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  Happy Holidays from Wendy  
 

THANK YOU!!! for donations to the Camp GLOW project!  Apparently we have exceeded the requested amount in a short period of time so we greatly appreciate all the generous responses of family and friends.  I designated a sizeable chunk of the donations many of my friends & colleagues in Columbia/Sonora made to a money tree at my "retirement - farewell" party in January of 2003, so thanks also go to those of you who donated at that time!
 
We are feeling confident the camp is going to be a wonderful, quality experience for the participants, as the counselors we just finished training have responded very positively. These women are excited to share their new knowledge with the youth of ways of looking at & dealing with life's roses & lemons.  I will write again after the camp in January to give you a report of the events.

  Happy holidays to all!   Love, Wendy  
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From Suzie: October 23 2004

To the followers of Wendy's adventures:

Wendy was finally told on Monday October 18th that all red tape had been cut and she was cleared to return to her assignment in South Africa and that she would be leaving Los Angeles on Thursday the 21st. She was very excited although it did mean she went into a frenzy of activity to get ready. Kim even prepared a Thanksgiving dinner for her and the Long Beach family was able to join in the celebration.

She called me from New York to say that planes were all on time and this morning I received an email that she was in Pretoria and should be headed to Mokassa on Tuesday after taking care of things like banking on Monday. She understands that her family and schools are eagerly anticipating her return.

It has been a long a frequently frustrating time for Wendy but a boon to her family! She did stints of babysitting and kid entertaining. At our new to us house in Hermosa Beach she has tended to gold fish and weeded and trimmed the overgrown yard so that now we can see what is actually growing there. We definitely feel as though we have profitted from her misfortune.

Sadly she was not able to go to Botswana with us for safari in July but has an almost new and well functioning shoulder. I know you will enjoy her update.

Peace and best wishes to all — Suzie


October 23, 2004 update from Wendy...


Dear family, friends, and colleagues:

I have finally been able to return to South Africa! Pretoria rolled out a spectacular lavender carpet for me - jacaranda trees in full bloom lining streets in all directions! Sights I left 5 months ago - babies carried on backs in blankets wrapped around mothers, multitudes of walkers getting where they need to go, open ended pick-ups filled with people given a lift. More sights to come. I'm glad to be back. I'm looking forward to returning to my village in a few days.

I had a wonderful "holiday" from my Peace Corps service - aside from the shoulder surgery! The surgeon and physical therapist are very pleased with the result and recovery of range of motion. I still have some strength gain to work on but it feels like a normal part of my body now. I catch myself doing something with it that would have been painful or difficult before so that makes me happy! I was able to stay in sister Suzie & Michael's new house in Hermosa Beach, just around the corner from their daughter & her family. Not only did I get great care but also great entertainment watching the 3 children grow before my eyes. Sean changed from new-born to laughing, crawling, observing, exploring 6 mo old boy child. Scott at 3 learned to recognize his name and identify the letters there-in, seriously participates in gymnastics & swim classes, enjoys figuring out puzzles & constructing with tinker toys, and has "GREAT" days in his first school experience 3 days a week. Ella at 5 started kindergarten this year & has been busy developing her drawing, cutting, reading, socializing skills , as well as participating on a soccer team, taking gymnastics & swim lessons. I was treated like a princess by family & friends. Enjoyed a couple of brief visits to Sonora where it was great to check in with buddies & colleagues, drive to top of Sonora Pass, boat ride on Don Pedro and a Cessna flight over Tahoe! I could go on and on but will just say THANK YOU to all for your consideration & generosity in my regard!

Aside from resuming work at my two schools, a project I will immediately be working on is entitled Camp GLOW 2005 -- Girls Leading Our World (GLOW) . This community-based proposal was developed among eight United States Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs) currently living in various rural villages in South Africa North West Province's Vryburg Department of Education district. It is a proposal that seeks to build on the highly successful Camps GLOW of 2003 and 2004, which also were held for women in the North West Province.

GLOW will be a weeklong residential experience, during the January 2005 school break, for 44 young women ages 13 to 18 years old. The GLOW participants will come from the eight rural communities, of predominantly Setswana origin, where PCVs are living and working. Women from each volunteer's respective community also will be selected to become the 16 camp counselors who will lead and facilitate the Camp GLOW program, as well as the sustainability activities that will follow.

Young South Africans are at risk for HIV infection, with one in ten (10.2%) of all 15-24 year olds currently infected with HIV. Among the 10% of South Africa youth who are HIV positive, 77% are women. Moreover, youth living in rural formal areas have the second highest HIV infection prevalence at 13.5%. Sexually experienced youth living in rural formal areas reported the lowest condom usage of all geographic types, with 36% reported using a condom at last sex, and among those who had sex in the past year only 15% reported using condoms consistently. Contributing to the HIV risk of these youth is the fact that they reported the lowest awareness of and exposure to HIV prevention campaigns. The vast majority of South African youth do not think they personally are at risk for contracting HIV. In fact, 61% of HIV positive youth reported that they thought they were at no risk at all, or had a small chance of getting HIV.

In an effort to combat the spread of HIV/AIDs, Camp GLOW counselors from the rural communities will focus on activities that nurture an increased sense of self-esteem and that augment the GLOW campers' ability to act outside the constraints of gender expectations, a factor known to enhance the prevention of the HIV spread. GLOW will assist young women in developing life skills, such as the capacity to make responsible decisions about their sexuality, as well as the abilities to protect themselves from HIV and to share their knowledge about HIV with others. GLOW will be a safe environment where participants will discover that they have a powerful, authentic voice. Also, the camp will provide an opportunity for young women to explore their leadership skills, decision-making abilities, and career opportunities, because theory and research suggest that without a sense of future (e.g., capacity to pursue a career), youth may have little motivation to protect themselves from becoming infected with HIV.

Training of the GLOW counselors has begun, though we must still collect enough money to fund the entire project. Peace Corps South Africa approved our GLOW proposal and will provide approximately half the necessary funding through a grant. The Peace Corps Partnership Program (PPCP) Washington is reviewing the proposal for listing on its URL. Many of you have inquired about ways in which to support my work in South Africa. If Camp GLOW suits you, contributing through the PCPP might interest you. I believe that contributions via PCPP are eligible as charitable tax deductions. Returned volunteers have told us that contributing through this Web site is no muss, no fuss. To donate via the URL, go to the Web site http://www.peacecorps.gov. On that home page select "Donors", then select "Volunteer Projects". Scroll to "South Africa" where our GLOW project will be listed. My colleague Katy Vence from OH will be listed as the lead PCV for GLOW.

A contribution of $12.00 would support one counselor or camper for one day; a contribution of $85.00 would support one counselor or camper for the entire week of GLOW. I am not sure when our proposal will be listed, hopefully soon! Thank you for considering this matter.

I am looking forward to getting back into my work here and instituting some thoughts I had while away and able to rethink things from a different perspective. My official completion of service date will be extended due to my time away, to July 1 2005, from the original April 1. The second school term will end at the end of June, so that will be a good time for me to wrap it up. Many asked what my plans are after returning and I am still keeping all doors open.

Thank you for your support and interest in my venture. I wish you all well and hope for peace for all of us in the near future!

Love, Wendy