02 December 2011

On the Airwaves

Everyone knows the saying “knowledge is power” and knowledge comes from information. When you are informed you are able to learn, persuade, rationalize and act.  You can formulate an opinion, actagainst an injustice, learn a new skill, gain understanding, etc….For most of us, information is not hard to come by; instant internet, the 24 hour news networks spitting out information at all hours and newspapers dropped on our doorstep. But for the majority of people around the world, access to these modes of media is impossible, if not incomprehensible. In rural remote areas you would most likely find tenor fifteen people crowded around one device, a radio.

Moyamba is blessed and fortunate to have the Moyamba District Children’s Awareness Radio MODCAR diffusing information to all corners of the District, including a multitude of small villages. MODCAR 94.8 is supported by PLAN International and focused on giving children a voice and a forum to talk about issues most important to them. Peace Corps can be challenging, rewarding and a sometimes perplexing experience. As a volunteer, its not my job to tell people what I personally think is best for them, it’s a collaboration. And it only takes time to figure what they want and how can we mutually work together to succeed. This is how my relationship with MODCAR developed. The station and I both knew we could and should work together but how? That is until the British Council presented an unexpected solution.

Teaching and Learning English Radio is a program created by the British Council sponsored by Standard Chartered Bank and delivered through community radios nationwide. The overall aim of the program is to enhance English teachers’ effectiveness in the classroom and to improve English Comprehension. (This is all my own words and not that if BC). A fellow English Teacher, whom has become my mentor, and I dramatize live on air a teaching lesson directed to work as a teachers’ training to help generate ideas on how to teach different elements of the English Language. Following the teaching lesson, a continuing story acted in English is played which asks questions at different intervals to check for listener comprehension. The story is a series with a new episode every week.  Our only problem is we have no idea if it’s actually working. The feedback from the community has been inherently positive but continuing to work on its impact.

My partnership or should I say “MODCAR marriage” was only strengthened after beginning Teaching and Learning English Radio. The staff and I began to meld, work together and most importantly brainstorm.
Focus on Children was an existing daily program that involved school pupils as its creators, presenters and contributors. Each school in the township, both primary and secondary, has a Focus on Children team which makes up what is called the Children’s Forum. The schools are given a time slot every week to give a sensitization presentation. The kids pick out what topic they want to talk about and write all the talking points. It’s presented like a round table discussion between the kids, each giving reasons why an issue is important. My collaboration effort with Focus on Children is to act as advisor and editor to our Harford Children’s Forum representatives. It’s compelling to see what least girls are eager to present live on air, to see how impassioned they are about grave challenges affecting them everyday and to see their overall boldness, confidence and poise to talk to their peers, parents, community members and grown ups.

There will not be any divorce papers in my marriage to MODCAR who has
a fast moving, fervent and encouraging manager. He is always five steps ahead of me and full of ideas. Never know what he will think of next. I only hope I can continue to contribute to MODCAR’s mission. The first item purchased by many in the developing countries is a radio. The second is shoes.

*Disclaimer: This blog post and blog is solely the opinion of its writer and does express the views of any organization or group mentioned.

Girls Conference Update

Thanks to all of you and your support Girls Conference has been fully funded! All coordinators are now in the rigorous planning process in hopes of making the first ever PC Sierra Leone Girls Conference a
success.

This past week I was interviewing girls who have been considered by the senior teachers at Harford to represent the school at Girls Conference. It’s incredibly hard to pick only three girls out of 700 who have the potential to be role models to countless others within my school. In efforts to narrow down specific girls in Harford’s wide pool of possibilities, the senior teachers and I sat down to short list potential participants. With that list, we conducted interviews first with all the girls at senior secondary level then with the junior secondary level girls.  Exceptionally happy with the results.
One main component of GC is that the girls will take what they learned and bring it back to their schools and communities. Capacity building!Both girls, young and older, had creative ideas on how to get the message from GC all over Moyamba including hitting the airwaves on the radio, doing plays at the primary schools, debates and talking with adult organizations in town. They are passionate, bold and articulate.Hard to choose just three.

My organizational skills have been put to the test with my logistic responsibilities. Never thought I would be in charge of planning African meals for a little over 100 people. However, I can start to visualize the conference’s complexion and am elated to be able to host the conference at a school that has a rich history of in promoting girls’ education.

For those of you who are new to Dispatch SL or who have been too busy preparing for the ever hectic holiday season, the Girls Conference is a two-day educational workshop for exceptional girl students, teaching them leadership, self-esteem, decision making, women’s health, HIV/AIDS, career planning and goal setting. When everything is all said and done, the girls will be certified as peer mentors and be expected to act as role models and counselors to other girls in their school and community. In addition to sessions we are planning a career panel featuring prominent Sierra Leonean women, including female principals and health and development workers.

I need to send special shout outs, hi5s and plenty plenty plenty TENKI
for all of those who found a way in this difficult economic environment to support our conference! After the fun is over and the last girl has left Moyamba to put to practice everything they learned,I will be back on the dispatch to let you all know how it went…including photos!