"My Living Positively" Book
Congratulations, It's a Book!
Earlier this year, I was fortunate to visit the Children's Rights Centre in Durban.
I met their program and communications staff at their brand new building in order to get a tour of their facilities and spend a few hours chatting via skype with a beneficiary of their most recent publication, "My Living Positively" children's book. The hour-long conversation was spirited, informative, and inspiring. But the icing on the cake was getting to join the office for a delicious leftover "brai" (South African BBQ).
The "My Living Positively" workbook is already impacting thousands of children, aiding caregivers and social workers to better explain to young children and teenagers the realities of HIV, including how they can better advocate for themselves. The book, a glossy and attractive booklet of photos, real stories, coloring material, charts, facts, and figures, is the ultimate companion for children, caregivers, and practioners.
My favorite piece of feedback came from Shanaaz Randeria of the Wits Reproductive Health & HIV Institute, who has been using the book to run workshops and play therapy for children:
"Using the stories from the book makes it a lottle more acceptable for children and their caregivers to normalize HIV. Also, the advantage of using the handbook is that it speaks in a language that is understandable to children and caregivers, but still gives relevant and important information."
The CRC's Play-full Environment
Besides the huge success of "My Living Positively" it was a treat getting to know the staff at CRC as well.
I will never forget the many conversations I had with Julie, CRC's executive director, about what it means to do truly transformational work in the children's rights arena, and the importance of partnering with young people (with all their "digital talents") in future advocacy efforts. As a relatively young person myself, it gave me hope to hear from leadership of a well-established organization that it's still important to create space for people like myself.
Janet, who hosts workshops for HIV+ children in the townships and rural areas, was excited to show me another publication that CRC released called the "The Chance to Play", which details and documents various do-it-yourself and street play games for children across South Africa, from self-made board games on cardboard to soccer goal posts constructed from wood and/or plastic.
Jacquie, who works on communications and social media for the organization, was knee-deep in preparations for their Annual General Meeting presentation on "virtual learning" for a group of community stakeholders. Her passion for using technology to further social progress shone through when she took an impromptu 20 minutes to chat with me in the staff room about NGO culture, new media trends, and using youth pop culture as a gateway for education.
Meanwhile, Kyle, whose office is nicknamed the "fish tank" (and so who makes funny floating-fish movements when you walk by, is the go-to guy for nearly everything: from setting up skype meetings to gather feedback from practioners, to managing the GlobalGiving profile (really well, I must add), and being the liason between government and civil society's new initiative to create a national guide to disclosing (HIV status) for children.
CRC's culture of openness, determination, creativity, and "fun" oozes from every single member of the staff. I'm so inspired by their dedication to empowering HIV+ children to better understand their illness, to boost their confidence when it comes to working with health practitioners, and most importantly, to maximize the impact of their work by sharing their research, findings, and successful strategies with the world. I can't express how thankful I am for their work here.