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

Gaborone Teen Club Tackles Teen Pregnancy!

*For more information about our 2010 Fundraising Drive, please visit our Donations page.*

The following post is courtesy of Leah Whittaker, WUSC Volunteer at the Botswana-Baylor COE  and Adult Volunteer at Gaborone Teen Club:

Teen pregnancy is an increasingly common phenomenon in Botswana.

Gaborone Teen Club Tackles Teen Pregnancy!

On Saturday, 29th May 2010, as a part of my 6-week placement with Teen Club through the World University Service of Canada (WUSC), I had the privilege of attending the Gaborone Teen Club. Despite the cold weather (even for a Canadian it was cold!), a brief power outage at the museum and afternoon rains, I was hard-pressed to find a teen without a smile on his or her face throughout the entire day.

Shortly after 8am, the teens began to arrive. After some morning icebreakers and energizers led by the Teen Leaders, the teens were ready to start their day. Approximately 100 younger teens (13-15) were split between the Botswana National Library and the National Museum. At the library, the teens received an introduction that covered library hours, rules and the borrowing policy. Afterwards, the teens were given a scavenger hunt activity that helped familiarize them with the Dewey Decimal System. The librarian was thrilled by how attentive and well behaved the teens were! At the museum, the teens were put into groups of three and were given a worksheet to complete that required them to locate answers hidden throughout the displays. Halfway through the morning, the groups at the library and the museum switched so that everyone had the opportunity to complete both activities.

The older teens (16-19) participated in the Life Skills session on teen pregnancy. They began with an educational session on pregnancy and reproductive anatomy taught by a volunteer from BOFWA. Then, the males and females were separated. The females completed a true or false activity to help dispel many of the myths surrounding pregnancy and contraception. Afterwards, they had the opportunity to hear from two teen mothers who came to share their experiences. The males had the chance to speak with a man who became a father while he was still a teen.

At noon, all of the teens gathered in the classroom to hear the results of last month’s Teen Leader elections. The room was filled with smiles and cheers as the winners came up to accept their certificates. The teens also recognized the contribution of the three retiring Teen Leaders, thanking them for all of their dedication and hard work over the past year.

I must admit, prior to the event I was a little bit nervous about having to maintain order amongst a large group of teenagers. However, I was completely blown away by the teamwork and cooperation that goes on at a Teen Club event; it was definitely one of the most respectful and enthusiastic groups of adolescents that I have worked with to date. The Teen Leaders and the adult volunteers did a great job keeping everyone engaged. Everyone worked together to ensure that the morning events and lunch ran smoothly.

I will be leaving Botswana with nothing but positive memories to share. Eagerly, I look forward to keeping up with the Teen Club as its membership continues to grow and as it forges ahead as a leader in adolescent support!