The following is an excerpt from GRS Intern Eren Munir’s Blog, Eren in Africa. Posted on 5 of February, 2010.
In a lot of ways this past week has been the culmination of my first six months in Malawi. Every single one of our sites – Area 36, Area 25, and Kawale – has recently finished their 10-week GRS HIV education curriculum and as a result we’ve been spending the past couple of days graduating all of the newest members of the GRS family. All of our coaches and graduating kids have put in a ton of work and effort to get to graduation day, and I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to convey the happiness and joy that fills the room when these kids accept their certificates. Most of the graduating classes put together a poem or a song about GRS to help celebrate the day. I’ve been blown away with the amount of talent and effort that goes into each one of these works of art. I’ve been taking a lot of pictures, and actually a lot of videos too, but as always I won’t be able to post them onto my site because of the terrible Internet here in Malawi. I have a hard enough time posting these blog updates!
Anyway, I’m basically writing this post to discuss two things I’ve enjoyed the most over the past two weeks:
1) Dancing – I can’t even count the amount of times I’ve been forced to dance in front of hundreds and hundreds of people during my graduation ceremony tour. It seems that Malawians are more concerned with seeing an individual’s dancing ability than anything else. At one graduation ceremony yesterday one of the teachers in charge of the program literally said the following to me after I was done introducing myself: “I don’t care about your name! I want to see you dance!” After he finished saying those fateful words all of the kids in attendance, close to 1,000 in total, started clapping their hands frantically in eager anticipation of my moves. Needless to say I didn’t disappoint (that is one video I might intentionally be hiding). The whole dancing thing may seem a little weird at first but when you think about it, it’s pretty awesome. It just shows you how much people around here enjoy life, no matter the circumstances. They could be starving, dying of some disease, in total poverty, but if there’s a beat they will dance and enjoy life for as long as they can. I was trying to think about what would happen in the States if one of the teachers started clapping and waiting for everyone to dance and I immediately recognized the fact that almost every single American kid would just sit in his seat and be weirded out by what was happening. In Malawi, the kids are ready to dance and have fun whenever and that makes things a lot more fun for me.
2) Commitment to GRS – One of the most astounding things I’ve been trying to wrap my head around recently is the level of commitment that these kids show to the fight against HIV/AIDS. As I was sitting through a graduation ceremony yesterday I started asking myself – “Why are these kids even here? Why would they devote so much extra curricular time to our program when there is no tangible benefit to be gained?” In all honesty I was having hard time finding answers to these questions. I mean, we were putting these kids through an intensive 10-week HIV education program, where they devote hours and hours of time outside of school and giving them no tangible reward. I was imaging myself at that age and thinking about what I would have done back in the day, and I’m pretty sure I would have avoided any sort of serious extra curricular work at all costs.
But then it hit me – these kids don’t need any monetary or tangible rewards for this education because all they really care about is the knowledge itself. This is a disease that affects almost every single Malawian (I guarantee that everyone in the graduation room knew at least one person touched by HIV/AIDS). These kids just want revenge. They want to learn about what has been attacking them and their communities so that they can one-day defeat it. To sit back and watch the level of commitment that these kids had within themselves gave me a new sense of inspiration and passion for my work. Their dedication proves just how serious the problem of HIV and AIDS is in the region, and it proves that we need to do everything in our power to beat it once and for all.