Trained by games
A Bangalore-based NGO uses a variety of activities to implement the HIV prevention programmes for adolescents in schools.
Symbolic knot: Solving problems through games.
A GROUP of kids stand in a circle. One of them has a ball and she throws it to another first calling out her own name and then the name of the child to whom the ball is thrown.
The game begins seriously, with every child intent on getting the sequence right and making sure that they do not drop the ball. But soon there is giggling and laughter and everyone is enjoying themselves.
Address health dynamics
"Name Juggling" is one of the games adapted by International Services Association (INSA) a Bangalore-based NGO that works to create local health leaders who could address health dynamics and challenges.
Another game they play is "Tailing the Cat". The facilitator draws the figure of a cat on the board and then tells a story of how the cat lost its tail.
A participant is called forward, blindfolded and then asked to draw the tail of the cat. Then the blindfold is removed; the facilitator calls for the next volunteer to draw the tail.
The participant immediately moves towards the blindfold; the facilitator keeps a blank expression and does not help to tie the blindfold. But the participant ties the blindfold himself and draws the tail. This goes on till everyone in the group has had a chance.
"This game helps participants think how customs, behaviours and traditions are followed blindly without any understanding. The facilitator asked only the first player to blindfold herself but the other players were told only to draw the tail of the cat. It also shows the importance of the power of listening and also a need to change the way we think," says Florence David, Director Administration, INSA India.
To explain how the links, relationships between getting HIV infection and the complexities in preventing HIV infection a gamed called "The Human Knot" is played.
Ask for two or three volunteers from the group to leave the room. The group in the room first hold hands while the facilitator explains the importance of not letting go while they `knot' themselves. The participants then begin to `knot' themselves. When this is done, the group stays close together.
The volunteers return and it is their task to disengage the group. The volunteers take on the role of teacher or parent or counsellor who has to solve the problem.
The `knot' is symbolic of the problem. Hence it is necessary to solve the problem without the group disengaging their hands. When the problem is finally solved, the group would be standing in a circle once again.
Talking about it
Now it is time for a discussion. The participants talk about their feelings at different points of the game. Does this happen in real life? Do they expect others to solve their problems? Who understands their problems better themselves or outsiders? Can outsiders solve the problem without working on it?
From there, it goes on to the relationship among students and in communities. And finally, can the history, relationship, conflicts and so on of a community be understood so deeply that planning and implementing prevention programmes can be done within that community? And all along the importance of the role played by the student/community in the programme is emphasised.
INSA India was established in Bangalore in 1982 with a vision of enabling health and development in emerging nations. As a part of their Promoting Adolescent Health (PAH) programme, INSA India uses games to train people in rural communities. Once trained the organisation continues to keep them up-to-date by regular visits and workshops.
The main focus of the training is centred on helping people make positive changes in their behaviour. Most of the programmes are community based. It was only in 1988 that the AIDS prevention was integrated into INSA India's training programme of Community Health and Development. Later an independent programme was introduced in educational institutions.
Initially, they identified a core group of 33 members called Promoting Adolescent Health Core AIDS Trainers in Schools (PAH CATS) who are spread over 15 states.
The training is conducted under the leadership of the Programme Director, Training, Edwina Pereira. These trainers implement the HIV prevention programmes for adolescents in both formal and informal schools. The organisation believes that collaboration and partnership form the key to HIV/AIDS prevention and care programmes.
One of the strategies they employ is to place a "Students' Question Box" where the students can anonymously drop in their questions. "This helps the programme to be need-based. Every question is answered. It was found that the questions covered a whole range from emotional and physical to spiritual and psychological," says Binoy P. Abraham, Programme Officer, INSA India.
The games adapted and applied by INSA India aim to promote introspection and empathy. Games, puzzles, role-play, dances and such create an informal atmosphere and this encourages the participants in the process of experiential learning.
Most of the games have been created at INSA India. At present they are working in 15 states and three regions of Nepal and Sri Lanka developing HIV/AIDS prevention and care plans. The community and school based training session ensure the development of life skills, communication, self-esteem building, social and emotional development and gender sensitisation.
A forum of advisors, consisting of teachers or those formally involved in the school programmes, is formed to sustain the programme without regular support from INSA.
"INSA India's target group is adolescents because this is a time of great physical, social and emotional power. This is a time when teens have to establish their own beliefs, values and what they want to accomplish. Adolescents are constantly evaluating themselves and as a result are rather self-conscious. But through this self-evaluation they are able to set goals, attain emotional and social independence. They are under tremendous pressure coping with changes emotional, intellectual, spiritual, social and physical," says David.
They use a whole range of games to help adolescents develop life skills especially values, relationships and boundaries for enabling healthy behaviour.
The game of "Name Juggle" may seem simple and fun. But it has a long-term objective of setting the guidelines for discussions on the importance of problem solving and team building for HIV/AIDS prevention and support programmes.
Some of the core group organisations have expanded their programmes to include a truckers' intervention programme, a protection programme for street kids and child labourers and a HIV care and support group programme with its focus on women and children.
INSA India is located at 5/1,Benson Cross Road, Benson Town, Bangalore 560046. Ph: 080-23536299; E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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