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Natural Awakenings Central New Jersey

Life as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Africa: Weekend Happenings

Dec 01, 2014 11:45AM
This past weekend was the Official Launch of my school’s Health Promoters Club. The members of the club are students who want to be involved in community public health and education, primarily malaria and HIV/AIDS prevention. The planning for the launch has been going on for weeks. I accepted the invitation to be the Guest of Honor, to the delight of the students. In my speech I honored, encouraged, and challenged the club members to realize Uganda’s destiny for great advances in public health and education.

The club members decorated one of our large classrooms and arranged it to accommodate the launch. I am always humbled by the great pleasure students here derive from the simplest of materials. Colorful bed linens make attractive bunting and curtains. The room abounds with fresh flowers whose beauty disguises the utilitarian buckets that serve as vases. Decorative ribbon that once graced Christmas or birthday gifts is displayed, along with the ubiquitous, shockingly vibrant artificial flowers at the Guest Table. Off to the side is the PA system and student operators who troubleshoot the microphones and act as deejays.

Most Ugandans vie for any opportunity to perform publicly, and the Health Promoters are no exception. In addition to the typical agenda items required at each and every gathering in this country, the launch had entertainment interspersed with the many speeches and formalities. The crowd favorite is students lip-syncing, called “miming,” to pop music. The performer holds a microphone to make the performance more realistic and acts out the lyrics. After about a half dozen they tend to get redundant but, again, the students procure so much joy from such a small thing, and that makes it bearable, if not enjoyable.

There were several dramas performed as well. Much of the dialog was in Luganda so I’m only guessing at what the titles might be, but they could have been called: “Daddy, All the Best Families Have Pit Latrines,” “Use a Handkerchief for Heaven’s Sake,” and “Hiding a Positive HIV Status Can Be Fatal.”

The work this club is doing is inspiring and truly impressive. It was an honor and privilege to be included in the celebration.

Questions and comments welcome at [email protected]

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