A Day in the Life of Stepping Stones

August 14, 2015 | Alex, DVM, WUSC, Botswana, Stepping Stones International

As we’re starting to near the end of our journey here in Botswana, and I’m still loving every bit of working at Stepping Stones. Since getting into more of a groove at work, things have become much more manageable since taking over for the leadership department, although they have not become any less chaotic. It’s just more of a controlled chaos that I have become accustomed to. But as our colleagues have told us many times before, that’s just the way things work here. I’ve been extremely busy at work with the sessions I have been running for the leadership participants, reviewing the curriculum for the leadership program, as well as beginning to develop a sports program for the in school participants to do on Saturdays. There has definitely not been a lack of work to go around, which I truly am thankful for. I can tell that I’m starting to get some incredibly valuable experience that I will hopefully be able to use in the future.

The sessions with the participants have been adventures in and of themselves. It’s one of the things about working with youth from another culture, you never really know what to expect. Not all of the participants speak perfect English, which has made it difficult for me to convey the instructions effectively. There has been many cases where I’ve had to repeat myself several times to each group in order for them to completely understand the instructions, and even then, they won’t answer my questions exactly the way that I was expecting them to. It has led to many instances where you get some, shall we call them, interesting responses that force you to stifle a laugh.

This does happen both ways though. There have been circumstances where the participants have not been able to convey the answers the way that they want to. It could be something as simple as me asking for them to explain why they had answered either yes or no to a particular question that I had just asked them. Usually the question why has been followed by an exasperated “Eish, Alex!” to show that they aren’t really sure how they should answer me. The best part about all of it though is that no one ever gets frustrated by the language barrier. Obviously it would be easier for us all to be able to communicate effectively in the same language, but we all just seem to laugh it off and move forward.

Even with the barrier in communication, the cultural dialogue that I have been able to have with these participants has been phenomenal. I never thought that would be having those sorts of discussions with the participants before I left, but it turns out I was wrong. We’ve had to tackle some pretty heavy issues such as rape and HIV/AIDS. We also finished a discussion about women’s rights and equality which have led to some differing opinions to say the least. The discussions have at times brought a lively debate which has made those sessions incredible, even if I personally don’t agree with everything that was being said by some of the participants. It was fantastic to see because you saw both a discussion being had with all opinions being respected, which is probably the most effective way to invoke the thoughts that will be needed to make significant change to ensure that marginalized groups will be able to be free from that marginalization. It’s also been incredibly powerful because I have seen some of the participants come out of their shells and be brave enough to say “this is my opinion, and I don’t care what anyone else thinks.” When you see a kid do that is able to be brave enough to do that, no matter what the opinion of everyone else is, it’s one of the most incredible things that anyone can ever see.

So that’s where I stand so far at work. A lot of working with the participants which has been remarkably rewarding to this point. It’s all been amazing so far, and I’m sure it will be just as amazing for the last little bit of my stay here.

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