships Week 3 (Gabrielle and Charise)

On Tuesday everyone—students and faculty—drove to a retreat center in the countryside about thirty minutes away from where we’re residing. The lush vegetation resembled a picture-perfect scene from The Lion King. Some of the most interesting segments were the identity sessions and the team-legged race.
We kicked off our day dividing into small groups of four and discussing the various ways in which our identity has been formed. Each identity station lasted fifteen minutes, and every station had a different group of people, a mix of students and faculty. Listening to students and faculty share their experiences was interesting and led us to realize that despite an age gap, we could still relate well with our fellow faculty. The most thought-provoking conversations were about religion and our socio-economic status. Talking to the people within our groups convinced both of us that it doesn’t matter what we believe as long as our heart is in the right place. The socio-economic class discussion allowed us to realize how subjective “class” is; in one area you may be considered poor, but in another part of the world you can be considered wealthy. We feel like we became closer to our classmates and the faculty, which will make it easier to work with them later on.
We took a break halfway through the conversation to celebrate Ndaku and Sarah’s birthdays by eating an assortment of cake. So delicious!
After the rest of the discussions we had lunch where we ate kudu for the first time. We are determined to find this meat in a United States grocery store! After lunch, we divided into small groups and partook in a team-legged race. In the first race, we divided up into four groups of four. Afterward, the four groups merged into two groups and raced, and finally, we all tied our feet together and tried running to the finish line. Figuring out a speedy system within our group of four was easy, but the larger the group became, the more difficult it was to have everyone listen to one another and figure out how we were going to move. The purpose of this activity was obviously to point out the importance of communication and teamwork. Communication skills, no matter how many games or practice one has, can always use improvement.
Many of the students in our group learned about the importance of communication on the first day of internships on Monday. Upon arriving to our internships, we had to communicate with our supervisors what projects we were going to work on throughout the semester.
For my (Charise’s) internship, I was assigned to work with the Namibian Women’s Health Network (NWHN) on the English literacy project as well as the human rights advocacy campaign. On the first day, I was walked through the mission of the organization, and briefed on some of the recent projects. I was informed that I would be working with several of their support groups across Windhoek to improve English literacy amongst women and youth affected by HIV/AIDS in order to facilitate effective conversations with their medical professionals. This project is to be particularly significant for their campaign against forced sterilization since these women and youth will be empowered to confront the Namibian health and legal systems about the injustices they have faced. They are working to end the practice of medical professionals tricking them into signing a consent form, which was not translated into their native tongue, to be sterilized upon giving birth on the basis of preventing further transmission of HIV. On my second day of interning, I was able to sit in on a meeting with two of the women who had been unknowingly sterilized. Hearing their stories made the campaign real for me, and really motivated me for all the work ahead during the rest of the semester.

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