Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Training Day

This past month has been incredibly busy but also quite fulfilling. I am working on a new project that focuses on prevention. The idea behind the project is to train young women to be peer educators. They are trained on HIV/AIDS, HIV and STI prevention, and how to counsel people. Then, equipped with this training, the young women are supposed to go out into various sections of the city and do education and basic counseling for other young women their age. The idea behind it is that people's peers are more effective at delivering HIV messages and affecting change than health professionals or older people.

We did interviews two weeks ago and I wanted to do a big training day to gauge how much they knew about HIV/AIDS and STIs. I worked all week to put together presentations, demonstrations, and games about HIV, condoms, STIs, behavior change, and peer education. I also designed a pre and post test to determine if the participants learned anything and to get a feel for how well they knew the material.

All the women groaned when I handed out the test to start the day but it went well after that. We had some lively discussions about HIV. When we talked about the origins of HIV, two of the peer educators told me they believed that it was created in an American lab to wipe out Africans. We debated it for a few minutes and I finally had to put a stop to it. I hope I can change their minds in the future, and I am amazed at how firmly people grasp to superstitions. (We also ran into some more superstitions when we talked about STIs).

One of the lighter moments was when I had to demonstrate how to use male and female condoms for the group. I went through both demonstrations and then had a question about how strong male condoms are. I answered that they are strong enough to put over your arm without breaking and then pulled one out to show them. As I was stretching it over my hand, I think one of my fingernails nicked it and it broke right away. I stood there thinking how dumb I looked and there was some laughter in the room. I got another one out and showed them successfully after that.

All in all, it was a great day. I am enjoying this project and really feel like I am doing meaningful work, which has been a real boost for my morale. Now, all I have to do is get people to drop their superstitions and do the demonstrations correctly.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Pictures of Daily Life in Francistown

I stumbled across a photographer's site that had pictures of daily life in Francistown. There are some really great pictures, including the one above; I buy vegetables from this woman's stall frequently.

Check out the pictures here:

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Speeding HIV's Deadly Spread

I ran into this article today while doing research for a prevention project I am working on. Its from 2007 (but still very relevant) and describes the factors that spread HIV in Francistown and Botswana. It is definitely worth reading.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

A Different Perspective

I hate job interviews. My palms get clammy and I sweat profusely. After the interview I go back through my answers and kick myself for the poor ones. All in all, it is not my favorite experience.

Last week I got a chance to be on the other side of an interview and it was an interesting experience. One of the projects I am currently working on is a prevention project that employs young women volunteers to serves as "peer educators" for their neighborhoods. They are expected to meet regularly with people (especially young women) and discuss various prevention topics. We are starting a new year of the project and wanted to hire 8 new peer educators.

There were 13 applicants and we sat down for a full day of interviews. I really wanted to try to get the project officers to evaluate the applicants objectively rather than just making a decision based on opinion. I created an evaluation sheet that had 10 basic questions. Each of us took turns asking the questions and then we would rate the applicant's response on a 1-10 scale. It wasn't exactly scientific but I felt like it worked well.

We did all the interviews in about 4 1/2 hours and I was exhausted by the end. It really is draining to ask to the same question over and over and try to get a feel for how a person is. It was weird to watch the different applicants' reactions to questions and to just being in the interview. Many of them squirmed in their seats. Some never looked at us in the eye, and a few we had to ask to speak up because we couldn't hear their responses.

As an American, the behavior was surprising. We are taught to look people in the eye, act confident, and speak firmly. Its just a different culture here (obviously) , and one that is very indirect. I tried very hard not to let some of these things influence my scores, but I imagine they still did.

The most interesting part for me came at the end when I went to compile the questionnaires and get an average score for each applicant. There were 10 interview questions with a maximum score of 10 for each question, meaning the best possible score would be a 100. The highest score I gave was a 94 and I had 4 scores above a 75. The highest score the other 3 interviewers gave was a 66 and their combined average was around a 50. I was surprised to see how hard the other interviewers has graded the responses.

Overall, I was very happy with how the day went and think we got some good people to help on this project. Also, I think I learned more from doing this simple interview than I ever did from doing mock interviews and practicing interview questions.