Saturday, September 18, 2010

A Big Sigh Before Moving Forward

My service as a Peace Corps Volunteer has several distinct chapters and it appears as though I have begun a new one without having realized it ever started. Safety and security in Lesotho is not what it once was and because of the increasingly disturbing events of the past 6 months, volunteers, ex-pats, and even the Basotho are progressively more vigilant. Because of the lack of documentation, uncertainty looms as to whether the crime rate is increasing or we are just more aware of the events that are unfolding. In any case, please try not to worry- I am more alert than ever and take the necessary precautions when traveling and working across Lesotho in effort to minimize the risks to my safety. Much has changed within our Peace Corps family since the night of September 3rd and our grief continues; however we press onward, honoring Tom’s memory and the mission of Peace Corps, toward the new normal we’ve been forced to create.

Luckily, I've been working on a project with my counterpart (Lebo) at Baylor that brings us all back to our happy youths and assists us in forgetting, at least temporarily, the troubles of the world. As part of our Strengthening Clinical Services program, we've created a play therapy room for children at Baylor's Center of Excellence in Maseru. We hired a painter, purchased dozens of toys, and will soon implement a play therapy program for the children who are in need of psychological services. Play therapy is a new form of care and counseling in Lesotho and thus education for staff and patients will be required. After the initial set-up is complete within the next couple of weeks, Lebohang and I plan to commence sessions with the children with the hopes of encouraging exploration and expressing their experiences through a natural, self-guided process. (Play therapy room below- a work in progress)

I've also been fortunate enough to work on a project with Baylor staff at the national government hospital in Maseru, Queen Elizabeth II. Generally, the toughest cases are sent to this facility and only when no other options remain at the district or village clinic level. Queen II, as it's called, sees an unfortunate amount of malnourished cases among children under 2 years of age. To combat this issue, a team of specialists from a variety of health fields have devised a lecture series to be conducted routinely for the nutrition assistants at Queen II. The group consists of physicians, visiting scholars, nutritionists, and psychologists, and each have agreed to present research and applications for decreasing malnutrition. After reviewing current research and compiling data, I presented the positive effects of psychosocial stimulation, play therapy, and the infant-caregiver bond on decreasing the ever-present malnutrition amongst youngsters in this country. I shared creative ideas for increasing emotional and physical stimulation, which included a short demonstration on how to make stimulating toys for children with locally available products. I plan to continue with the topic in the upcoming months and build upon the foundation with each new lecture. Although not quite psychology related, there has been a surprising interest in learning the technique of baby massaging with regards to increasing infant feeding. While this is not at all within my realm of training, I am lucky enough to have a friend in the new CHED group who is a trained massage therapist who has agreed to assist with the session during October. (Queen II nutrition assistant team and training below)

Thanks to a kind donation from the states, 300 children in and around the capital have received brand new toothbrushes, attended a course to teach them the importance of maintaining good oral hygiene, and developed skills to encourage others to do the same. Have you ever seen an American child so happy to receive a toothbrush??

Later this week, the US Embassy will host a Town-Hall style meeting regarding security and security issues, particularly here in the capital of Maseru. Unfortunately I won’t be in attendance because vacation awaits with great company, change of scenery, fresh perspectives, and of course delectable foods!


Mom said...

Great post & pics! Enjoy your vacation!


Rich said...

My wife and I were scheduled to depart for Peace Corps/Lesotho on 11/1. Just 19 days before we were to depart we got a call saying that the program was canceled. We were so ready to go - household in storage, Sesotho lessons from a RPCV. I had almost sold our car the day of the call. During the 5 weeks when we "knew" we would spend our next 2 years in Lesotho, we really came to love this place that we had only known as a speck on a map.
We are sorry that we won't be going there, and we are sorry that Lesotho will not get the 27 teachers that were scheduled to travel there.
It was helpful to read about your security concerns. Our group was canceled because of security concerns, but if the Peace Corps changed their minds, we would travel there in a heart beat.