Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Pre-Departure Crunch and Breakdown

No, I'm not having a break down. This is the part where I give you an overview of what I'm going to be doing in KwaZulu-Natal with African Impact.
Firstly, let me explain to you some ongoing South African history and some current events.
South Africa is among the 7 sub-Saharan African nations whose HIV prevalence exceeds 15%. There are approximately 5.7 million South Africans living with HIV and current statistics state that the country's easternmost province, KwaZulu Natal, suffers from the greatest HIV prevalence rates, holding strong at 37% of the population. In some areas, like Dougoudougou (or Khula as it is called), rates are estimated at between 70 and 80%.
HIV can be treated with antiretroviral drug therapy. The therapy includes a cocktail or drugs that are administered at a certain time every day, orally, by the patient suffering from the virus. ARVs slow the progression of HIV into AIDS (where an individuals CD4, fighter cells, are below a count of 200, when a normal person can have upwards of 1,000). I know, it is all very complicated, but hopefully I can clarify a little more along the way. The South African government did not allow ARVs into wide circulation until November 19th, 2003, for various political and social reasons. Without boring you with the details here is the link to an overview on Mbeki's delay of ARVs to state run clinics.
Before I arrive, there will have been an election where ANC leader Jacob Zuma is said to easily win a victory. ANC is Nelson Mandela's party, which arose out of South Africa's legacy of white apartheid rule. St.Lucia, where the project house is based, was one of the last towns to give up apartheid rule and racism is still rampant in the area.
The Project
I am travelling with African Impact, the largest African volunteer agency, operating in 8 African countries.
In the mornings, I will be working at a local clinic with a nurse I met last year. I will be providing nurses with some much needed relief by performing basic medical procedures like taking blood pressure or weighing babies. The clinic supports 20,000 Zulu locals, and sees over 100 patients daily. I will also be teaching the nurses basic computer skills.
The project also includes a home-based care program, where a group of women travel around the village to visit the sick who are unable to make the trip to the clinic. I will aid these women by accompanying them and caring for the sick.
In the afternoons I will work on community building, painting and farming projects as well as teaching an HIV education course.
The projects run all day, and most of the time volunteers who are willing to emerse themselves in their jobs eat, sleep and breathe their work. Weekends are a time where I will get to experience local culture, go on trips and do some adventure tourism as well as go on bush walks and do some photography with African Impact's photography project and our guide Theo.

Whew! That was a crazy overview. Ten days until lift-off and hopefully I will get a video blog posted up here for you all!! In the meantime, below you can see a little video-diary of my last trip to KwaZulu Natal. I'm sure you'll recognize some of the people and places from future videos. And check out The Cord website (though the link above) to see other Wilfrid Laurier students' blogs from their overseas adventures...
and I hope to see you back here following mine!!

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