When life gives you lemons…

When life gives you lemons – make lemonade!

Teens making lemonde with an adult volunteer!

The August Teen Club opened with a celebratory circle as the teens sang and participated in interactive games. The teens were quick to show solidarity as each newly-arriving teen club member joined the enlarging ring. Seeing the youth gather in a circle showed the strength of a unified teen force!

The August Teen Club exposed some of the “lemons” tempting and trapping youth of the day. Specifically, the teens discussed the risks and realities of multiple concurrent partnerships, transactional sex and intergenerational relationships.

The younger teens engaged in a dynamic discussion to define multiple concurrent partnerships (MCP). The youth decided to simplify each word in the MCP phrase with their own definition to really slice n’ dice the lemon into understandable terms: “multiple equals many, concurrent means same time, and partnerships means physical union”. The youth then drew graphs to represent serial monogamy versus multiple concurrent partnerships. Some of the youth mentioned that MCP may be an accepted norm in certain cultural contexts, so they were eager to discuss the emotional, physical, and health challenges/risks that may motivate them to avoid MCP in their own lives and that may help them protect their peers from MCP. The teens then decided to compare “transactional sex” to a Barclays bank ATM transaction (receiving funds or material gain) to help them understand the concept of selling/renting one’s body or heart or emotions in exchange for material return. Rather than judge those engaged in transactional sex, the youth expressed sensitive concern for those who may be financially or socially vulnerable enough to participate in transactional sex. The youth also discussed the dangers of intergenerational sexual relationships, specifically expressing concern for the potential power differentials and gender struggles involved in those sexually active between a wide age gap. An MCP Project Officer from the Botswana-Baylor COE initiated a slide presentation for the youth to help orient them to the topics. The dynamic and energetic Teen Club Leaders were awesome about keeping the conversation interactive and keeping the teens engaged!

The younger teens learned about multiple concurrent partnerships, transactional sex, and intergenerational sex by viewing a 77-minute video which depicted the social scenarios of each context. They then described the temptations, challenges, and consequences faced by each character portrayed in the films. The teens were reminded about the Baylor Clinic being a safe space for them to discuss any social concerns in their own lives during clinic appointments or with scheduled visits with the Baylor social workers and Baylor psychologists.

The older teens were eager to learn about entrepreneur alternatives that could protect against fiduciary dependence (the teens recognized that MCP, transactional, and intergenerational sex is sometimes motivated by vulnerable people facing economic hardship enough to fall into risky lifestyles). A guest speaker from Stepping Stones International (an innovative after-school and community outreach program serving orphaned and vulnerable adolescents in Gaborone) lead the teens in a discussion to brainstorm small business ideas, to learn about the resources available to turn an idea into a project, and to explore the personal attributes required for entrepreneurship.

The teens then divided into small groups to turn boiling water, sugar, and fresh lemons into delicious of fresh lemonade. Through an interactive project, they brainstormed marketing strategies for advertising and selling their lemonade. The teens gulped down their successful drink recipes with their afternoon lunches.

Teens enjoying their lemonade at the end of the day!

Life has a way of handing out lemons. For example, many of the usual teen club youth were unable to attend teen club this Saturday due to their having to attend weekend school to make up for missed classroom days during the extended teacher strike. In a context of a “one-in-four” HIV population rate, a loss of guardians, academic challenges, social stigma, and financial barriers facing many of the youth – sometimes it feels like tart challenges and sour trials abound. But, the teen club youth show an incredible perseverance, a remarkable resiliency to chase joy, and a committed to ensuring a better future for themselves and for their peers. As the teen club youth helped each other cut up lemons, add sugar to one another’s recipes, and stir in solidarity… we were reminded of the refreshment of teamwork and life skills.

Meaghann Weaver, MD