Yesterday at 3 pm, things started to change a bit. I finally got into the meeting to discuss counselling supervision and areas of professional concern. Three of the counsellors have been doing it for less than a year and the head counsellor for three or four, not very much experience to supervise people counselling women caught up in rape and other gender based violence. The War coordinator joined in as well and we had a very lively discussion with lots of bobbing heads and ‘eryr’ [a form of agreement] from the novices. They had definitely run into many of the issues that I was raising and seemed happy to have them talked about while they seemed to hope to learn by osmosis. The supervisor was surprisingly frank and open about her experiences, which I had not had with her before. That helped the session a lot. The coordinator told rather lengthy matriarch stories: “I’ve been there, kids. Just listen to the horrors I have experienced and learn from me”. Everyone seems to have gotten a lot from it as I did and quickly the time for the session was up.
This morning the mini-church service was given by the counsellor who has trained to be a pastor at a South African Lutheran seminary. He’s a very quiet, unassuming young man of about 27/8, who you would not even notice in most circumstances except for a flashing smile. Then when he starts to read the Bible and deliver his very brief homily, his voice booms and he takes on almost heroic proportions. Very interesting transformation and back to unassuming in ten minutes.
After that I am able to do something that I hoped I might and that is to do some direct work with the head counsellor in the HIV /AIDS arena. I use some of the power points I brought with me and we have some very interesting discussions on recent developments in North America where we have moved treatment to a CD4 [immune cell] count of 350 while in Africa they are still operating on the previous standard of 200. We discussed why that might be and wondered if resources for treatment might have something to do to with that – but ultimately we had a good discussion and we were guessing. I explained why that change was made and that was helpful.
We also had a long discussion and about the viral content in saliva. I explained that we did not consider saliva much of a risk because of its acidity, especially if the mouth has no sores or bleeding gums. She told me of an African study where 50 people’s saliva was tested for the virus and 3 were found to have it. She is going to continue viewing Saliva as a body fluid to be wary of. In her early 30’s with a 9 year old daughter, she wants to get a PhD in a non-African university by age 45, and then work as an HIV / AIDS researcher. She’ll probably do it.
I also finally had my meeting with the coordinator together OK for my draft of the plan and script that I put together for the teambuilding day. She is going to review it further this evening, but she agreed to all I proposed and I don’t expect any resistance. While in that session there was a call from a client who had attended my workshop a week ago and would like to see me again. OK by me if it is OK by you – that is the reason I came here.
But it kept on. A staff member, who has been ill, asked to see me as she heard from the others that I had been interviewing them. She wanted to say her piece. After some time going over safe, although troublesome issues that I was already aware of, she dropped a real clanger on me. It is one that gets into cultural stuff and the integrity of my role here as well as a big systemic issue that is certainly way beyond what I can do anything with in a teambuilding. But it totally erodes trust and with that the potential impact of anything positive that the work we do together might have had. I really have to wrestle with this one, my integrity in the situation and who do I fight for, even what is possible.
Something for me to ponder as I drift off to sleep this evening. Maybe the morning will bring a new perspective for me.