Feb 18, 2014, 3:13 PM EDT
A pair of Notre Dame men’s soccer alums, Greg Klazura (’11) and Mike Rose (’12), are on a six-month internship with Grassroots Soccer in Zimbabwe and are sharing their story with us as it goes. This week, the duo talks about their purpose in Zimbabwe and how important “logistics” are…
February 14 – Week In Review (Written by Greg)
First and foremost HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY! A “Makiwa Abroad” post on the international day of love, what more could you ever ask for?
I know the millions of our followers were completely devastated last week when Michael didn’t give the details of my work with Grassroot Soccer (GSR). Jack Swarbrick actually left me a teary voicemail via Skype telling me to stand up for myself when Rose bullies me. I also want to apologize in advance for the video blog this week. Rose has somehow managed to become even more narcissistic during our time here in Bulawayo. He is also convinced that a video blog will give him some notoriety and help him some with the ladies during Valentine’s Day. Rose has actually been walking the streets of Bulawayo all week handing out homemade Valentine’s Day cards to anyone with a pulse, hoping he might find love. I even disconcertingly saw him tie one of his heart shaped creations to a dog’s collar while petting the canine affectionately… For those of you worried that Africa has had some adverse effect on Rose I can promise you he has always been like this. We can all keep our fingers crossed for Mike though. He might even get that long awaited first kiss here in Zimbabwe on Valentine’s Day. What a great blog post that would make!
The best way to describe the work I will be doing for GRS in Zimbabwe is that of an under-qualified consultant. GRS is constantly looking to improve their programs. Furthermore, GRS is always looking for funding to maintain and grow the incredible work they do not only here in Zimbabwe but throughout Africa. Essentially, I will look for ways to improve GRS programs and services and also assist with grant and proposal writing. One of the initiatives that’s currently a top priority is increasing the percentage of GRS participants who receive HIV testing. HIV status awareness is ostensibly an important tool in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Bulawayo has the second-highest HIV prevalence rate of any region in Zimbabwe and they also have one of the lowest percentages of individuals who receive testing. Quite counter-intuitively the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency, through surveys, has found that Bulawayo residents stigmatize HIV+ inhabitants less than any other region in Zimbabwe. Then why are the residents of Bulawayo testing at lower rates than other cities and regions throughout Zimbabwe?
My Dad is a self-proclaimed “master of logistics.” For those of you wondering if I’m being sarcastic, I’m not. He declared one evening after successfully organizing rides, or something
to that effect, for my brother, my sister and me, when we were all going to different places, that he is the “MASTER OF LOGISTICS.” I think he conveniently ignored the fact that Mom has been doing that for the whole family for two and a half decades.
For Mike Rose’s friends and followers here is a Wikipedia definition of logistics, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Logistics.
Anyways, there is a clear logistical obstacle for residents of Bulawayo who live in the townships, to receive HIV testing. Most of the city’s population lives in the high-density, low-income townships west of the city that sprawl on for miles. Every day thousands of people get to and from town by hitching a ride in a combie (van, see earlier post about transportation in Zim) for 50 cents one way. Combies essentially drive around townships picking people up, and then drop them off at the main combie station west of town or other parts of the city. If you live in a township and you want to get tested you need to pay for a combie into town, walk to a testing facility, wait in line, then walk back to the combie station and pay for a ride home. Roundtrip, the total time can range anywhere from forty-five minutes to two hours depending on the township and ride availability. This does not include the wait at the testing facility and the pre/post test counseling that all participants regardless of HIV status are required to undergo. Furthermore, if you are 16 years old or younger you need a parent or legal guardian to accompany you during the test (Most GRS participants are 15-16 years old). Therefore, participants don’t need to only get themselves into town but they also have to find a time that suits their parent(s) and they each have to pay transportation fees, in addition to the $1 fee
to get tested. A solution is clearly to bring testing to the townships. This is done in some form already. GRS coordinates with other organizations to run testing at soccer tournaments and organizations will occasionally go to townships and set up in schools or other public buildings.
The problem is that these township testing sites are sporadic and infrequent. Most of Bulawayo’s 700,000 inhabitants live in the townships. The quantity and frequency of convenient testing needs to be much better. I heard about mobile HIV testing units, essentially buses, RV’s or large vans in the states that travel around and provide convenient testing. Why not bring that model to Bulawayo? I’m trying to figure out if it would be possible, if it’s in the budget etc… That’s the sort of stuff I’ll be doing, in addition to playing for the Bantu Rovers, hopefully with some modicum of success. If anyone has a spare bus/conversion van/limousine that they are looking to get off their hands please let me know. If transporting the vehicle to Zimbabwe becomes an issue, the Master of Logistics is a close personal friend of mine.
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