One step closer
This week, I received a surprising call from an organization here on Monday. They were hosting a training on combating stigma and discrimination for Mozambican NGOs working HIV/AIDS. The project director asked me if I would like to volunteer with note taking and other various odds and ends. I thought it would be a great opportunity not only for the prospect of additional work opportunities but also to observe the training in action.
I have seen other trainings before for various topics but this one was unusual for a number of reason besides just the language barrier. The lead trainer was a Canadian who has done hundreds of trainings across Africa. He was so animated and engaging with all of the participants. Everyday began with a warm up song that would often reoccur during the day as a transitional device or to bring the room back together after small group sessions. The training was interactive and physical because it was a training of trainers. The participants were pairs of trainers from their respective organization and were expected to return to their organizations to implement the lessons they learned.
While this sounds like a easy task superficially, the obstacles that I heard about from the participants made their task sound virtually insurmountable. One of the participants, who was very petite, worked with children with HIV and she told about one of her visits to the hospital. When she reached the ward to talk to the doctor, the doctor wanted to know why the organization had sent a child to look after children. Each of sessions focused on stigma that people living with HIV faced across contexts from their family, the workplace, the community, their place of worship and other social institutions.
Watching the afternoon practice facilitation sessions was particularly interesting. Here the participants practiced what they learned in the morning with their peers acting as the populations that they would encounter. Some organizations were obviously more advanced in facilitation before attending the training, but by the end of the week, it was clear that everyone had some innovative applications of the techniques that they learned. It was truly amazing to watch the increasing sophistication they integrated over the course of the week. However, the real challenge now is what will happen when they go back to their organizations to integrate discussion of stigma into current programming.
I found the experience interesting for my opportunity to learn more about the capacity building project that the organization does here. The participating partner NGOs receive training on a number of topics from stigma and discrimination to financial management. Some of the NGOs receive funding as well for applying knowledge gained in the training to their programming with the organization offering site visits and technical assistance for support. I do have a pretty good chance to have continued work opportunities with the organization as a consultant, but since nothing is set in stone, I am not referring to them directly here.
I have found that the waiting game here is the worst part of the job situation here. As each day passes, I go through bouts of anxiety about if I have made the right decision. I always come back in the end being glad that I am trying this. I think that it is better to try and fail rather than to always wonder what would have happened if I hadn’t come here. That said, the anxiety still nags in the most annoying way that only self-doubt can (particularly, my variety of self-doubt). I have started to apply to public health jobs in other African countries to give my rational side a backup plan. However, I very much want to stay here for a variety of reasons. Meanwhile, I am waiting for reality to catch up to my desires.