Words by Supreet Kaur Maniktala
Photographs by Sheril A. Bustaman
Yesterday evening, we had an orientation for the Back to School program. Although we expected about 8 volunteers, we were delightfully surprised to see 14 volunteers attend our session! In combination with our previous orientations, we now have nearly 30 volunteers who serve as tutors and role models for our children and caregivers. We would like to thank “Do Something Good” and SOLS 24/7 for helping to bring these tutors.
|Volunteers introducing themselves|
Just to provide some background information, the Back to School Program supports children and their caregivers who are infected or affected by HIV/AIDS. Most children have lost a parent to AIDs or come from broken families. With caregivers dealing with poverty (especially single mothers), HIV stigma, loneliness, shame, and anger, children live in stressful environments which hinders their emotional and psychological development. Simply put, they are neglected even by well-intentioned parents and other loved ones. Our Back to School Program applies a multidimensional approach, aiming to addressing all these issues. The educational component is extremely important since children affected or infected by HIV on average have poorer academic performance in comparison to their peers.
This is where the need for tutors come in. We provide tutoring almost every Sunday and educational activities during our monthly Saturday events. Since the introduction of the tuition program, we have grown to about 30 students at the weekly Sunday tuitions, with 10 tutors, which is fantastic! However, our goal is to get 1 tutor for each child so that these children can receive the individualized attention that is desperately needed. For this reason, we had another orientation yesterday for new batch of volunteers. It covered the following topics:
• PT Foundation and Its History
• HIV 101 and Myths
• Clients of Back to School Program and Difficulties they face
• Volunteer Expectations
• Educational materials that may help volunteers during their tutoring sessions
|Explaining what we aim to achieve|
Even though all of these topics were important, my favorite part of the orientation was getting to know the clients during the introduction and energizer. Each individual in the group had unique experiences to offer and differing backgrounds, including journalists, lawyers, branch managers, students, etc. For the energizer, we created a circle with one person standing in the middle. He or she would have to make a statement about themselves, and if the statement was true for others, they would also have to move into a different spot of the circle. The person in the middle would also attempt to find a spot in the circle. The last person without a spot had to stand in the center. Similar to the previous round, he/she would be required to make a statement about themselves and everyone would move. As a result of this fun energizer, we bonded and discovered interesting facts about each other. For example, some of our volunteers have done bungy-jumping, and only one person in our group has a cat.
Despite the differences in age, professions, interests, and ethnicities, we all had one thing in common: we valued taking time from our busy lives to give back to community. We also discussed expectations of volunteers and of PT Foundation to ensure that we all worked cohesively as a team. Being in the presence of these passionate people was extremely inspiring. I am excited to see how their loving spirits will influence the lives of our caregivers and children!