Swaziland and Back – Reflections by Nova Southeastern University Students

In mid-June, a team of twelve doctoral psychology students, practicing psychologist Dr. Gretchen Moy, and faculty member Dr. Stephan Campbell from Nova Southeastern University, joined forces with SOHO to provide an array of capacity building and counseling services to Swaziland.

During a 14-day visit, the group conducted insightful sessions with several NGO’s including SWAGAA (Swaziland Action Group Against Abuse), and ADRA (Adventist Developmental and Relief Agency).  The students’ time was consumed educating the youth, listening to growing needs of the community, and paying special attention the children SOHO serves at its various sites.

Several students shared reflections of their experience volunteering through SOHO.

Dayna Jones remarks her most startling discovery, “being human is not enough to matter in Swaziland.”  She describes meeting an elderly woman rejected, improverished, and struggling to raise two children, “Her silence shouted strength and endurance to me…my heart sank because I could feel her pain.” After some time with the students, the elderly woman reached out and said, “You are my people.”

Jackie Hammerman explains the widespread misinformation related to substance abuse, and the transmission of HIV and AIDS, “It was blatantly false, and found in multiple schools in which the children reported such information is taught by their teachers. The report that “the human body NEEDS alcohol, as it does water” and that it “is not dangerous and that “people are to drink everyday”. Or the statement, “a circumcised penis will not contract HIV”. On top of this misinformation, the fact that it is being taught to future generations is deeply concerning and leaves no room for the light of truth to shine in and make change in the lives of Swaziland’s youth.”  Among the country’s greatest needs, Jackie believes in “accurate education…but first and foremost people [especially children] must be provided with basic needs in order to survive: food, water, clothing, and medicine.”

In a country that has lost nearly an entire generation to the devastation resultant of HIV/AIDS, poverty, stigmatization and lack of education only exacerbates the condition. Though many children are impacted through services addressing basic needs like food and clean water, a promising future also depends on accurate education regarding healthful living, a deep understanding HIV/AIDS, and instilling self-worth in their hearts.

 


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