Leadership Camp provides psychosocial support, discussion and life skills training on key challenges facing these teenagers.
Camp is a unique break from the incredible pressures in their lives. It allows them time and support to experience new ideas and coping strategies in an atmosphere of trust and respect. Trained Help Lesotho interns act as local role models in leadership roles. The reiterative nature of the content allows these experiences to be deeply processed and applied to their lives. All content stressed the value of HIV prevention, treatment and testing and gender equity. All campers have a chance to test on site.
Watch Palesa attend training sessions at camp:
For those who are lucky enough to return year-after-year, they build friendships and continuity of support. Participants are expected to share what they learn with their schools and families when they return to their home, schools and communities.
Have you ever wondered what it’s like to attend one of our Leadership Camps? This week, Ausi Palesa is at camp and she’s going to give us the full story on what’s like to be a Help Lesotho camper. Today, Ausi Palesa plays a games with the campers! Laughter, cheers and competitive energy fill the grounds at Help Lesotho’s Seotlong Centre.
The children at camp are sponsored through Help Lesotho Child Sponsorship Program. This program is the only option for these rural children to continue going to school and achieve their dream of being educated. who otherwise could not attend high school because of the prohibitive fees. The majority of sponsored children are girls due to their increased vulnerability to poverty and HIV/AIDS.
Sponsorship provides school fees, uniforms, shoes, toiletries, psychosocial support, etc and a five day Leadership Camp to learn life-saving education on HIV prevention, gender equity, sexual reproductive health, leadership development and much more!
Check back tomorrow to learn about the life-changing sessions the campers attend throughout camp!
Sign up to sponsor a child and your Basotho son or daughter could be at camp next year:
For girls in developing countries, menstruation often means missing a week of school every month. When your family struggles to put food on the table, the purchase of disposable sanitary products is impossible.
Girls use old clothing, dirty rags, or even leaves to manage their periods, however these methods are both dangerous to their health and difficult to conceal, often leading to shame and girls being targeted with violence.
Here are 10 things girls can do when they have sanitary pads:
1)Go to school: 1 in 10 girls in Sub-Saharan Africa miss school due to menstruation. When a girl doesn’t have access to sanitary pads, she starts missing a few days of school every month, she falls behind, and she may eventually drop out. Sanitary pads allow girls to attend school without fear of leaks or accidents
2) Restore dignity: Menstruation is a natural and routine part of life for healthy girls and women, but in many parts of the world, it is accompanied by shame and fear. Cultural myths about menstruation are barriers to open discussion and societal support. Sanitary pads allows women to take care of themselves, stay clean and comfortable during their menses, which restores their confidence, independence and dignity.
3) Start a conversation to empower other girls: Knowledge is power. When women are educated about their sexual reproductive health they can share the information with their community.
4)Understand their bodies: Girls who receive Help Lesotho’s reusable sanitary kits participate in a comprehensive education session where they learn about menstruation – namely that it is a totally normal thing that all healthy girls and women experience! They learn how to stay healthy and hygienic as they enter womanhood. The girls are also given the opportunity to ask questions, because with many of these girls growing up orphaned and alone, they don’t have anyone to ask even the most basic questions of.
5) Be active: sanitary pads allow girl to continue participating in sports, community gatherings and social events instead of staying home in shame during their menses.
6) Save the environment: Reusable sanitary pads eliminate waste! Disposable feminine hygiene products are either incinerated, which releases harmful gasses and toxic waste, or sent to the landfill where they take hundreds of years to break down. Each kit Help Lesotho distributes lasts up to three years, or 150 days of coverage and eliminates three years of waste.
7) Stay healthy: when girls use unsanitary pieces of cloth or rags during their period, they expose themselves to numerous diseases caused by fungi or bacterias. Help Lesotho’s sanitary kits include 8 reusable pad liners, soap to wash them and ziploc bags to transport them to and from school hygienically and discreetly inside a beautiful drawstring bag – until they are able to wash at home and dry in the sunlight to kill germs.
8) Break gender stereotypes: In many low-income countries, there is a culture of silence which surrounds menstruation. This is compounded by the limited resources available to help women manage their periods, which limits women’s potential and perpetuates gender inequalities. Sanitary pads empower women to live up to their fullest potential.
9) Impact her community: Keeping girls in school is important to health and development—not only for the girls but for their communities and countries. When girls are empowered, they become contributing members of society and share their resources, ideas and knowledge with their communities to make it a better place. You educate a girl and you change the world.
10) Stop the spread of HIV: When girls stay in school, they are less likely to get HIV infection, their potential earnings go up, teenage pregnancy rates go down, and the children they have later in life are healthier
Re-useable sanitary pads give girls a brighter future – they are given back days of education, work, health, safety and dignity.
Help Lesotho is purchasing washable sanitary kits for girls in Lesotho (made by local women) so they can stay in school while menstruating. Each kit gives a girl 150 days—equivalent to 3 years—where she has the supplies to focus on her education rather than worrying about menstruation.
On Wednesday, we bid farewell to our four special guests from North America, Gail Helmcken, Judith Manley, Jan Miller and Patti Giffin. It truly was an amazing experience to travel around Lesotho with them and see people, places, customs and landscapes through their eyes. They were such a pleasure to have. I marveled at their reactions to watching traditional dancing, hearing the unbelievably magnificent singing, and reading to the most adorable children you have ever seen.
They met young mothers and played with their babies.
They built key-hole gardens with grannies.
They watched a weaving demonstration by disabled women, and participated in our leadership training on sexual violence and grief and loss.
They heard grannies, children and youth open their hearts about their troubles and how they have learned to overcome them.
They traveled by horseback in the tops of these majestic mountains to one of the most isolated and poorest schools you can imagine.
They met a fine young man in Thaba Tseka, one of Gail’s sisters’ sponsored children, who is 17 years old and starting grade eight. He is over the moon to be able to continue his education.
They attended church in the middle of nowhere.
They were greeted by traditional chiefs, local councillors and villagers with grace and warmth.
They received a unique dance from a witch doctor.
They served grannies their special monthly lunch.
They learned a bit of Sesotho.
They laughed and occasionally cried.
This was only the second time I have led a group to Lesotho to experience the ‘mountain kingdom’. We feel this is an important way to show our donors the enormous impact of their funds. Yet regardless of what we say, visitors are never prepared for the depth of gratitude, the magnitude of our work or the gentle loveliness of the beautiful Basotho people. Our guests cherish the authentic activities with our staff and beneficiaries. It truly is a life-changing experience. We were all deeply touched by their passion for our work and the bonds they formed with the staff and beneficiaries.
We have decided to do another trip next year to coincide with our Grandmother Conference, where we bring all 200 grandmothers from our Grandmother Support Program together from all over the mountains. It is five days of learning, sharing and empowerment. Guests of this next trip will have the unique opportunity to spend time with grannies at this inspirational conference in addition to visiting rural primary schools, touring the beautiful countryside, and meeting children and youth at our Leadership Centres.
If you are interested in joining me for the Mountain Kingdom Experience in 2017, please contact email@example.com. It will be at the end of February 2017 for 12 days.
We have been working tirelessly to develop a measurement and evaluation database that will greatly increase our capacity to track our beneficiaries and most importantly – our impact. We hope to have Phase 1 complete this month. As you know, our work is complicated because we are encouraging change in human beings. Capturing such change is complex. Our database is now up and running and holding our most precious information.
For the first time ever, we have somewhere to input pre- and post- program survey information that will show the extent that Help Lesotho’s programs are helping vulnerable children, youth, and grandmothers to build their resilience, improve their self-management, and take action for the benefit of others. While data is rarely ‘exciting’, we are very excited!! Phase 2 of this project is to improve our reporting capabilities based on this data. With so many multi-faceted indicators, we require separate software to maximize the reporting capability for all this new information.
I am hopeful that someone out there will be as excited about reporting our impact as we are, and will want to help make this next phase a reality. We estimate needing $15-$20K, but will submit a more formal project outline to prospective donors. If you, your company, or someone you know is interested in helping, please reach out.
Finally, this week we held the graduations for two of our most intensive programs – each lasting two months. Our ceremonies are very special and the attendees proudly come dressed in their finest! Ntate Shadrack gave a rousing speech at each group to inspire them to become leaders. At one, there were 85 Computer and Life Skills graduates, including the police I have been writing about. The chief of police was among them and I was petitioned to train more officers from other areas – hundreds of them! The very next day, in Shadrack’s mail box, there was a letter of appreciation from the Chief with a list of 19 more officers he is hoping we will accept for training. They were so appreciative and humble in their closing remarks.
The other group was 60 graduates from our Leaders in Training Program (LIT). This is our most intensive program, involving the entire organization to pull it off when we have so much else going on. As they ate their celebratory lunch, I was able to speak to each and every graduate. I almost had to leave twice to fight back the tears.
They were so appreciative – intently telling me how their lives have changed and how much they want Help Lesotho’s programs to continue and reach their families and friends. They praised and thanked the staff for their kindness and support. They repeatedly asked me to thank the donors who made this possible. They pledged to return to their families and communities to step up and speak out against injustice, gender inequity and violence against women. If you could have heard the men in their commitment to change to protect women.
Words fail me in describing how deeply I was touched.
I started this annual program in 2006 and estimate that we have trained over 500 youth to date. Imagine the cumulative impact of these fine young people all over the country! One young man tweeted during the day:
‘M’ Peg said, “we believe in you. We have put our hearts and souls into you; the best of everything we have has been offered to you”
I hear regularly that central and eastern Canada has been in a deep freeze. While their nights are -35 to -40 Celsius, it is +33 to +35 during the day here. We are concerned that the heat will take away the benefits of the little rain we have had.
In my last letter, I mentioned the drought. An American doctor here told me that there were five weeks before Christmas when there was no water at all in the hospital down the road, water was brought in for surgeries only and there was no water for doctors to wash their hands otherwise. A startling image that brings the scale of the drought into perspective.
Just a sweet aside – as I am writing, three tiny, emaciated little deaf boys have threaded themselves through the slats in the gate to use the swings. We are closed on Sundays but they can’t stay away. This place has become their home.
Like a proud mother hen, I am bursting to tell you that Palesa Nkaile, who graduated from high school in December received the second highest results in the entire country!!!
Shas been part of our Help Lesotho girls’ leadership program and received school sponsorship for the last six years. While waiting to start university on full scholarship, Palesa is tutoring almost six days a week to help others do well. Palesa came to see me this week and was not only happy that her future education was ensured but truly appreciative of all the camps, conferences and leadership training she has received since she was twelve years old in our programs. Palesa wants to be a doctor. She left me a note:
“‘M’e Peg, I love Help Lesotho and the girls’ leadership program. You offered me free life-skills that give guidance to a healthy life with better choices and a clearer future. Those programs empower women and girls in Lesotho who are vulnerable and prone to all forms of abuse. They created a place for girls to build new friendships and learn. Help Lesotho has given me a reason to live and hope for a better future. Help Lesotho has taught me to give back whatever has been given to me to others.”
As I mentioned in my last letter, our centre is so busy that we are now using the garages for classrooms. This week was Grandmother Day at the Hlotse Centre and I wanted to show you what that looks like! You just gotta love the hats!
One reason we are bursting at the seams is the popularity of our computer classes. There is a huge waiting list. On a first-come, first-serve basis, participants come two hours a day for two months.
One hour is a lesson and practice at using Microsoft Office, building a CV and skills like formatting.
The second hour is a life skills class where they learn about
AIDS and gender equity
communication skills, etc.
Participants initially join the life skills classes reluctantly. By graduation, it has changed their life and their perspectives.
Two years ago, four male police officers came. They were shy and uncomfortable taking this free class. ‘Learning is for children’. Now every session includes more police officers, on company time. Before Christmas, one session was half priests and the other half police officers. I wish I could have been a fly on the wall for those conversations!
Senior police officers leaving computer training classes.
One of the current sessions now has 17 senior police officers – both male and female. They are asking for two hours of life skills training daily! While we have them on site, we are also taking them aside and giving them extra training on gender and domestic violence. Their more-than-enthusiastic participation in this type of new learning is a huge definition of success and community impact. It is impossible to separate HIV transmission from gender-based violence. Just think of how this can change society if we can reach more police and local leaders through the carrot of computer classes.
Lesotho, the Mountain Kingdom, is now ranked first in tuberculosis (TB) infections, with 852 people in every 100 000 now infected according to the World Health Organisation’s 2015 Global TB Report. Most people here have compromised immunity systems. Hundreds of thousands are on antiretroviral drugs (ARVs). A form of chemo therapy, they are hard on the body. When I first came here, there were no paediatric ARVs. Children were put on fractions of adult pills, imprecise and potentially too strong dosages. A few I know well are now 18-19.
I have seen the ravages on their development through childhood and adolescence. Their cognitive and physical development has been compromised. They are small of statue and have intermittent periods of illness and cognitive confusion. Many lack the food to digest the drugs and so they eat away at their mouths and digestive systems. So many are ripe for the other opportunistic diseases that lurk around to prey on the vulnerable. The WHO states that TB will eventually wreak greater damage than HIV/AIDS has.
People often ask me how I balance the sadness and relentless challenges here to avoid becoming discouraged. I never do get discouraged because our programs are so effective, so appreciated and so relevant to the local needs here. We cannot change everything, cannot cure diseases or generate rain. But, we can give people the hope, kindness, support and education they need to move forward in healthy, confident ways each and every day – gifts that will never be devalued. It is totally worth it.
I also never feel discouraged because of your faith in us. Our donors are wonderful – they are faithful year after year and truly believe in us. Not a day goes by here that I do not think of you – our donors – and how incredibly touched and rewarded you would feel if you could see how far we stretch your funds – in sustainable and innovative ways. It is this partnership with you that allows us to work.
Please know how much grateful we are. You are right here beside us all the way.