Monday, November 11, 2013

Advice I'd give to my son, nephew, or a younger man years from now

Being 23, on your own, as a growing adult male is a battle of self deception.
As I grew up, I forgot the point where I was me

and trying to make sure I was who I was supposed to be. In the clouds until I was 12, I faced a very stark fear that I was supposed to be something more and I'm grateful to have both my father and brother as examples of what to look for.
Now I've lived in Kenya for a year on my own; and have seen a set of gender norms placed and realize that while being a man is fluid, the idea of a man often is not in society. Often, the darker perceptions are perpetuated by my own gender and it's a shame. Misogyny, male to male violence, homophobia, these are things you may have to face in its many forms among the men around you as a man, but they don't have to be your truths.
I won't be young forever; I won't be forgiven for the mistakes I keep on making, but I hope to be redeemed by the realizations I've started actuating.

Everything on the internet seems to last forever; and I want this to last for when I become an influence on young men years from now, they'll know I thought of this when I was their age. And when you read this; you know that I write this because I love you and that right now, I realize it's okay to love myself and the person I want to be. Note, a lot of this is based on relationships because I'm at the point where I am learning what makes me comfortable when it comes to be being with others, something I believe you at this age have also started wondering for yourself. Also, I'm going to post pictures of good men in my life who remind me of what it is to be a man in the 21st century. Finally, when I first wrote this, I realized I only wrote from a heterosexual perspective, and I want you to know, though I write in terms of your partner as she, it's only because my experiences are stemming from the opposite sex. I pray to God that the present you are living in sees no distinction in you based on who you love. Because, I love you for you, and will always do so.

And then you can truly value others like Godrick Mwachofi
Public Health Officer of Sagalla
1. Value yourself: No, don't take a look in the mirror and see how large your biceps are or the white of your teeth, value your character. Value that you're a person worth talking to, and worth making your own choices. Most importantly, you're allowed to say no. You don't have to be an alpha and be fearless to all stimuli. You don't have to say yes to the idea that you need to sleep around to prove your worth. Ultimately, say no to the things you don't see making you the person you want to be, so that you may have room to say yes to the opportunities you want.

2. Value women for their hearts and dreams over their bodies. Yes, there will be a pressure to objectify, but what really comes out of that? What will you gain for enjoying the moment if you can't connect on a different level. Will your pursuit of the now have the depth and meaning you really want? Everyone wants to be loved, but will you love yourself, or let yourself feel loved, if you do not try to do the same? I've found, that once I stopped looking for the momentary comfort, once I learned to say no, I was able to appreciate the women in my life further. Value women as you value men, for their insight, for their ability to accept your trust, for how they make you grow, and I guarantee you will find what you're looking for in the long run.

Masaki is one of the most independent and free people I know
3. Know that no one can give you what you want (nor can you find it outside your own heart): Dating someone to complete you leads to disappointment. Dating someone you can appreciate for her own values rather than what she can offer you is more rewarding and open to growth. Many people will make you comfortable, but very few people will challenge you to become the type of person you want to be. Emphasis on the "you". Only when you make the decision to actively make yourself happy will you ever feel right with someone else.

It's not just about talking either
Right Andrew?
4. Communication: Being mature individually is different than having relationship maturity. I can't stress this enough, being in a relationship, whether it's a friendship or more, involves good communication, a willingness to give and take, as well as figuring out your limits. Giving yourself away completely without valuing yourself does not make you the ideal man, and definitely not the opposite neither. Without established ways of conflict resolution, two great people will fail. Talking, appreciating, and respecting goes a long way. Remember this when you choose your friends in college, because you'll want to be with the people who make you passionate, but if you can't figure out what you are looking for then be careful of the burn out. It's painful, romantic or not.

5 Sex ultimately brings forth the idea of making children, and it's a beautiful thing. It's not just messy fluids. Ultimately, it's a gift you can choose to offer or not. It's not just something to do. That being said, it's okay to have sex, but think whether you are able enough to appreciate the possible result. And even if you can't actually make children, by physical limitations, appreciate the real symbol of what you are doing. Because again I stress this, value yourself, whoever you choose to be intimate with, are they really the person you're willing to be with in the long run? If not, remember that your choices are yours, and they can be wonderful as long as you remember what you have to offer is wonderful. If my son is reading this; know that this fact influenced my eventual growth into who I am now, and that I wanted to be in a position where I can value you with the right partner. I started saying no here in Kenya, and I found that it made me a stronger man, because by saying no to sex, I said yes to love.

6. Take time to please her. It's not about getting off. Loving someone really is about learning to give. Invest in giving

7. If you're only looking for the short term, ask yourself why? Will it develop you into the man you want to be or give you excuses for excess because ultimately...

Senegal, September 2013
8. Be you're heroic self: Remember your childhood? Be the type of man you always imagined you would. Be a knight in shining armor, a ninja in the shadows, a cowboy riding to the West. Slay the countless enemies of your heart, and live, live to see the fruits of your labor. Because this is your life and why shouldn't you strive to be emotionally brave, intelligent, strong and downright larger than life? For that, I will always support and love you in your endeavors.

Machakos, August 2013
Remember, don't let anyone else tell you who you are. Because you're just not a man you I'll show through my dear friend Adam Lin, a Peace Corps Volunteer who was a school teacher in the South Coast of Kenya. Like Adam, you too can be

An Artist
A Brother

A Role Model

And of course, a BAD ASS
 Remember, I love you, remember that a lot of the things I do are because I am starting to value myself, and just as importantly, want to become the man that you can rely on. A real example in a world where the only men you see on screens are athletes, rappers, and actors, all of which are just images in a confusing moving picture. Though I can only give you images of what I was, here are more examples of men that I am grateful in knowing, and that give me the strength to continue being the man I want to be. Peace be upon you.

Love always,
November, 2013

Sean Berry, the first person I was comfortable with
in the Hills of Taita

Dave McCoy, who taught me
"Everyone is a teacher"

Haithem Hammad, taught me what it meant to be
an Artlessly True Muslim.

Graham Salinger, PCV Ukraine, my best friend in DC
Taught me friendship is limitless in the face of love

Maxwell Guen: My friend for life

Scott Berman: A man who helped me learn to care, and
care to learn

Dan Pennington: When I came back to the US this year, he drove to see me, I am honored to be valued by him

TK, I value him utmost for his character and honesty. Once you meet people like him, strive to never let them go.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Why We Choose Love: A PCV's reflection on September 11 from Ukraine

Dear All,
I wanted to post an essay written by my friend and fellow Peace Corps Volunteer serving in Ukraine, Graham Salinger, about his reflection in his many travels and why he chooses to love in the wake of September 11th.
I also want to dedicate this post to the late Ambassador Chris Stevens, an RPCV who served in Morocco who gave his life in the service of love of country a year ago.
I also want to dedicate this post to the late Ambassador Chris Stevens, an RPCV who served in Morocco who gave his life in the service of love of country a year ago.

The opinions expressed in this email do not reflect that of the Peace Corps of the United States Government.

            One of the most important things that I have learned in my life is the difference between fighting with something and fighting for something. While there may be a thin line between the two, it is clear that fighting for something is a labor of love. For us The Peace Corps is an act of love, for we must love to commit ourselves to such service. Today, more so than others, provokes us to think about love of country, not just love of our country, but the concept in its entirety.  For me love of country is something that I have been thinking about more thoughtfully as I have travelled to other countries.

            My first eye opening traveling experience came when I travelled to Colombia to research trade policy. There I met workers fighting for their rights, it was at those meetings that I first saw armed gunmen and realized that these weapons of war were all too common in the life of everyday Colombians. Later on I met with families who had had family members murdered by paramilitary groups. As they told their stories I saw that they sought more than justice and answers.  Behind their grief was a deep love of country; a love that made them continue to advocate for a more peaceful country despite threats of violence to their family.

            In a similar trip that I went on in Israel and the Occupied Territories I went to refugee camps, helped rebuild a Palestinian families’ home after it had been torn down for the third time, and helped Palestinian students with a USAID sponsored environmental project. What I did in Palestine is less important than why I did it, who I met and what I learned. I took this journey for deeply personal reasons.  My dad started practicing Judaism when I was a teenager  because my Jewish grandmother got Alzheimer’s and he needed something to connect himself with her. He was trying to reclaim what he was slowly losing. My father knows deeply the meaning of family and how to love. As someone who came to Judaism in my teen years I was attracted to its themes of love, justice and working to make the world a better place, but I was also angry about the actions that Israel had been doing in its name. I went to Israel/ Palestine because I wanted to love my religion. I wanted to fight for it, not with it. For me, that meant supporting Palestinians. When I went there I saw people who, under horrible conditions, just wanted the most basic things that we take for granted; water, schooling, housing and the right to be treated like humans. I saw little hate, blame or bitterness.

            Countries that face incredible challenges also face incredible choices, choices about how to respond and how those responses will change the country, both in terms of history and in terms of identity.  They must choose between using love as the starting point or some less clearly defined starting point. Of course, all of us know this. Twelve years ago today violence came to us.  It shook our families, our hearts and our country. Our generation is burdened with living in a post September 11th world and all its implications. One central question that we face is how we come to understand patriotism. There is blind love and there is the kind of love that I have discussed. By joining the Peace Corps, by deciding to serve and by working on issues that impact sustainable nation building, we have made our choice clear. WE CHOSE TO LOVE BECAUSE IT IS HARD, CONFUSING AND SOMETIMES SCARY. It is that kind of love of country, of family and perhaps most importantly of strangers, that pays off the most. It is that kind of love that will not only make America great again, but will make the world a better place. It is that kind of love that we strive for, because when we look in the eyes of the people we serve we see people who love and deserve to live in a world that loves them back.  

            Today is a somber day, we were all changed in profound ways twelve years ago.  I know that it may not be fair, but we also are now tasked with changing the world in profound ways. Such change requires love and such love requires faith in each other and ourselves. By serving we exercise that love and faith everyday and are sustained by the love we receive from those we are serving. Today reminds us not just of tragedy, but of the work we are doing and must continue to do, the chapters we are writing in our own love stories. Thank you and may you continue to be a source of strength.

With love,

Graham Salinger.  

A year later, Ambassador Stevens' high school decided to name their library after him.

Other patriots who died a year ago at Libya
Sean Smith Diplomat.jpgSean Smith: Information management Officer, also served in the military prior

Glen Doherty

Glen Anthony Doherty (c. 1970–September 11, 2012) of Encinitas,[96] was a native of Winchester, Massachusetts,[97] and a 1988 graduate of Winchester High School.[98] Doherty was the second of three children born to Bernard and Barbara Doherty. He trained as a pilot at Embry–Riddle Aeronautical University before moving to Snowbird, Utah for several winters and then joining the United States Navy. Doherty served as a Navy SEAL, responded to the bombing of the USS Cole, had tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, and left the Navy in 2005 as a petty officer, first class.[99] After leaving the Navy, he worked for a private security company in Afghanistan, Iraq, Israel, Kenya and Libya.[97] In the month prior to the attack, Doherty as a contractor with the State Department told ABC News in an interview that he personally went into the field in Libya to track down MANPADS, shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles, and destroy them.[100]
Doherty was a member of the advisory board of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, an organization that opposes proselytizing by religious groups in the United States military.[101]Doherty was co-author of the book The 21st Century Sniper.[101][102]
Doherty's funeral was held at Saint Eulalia's parish in his native Winchester on September 19, 2012.[103] His celebration of life was held in Encinitas, California the weekend of October 12–14, 2012.[104][105]

Tyrone S. Woods

Tyrone Snowden Woods (January 15, 1971 – September 12, 2012), of Imperial Beach,[96] was born in Portland, Oregon.[106] Woods graduated from Oregon City High School in 1989,[106] south of Portland, Oregon, and served 20 years of honorable service in the U.S. Navy before joining State Department Diplomatic Security[107] as a U.S. embassy security personnel,[88] working under a service contract.[108] Since 2010, Woods had protected American diplomats in posts from Central America to the Middle East.[109]
As a Navy SEAL in 2005-06, Woods was awarded the Bronze Star Medal with combat "V" Device for valor in Iraq.[107][110] He led 12 direct action raids and 10 reconnaissance missions leading to the capture of 34 enemy insurgents in the volatile Al Anbar province.[107] He served multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Middle East and Central America.[111] He retired as a senior chief petty officer in 2010.[112][113]
Woods also served with distinction at the Naval Medical Center San Diego as a registered nurse and certified paramedic.[110] Having settled in Imperial Beach, California, for a year of his retirement he owned The Salty Frog bar there; he is survived by his second wife, Dr. Dorothy Narvaez-Woods, their one child,[114] and two sons from a previous marriage.[113] Woods was buried atFort Rosecrans National Cemetery.[115]

September 11th is for Americans, as Graham has said, a time of reflection and understanding what it means to love our country. For those who died, us honoring their role in building up this world; even amidst the destruction those living with hate bore upon our souls. And for those of us still living; continuing to choose to love. So let's not fight something, someone, let's not fight evil, but fight for good.
Peace and blessings of God be upon you,
Tanim Awwal

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

To The Unlikely Wanderer: Why You Should Volunteer

Today I want to talk about volunteering.
To all of those reading who are open to travel, knowledgeable of realities with different cultures, and fairly open to new are archetypal people Peace Corps Recruiters talk about in potential applicants; however, this post is dedicated to the other half of the world, those who are afraid, not knowledgeable, but nonetheless still idealistic in their desires.

To those people, I want to talk about reasons why you should if you were thinking about it. And more importantly, I want you to hear it from someone who had the fortune of coming in jaded, and one year in, learning to open up bit by bit. I want to add the caveat, that my experience is only as a Peace Corps Volunteer serving in Sagalla, Kenya, and that my views are my views alone. More specifically, they are not the views of Peace Corps and should not be taken as such.

You should volunteer if

1. You want to help the world.
This is the ideal of ideals. And it's one that anyone older than you will tell to abandon immediately. They will say, "you cannot save the world, one person alone can't do anything". On the other spectrum, you will hear "just by being a good person, you're helping the world". Well, both views are right, and both are completely wrong. The "world", as far as I'm concerned, exists outside of my head, but even now, after living in Kenya for a year, the ideals of what I have internally are different than what are outside. Do volunteer, do learn about what the world is like. Only by learning will you be able to get to the "help" aspect.
2. People tell you that you are naive.
I get told this a lot, much of this is with merit. And until I came to Kenya, I felt often times that perhaps I was. I felt that in response I was becoming hardened and uncaring for the world as a way to protect myself. However, it's not always about what we perceive ourselves to be, it's about who we are both in reaction and without external stimuli. I've certainly learned that people who tell me I'm naive are people who have not taken the time to know me. And in this year, I've taken time to know me, and I can tell you the things that make me special are judged as naive. And I think if you take the time to volunteer, you'll notice the difference in how you define your own attributes.
3. You're aware you're prejudiced
Let's not even put in the caveat, that you're willing to fix it, because I'm not going to hope for the best to possible strangers. If you are aware that you harbor certain prejudices; be it race, gender, class, volunteer. Give some of your time and see if your prejudices still hold up. You will find that people are in fact prejudiced towards you based on your race, gender, and class as well. So I stress you, as you notice things within yourself you may not necessarily view as appropriate, look outwards.
4. You hate travelling
I'll tell you the truth; I'm afraid of traveling. I get so scared when it comes to transitioning from Point A to Point B, but honestly learning to gather my strength and getting on the back of an overly full van going up a mountain in the rain...and doing it again, I've learned my limits. I still dislike travelling, but at least now I know how to push myself and know when to say no.
5. You feel like you are not good enough.
My biggest fear before coming to Kenya was that I was useless. That I couldn't do anything right. One year, I've never felt stronger as a person. Rather than fishing for compliments, I know when to have pride, and when not to flush it in front of people. We never really know who we are until we test ourselves. I was an international relations major, which made me feel like I wasn't skilled enough to do anything. The truth is, if you are willing to do anything, you will learn to be skilled in at least something. Only by stretching your line into the water will you learn if you have any talent in fishing. If you don't, move on. But if you stay at home, you'll never know, you'll never know how wonderful you really are.

Destroying the great myth about the Peace Corps Volunteer

You don't do anything of importance
Wrong. My best friend here is a science teacher. When he first came to his school, he was one of the few teachers there, and he took up the challenge and taught every day, even when he was only one of two teachers. Didn't do anything important? I doubt it. And to this day, I never hear him boast of that significant contribution to society in those months of his time here.
Another one of my friends headed the initiative to plant Moringa trees, about 400 of them, in an area so desolate that people must walk miles to carry water. The trees, when harvested, will provide nutrition to the area. Even as he leaves this August, his contribution is, and will continue to be felt.
As for myself; I can be proud of at least two things. 
You see this storage room?

Not very pleasant? Well when the call came to create a youth center for youth to learn about health and test for HIV, I provided the data and motivation to help turn that room into this

Since it's inception, over 159 youth have been tested for HIV, with more youth learning about health and being trained to be leaders in their own community.
Then there is Latta Dam

Long unused in Sagalla, my counter part had the bold idea to desilt it. So I decided to come everyday for 2 months to help the health workers to manually de silt it.
After creating a video and providing photo evidence, we had other organizations come donate resources and money to help desilt the dam. But it wouldn't have happened if we didn't motivate the health workers to believe they could do it on their own.

My Counter part is gold
After 6 months

And now a year later
 The dam now can hold 160,000 liters of water, and that picture was taken during dry season.

What I want to say out of this is that before coming here, I didn't think I had it in me to be able to help people effectively. And I want to tell you this now; as someone without any background of development, if I can do this, then so can you. Never believe that you're incapable without trying first.

Being Frank
I will discourage you to volunteer; however, if you have certain notions.
1. You want to volunteer so you can sleep with the local populace
Please don't come if that is your intention. In my site, I saw the physical result of volunteers coming here and sleeping with the local population. In one case, it ended with a boy not having a father who will take to knowing him. On a larger sense, foreigners coming in and sleeping with the local population has created a perception that we're only here to just for the women/men.
On a more personal sense, you break people's hearts, people who don't understand your culture and assume you've come to marry them and take them away from their own troubles. I've made the mistake of dating someone who didn't have the same perceptions as I did, and it ended in me hurting her feelings and wondering what my purpose was in the relationship. Unless you are serious, do not come to a different land with the intentions of having sexual relations with people from a different land.
2. You want to volunteer to party
In that case, just take a vacation, I heard Zanzibar is nice.
Volunteer to learn, volunteer to work, volunteer to love the world, but locals can tell which volunteers have come to work, and which are coming just to take pictures of giraffes. This is not a knock on partying per se, but if you're coming here for a short time, for one or two months, please don't spend a big portion of that just sunbathing in the coast or looking for different drugs, locals can tell and it does affect their mind set. You're entitled to a break, and your money is your money, but also know that volunteering is about giving up your time, often times for no reward in return. Learning to take breaks without resolving to extremes will make your experience more rewarding.

In summary, being a Peace Corps Volunteer is a little different from a typical volunteer. I get paid a monthly stipend and have great medical benefits. If you do decide to volunteer on your own dime; make sure you have access to health facilities if something bad does happen. Unfortunately, plan for bad things to happen, make sure you have access to money that just isn't on your person, but even if you are hesitant, understand that cross cultural relations can be one of the most growth orientated experiences you have available to you. Notice how I said experience and growth, not necessarily rewarding. Many people will not enjoy their experience; when the glamour of the first month runs off, you'll notice the smell of the pit latrine, and the constant cadging for money will take a toll. But I guarantee that you will get something out of it, but in the work you do, and in knowing what type of person you truly are.

So volunteer if you can, and save to do so if you can't yet.

A Volunteer Who Thought He Couldn't, Wasn't, But Did It Anyway

Monday, June 3, 2013

Dreaming and Living and Living and Dreaming and...

Sometimes I forget that pursuing a dream in nowhere near as substantial as pursuing life. 
Before I continue, this is not a thought about dreams ruined or life getting in my face. No, this is exactly what it sounds like.

To quote Lester Freeman in season 3 of The Wire 
"Your work can't save you"

And that's the truth, helping people has been a childhood dream of mine, and the Peace Corps has been an excellent opportunity to prove to myself that I am not useless in that pursuit. 

I have and am living in a dream, a dream that I might just have to wake up from in July 2014.

But even so, as I lucidly ruminate in this bubble called Sagalla, a place of opportunity and growth. Where I've helped build a foundation where young people can convince their own peers to test for HIV (11 today!), whereas before that was (and is outside of Sagalla if you look at the numbers of people tested in my county) more of a dream. Where I helped motivate a man, as I found out today, to work and save so that he could afford his own water pump rather than relying on foreign support, and now he is proud of his own work and making an income he could never have believed a year ago. Yes, I am living a dream, but am I content?

In the most positive way possible, no.

As I left the mosque today, I had another thought bubble in my head..."reaching towards the stars makes you fly, but in the end, it won't give you love, it won't give you breath, it won't give warmth".

I'm in Kenya working a job that is designed to raise people from poverty, and prevent further HIV infections, but I'm also another human being who desires to know what it means to be whole.

Sure food, water, shelter, but more so, knowing what makes me tick, smile, and feel loved. These are not things I associate with dreams, I associate dreams with how far I can reach, but when I fall back down, it's life that holds me.

So yes, I think it's important to follow your dreams, but I also think it's important for you to find out what in life makes you content. Yes, do go for your dream job, but also stop and try to figure out what that smell is on the way to your part time job is that makes you smile (for me, the answer is jasmine, always jasmine).
Yes, travel Europe, but also accept that maybe a day with your parents does indeed make you content (how I wish to hug my mother and father right now just because).

Yes, never, ever give up, never settle for less, never accept people putting you down
But remember that life is full of moments that are more real than any ideal picture in your head, and that accepting and pursuing them are just as important as pursuing your goals.

I love being in Kenya, I love the work I'm doing, but I look forward to one day settling down and being the type of dad my kids will one day be secretly proud of (I'm pretty sure they'll probably be openly embarrassed by me), the type of husband that a Mrs. Somebody can talk, laugh, and grow with, and God knows I can be a better son. 

And I won't forget that I desire to make a difference in this world, I'll just know that I'll be learning to be happy in the pursuit. 

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Being A Shadow In Development

The 1st of June marked two significant aspects of my service in Kenya. It marked the 12 month I've been in Kenya (my year mark being on the 6th of this month) and more importantly, that the style of development I've pursued since October has been paying of significantly.

By being a shadow within Sagalla, I have been able to initiate what hasn't been done before with the youth (and arguably the whole of Sagalla); create an infrastructure that lead to the testing of 135 people within a single day. More significantly, create a low cost model to promote local testing.
Okay that's enough "I" in this...because the whole point of being a shadow is being an extension of those visible on the ground, giving them a reach on the ground they normally couldn't. So let me explain.

Nine months ago, my Public Health Officer, noticed over time how difficult it was to reach the youth within Sagalla. In fact, to be able to see someone my age go to the health center to access condoms are general reproductive health knowledge was extremely rare due to the fact that there was a stigma of being found at the hospital. Youth were simply afraid to go to know about their own health, much less about their HIV status. Unfortunately, without the right public and institutional support, the most we could do at that time was just work with a youth football group right near the hospital. However, that didn't mean we didn't work for it. We developed movie weekends, where we would play American films, just to get some of the boys to come to the hospital and associate the health center as a place where they can relax. Unbeknownst to us, this was step one to events leading up to June.

A few months ago, I was able to analyze health data within Sagalla using existing reporting and found out that there were 9 underage pregnancies and 10 high school drop outs within the region over the period of June to July 2012. I didn't do anything new or special, I just placed the numbers per each month side by side. More importantly, as a team, we were able to find the right people who not only cared, but were in the right position to do something about it. I worked with the in charge of the health center I worked at, who had the bright idea to use our formerly defunct storage room as a Youth Friendly Resource Center, and just as importantly, members from the US AID branch APHIA PLUS, who already were attempting to engage the youth population in Sagalla, pledged their efforts as well through bringing in paint and building materials initially, and promising training for youth in the future.

However, none of that would be possible, I would not be beaming with joy, if it wasn't for what happened next

See the meaning of what it means to be a shadow in development, is that you focus on capacity building of the target population. By developing their own capacity to succeed, you effectively do not have to be in the forefront. And the more their light shines, the more distance your own shadow can cover.

After the small interactions and friendships I've slowly made with the Mlondo Football Group, they decided to come and refurbish the storage room on their own volition, without pay, without any guarantees. They did it because they realized that out of their own hands, they can build something for themselves. And they did.

Then when they finished, at our guidance, they held elections and started doing something no group did before...including women. My contribution was to suggest creating a position for Woman Representative and making sure that the President and Vice Presidential office was held by two genders.

So they held elections, had the bodies, what was next? Without pay, and with help from PSI, which gave footballs and T Shirts, they held a football tournament that included women, dramas, singing, and a health talk focused on Malaria, bringing in over 300 people, mostly youth. No group had done this at such a low initial cost.

6 our of 7 of the Executive Board Members

Making a presentation about Education Through Listening (ETL)
 So they had the capacity to bring people together; how about the quality of presentation of their knowledge? That was another issue. So US AID, impressed with the given results, provided several training sessions in the last few weeks based on topics of health. Here you were, for the first time in Sagalla, training youth to be able to teach their peers about topics pertinent to them...teenage pregnancy, drug use, HIV, stigma, with the explicit mandate to help the people they are closest to.
Making a presentation at Mlondo Primary
So in the last month, they've taught in three schools, introducing dramas, and teaching what they've learned from US AID. My bosses at the health center provided important critiques in case the wrong information passed through, helping mature the work of the members of the Center.
Over time, the young men and women started developing a bond that I won't say yet is breaking gender roles...the women still end up doing the cooking and leave the men to do hard manual labor during the non work hours, but there is less tension between the two sides and when they work together, they work more as one group rather than two roles.
And all of this leads to yesterday. Specifically the issue of how to get youth to test? In recent memory, the highest number of youth to test was towards November, when US AID funded for a giant activity bringing in youth; we were able to test 60. However, it was a top down exercise, not involving the young men and women we were helping to necessarily have a say, and we realized we needed a different approach. Most exercises pertaining to HIV here are outreach, spending around $100 to teach people about HIV, but not necessarily getting people to test. The issue was; how do you get people to come and willingly test? My hypothetical answer; host a party!

So I went the the Center and asked simply, "If I contribute a goat, can you program an event and bring in over 100 people in the area?" The answer, and the result was a resounding "Yes!"

Making preparations for the goat, for modesty's purpose, I won't post pictures of the goat

The Clinical Officer testing a youth, YRC was his brain child
 Not only did the youth contribute their own money to acquire rice and spices and a PA system, they created their own programming. Teaching about drugs, STIs, and reproductive behavior. Take a look at the next picture.
 That woman works at the local restaurant and the young man is a captain of the football team. In the last few months, they can teach without being embarassed how to apply a condom on a penis model. The woman has started organizing health based dramas and is a tremendous actor, while the man was elected secretary and is learning how to use computers to document the Youth Resource Center. They've done all of this on their own volition, and the only thing we did as a facility was simply challenge them to grow and provide the resources (US AID) to train them towards their goal. I simply said that I wanted results, people being tested, but the Center did that and more. They created an event where people didn't come and sit down and be talked to, but interacted with their own peers and I can guage had genuine fun!

 Young men and women who normally would never test, could see their friends test. Interesting enough, young girls around the age of 13-15 even came, a demographic that I'd never even imagined could be reached out since we started months ago. These young people maybe won't have to fear as they get older, as they see a solid foundation of individuals older than them conquering their own fears.

So what does that mean in terms of my role as a shadow? How does sifting the responsibility of organization and teaching change my task load?

For the first time in my service, I've had youth come up to me and ask me questions about their own family life. Someone asked me about their fear of their own drug use, something I'd never imagine people to be comfortable enough talking to a foreigner. Yesterday, I felt for the first time happy about my work in Kenya, or more importantly attached.

Don't get me wrong, I don't choose the term "shadow" because I fear being involved personally with Sagalla. I am a shadow a shadow is space between one light to another, and if I can help make the lights around me brighter, and bridge the gaps, making it easier for my friends to shine here, then shadow development will make the future brighter.