Thursday, February 7, 2008

Three Days

This post was written yesterday. I'm taking a day off because I've decided to have Valentine's Day a week early, so I can do something nice for my girlfriend. But I do have time to post this. See y'alls tomorrow!

Second-to-last day of class today. I had to write down what I'm going to do in Africa because we are all supposed to present it in class today in a two-minute speech. I jotted a couple of paragraphs down in my notebook, but I never had to present it. It jumpstarted me, though, to write it down here too. It's past time I laid out the real parameters of my trip.

The internship works like this. When I first started class this fall, we had a guest speaker who surprised us during lecture to tell us about a unique opportunity abroad. Her name was Lynn McMullen, she said, and she wanted to set up a team of students to do foreign aid work in South Africa. She told us all the gory details: her plan was to recruit a small team from the class. We'd live together near Johannesburg, and we'd each take an internship in any kind of field we wanted to; she offered to set up her team members with local NGOs in the area. She already had a few options for us to consider.

But the first thing she said was "if you're wondering what Africa really feels like, it's actually pretty close to the Wild West." I could immediately see the similarity.

There were a few internship options I could have taken right away: Humana, a childrens' education and gardening NGO, and CLAW (Citizens League for Animal Welfare), which is basically a pet clinic, were hungry for any interns they could get. In the end, though, I settled on what Lynn called the Advocacy internship. Advocacy is run by a tiny NGO known only as AIDS Hospice. I pushed hard for the Advocate position and wound up selected for it.
As an Advocate, my job will be to basically help out the AIDS Hospice ferrying supplies and patients from the little township I'm staying in to the big city of Johannesburg. One day a week I'll don a pair of slacks and a button-down shirt and spend a few hours in the local school, teaching kids English. I'm told I'll also teach some basic sex education. But my biggest role sounds a little peculiar: I'm helping AIDS patients get birth certificates.
Most of them don't have any, which prevents them from getting things like disability grants. So I'm going to jump around between local government and the people as their "advocate," helping them get the papers they need together. Then they can receive IDs and birth certificates, and hopefully get a government welfare check for their condition. It hasn't been ironed out much, but I'll figure it out when I get there, I guess.
So that's what I'll be working at. Later, I will lay out the academic side of things. Stay tuned.

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